So you want to know just how long does it take to build muscle?
Hey there. My name’s Dr. Anthony Balduzzi, and I’m the founder here at the Fit Father Project. In this video, we’re going to cover an extremely important topic: How fast can your body build muscle? As guys, when we’re looking to start putting on some muscle with our training and our diet, we want to know how quickly we can actually see gains, and what can we expect in terms of the muscle gains.
In that video, we’re going to cover everything. Particularly, we’re going cover four factors that dictate how fast your body should build muscle. First off, why should you even listen to me? Well, I’m a men’s health doctor with over 10 years of experience, helping busy guys in their 40s, 50s, and 60s lose fat and pack on mass, but more important for this topic, I’m a national champion bodybuilder.
Here’s a picture of me at my best, and you can see I have some experience when it comes to muscle building, so I can give you a really good idea of what you can expect when you start your training. In this video, let’s dive on in. I’m going to teach you exactly what you need to know, and cover some of the training, supplementation, and nutrition principles as well. Let’s dive on in.
All right, so there are a few factors that dictate how fast your body can put on muscle. The first one is something that we like to call your training age, and that’s how long have you been lifting weights? Because that’s one of the biggest variables in how fast your body can pack on size. Because when you’re starting to train and you haven’t trained before, you get something that we call newbie gains, where your body has an ability to put on a lot of muscle really fast.
As you’ve trained for more years, that muscle mass plateaus, and your body is getting closer to it’s genetic potential of how much muscle mass you can have, so the more years you train, the slower the muscle-building progress will be each subsequent year. As a rule of thumb, in your first year of training, it’s possible to put on 20-25 pounds of muscle. In your second year of training, it’s possible to put on 10-12 pounds of muscle. In your third year and your fourth year, that goes down to roughly five or two and a half pounds of muscle a year.
Now I need you to know first off, 10 to, let’s just say, 25 pounds of muscle in your first year is a ton of muscle. If we take a guy whose frame is, let’s say, 175 pounds, and we get him to 200 pounds of muscle, 25 pounds of muscle, that is a dramatically different guy. 25 pounds of muscle will change your entire look. Even five pounds of muscle.
Here’s an image right here of a five pound muscle difference. You can see five pounds of muscle is a lot, so for you, if you’re starting out and you’re in your first or second year of training, you can expect that you can put on, I’d say around two and a half to three pounds of good weight every single month. If you find that you’re putting on more weight than that, you’re probably gaining fat, because there’s actually a genetic limit to how much muscle we can put it, so training age is the first thing.
The second thing we need to talk about is genetics. You and I have different genetics. There are some guys that have better muscle building genetics than others. That’s just the hand that we were dealt based on our parents and our families. We need to understand that. Most of the guys fall in the middle of this muscle building bell curve. They’re not genetically blessed, but they’re not genetically cursed.
Those figures that I gave you before on how much muscle you can expect per year based on training probably fit you. And of course, there are the genetic freaks. Those are the competitive, national championship body builder kind of guys that can just put on muscle by looking at weights. For you and me, that’s probably not us. We fall more in the middle, so genetics also plays a really good part. And if you’re a guy who has premium genetics, you’re probably not watching this video.
You’re probably not looking about how to put on muscle, so for you, because you’re watching this and you’re curious about what you can expect, you’re probably in the middle of that curve. We need to really optimize your training, your nutrition, and your recovery, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit, to make sure you’re building muscle as quickly as possible.
The third thing is supplementation. What supplements are you taking? The first thing I want to say here is, I’m not talking about just the baseline good supplements that we’re going to cover. Things like creatine, protein, pre-workout, stuff like that. I’m talking about the dark side of supplements, like steroids and prohormones and stuff like that, because those have a humongous impact on your ability to put on muscle.
Now, I absolutely do not recommend you go that route. I’m just telling you, if anyone says that they’re putting on more muscle than that rate that we talked about earlier, that natural gaining rate, it’s probably because they either have premium genetics, but much more likely, they may be using something that’s dramatically altering their hormone levels, because here’s, the actual research shows the guys that take testosterone, steroids, exogenous testosterone through injection, can put on more muscle than a guy who’s lifting naturally, even if they don’t lift weights.
It’s just a fact of the matter. Hormones have a humongous impact on our ability to put on muscle. If we’re taking a lot of testosterone, like steroids, you’re going to build muscle a lot faster than if you’re doing it naturally. But also know this, that those gains that come from steroids, they stick around as long as you continue taking those substances. When you stop and you come off, you come back down to natural weight, so this is why we recommend that you get your hormone levels optimized naturally, but you continue to make stepwise progress, and you don’t need that other kind of steroid stuff, because that’s like your physique really increases, and then it drops when you come off.
I’d rather see you do that slow steady build in your muscle building progress by doing this naturally, safely, in the healthy way. The other thing is how good is your training, your nutrition, your sleep, and your recovery. Because we talked about training age, which is obviously important, and those figures I gave you in terms of how fast you can build muscle are based on if you’re training, eating, sleeping right. Let’s talk about this for a little bit.
Compound Exercises FTW
When it comes to muscle building training, one of the most important things that you need to be doing, the best compound exercises. Things like squats, bench, dead lift, pull ups, rows, the real core muscle building movements, and you need to get stronger at those. Doing those consistently in a proven program is absolutely essential for your progress, and if you’re like to get some pro form tips on those main compound movements, particularly the five best muscle building exercises, especially if you’re a guy over 40 or 50, I recommend you check out our five best muscle builders video, 100% free.
I break down the best form points for those. You can click on the links on this video. We’ll take you to that, and it’s also in the description box below. Now once we’re getting strong on the compound movements, we also need to understand the proper amount of frequency with we train at. Frequency essentially means, “How often are we hitting a muscle group?” And there’s a lot of different ways to train for building muscle. Each one of them has it’s own merits.
What you’ll most often see in these bodybuilding magazines is that they recommend you really split up your workout routine, chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, shoulders on Wednesday, legs on Thursday, arms on Friday, these really specialized split routines. It turns out that, in this kind of training style, you really just do a ton of sets for chest on Monday, and then you don’t hit chest again for another 5-7 days. That is not the most optimal way for most guys to train.
What I prefer that you do is a higher frequency training with lower sets per session, and what that means is, instead of doing 20 sets on Monday for chest day, let’s hit chest twice per week, but let’s divide up those 20 sets into 10 sets on one day, 10 sets on the other day. The reason that works is because, each time you train a muscle, a couple days later after the training session, you get this protein synthesis muscle building stimulus, and that only lasts for a couple of days.
And then, you need to train again to get that stimulus. If we’ve slammed our chest with 20 sets, we’re not getting that much more protein synthesis than if we just did 10 sets. We’ve just created more in-road to our recovery that keeps us so damn sore that we can’t train again for another 5-7 days. Instead, optimal number of sets, split twice per week. That’s why the best splits for guys in their, let’s say, 20s and 30s first off, are typically upper/lower splits, where you do upper body, lower body, upper body, lower body.
It ensures that you’re training roughly four times per week, and you’re hitting each body part twice per week. As we get into our 40s and 50s, it’s even more optimal to spread out that volume even more with three times a week, full body workouts, where you’re doing all the best compound exercises, spaced throughout the week. The reason is, we do the right number of sets and we recover, right number of sets, recover. And you’re hitting the body more frequently, which keeps the muscle building stimulus constant.
Training, super important. Right kind of exercises, right kind of volume. There’s a lot more to that, and if you would like some expert guidance from us here at the Fit Father Project, we have a program called Old School Muscle Building that’s specifically designed for guys over 40 that lays out our philosophy, and our proven plan to building muscle into your 40s. All the reps, sets, training. There’s links below as well as on this video if you want to check that out as well.
Now, on the nutrition side of things, we know that training provides the stimulus for building muscle, but if you’re not eating properly and recovering, you’re not going to put on size, period. Nutrition is where we build the muscle. Training creates the stimulus, nutrition actually builds the house. What we need to do is, first off, make sure you’re eating the right number of calories. If you’re not eating enough, your body doesn’t have enough calories and protein and carbs to actually build the muscle for you.
We need to roughly know how many calories your body needs, and then we need to eat roughly around 250-500 calories over that mark. The reason is, we don’t want to eat 2,000 calories over that mark with those bulking plans that you see guys do, is that remember, your body has a maximum rate of muscle it can put on every month. If you eat way more calories than you need, you’re just building the max amount of muscle, but the rest of that is just fat gain. It’s not what you want, because you’re going to have to diet off that fat, and then you’re going to lose the muscle in the process.
We have a free calorie calculator that you can click, and it takes you to our Excel document. You can download, make a copy of that, and what that does is it really gives you an idea of how many calories you need to eat to maintain weight, and then you can add 500 on top of that. And again, if you want guidance on this stuff, because I know it can be a little complicated if you’re doing on your own, our Old School Muscle Building Program, we cover all of that in the set-up of the program, so you can check that out as well.
But nutrition, every meal, and I roughly recommend you eat four every four hours or so to keep your body getting the right amount of food throughout the day. It’s like breakfast at eight, lunch at noon, snack at four, dinner at seven or eight or so. You don’t need to eat six meals a day, but roughly every four hours. Each one of those meals should have protein, carbs, healthy fats. Every single meal, so pick some kind of protein source in each meal: chicken, fish, steak, eggs, a good quality protein. Pair it with some carbs, almost a one to two ratio, more carbs than protein.
A lot of guys don’t know that carbs are one of the best ways to build muscle, and if you don’t keep carbs in your diet, you’re not going to put on muscle. You need the right kind of carbs, so we also like healthy carbs in there like fruit, oatmeal, obviously your fibrous veggies, sweet potatoes, rice. These are good muscle building fuel that, if you’re training right, these will not make you fat. You’ll just fuel your muscle gains.
We also need some healthy fats in there, things like avocado, oils, nuts, and seeds, because fat helps increase your testosterone production, and it really helps balance out the blood sugar effect of these meals, keeping you anabolic, building muscle and energized all day.
So we gave you a quick overview of the training, nutrition. On the supplementation front, obviously we recommend that you stick with natural body building, doing this the right natural way, step by step, and there are supplements that actually do work for natural body builders. The first one is creatine monohydrate. Every guy should be taking this. It is a proven muscle building supplement, perhaps the most researched supplement on the planet. There are more studies on creative than there on vitamin C, which is crazy.
Creatine is just so well-studied. Five grams after your workout is enough, every day, to really increase your muscle gains. And a quality protein powder, whey or casein blend after your workout, around 35-40 grams. It’s enough to really kickstart your muscle building after your training. Other than that, it doesn’t have to get more complicated. All the hype-y stuff about pre-workout supplements, nitric oxide boosters, testosterone boosters. A lot of that stuff’s not really well researched and not nearly as effective as a good diet, good training, creatine, and protein.
And before your workout, if you need some stimulation, some black coffee or a pre-workout supplement’s cool for the caffeine. That helps get you a little focused and dialed in for the training. But that’s basically it. In a nutshell, your ability to build muscle really depends on your training age, your genetics, your supplements, and how well you’re doing the training, nutrition, and supplementation.
Again, here’s the chart that roughly lays out what you can expect based on your training age, on how much muscle you should be putting on. If you’re putting on more than five pounds per month, even if you’re a newbie, you’re probably gaining some fat, and I recommend you take the slow stepwise approach. Of course, I recommend you check out our five best muscle building exercises, because we show you those best compound movements, but also we show you some form tweaks to make the exercises safer and more effective for stimulating your muscles and not damaging your joints.
Things like the bench press, which can be hard on your shoulders, we show you how to make that a lot more shoulder friendly, and actually hit your pecs a lot harder.