Have you ever wondered, “how much muscle can you gain in a month?” It’s a question we hear often. Today, we’ll get you the answer. But first, I need to warn you:
You’re going to need time and consistency if you want to build a dense, muscular body.
Focusing on getting #yoked in one month is a myopic approach that does more harm than good. Building muscle is a long-term process. You can’t rely on a quick jolt of inspiration from the #fitfam or slam an extra scoop of pre-workout powder and hope to gain muscle instantly.
You need to master muscle building habits: eating right (aka a caloric surplus), sleeping at least seven hours per night, and lifting heavier in the gym. When you focus on the process the muscle will come.
How much muscle, you ask?
Well, strap it in and learn how much muscle you can gain in a month below.
Ding. And there it was, a new message slidin’ up in my DM’s on Instagram.
“Bro, I need to get bigger. For real this time. I’ve tried in the past, but nothing seems to work for me. How much muscle can I gain in a month? I don’t want to get fat either.”
Oh, boy. As a former 103 pound runt with toothpicks for arms, I’ve been there: Feeling like I was doing everything right but still weak and wire-thin. Yup, that’s me: young Eric as #68 … just a wee little guy.
Note: I was 12 in this picture, but you get the idea.
I looked ridiculous. like I didn’t belong in the uniform or on the team. So I trained harder and lifted heavier and grew naturally.
Even then I ate “a lot” and was bulking,’ bro…
…and yet I couldn’t gain weight.
Days, weeks, and months passed.
I barely gained an ounce of muscle despite hard lifting, dropping wads of cash on supplements and, of course, reading tons of articles and trying new workouts.
Luckily, I pulled out of my tailspin and figured a few things out since then.
And you can do the same if you focus on the muscle-building process and stay the course. You have to hammer away at the basic principles, but first, you need to know how much muscle you can realistically build; which brings us back to…
How Much Muscle Can You Build In A Month?
The short answer is “it depends.”
If you’re a beginner 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of lean muscle mass is the maximum amount of muscle you can build each month without steroids.
As you make progress, your gains slow down to one pound per month and slow to a trickle as you get advanced; gaining as little as .2 to .5 pounds a month, max.
(Please note this doesn’t account for increased water weight/glycogen storage, which can add a few pounds per month).
Here’s a good rule of thumb:
If you’re gaining more than five pounds per month of scale weight, you’re probably adding unwanted body fat.
How Much Muscle Can You Gain If You’re Not a Beginner?
As illustrated by Alan Aragon, nutrition expert, author, and king of the Alan Aragon Research Review, the amount of lean muscle you can build depends on where you begin with your training.
There is no clear-cut method to determine your training status. Instead, let me slice and dice the specifics, so you have some clarity about where you are in your training career, mmm’kay?
Beginner: 60%+ people in the gym
The beginner stage is a wide-ranging category of lifters which extends to at least 60% of people in the gym. In the beginner stage, there are two zones of development: raw beginner and beginner.
Raw Beginner: You’re a beginner if you’ve trained for six months or less. You move like a drunk baby giraffe, shaking like an earthquake on basic exercises.
The lack of stability in your movements indicates your nervous system is still figuring out how to lift. Nearly all your gains result from improved nervous system efficiency and better technique, not from bigger muscles.
Beginner: Even if you’ve been training for a bit and aren’t shaky, you can still be a beginner. You haven’t yet built a base of strength, the most important foundational piece of building a great body.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many lifters never leave the beginner stage because they hop from program to program without mastering the basics.
Until you’re sufficiently strong on major movement patterns like squats, hinges, presses, lunges, and pulls, you’re probably a beginner.
Here are a few strength standards. They’re not set in stone, but should be a minimum to consider yourself more than a beginner.
Barbell Bench Press: 1x bodyweight for 5 reps. 170 lbs = 170×5 reps
Squat: 1.5x bodyweight for 1 rep. 170 lbs = 255 lb squat
Deadlift: 1.75x bodyweight for 1 rep. 170 pounds =297.5 lb deadlift
The numbers above are relative and don’t apply universally.
They’re more difficult for women due to differences in muscle mass distribution and don’t apply to people who are extremely overweight. Take them with a grain of salt.
The bottom line is if you’re not strong in your big lifts, you’re not as advanced as you think.
P.S. Looking for a simple, easy to implement muscle building plan? Grab your free Chiseled Muscle Cheat here.
Intermediate: 30%+ of people in the gym
You understand the terminology of training, know when to push yourself and when to pull back, and are capable of making adjustments in your workouts.
As an intermediate, you can hoist a decent deadlift and have some muscle.
People no longer ask, “Do you even lift, bro?” You’re stronger than most people at the gym.
Alas, your training isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You’ve hit your first plateau. You tweak your training and add more volume to drive new gains.
Advanced: The Top 5%
I’m going to give it to you straight: 95% of lifters never reach the advanced stage. Advanced lifters dominate bodybuilding stages and playing fields. You might know them as “those people.” You won’t find many at your regular gyms.
Advanced lifters are near their natural genetic limits. They’ve overcome many challenges in the gym and are capable of pushing harder than most people.
Here’s a Step By Step Example of How Much Muscle You Can Gain In A Month
Let me tell you about Jake.
Jake is a 19-year-old college student. He lifted weights in high school and as a freshman in college but fell off every few weeks. Jake would rather play Call of Duty, drink cheap beer, and chase girls. Not a sad life.
Unfortunately, girls refuse to date a guy who resembles their puny little brother, not a powerful mate. Frustrated and determined, Jake proclaims, “It’s time to get jacked” and fill out his scrawny 140-pound frame once and for all.
Jake will be training hard and build strength with 3-4 workouts per week.
He’ll no longer eat “a lot.” Instead, he’ll track his calories to ensure a caloric deficit. He might even drink less beer and sleep a bit more. Here’s what he can expect.
Year One: Beginner
Woohoo! Jake focused on a simple workout plan like this (link) to build strength and size. Now, though still skinny, Jake has a decent amount of lean muscle. Here’s how it breaks down:
140lbs x .0125 (rate of total body weight per month) = 1.75 pounds per month = 21 pounds per year.
Jake gained nearly 2 pounds of lean muscle per month and now weighs 161 pounds. Goodbye, small t-shirts and hello, mediums.
Year Two: Intermediate
For the first time, Jake started to hit a wall with his workouts. Luckily, he tweaked his routine by working with me as his online coach (shameless plug, I know; did I mention I now have a mortgage?) Jake started to add lean muscle again.
161 lbs X .0075 (rate of total body weight per month) = 1.2 pounds per month or 14 pounds in a year. Jake is still gaining at an impressive rate.
Jake gained about a pound per muscle and now weighs 175 pounds. He’s lean with a few abs showing and appears much bigger than he is. Jake deadlifts 405 lbs and looks better than 90% of guys in the gym.
As to whether his dating life is improving, I leave that to your imagination.
Year Three: STILL Intermediate
Jake has learned a lot. He might not be a gym Jedi, but he’s every bit a Han Solo.
He knows how to make subtle adjustments in his training. He tracks his workouts and “feels” when he needs to push harder or dial back. He’s in the zone and pushing his body to the max.
175 lbs x 0.0037 (rate of total body weight per month) = 0.65 pounds of muscle per month, or 7.7 pounds in a year.
Jake gained almost eight pounds in his third year and now weighs 183 pounds. His strength gains slowed down, so he added more training volume to focus on building muscle. Right now, he’s at a level most folks won’t ever reach in the gym.
How did Jake do it?
Well, he’s been consistent.
Jake can continue making progress, but the process will be slow. He’s creeping towards his genetic limit for size and strength. He might gain a few pounds per year, but he’s not piling on 30 pounds of new muscle like a newb.
How Much Muscle Can You Gain In A Month
About two pounds of pure muscle as a beginner. Sadly, your gains go from a full-on fire hose to a trickle as you become more advanced. Less as you train longer.
Two pounds of muscle per month sounds like nothing to the anxious skinny dude, but this is incredible progress.
The most significant mistake many lifters make is thinking they’re progressing too slowly and hopping from program to program. They think it’s a mistake to stick with a program when progress slows.
Wrong. Program hopping is the mistake. Keep it simple.
Start with a basic strength-building program like 5×5 and run it for a year. Make sure you’re eating enough to move the scale; not just “a lot.”
As an intermediate, you’ll benefit from more variety and training volume in your workouts.
Since you have a base of strength, you’ll benefit from more volume and (gasp) isolation work like biceps curls. (I know: somewhere a CrossFitter is dying, but I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Deal with it.)
I’d recommend an upper-lower split (like this (link) to train your muscle groups more often while building size and strength. Some lifters use an upper-lower split forever and are incredibly strong and jacked.
After a few years of solid training, your progress will slow to a trickle. No biggie, it’s part of the game when you’re no longer makin’ newbie gains.
Again, your reaction to slower progress is key. Don’t try every method under the sun and end up with information overload, like most lifters. Instead, reconsider down on your expectations and review your progress.
Are you willing to dedicate every aspect of your life for bigger arms or a more symmetrical body?
If not, consider continuing on your path and understanding you’ll still make progress, but it’s going to be a journey.
Remember most guys can build around 40-50 pounds of lean mass naturally, and 20-25 if you’re a woman.
Gaining more than the aforementioned 40-50 pounds requires an elite level of discipline (like competitive bodybuilders) and potentially, a good pharmacist.
You can gain 1-2 pounds of lean muscle as a beginner and gradually less; .2 – .5 lbs per month after. The process is slow. So you’re better off looking beyond the number on your scale in measuring progress.
Use the mirror and more importantly, your progress on the key habits below to truly transform your body.
1. Build Strength Over Time
Muscle growth is the result of doing work (lifting more weight for more reps) and how you increase it over time.
Setting a personal record every workout isn’t practical. Instead, get stronger from week-to-week and month-to-month.
As a beginner, getting stronger from month-to-month alone will lead to gains in muscle size and set you up for the future.
The more experience you get, the more increasing volume (sets/reps) will help you eke out more muscle gains. Transforming your body requires you give it a reason: the reason is progressive overload.
2. Eat More Calories Than You Burn
Many hard gainers have said, “I eat a lot.” Well, tough news, buddy. A lot isn’t enough unless your weight on the scale goes up.
A simple equation to find out how many calories you need is bodyweight (pounds) x 20. Eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and mix a blend of carbs and fats for the rest of your calories.
You can find exactly how much you need to eat by heading here.
3. Repeat 1 and 2 (aka Be Consistent)
Train hard, get stronger, and increase your workout volume.
Eat for a caloric surplus every day.
Nail your workouts and don’t skip legs for biceps.
A caloric surplus and progressive overload with workouts only work when you pair them together consistently. Consistency is the key to the process working.
Occasionally eating big won’t build muscle. Skipping legs won’t build muscle.
Focus on what matters. Train hard. Eat big. Rinse and repeat. Building muscle is that simple.