How Long Do You Have To Lift To Get Big? With Progress Pics!

How long do you have to lift to get big

Not knowing how long it takes to see the first visible results is one of the most difficult things about undertaking a body transformation. This post explains how long you have to lift to get big.

The average beginner takes 1-2 years to get truly big. A longer period allows an individual to get bigger. Workouts should last anywhere between 30 minutes for a beginner and up to 90 minutes for experienced lifters.

Below, I share my personal experience and research to give you a timeframe to go from skinny to big!

How long I had to lift to gain bigger muscles and get big.

How Long You Have To Lift To Be Considered “Big”

How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month (the TRUTH)

Check out David’s explanation for expected rates of muscle gain!

First things first- the term “big” is highly subjective.

One person’s opinion of being “big” may be completely different from another person’s standard.

Therefore it’s impossible to give you a precise timeframe for how long you have to lift to get big.

With that said, it is possible to give you a timeframe on how long it will take to get bigger (you can check out David’s explanation in the video above).

Generally speaking, a beginner can expect to gain around 2lbs of muscle per month.

Additionally, 10lbs of muscle gain can lead to a visibly bigger physique whilst 20lbs of muscle can is generally considered a big transformation.

Next, I share my transformation story to give you a better idea of how long it will take to see results!

How Long I Had To Lift To Get Big

It took me around 1 year of dirty bulking and heavy weight lifting as a skinny guy to get big (by my standards).

Here are my standards:

Timeframe for beginners to build bigger muscles.

It took me 6 months of lifting to get “bigger” and 12 months of lifting to get “big”.

Obviously, I’m by no means the biggest guy in the gym.

But at least you can see how much muscle I managed to gain in the specified timeframe.

Within half a year of heavy lifting and bulking, I gained around 10lbs of muscle and 10lbs of body fat (you can check out my 6-month transformation here).

And within the year, I had gained over 30lbs of total body weight.

I considered myself to be “big” at this point.

A Timeframe To Get Noticeably Big

Here’s an estimated timeframe to get big:

TimeHow Big You Can Get
1 to 3 monthsFirst signs of visible muscle toning and growth.
3 to 6 monthsNoticeably bigger frame and comments from non-weight lifters.
12 monthsBulky physique by the standards of non-weight lifters.
24 monthsA truly big physique by the standards of other weightlifters.

You can see that it takes anywhere between 6 to 24 months to get big (depending on your own definition of “big”).

There’s a caveat though.

You need to make sure you’re lifting heavy and on some sort of bulking diet to build muscle.

Additionally, the above timeframe is for muscle size gains.

Strength gains come much quicker compared to size gains.

You can expect to see impressive strength gains within 6 months of heavy lifting.

For more details, you can check out my other article on how long it takes to get bigger muscles.

How Long Each Workout Should Last To Get Big

Beginners should start with 30 to 60-minute workouts to start building bigger muscles. This can increase to 60 to 90-minute workouts after 1 year of experience. A “big” physique can usually be achieved within 2 to 5 years.

It’s important to consider workout duration (i.e. how long you should lift weights per workout) if you’re trying to get big.

Why does training duration matter?

How long you work out affects how much training volume you can fit in.

If you undertrain- your muscles don’t get a sufficient stimulus for optimal growth.

But if you overtrain- you impair muscle recovery and performance.

Here are general guidelines for how long each workout should last to build a bigger physique:

Training Level30 Min Workout60 Min Workout90 Min Workout120 Min Workout
BeginnerIdealUpper limitToo muchOvertraining
NoviceLower limitIdealUpper limitToo much
IntermediateLower limitIdealUpper limitToo much
AdvancedUndertrainingLower limitIdealUpper limit

Here’s a guideline for training experience:

  • Beginner- less than 12 months of weight lifting experience.
  • Novice- over 12 months of weight lifting experience.
  • Intermediate- over 24 months of weight lifting experience.
  • Advanced- over 5 years of weight lifting experience

Generally speaking, aim for 1 to 1.5-hour workouts.

This is more than enough time to fit in all your allocated reps and sets as a beginner.

As a result, you can expect to reach the full muscle growth potential whilst mitigating the risk of overtraining.

How Often You Need To Lift To Get Big

Beginners should start with 2 to 3 heavy workouts per week to get bigger. With around 1 year of training experience, intermediates can perform up to 4 workouts per week to get big.

How often beginners should lift weights to get big.

Here’s a recommended 3-day full-body training split for beginners.

Training frequency is important for building bigger muscles.


Again, it comes back to satisfying the required training volume for muscular growth (hypertrophy). This can only be achieved if you work out frequently enough throughout the week.

Additionally, studies have shown that working a muscle multiple times a week is optimal for muscle growth.

I recommend beginners train 2 to 3 times a week whilst intermediates and above to train 4 to 6 times a week, as follows:

Training LevelRecommended Training Frequency
Beginner2 times per week.
Novice3 times per week.
Intermediate4 times per week.
Advanced5 to 6 times per week.

As a result, you’ll reach the optimal training frequency for muscle growth.

You can check out my other post for more details on how often skinny beginners should lift weights!

How Heavy You Need To Lift To Get Big

Beginners should lift heavy to get big. Generally speaking, it is recommended to lift a weight that is at least 80% of your 1-rep max to challenge your muscles for growth.

How much weight beginners should lift to get big.

Beginners should lift heavy to get big!

In addition to how often you lift, how much weight you lift is also important for muscle growth.

That’s because mechanical tension (which comes directly from the amount fo weight lifted) is an important driver for muscle growth.

You risk training for months on end without getting bigger if you lift an insufficient amount of weight.

So it’s important to ensure you’re lifting heavy.

I recommend lifting at least 80% of your 1-rep max (which can be found on Strength Level) and increasing it to 85-90% as you get stronger.

Here’s an example of that for the 5 main compound lifts:

Exercise1-Rep Max (1RM)80% 1RM85% 1RM90% 1RM
Bench press80lbs65lb70lbs75lbs
Shoulder press40lbs30lbs32lbs35lbs
Barbell row100lbs80lbs85lbs90lbs

Lift heavy to make sure you’re giving your muscles the mechanical tension they need to grow!

You can check out my other post for an in-depth explanation of why skinny beginners should lift heavy to grow!

Essential Nutrition Tips To Get Bigger Muscles

How long you have to lift to get big also depends on how good your nutrition is.

After all, your muscles won’t grow without fuel!

Here are 5 nutrition tips to build bigger muscles fast:

  • Dirty bulk to get big fast. This requires you to eat a ~20% calorie surplus. You’ll bulk up rapidly at the expense of greater fat gains.
  • Lean bulk to get big with minimal fat gains. This requires you to eat a 5-15% calorie surplus. It will take you longer to get big but you’ll store less excess fat.
  • Eat at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight. Protein is essential to build muscle.
  • Consume a pre-and post-workout meal. A nutritious meal consumed within 2 hours before and after a workout provides your body with the fuel it needs for an intense workout.
  • Do not neglect your macros. Building muscle isn’t just about eating enough protein. You should also track your carbohydrate and fat intake.

You can check out my other article for tips on how to go from skinny to buff!

Looking To Get Big At Home?

Recommended home gym to get big muscles.

If you’re interested, here’s the home gym setup that I use and recommend.


I’ve explained how long you have to lift to get big.

It takes the average beginner around 6 months of heavy lifting and dieting to build a noticeable bigger physique.

An additional 6-12 months (1-2 years total) is then required to get truly big by most people’s standards.

To get as big as possible as fast as possible, you can:

  • Lift 2-3 times a week as a beginner and 4-6 times a week with more experience.
  • Aim for 45-90 minute workouts.
  • Lift at least 80% of your 1RM.

How big are you trying to get?

Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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