How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Get Muscular (timeline)

How long it takes a skinny guy to get muscular.

As a scrawny kid embarking on a body transformation, it’s good to have a realistic timeline of expected results. This helps to keep you on track during a journey that can typically take months, or even years, to complete (depending on your goals). Below, I explain how long it typically takes a skinny guy to get muscular.

The average skinny person requires up to 12-18 months to be truly considered muscular. It is essential to consistently follow a hypertrophy training program and bulking diet throughout this period to ensure success.

This post gives you a clear idea of how soon you can expect to see specific results. The timeline is based on my personal transformation and polling other ex-skinny people.

How long it took me to transform form skinny to muscular.
Timeline of my skinny to muscular transformation journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Expect to see the first signs of muscle growth within 1-3 months.
  • Highly noticeable muscle tone can be achieved within 6 months.
  • Most skinny people can get ripped within 12 months.
  • A skinny guy can get muscular within 18 months.
  • Bodybuilder-jacked physiques usually require up to 36 months (3 years) or longer.
  • Timelines assume an effective training and nutrition plan is consistently followed throughout.

Definition Of Skinny And Muscular

First, let’s define these- let’s face it- highly subjective terms.

Here’s what I mean by skinny and muscular:

Visual difference between a skinny and muscular person.
Differences between a skinny and muscular physique.

Skinny people can be either scrawny or skinny-fat. The former has a lower body fat percentage (typically under 15%) while the latter has a higher body fat percentage (typically 15-20%). Both groups have relatively little muscle mass.

Muscular people have large and well-defined muscles across the whole body including the chest, arms, shoulders, back, core, and legs.

Timeline For A Skinny Guy To Get Muscular

Timeline for skinny people to get muscular.
Estimated timeline visual for an untrained newbie.

The journey to go from skinny to muscular does not happen overnight (we wish it would!).

Rather, it takes many months- sometimes even years- depending on your final goal. All the while, you can expect to see different results along the way (see the below table).

A skinny to muscular timeline for beginners:

Months Spent TrainingTotal Muscle Gained (Approx.)Visible Results For A Skinny Person
1-3 months2-6lbsFirst noticeable sign of muscle growth, increased muscle definition.
3-6 months6-12lbsIncreasingly toned muscles, wider V-frame, tighter-fitting clothes.
6-12 months12-24lbsStarting to get “ripped” by the average beginner’s standards.
12-18 months24-30lbsConsidered to be “muscular” by most people’s standards.
18-36 months30-40lbsConsidered to be “jacked” by most people’s standards.

  • Months 1-3. This is when your muscles start responding to your workout and bulking diet. If you’re training the full body, you can expect to feel a slight ”swole” feeling in all your muscles as a result of resistance training.
  • Months 3-6. Your muscles become increasingly toned as they get bigger. If you can maintain a low body fat percentage, you should have a significantly more defined physique by this stage.
  • Months 6-12. This is when the most noticeable changes begin to happen. Your upper body should look considerably more ripped and highly noticeable in front of the mirror.
  • Months 12-18. Most people (including yourself and your peers) will notice a significantly more muscular physique by this stage.
  • Months 18-36 (and beyond). This is when you can expect to get to a size that resembles the bodybuilder-type swole physique.

Note: this is an estimated timeline for the average untrained skinny guy following a full-body workout program and bulking diet. Real results may vary considerably depending on your workout program, nutrition plan, and discipline of eating and training.

Expected Rate Of Muscle Gain For A Newbie

The above timeline is based on the Lyle-McDonald model for maximum rates of muscle gain:

Years Spent TrainingMaximum Muscle Gain Rate (lbs per month)Maximum Recommended Weight Gain Rate (lbs per month)
4+0.25 (negligible)0.5lb

You have a great advantage as a skinny newbie trying to get bigger- untrained muscles in a beginner are particularly responsive to size and strength gains compared to those in a trained lifter.

These are called “newbie/newb gains” and often last for around a year.

And as a result of this honeymoon period, you can expect to see a relatively fast rate of muscle gain (assuming you’re training and eating correctly).

It’s also important to make a clear distinction between “muscle gain” and “weight gain”. The former refers to the amount of lean muscle mass gained. The latter refers to total body mass gained (including muscle and fat).

Also, remember that your body can only build so much muscle for any given period of time.

This is why it’s recommended not to exceed the recommended max rates of weight gain (to avoid putting on excess fat during a bulk).

Average rate of monthly weight gain for a skinny beginner.
The results of the below Reddit poll plotted on a line graph.

In support- this Reddit thread reveals that the average skinny guy gains approximately 30lbs of body weight in 6 months of bulking, equating to just over 4lbs per month (around 2lbs of which would be lean muscle mass).

How Long It Takes A Beginner To See First Signs Of Muscle Growth

The average beginner lifter takes 1 to 3 months to see the first noticeable signs of muscle growth. This is commonly seen in the upper-body first. People with low body fat levels usually see more noticeable differences compared to those with higher body fat.

It took me 2 months of bulking to see the first signs of noticeable muscle growth.
I saw the first visible signs of muscle growth within 3 months of my bulking program.

As a skinny beginner, you can expect to gain around 5lbs of muscle by the end of month 3 (based on a max muscle gain rate of 2lbs per month).

5lbs of added lean mass is your first muscle-building milestone as a skinny guy.

Although it’s barely visible to most people who aren’t actively studying your physique, it’s certainly noticeable when you look at yourself unclothed in the mirror.

Whilst clothed, your upper arms should look slightly bigger. You may also begin to feel close-fitting tees begin to feel slightly tighter. For more signs, you can go to my other post on how to tell your muscles are growing.

How long the average skinny person takes to see their first visibly noticeable results.
The results of the below Reddit poll plotted on a bar chart.

In support- I polled another Reddit post and found that beginners took, on average, 2 months to see their first positive results from bulking. There are also outliers at 1 and 3 months too.

How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Get Toned

Skinny people can usually become toned within 1-3 months of a lifting program. By month 6, the definition increases further as the muscles get bigger. A lean bulk is recommended for people who are looking to gain noticeable muscle tone.

It took me 6 months of bulking to go from skinny to toned.
I was less skinny and significantly more toned within 6 months of bulking.

Here’s what I mean by tone:

“A toned body has visibly contracted muscles even when resting.”

BCS Fitness.

The good news for skinny guys is that it doesn’t take long to become toned.

That’s because your naturally low body fat makes it easier to reveal the underlying muscle definition underneath, even if you don’t have the biggest muscles yet.

By the end of month 6, you should have built just over 10lbs of muscle. This is your second major milestone!

To maximize muscle definition and tone as a skinny person, make sure you lift heavy weights and keep to a mild caloric surplus (5-10%) and high-protein intake. This is called lean bulking and it’s great for muscle growth with minimal fat gains.

For more details, you can check out my other guide on how to gain your first 10 pounds of lean mass.

You won’t yet be considered “big” at this stage, but it’ll be a nice confidence boost to see those “lumps and bumps” start appearing!

How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Get Ripped

6 to 12 months of consistent lifting and dieting are generally required for a skinny person to get ripped. This requires the individual to maintain a low body fat percentage whilst building muscle. The result is a lean and defined body with a shredded appearance.

It took me 12 months to go from skinny to ripped.
I transformed my skinny body into a ripped physique within 12 months (required 2 bulk-cut cycles).

Here’s what I mean by ripped:

“A ripped physique is mostly lean muscle with some mass starting to appear”

Brett Williams, NASM PT

As a skinny guy, you can expect to have built just under 25lbs of lean muscle mass by the end of month 12 (based on a max muscle gain rate of 2lbs per month).

This is your third major milestone as a skinny guy!

Other people will notice that you’re muscles are considerably larger. And if you can keep a low body fat percentage to maintain muscle definition, you’ll look shredded and get visible six-pack abs without your clothes on.

As always, skinny guys should go on a lean bulk (as opposed to a dirty bulk), and lift heavy weights to build muscle with minimal fat gains. This is the best way to get a truly ripped appearance.

Disclaimer: it’s not uncommon for skinny beginners to have to bulk first before and then cut afterward to achieve a ripped physique. Bulking builds muscle. Cutting shreds fat.

How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Get Muscular

The average skinny person requires 12 to 18 months of consistent training and dieting to be considered muscular. Longer timeframes generally allow for a more muscular physique to be built

I took 18 months to go from skinny to muscular.
My third bulk-cut cycle took me from ripped to muscular by the end of month 18

Let’s define “muscular”.

A muscular physique has pronounced V-shape muscles with a satisfactory amount of lower body mass. This results in a:

  • Thick and wide back.
  • Broad shoulders.
  • Visible pec lines.
  • Cut biceps and triceps.
  • Well-developed legs.

As a skinny person, you can expect to have gained around 25-30lbs of lean muscle weight within a year and a half. This accounts for the reduced rate of muscle gain which is expected after your first year of training (when your newbie gains eventually wear off!).

By now, you’re approaching your second year of bulking. And 30lbs of added muscle weight is a major achievement.

You’ve reached your fourth milestone as a skinny guy!

Additionally, 30lbs of extra muscle is more than enough for a true skinny-muscular transformation. You’ll fill out a T-shirt nicely and likely need to upgrade size (or two!). Furthermore, you’ll also have a body you can be proud of at the beach!

It usually takes around 2-3 bulk-cut cycles to reach this stage.

How Long It Takes A Skinny Guy To Get Jacked

Skinny people typically require up to 3 or more years to become truly jacked. This is a significant achievement that takes many years of dedicated training and eating. Most people need to complete at least 5 bulking and cutting cycles to get this muscular.

It's now 36 months of bulking and I'm starting to get jacked.
I’m currently approaching my third year of bulking and starting to get jacked.

By jacked, I’m talking about your typical amateur/pro bodybuilder. The ones with a classic X-shaped frame typified by:

  • Broad shoulders.
  • A wide and thick back.
  • Large pecs.
  • Big arms
  • 6-pack abs.
  • Powerfully developed legs.

This is probably the biggest you’ll ever get as a natural lifter.

It can take up to 3 years (sometimes more and sometimes less depending on how disciplined you’ve been with training and eating). For more information, you may be interested in my other post which details how much muscle you can naturally put on in 24 months.

By this point, you should have gained around 30-40lbs of lean muscle mass. This accounts for the yearly reduction in muscle gain rate that invariably comes with training experience.

Most people would consider this a full-blown body transformation. You’ll need a new set of clothes to fit your larger physique, and pretty much everyone will notice your gains!

It took me 6 bulk-cut cycles to achieve this physique.

Is The Timeframe Different For Skinny Fat People?

Where you lie on the skinny-fat spectrum affects how long it can take for you to get ripped, muscular, and jacked.

As a borderline skinny-fat guy (15-17% body fat), you can follow the same bulking and cutting strategy of a typical scrawn skinny person. In this case, the timeline is similar to that explained previously in this post.

But if you’re very skinny fat (17-20% body fat), you may want to consider cutting first to shred excess body fat before starting your bulk. In this case, you may require an additional 2-3 months to go on the initial cut.

Regardless, you still require a considerable amount of time to build your dream body through multiple bulk-cut cycles. It can take months or years depending on your long-term goal.

As always make sure you lift heavy and eat well to maximize muscle gains.

How Much Muscle Skinny People Can Realistically Put On

Being skinny doesn’t mean you can’t put on an impressive amount of muscle.

Most people reach their lifetime natural maximum genetic potential at 40lbs of added lean mass. After this point, it becomes extremely difficult to put on any more significant amounts of mass.

Realistically, most beginners can gain 20-30lbs of quality mass relatively easily assuming a proper training and nutrition plan are followed. It’s even possible for skinny guys to get bigger at home through body weight, dumbbell, and band training.

8 Tips For A Skinny Guy Bulk Up Fast

1) Focus On Your Big Compounds

Compound lifts like bench presses, overhead presses, rows, deadlifts, and squats are ideal for skinny people to recruit the most muscle fibers and get big fast. Isolation exercises like bicep curls can also be performed. But do them sparingly as an accessory to the bigger lifts.

2) Prioritize Intense Lifting

This means lifting 70 to 90% of your 1 rep max on any given exercise. Combine this with regular progressive overload (increasing weight) to drive strength and hypertrophy (size) gains. For more details on how much you should be lifting to build muscle, you can check out my other post here.

3) Work In The Hypertrophy Rep Range

Work in the low to moderate rep ranges. 8 to 12 reps per set is generally recommended to be ideal for hypertrophy. Use a weight that challenges you for the allotted reps. Muscular fatigue should appear within the last few reps of each set.

4) Complete The Recommended Effective Training Volume

Aim for 10 to 15 sets per muscle group per week. Work in the 8-12 rep range. This ensures each muscle gets the required volume for maximal growth.

5) Hit Each Muscle Group Multiple Times Per Week

It’s generally better to spread the total sets for a given muscle over multiple training days than it is to cram them into a single workout. Aim to train each muscle at least twice a week. I like to use a 3-day full-body split to achieve this.

6) Ensure A Calorie Surplus

Lean bulking is the best way for a skinny guy to get muscular with minimal fat gains. Aim to eat in a 5-10% calorie surplus. For the typical skinny guy, this equates to approximately 2200-2500 calories per day depending on your current body weight. Stop bulking when you reach 15-20% body fat and start cutting to prevent excess body fat from accumulating. This can help you maintain a ripped physique.

7) Increase High-Protein Food Intake

You’re generally recommended to eat around 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight per day to build and maintain muscle whilst weight training. Fresh meat and fish, nuts and beans, soy, and protein powder are your best friends! For high-protein meal ideas, you can check out my 140g of protein homemade meal prep plan.

8) Spread Calorie/Protein Targets Over Meals

Bulking requires you to overeat. And this can be difficult for skinny beginners. I recommend spreading your total calorie/protein targets over multiple meals throughout the day to reduce the uncomfortable bloated feeling that comes with overeating.


It can take a skinny guy up to 12-18 months to be considered muscular.

Assuming you follow a good training and diet plan, the first signs of muscle growth can usually be seen by month 3.

As you continue bulking, you can then expect to see visibly toned muscles by month 6, a ripped physique by month 12, and a considerably bigger frame by month 18.

Getting jacked like a bodybuilder usually takes around 3 years or more.

Eating and training effectively are essential to ensure success.

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 printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!


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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