Are you planning to start a personal weight gain journey to bulk up and transform your skinny body? If so, then you may want to stick around. Because this post explains how much muscle you can naturally gain in your first 2 years of training.
A beginner has a maximum muscle gain potential of approximately 36lbs in their first 2 years of training. But this requires a highly optimized program that most beginners will fail to achieve. 18lbs of muscle gain in 2 years is a more realistic target for a beginner to aim for.
When I first started my quest to bulk up and build big muscles, I struggled with setting myself realistic targets.
So I know you may be having the same issue too!
Below, I share my own experience and the scientific evidence for how much weight you can ACTUALLY expect to put on as a newbie.
- How Much Muscle Can A Beginner Naturally Gain In 2 Years?
- How Much Muscle Will A Beginner Realistically Gain In 2 Years?
- Factors Affecting How Much Muscle You Can Gain In 2 Years
- Can Beginners Build A Noticeable Amount Of Muscle In 2 Years?
- Can You Quicken The Muscle-Building Process?
- Tips To Build Muscle Faster
- How To Track Your 2 Year Muscle Gain Journey
How Much Muscle Can A Beginner Naturally Gain In 2 Years?
An average beginner can gain approximately 36 pounds of lean muscle within the first 2 years of training. This is the maximum potential of muscle gains. The true amount of muscle gained will be influenced by genetics, gender, training history, diet, and the effectiveness of the training program.
This is based on the Lyle Macdonald model of predicted muscle growth.
Lyle is a renowned author, physiologist, and thought leader in the field of muscle building.
His model proposes that in the first year of training, you should be able to gain around 24lbs/11kgs (2lbs/1kg per month).
And in the second year, there’s a decreased rate of muscle growth, and you should be able to pack on another 12lbs/5kg (1lb/0.5kg per month).
Lyle’s model has been backed by scientific research.
For example, this 2011 study showed that the average amount of muscle gained across 56 untrained men aged 18-30 years old, who participated in a weight training program, was 24lbs/11kg in a year (2lbs/1kg per month).
And this 2016 study showed that after 1 year of consistent resistance training, men and women are only able to gain around 12lbs/5kg of muscle in a year (1lb/0.5kg per month).
The decreased rate of muscle growth is due to the ending of your “Newbie Gains” honeymoon period of rapid gains (more on this later).
But for now, the important point to note is that the upper limit of full muscular potential (i.e. how much muscle you can pack onto your frame if all diet and training variables are fully optimized) is approximately 36lbs in 2 years for the average beginner.
In reality, many factors affect how much muscle you’ll actually gain in 2 years (as described above).
These factors mainly boil down to your genetics and how well your weight gain program is structured.
Looking to quickly pack on mass? You might be interested in my other post which explains how to gain 5kg (10lbs) in 30 days!
How Much Muscle Will A Beginner Realistically Gain In 2 Years?
The average beginner can realistically expect to gain approximately 18lbs of lean muscle after 2 years of weight training. A sensible goal would be to build 10lbs of muscle in the first year and 8lbs in the second year. Low outliers may gain more whilst high outliers may gain less.
Check out Louis Lemar’s 2 year muscle gain transformation. He doesn’t specify the amount of muscle gained, but it looks somewhere around 30-40lbs.
As I mentioned previously:
Lyle MacDonald’s model is a highly ambitious target that most people will find difficult to reach.
If you half his proposed maximum potential muscle gains, you end up with a more conservative and achievable number.
Most beginners should realistically aim to build around 18 pounds of lean mass in 2 years.
My research reveals that 86% of beginners take on average 1 year to build 10lbs of muscle.
If we account for the Noob Gains period, then it can be inferred that 15lbs of muscle can be built in 2 years.
And if we further account for high and low outliers, then we can presume that 15-20lbs is a realistic target for a beginner to aim for in their first 2 years of training (18lb average).
You can check out my other post for more details on how long it takes the average person to gain 10lbs of lean muscle.
Factors Affecting How Much Muscle You Can Gain In 2 Years
Although the average beginner can expect to realistically gain approximately 18 pounds of muscle in 2 years, there will be high and low outliers. This usually happens due to variations in genetics, diet discipline, the effectiveness of the training program, and gender.
Here are the reasons why outliers can exist, in more detail:
- Genetic responsiveness to weight training stimulus. Some people have more type II fast-twitch fibres than type I slow-twitch fibres. Others produce more testosterone and growth hormone than normal. Both factors can mean you build muscle faster.
- Discipline in maintaining a lean bulk. Hypertrophy (muscle growth) can only happen if you consistently eat enough protein and calories. If you don’t stay disciplined, then you may end up building less muscle in 2 years than someone who is highly regimented.
- Effectiveness of training split. In other words, how well your workout plan is structured. Exercise choice, sets, reps, weight, and a number of training/rest days per week are all important for maximizing your rate of muscle growth. If these variables aren’t optimized, then you may not reach your full muscular growth potential.
- Gender differences. Males naturally have more muscle tissue than females. Men also produce more testosterone and growth hormones. Both variables mean men will gain around twice as much muscle in 2 years compared to women.
These variables can explain the discrepancies between Stuart Phillips Ph.D. (who expects the average person to gain 4-7lbs of muscle in 3 months, or around 30lbs in 2 years), and the results of my research.
Additionally, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that Stuart’s numbers are based on tightly controlled experiments.
Here, the test subjects undergo highly optimized programs.
This is something the regular Average Joe beginner will unlikely be able to achieve.
Looking to gain weight fast? You can check out my other post which explains how it’s possible to pack on 10lbs (5kg) in just 10 days!
Can Beginners Build A Noticeable Amount Of Muscle In 2 Years?
The average beginner can build a highly noticeable amount of muscle in 2 years. Most beginners can expect to gain around 10-30 pounds of lean muscle over 2 years of consistent training and dieting. This amount of muscle is visibly discernible in both men and women.
10lbs of muscle is noticeable.
20lbs is extremely noticeable.
Well, you can probably work that one out yourself…
And you bet it won’t be just you who notices.
Friends and family will also be able to tell a big difference in your physique.
Take a look at my own 2-year muscle gain transformation as an example:
I managed to gain around 35lbs of lean muscle in 2 years (I was extremely skinny before so my body was highly receptive to a weight gain program).
My journey to bulk up took me from 130lbs (12% body fat) to 165lbs (12% body fat).
You can see I generally look more ripped, with bigger muscles, and a visibly defined six-pack.
My clothes fit differently (in a positive way) and I was much stronger.
So if you manage to gain the expected 18lbs of muscle in your first 2 years of training, I can guarantee you that everyone will notice!
If you’re looking to gain weight faster, you can check out my other post which explains how you can gain 10lbs/5kg in just 2 months!
Can You Quicken The Muscle-Building Process?
Generally speaking, everyone has an inborn upper limit of muscle growth potential. It’s almost impossible to increase this natural rate of muscle growth. However, everyone can use good hypertrophy practices to realize their true maximum rate of muscle growth.
In other words, you can quicken the muscle-building process.
But only to a certain extent (being your natural limits).
Therefore there’s a big genetic factor involved in building muscle.
Men will naturally pack on mass faster than women.
And skinny newbies will also naturally pack on lean muscle faster than a trained weight lifter, bodybuilder, or someone of average build. That’s because as a noob, your muscles are still naive and highly receptive to training stimuli.
If you follow my tips to build muscle faster (see below), you can realize your true potential for making muscle gains!
If you want to find out exactly how I gained muscle quicker, then you can check out my process in this article which explains how it’s possible to gain 10lbs of lean mass in 3 to 5 months as a skinny guy!
Tips To Build Muscle Faster
It is possible to build muscle faster by implementing good hypertrophy practices. This includes eating a caloric surplus, maintaining a high protein intake, performing heavy compound lifting, progressive overloading, and following a full-body training split. This should be practiced consistently.
Here are the hypertrophy practices in more detail:
- Eating a daily calorie surplus. I aim for a 5-15% calorie surplus for a lean bulk (maximum muscle with minimal fat). This roughly translates into consuming 18-20 calories per pound of bodyweight. Aim to get your calories from whole foods as much as possible. Your calories should also be evenly spread between 4-6 meals throughout the day.
- Maintaining a high protein intake. I aim for 1g of protein per pound of body weight minimum. So a 140lb skinny guy would need at least 140g of protein a day. The consensus amongst bodybuilders is around 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight. But I found this to be excessive for the Average Joe (protein is expensive!). I use MyProtein Impact Whey to help me reach my daily targets. Each scoop costs 30 cents with 21g of protein and 100 calories.
- Performing heavy compound lifting. Scrap the isolation-type lifts like the bicep curl and focus on the 5 core lifts instead (bench press, shoulder press, row, squat, and deadlift) for maximum muscle activation.
- Progressive overloading on a regular basis. Aim to increase weight at least once every 1-2 weeks. Add 5% weight for upper body exercises and 10% for lower body exercises.
- Following an effective training split. Don’t just work on your mirror muscles (chest and arms). Over 50% of your muscle mass is in the legs. So choose a workout plan that hits your entire body!
If you’re trying to transform your skinny physique, you might be interested in my 17-steps to gaining your first 10 pounds of muscle!
How To Track Your 2 Year Muscle Gain Journey
It is important to measure body composition during a 2-year muscle gain journey. This can help prevent weight from being gained from excess fat rather than muscle. Body composition can be tracked at home with body fat calipers and weekly progress photos to measure body fat percentage.
Trust me, it’s a good idea to do this regularly.
As a beginner, it’s so easy to take your bulk too far and gain a lot of fat in the process.
This study suggests that for every pound of weight gained, 30-60% will be fat, depending on your diet and method of bulking.
And you better hope you’re on the lower end of that spectrum!
The most accurate way to track body composition is through regular DEXA scans.
But who’s got the money for that?!
An albeit much cruder, but much less expensive way to track your body composition is with body fat calipers like the Sequoia Fitness caliper from Amazon. It comes with a body fat percent chart. Aim to keep the rate of increase in body fat percent by under 0.8% per month.
You can also take progress pics every week to identify if and when you’re putting on a bit too podge and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
I also record my arm/chest/thigh diameters every week to make sure I’m gaining muscle in the places I’m training.
I’ve explained how much muscle you can gain naturally in 2 years.
Although a beginner can gain a maximum of ~36 pounds of muscle in their first 2 years of training, this is a highly ambitious target.
Most beginners will realistically only gain around 18 pounds of muscle in their first 2 years of training.
This is a much more conservative and likely achievable target to aim for.
That said, 18 pounds is still a highly noticeable amount of lean mass gains in both men and women.
So if you reach this goal, then you should be proud of yourself!
How much muscle are you aiming to build in the next 2 years?
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!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)