Is Gaining 10 Pounds Of Muscle A Lot? What Skinny People Should Know About Packing On Their First 5kg Of Lean Mass

Is gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle a lot

If you’re considering packing on a substantial amount of mass onto a skinny frame, then you may be wondering what (if any) changes you may see to your body. I explain whether or not gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle is considered to be a lot.

Gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle is not considered to be a lot for a beginner. An untrained male has the potential to gain around 40lbs of muscle in their lifetime, whilst a female can gain around 20lbs. However, 10lbs of added muscle is a lot for a trained athlete.

When I gained my first 10lbs of muscle, it felt like a lot because of the stark aesthetic and strength improvements that I saw.

But in retrospect, it wasn’t very much at all compared to how much I eventually gained (almost 40lbs).

Below, I share my research and experience on what to expect when building your first 10lbs of lean muscle mass.

What Does 10 Pounds Of Muscle Gain Look Like And Is It Noticeable?

10 pounds (5kg) of muscle gain is highly noticeable on the average untrained man and woman. In terms of aesthetics; upper arm diameter may increase, chest diameter may broaden, and clothes may fit tighter. In terms of function, the individual will notice significant strength improvements.

Here’s what 10 pounds of lean muscle looks like before and after on a man:

What 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle gain looks like on a man before and after.
Image source: this is a progress photo from my personal 10lb muscle gain transformation as a skinny male beginner.

And now here’s what 10 pounds of gained muscle look like before and after on a woman:

What 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle gain looks like on a woman before and after.
Image source: this is a progress photo from The Great Khahn on Reddit as a female beginner.
10lbs of added muscle is visually noticeable for a beginner!

You can see that generally speaking, 10lbs of gained muscle looks highly noticeable on both a man and a woman.

Most of the aesthetic improvements can be seen in the upper body, where you’ll probably develop an overall more toned and athletic-looking physique.

What 10lbs/5kg of muscle typically looks like for the average skinny beginner.

The shoulders and arms should increase in both diameter, size, and definition.

Meanwhile, the chest and back may also gain some size and definition as well. But since these are large muscle groups with a greater surface area, muscle gains here often look slightly less noticeable compared to the arms and shoulders.

If you can control your nutrition (i.e. keep disciplined on a lean bulk) and maintain low body fat, then your six-pack may also become more visible.

This would require you to give your abs some sort of training though- whether that be from direct isolation-type exercises like ab crunches, or through big compound lifts like the squat which also engages the abs.

For most people, 10lbs of total-body muscle gain will not be that noticeable on the lower body.

That’s because the leg has the largest muscle groups in your body.

As a result, 10lbs of muscle gain in the legs is not that visually stark, compared to the smaller muscles in the arms for example.

10lbs of added muscle will translate into noticeable strength gains!

Aside from visual improvements, you will also notice a lot of strength improvements from gaining 10 pounds of muscle.

If you’re doing compound lifting (which you should be if you’re trying to gain muscle), then you can expect to see 100% increases (and more) in your 5 main compound lifts:

  • Bench press.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Row.
  • Squat.
  • Deadlift.

For example: if you started with a 60lbs bench press, don’t be surprised if this doubles to 120lbs or more after your first 10lbs of muscle gains.

Factors Affecting What 10 Pounds Of Gained Muscle Looks Like On Different People

Generally speaking, 10 pounds (5kg) of added muscle will look slightly different on different people. That’s because height, frame size, bone structure, and current body composition affect the visual appearance of muscle. Short and skinny males will notice 10lbs of gained muscle the most.

Here’s how each factor affects the final appearance of 10lbs of added muscle:

  • Tall people notice muscle gain less than short people. Taller people have a larger surface area on their body and this effectively “dilutes” the visual impact of gained muscle. Therefore added muscle mass will look slightly less pronounced on tall people compared to short people.
  • Mesomorphs notice muscle gain less than ectomorphs. People with a wider frame also have a larger body surface area. And this means mesomorphs (those with a natural V-taper physique) will notice muscle gain less than ectomorphs (those with a natural pencil-like physique).
  • Thick-boned people notice added muscle the least. People with thick bones generally have larger limb diameters and a higher surface area. These people won’t notice visual muscle gains as much as people with thinner bones and a smaller limb surface area.
  • Lean individuals will notice added muscle the most. People who currently have a low body fat percentage will see greater muscle definition compared to those who have a higher amount of body fat.

Together, these factors come together to determine how visibly noticeable 10lbs of muscle will be on your own physique.

For example: 10 pounds of added muscle on a short skinny beginner will look like a lot compared to the same amount of added muscle on a tall athlete.

You may also be interested in my other article to find out how it’s possible to gain 10 pounds in 2 months!

How Many Pounds/Kilograms Of Muscle Gain Is Normal?

The average male can gain around 40lbs of lean mass, whilst the average female can gain around 20lbs of lean mass, in their lifetimes. This occurs at a rate of around 1-2lbs per month in the first year of training. This rate of muscle gain will decrease with training experience.

The Lyle  MacDonals model for maximum muscle gains can predict how many pounds/kilograms of muscle gain is normal.

This is based on the Lyle-MacDonald model for expected maximum muscle gains in a natural lifter.

Here, the model proposes that beginners will see the fastest rate of muscle gain (aka the Newbie Gainz period) with a diminishing effect as training experience increases.

As such, 10 pounds of muscle may seem like a lot if you’re a skinny beginner.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively little compared to how much you can potentially gain in the future.

It’s also worth noting that due to the law of diminishing returns, gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle is not considered to be a lot for beginners but it is for a trained athlete (e.g. someone who has been bodybuilding for years).

You may also be interested in my other post to see how you can tell if you’re gaining muscle?

Is It Realistic To Gain 10lbs/5kg Of Muscle?

Gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle is generally a realistic goal for most people. It requires a combination of eating surplus calories, a high protein intake, and intense resistance training. It should be noted, however, that men will gain 10lbs of lean mass much easier than a woman.

How To Pack On 10lbs Of Muscle As A Hardgainer (STEP-BY-STEP PLAN)

Your diet should put you in a mild calorie surplus.

Aim to eat around 10% excess calories and at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight for a lean bulk.

This will maximize muscle gains and minimize fat gains.

Protein powders can help skinny beginners to realistically build 10lbs (5kg) of muscle.

I use protein powders like the MyProtein Impact Whey to help me reach my nutrition targets (it makes bulking much less of a headache).

Each scoop contains 21g of protein and 100 calories for $0.30.

Not everyone enjoys protein powders though. So try a small bag first, and if it’s suitable, you can then go for a large 5.5lb bag which will last you for around 2-3 months.

The MyVegan Pea Protein is a good alternative for plant-eaters, but it tastes nowhere near as nice as the Impact Whey in my opinion.

Bulking will do very little for muscle gains if you aren’t also resistance training.

Focus on progressive overloading (increasing weight) on the 5 main compound moves:

  • Bench press.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Row.
  • Squat.
  • Deadlift.

This can be done at the gym or at home.

If you’re training at home, you can get yourself a good pair of adjustable dumbbells like these Powerblock Elites. Alternatively, try my bodyweight workout without weights.

They’re a bit pricey, but they’ll save you a ton of space and give you everything required to build 10lbs of muscle at home.

You may also be interested in my 17-steps to gaining your first 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle here!

How Long Would It Take To Put On 10 Pounds Of Pure Lean Muscle?

The average person takes up to 1-2 years to gain 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle. The exact time required to build 10lbs of muscle will be determined by gender, genetics, and effectiveness of the bulking program. Males who are disciplined in following an effective program will build muscle the fastest.

Reddit and Quora say it takes on average 12 months to build 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle.

In support of this, 86% of Quora and Reddit users agreed that it took them between 6-18 months to build their first 10lbs of muscle (12-month average).

These were predominantly male responses.

Since females have almost 50% less muscle mass compared to men, it can also be inferred that they would take around 24 months to gain 10lbs of lean mass.

You may also be interested in checking out my other post for a detailed examination of how long it takes to gain 10lbs (5kg) of muscle.


Gaining 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle can be considered a lot and not a lot at all.

It really depends on who you are.

As a beginner, building your first 10lbs of muscle may seem to be a lot because it looks highly visible. You’ll also see a lot of strength gains from gaining 10lbs of lean mass.

But in the grand scheme of things, 10lbs is not much when you consider that you’re able to put on about 20-40lbs of total muscle in your lifetime (depending on whether you’re a man or woman).

Conversely, building 10lbs of extra muscle is considered to be a lot for a trained athlete (like a bodybuilder) who is already near the peak of their maximum muscle growth potential.

What are visual/functional improvements are you hoping to achieve through gaining 10lbs of muscle?

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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