Is It Hard To Put On 10 Pounds Of Muscle? What Skinny Beginners Should Know About Gaining Their First 5kg Of Lean Mass

Is it hard to put on 10 pounds of muscle

For a lot of skinny people, putting on their first 10lbs (5kg) of muscle is a much-coveted milestone and a great achievement. But is it a realistic goal or are you wasting your time? This post explains how hard it really is to put on 10 pounds of muscle mass.

Generally speaking, a beginner will not find it hard to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle if they follow a good training and nutrition plan. The process will take up to 12-24 months. But trained individuals will find it much harder to gain an additional 10lbs of lean mass.

It took me just shy of 6 months to gain my first 10lbs of muscle mass.

And being your typical skinny Asian dude, trust me when I say that if I can do it so can you!

Here are the before and after photos of my 10lb muscle gain transformation.

It took me 6 months to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle and it wasn't too hard.

Below, I’ll explain exactly what to expect on your own journey to gaining 10lbs of lean mass.

Let’s go!

Is Putting On 10 Pounds (5kg) Of Muscle Realistic?

Putting on 10lbs (or 5kg) of muscle is a realistic goal for the average male and female beginner. Men will find it much easier to gain muscle compared to women. Training history, genetics, diet, and training program will also determine how effectively someone can put on 10lbs of lean mass.

How I Gained 10+ lbs of Muscle in 3 Months..

The majority of beginners can gain 10lbs of muscle hassle-free by following a good program. Check out Jack Woodruff’s 10lbs skinny to muscular transformation!

Generally speaking, beginners will find it the easiest to build 10lbs (5kg) of muscle, compared to persons with previous training history.

That’s because the untrained muscles in beginners are particularly responsive to novel training stimuli.

As such, a novice can find their muscles growing at a rapid rate in the first 6 months or more of following a good workout plan (a phenomenon known as “Newbie Gains”).

“Newb gains describe the rapid growth of muscle that occurs when people with little to no previous weightlifting experience begin weight training.”

Mike Matthews, Legion Athletics.

In comparison, a trained athlete will have a much harder time putting on 10lbs of lean mass since their muscles have already adapted.

Furthermore, you can also expect men to be able to put on 10lbs of muscle more easily compared to women.

That’s because men naturally have more muscle mass and produce higher levels of anabolic (muscle-building) hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor.

You should also note that most people find it easier to gain muscle by lifting free weights (dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells), compared to bodyweight calisthenic workouts.

Taken together- both male and female beginners can realistically expect to put on 10lbs (5kg) of muscle mass by following a good training program.

But men will generally be able to do it much easier than women.

How Long Does It Take To Put On 10 Pounds Of Muscle?

The average male beginner usually takes 10-12 months of consistent training and dieting to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle naturally. In contrast, the average female beginner can take 20-24 months of consistent training and dieting to gain a similar amount of muscle.

How long it takes to put on 10 pounds of muscle (maximum vs realistic).

The 5-12 month timescale to gain 10lbs of muscle mass is based on the Lyle MacDonald model of muscle gains.

Here, the model proposes that the maximum potential rate of natural muscle gain in a beginner is 2lbs (1kg) per month or 24lbs (12kg) per year.

This has been supported by scientific research like this 2011 paper.

Here, the scientists found that untrained men gained an average of 6lbs (3kg) of muscle after 12 weeks of resistance training. This works out to 2lbs per month.

Taken together, the research indicates it takes 5 months to gain 10lbs (5kg) of muscle.

Realistic Expectations:

You shouldn’t forget that the test subjects mentioned above were put on highly optimized programs and studied under controlled environments.

In reality, the Average Joe beginner can expect to gain muscle at half this rate.

This accounts for factors like poorly designed programs, poor training technique, and lack of discipline (which are to be expected in a beginner).

Therefore, the average male beginner should realistically expect to take up to 10-12 months to gain 10lbs (5kg) of muscle.

Females can expect to gain muscle at half this rate (i.e. 20-24 months).

These are of course averages.

There will also be high and low outliers who gain muscle faster/slower dependent on things like genetics and training and diet discipline.

I gained 10lbs in around 6 months (accounting for fat gains too).

Honestly, it wasn’t hard at all and actually rather enjoyable. But I was not working during this period and could dedicate all my time to training, eating, and researching.

You can check out my other post for more details on how long it takes to gain 10 pounds of muscle!

Gaining 10 Pounds Of Muscle: Realistic Time Expectations

I’ve taken the scientific evidence and case studies to create a realistic timeframe for how long it will take you to gain 10lbs (5kg) of lean muscle:

10lbs Muscle Gain TimeframeMale Beginner LikelihoodFemale Beginner Likelihood
1 weekImpossibleImpossible
1 monthUnlikelyImpossible
6 monthsAchievableUnlikely
12 monthsLikelyAchievable
24 monthsHighly likelyLikely

You can see that it shouldn’t be too hard to gain your first 10lbs of muscle as a beginner (regardless of whether you are male or female).

You just need to dedicate yourself to training and eating properly for around 12-24 months (depending on your gender).

How long other people on reddit and quora take to put on 10lbs (5kg) of muscle.

In support of my timeframe, I tracked down a Quora thread that revealed 40% of fitness enthusiasts, trainers, and coaches agreed that 12 months is the fastest time required to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle.

Furthermore, another 86% of the Quora and Reddit coaches say it normally takes 6-18 months to gain 10lbs (5kg) of muscle naturally as a beginner. So that works out to be a 12-month average.

If you’re looking to gain weight fast and don’t mind gaining fat along the way, you may also be interested in my other post which explains how it’s possible to gain 10lbs in 7 days!

Is Gaining 10lbs/5kg Of Muscle Considered A Lot?

10lbs (or 5kg) of muscle gains is a significantly noticeable amount for a beginner. But in the grand scheme of things, it is not that much. The average male can gain 40-50lbs (20-25kg) of total muscle in their lifetime. In contrast, an average female can gain 20-25lbs (10-12.5kg).

The table below shows you how much 10lbs of muscle actually is, relative to the potential gains in a beginner and a trained lifter:

Training Experience10lbs Of Extra Muscle Gain
As % Of Max Potential (approx.)
Untrained Male25%Easy
Untrained Female50%Moderate
Trained Male50%Hard
Trained Female75%Very Hard

You can see that for a male beginner, 10lbs of muscle gain is not that much. It represents a quarter of a typical man’s maximum potential.

For a female beginner, 10lbs of muscle gain is a considerable amount. It represents half of a typical woman’s maximum potential.

After around 2 years of training, you’re considered to be a “trained lifter”.

For a trained male/female, an additional 10lbs of muscle mass is considered to be a lot.

In fact, it can be very difficult to gain 10 extra pounds of lean mass at this stage.

That’s because your Newbie Gains period will have ended by now.

And when this happens, you can expect to see diminished rates of muscle gain (around 1lb or 0.5kg per month for a man).

Furthermore, this law of diminishing returns will become even more pronounced as you gain even more training experience.

You may also be interested in my other post to find out how much muscle you can realistically expect to build in 1-3 months.

How To Build Your First 10 Pounds Of Muscle

Here are key essentials to building your first 10lbs (5kg) of lean muscle mass. These essential tips have been cherry-picked from my personal experience and research.

1) Determine calorie intake.

Men and women alike should be aiming for a calorie surplus of 5-15% above maintenance.

You can find your maintenance calories here at TDEE.

So a 140lb man with maintenance calories of 2500, for example, should consume around 2750 calories each day for a 10% surplus (2500 x 1.10).

This is called bulking.

But it can be hard for a skinny beginner to eat this much food if you’re not used to it.

Protein shakes can help a lot.

A typical shake contains between 100-1000 calories (depending on if it’s a lean shake or a mass gainer shake).

2) Establish protein intake.

Men and women alike should be eating at least 1g of protein for every pound of body weight per day.

So a 140lb individual, for example, should eat at least 140g of protein every day.

High-protein whole foods like fresh meat and fish, nuts, beans, soy, and eggs are ideal.

Protein shakes can help you gain muscle faster.

But it can be difficult to eat this much food in one day (and also very expensive), especially for skinny beginners.

I use and recommend the MyProtein Impact Whey.

Each serving contains 21g of protein and 100 calories (at $0.30 per serving).

The MyVegan Pea Protein is a plant alternative to the Impact Whey.

If you’re brand new to bulking, then the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass may be better for you.

Each serving contains 50g of protein and 1250 calories. But it’s more expensive at $3 per serving.

3) Pick a resistance training method.

To make your muscles grow, you need to work them at a high enough intensity.

In other words, you should be lifting heavy weights.

Most people use free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells). But bodyweight calisthenics can also work, albeit most people find free weights easier to gain muscle with.

Local gym membership is the cheapest way for beginners to get started.

But buying your own free weights works out much cheaper in the long run (home workouts like my skinny to muscular home routine will also save you a lot of travel time).

I used to use the Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells (see my testing review here).

I use my PowerBlocks with the Flybird adjustable and foldable weight bench!

But now I’ve switched to the Powerblock Elite adjustable dumbbells (link for my review).

Having researched and tried over a dozen dumbbells before buying, I felt the Powerblocks offer the greatest value for money.

And I don’t regret them one bit!

Each dumbbell weighs 50lbs (with increments). And this is more than enough for a beginner to gain 10lbs of muscle.

If you’re looking for the cheapest dumbbell option, then the Yes4Alls spinlock dumbbells are also fantastic.

4) Choose exercises carefully.

Forget about isolation-type moves like the bicep curl and chest fly.

If you want to gain 10 pounds of muscle quickly and easily, then focus on the 5 big compound lifts.

These are the bench press, shoulder press, row, squat, and deadlift.

Focus on the 5 big compound lifts to gain muscle fast.

These exercises combined will work your entire body.

You’ll also need a good weight bench to bench press. I use this Flybird bench.

5) Optimize training volume.

Follow a 3-day full-body training split (i.e. 3 full-body workouts per week).

Do each of the 5 big compound lifts in each workout.

Complete 4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise, with a 2-3 minute rest between sets.

Each workout should take around 60 minutes.

Remember to use a weight that challenges you for those 8-12 reps. You can tell if weight is challenging enough if it fatigues you by the last rep of a set.

If the weight is too light, you won’t build muscle!

6) Rest days and sleep are important.

Make sure you take at least 24 hours of rest between each training day.

Also, make sure you get 7-8 hours of nightly sleep.

Muscle growth happens when you are resting.

So you better give your body enough time to recover if you want to build 10 pounds of muscle fast!

7) Sufficient water intake is essential.

Muscle tissue can be up to 50% water weight.

It needs water to contract and function properly.

So you better stay hydrated to get the most out of your workouts!

Aim for around 2 liters of fluids per day (more if you live in a hot climate).

8) Remain patient and consistent.

By now, you should know that it can take up to 1 or 2 years to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of muscle.

So be patient.

Now that you have a realistic timeframe in mind, stick to it.

The process is a slow grind for everyone.

So be patient, and consistent, and you’ll get there relatively hassle-free!

You may also be interested in my complete guide (here) to find out the 17 essential steps required to gain 10lbs of muscle in one year (as a male and female).


I’ve explained how hard it is to put on 10 pounds (5kg) of lean muscle.

As a male or female beginner, it’s not hard at all.

You just need to follow good training and nutrition practices (detailed in this post).

If you do this, you can expect to gain 10lbs in around 12-24 months from a 3-day training week (men will lie on the lower end of that spectrum and women on the higher end).

Also, remember that there will also be some high and low outliers regardless of your gender.

For a trained individual, the journey to building an additional 10lbs will be much harder compared to a beginner.

How will you be trying to put on 10lbs of lean mass?

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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