If you have the goal of increasing the size of your muscles, you may find yourself wondering how much time it will take until you start to visibly see growth. While you may notice your muscles getting pumped up during your resistance training sessions, this temporary enlargement won’t last for very long. When muscles contract under high load during each repetition, the blood vessels in the area muscles are working in large. Blood flow also increases which will cause the visible “pump”. This temporary increase in muscle size is one way to know that you are stimulating the muscle growth process. There are many ways to exercise your body. Each activity you perform will cause a specific physiological response. If you don’t get a pump from your workouts, there is a good chance you are not simulating the growth response in your muscles.
Contrary to what you may have heard and seen, pumping iron isn’t the only way to effectively build lean muscle. Any form of resistance training that challenges your muscles to contract against an external force will create stress on your muscle cells. When enough stress is place on the muscles, they will become physically damaged. As your body repairs these muscle cells, they will become larger. Repeating the process of muscle tissue breakdown through proper resistance training and muscle tissue repair and recovery takes time. Depending on the amount of damage there is during training, it could take days before the muscles are ready to be trained again. Repeating this process consistently for an extended period of time will ensure that you are maximizing your muscle growth potential.
I have written several article on the muscle building process. The truth is, how quickly you gain muscle is dependent on a variety of different factors. Nutrition, exercise selection, sets and reps, frequency, tempo, recovery, sleep quality, hydration, cardio, and flexibility all play a major role in your body’s ability to grow muscle at a consistent and optimal rate. Once you are confident that your exercise routine is set up for optimal muscle growth, you can expect muscle growth to come in as little as a month. Those who are just starting their muscle growth routine should expect to see between 1-2 pounds of muscle growth per month. It is possible to see a higher rate of muscle growth above 2 pounds per month, but this would require extreme dedication and attention to training detail.
I should note that accurately assessing your current body composition will be an important indicator for how much muscle growth you are achieving. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and are 20% body fat, that means your current lean mass will consist of 120 pounds of muscle, bone, blood, hair, and other tissues. When you reassess your body composition every 4 weeks, you should look for the lean body mass number to rise above 120 pounds. If you don’t see a rise, then that is an indicator that one or more of the factors I mentioned above are not being performed optimally. So, if your goal is to gain 10 pounds of muscle, you should see your lean body mass total increase from 120 pounds to 130 pounds over the course of about 5 months.
Optimizing Muscle Growth: Start Here
1) Train for muscle growth
- Complete 6 – 12 reps per exercise
- 1 set can be sufficient for novice exercisers; multiple sets is preferred
- Take moderate rest periods (60 – 90 seconds) between sets and exercises
- Train all major muscle groups 2 times per week on non-consecutive days and allowing for complete recovery of muscle tissue.
2) Focus on muscle building nutrition
- Consume 1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
- Don’t neglect carbs before, during, or after each workout
3) Get enough sleep
- Aim for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night
4) Don’t neglect stretching
- Complete a minimum of 2 full body stretching routines each week
- Ideally every muscle trained should be stretched at the end of each workout