How Much Muscle Can You Really Expect to Gain?

I hear the following all too often:

“I don’t believe the incredible gains some of the programs advertise” or “I don’t believe that anyone can possibly gain more than a few pounds of muscle a year.”

There is a myth that forever circulates that the maximum amount of muscle mass a natural trainer can reasonably expect to gain per year is 5 pounds (or 10 lbs., or 15 lbs., I’ve heard them all).

Truthfully, looking at the way most people try to bulk up training, they would be lucky to gain 5 lbs. of muscle in a year. Most trainers train in ways that sabotage their muscle-building abilities. They train with a directionless or fitness-based program, they pursue conflicting goals, they overtrain, they eat poorly or in any number of other ways insure that their muscle growth will be minimal.

But make no mistake about it, the “5-15 lbs a year” deal that the knowledge-challenged love to throw around as fact is absolutely ridiculous. It is a baseless myth. Those who follow a solid muscle-building program, those who diet and train for muscle mass, and those who understand and correctly apply proven mass gain bodybuilding techniques accomplish amazing things in short periods of time. They routinely prove the absurdity of such minuscule limitations on the body’s ability to build muscle.

Where Does This Myth Come From?

It comes from people who have never set foot in a gym. It comes from researchers who never take off their lab coats, dieticians who don’t know the difference between a weight plate and a chocolate donut, and even sleep-walking personal trainers who simply throw a generic program at all trainers regardless of individual goals.

Not so long ago, I was interviewed for an article. The article was on those who were heading to the gym with the unusual goal of trying to put on muscle weight (unusual to the mainstream media). In addition to myself, the writer talked with several others familiar with solid mass gain strategy including Sean Nalewanyj and Anthony Ellis.

The published article wasn’t horrible. However, after relaying the myth-busting results of those who had followed intelligent mass gain programs, the article turned its attention to a professor of kinesiology. This guy, resting on his doctorate, scoffed at the notion that anyone could put on more than 10 pounds of muscle in six months. Are you kidding me? Go to the gym, buddy.

This pattern seems to repeat itself every time the mainstream media looks at the plight of the “too skinny.” When they do bother to talk to those who have real experience, those who have actually been in the fight, they always seem to feel the need to counter that with an idiotic quote from someone who is clueless on the subject matter, someone whose only qualifications are the initials they like to put after their name (I have a place I’d like to see these people stick their initials but it isn’t after their names).

This irritates me a great deal. It is irresponsible. That is the reason many trainers don’t start and others give up before they have really begun. It is the reason underachieving trainers are satisfied with their meager results and eagerly pass on their less-than-optimal training habits to a new generation of soon-to-be underachieving trainers. It is the reason I get emails from 18-year-olds convinced that the only way they can reach reasonable goals before their hair grays is by becoming syringe-carrying members of the roid club.

You just don’t hear things like that from people who spend any time around the gym. You don’t hear it from experienced bodybuilders. You don’t hear it from personal trainers who make their living not just from smiling but from helping people reach their goals. You don’t hear from NCAA strength coaches who can’t keep their jobs if they gleefully report a 2 lb. gain from an off-season workout program.

Regardless of whether or not you believe individual testimonials, you may see around the web, know that beginner and intermediate trainers who train hard and train intelligently towards mass gain can and often do receive gains of 20 to 30 pounds over a 10-12 week period.

What Is a Realistic Goal for Mass Gain?

There are an infinite number of factors that influence an individual’s ability to gain muscle mass. Chief among those factors is how you train, how hard you train, and your unique genetic potential (what your parents gave you to work with).

It is not possible to give a guarantee on how much anyone can or will gain. What can be guaranteed is that a trainer following a solid mass gain strategy, a trainer who follows a complete program with intensity and discipline, will gain significantly more muscle than he would following the typical training approach.

From the Muscle Building Program Reviews, the top solid mass gain strategy recommendations for beginner and intermediate trainers:

  • Muscle Gain Truth No-Fail System – Sean Nalewanyj’s program, 26 weeks of workouts, and many valuable bonuses.
  • No-Nonsense Muscle Building – From Vince Delmonte, a fantastic program that is targeting skinny guys and girls. 52 weeks of training and more.
  • Muscle Gaining Secrets – Jason Ferruggia provides solid programs designed to add maximum size and strength for each level of training experience.

My experience has been that the beginning trainers typically gain at a rate of 1-2 lbs. of muscle per week when following an intelligent mass gain strategy. Some will be able to gain at a faster rate (I was closer to 3 lbs. a week when I first started training with a well-designed program) and others will gain at a slightly slower rate. But ALL trainers who diet and train reasonably well will be able to easily bust the 5-15 lbs. per year myth. I am yet to encounter one who couldn’t.

This isn’t to suggest that anyone can continuously gain 1-2 lbs. of muscle per week for as long as they want and be ready for the IFBB in a few years. The easiest pound of muscle to gain is the first one. From there it gets progressively harder as you close in on your genetic potential. If you continue training you may someday reach an advanced level of 5-15 lbs. per year will be an acceptable gain. But rest assured, very few trainers ever get to a place where they can even sniff their genetic potential.

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