How Much Muscle Can You Gain In A Year? (Naturally)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 13, 2023
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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As an experienced health and performance coach, I frequently encounter clients eager to understand the realistic potential of muscle growth within a year.

This article is crafted to address this common query, aiming to dispel prevalent myths surrounding weight gain and bulking up versus the pursuit of lean muscle.

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast or just starting out, join me in unraveling the truths about muscle gain and setting achievable goals for your fitness journey.

Quick Summary

  • You can gain between 2-3 pounds of muscle per month throughout the year, depending on the intensity of your exercises.
  • A proper diet helps to gain muscles when combined with regular exercise.
  • According to Precision Nutrition, adults who do not train should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (or around 0.36 g per pound) on average.
  • Based on my experience, achieving significant muscle gain within a year is more about quality training and nutrition than just lifting heavy weights.

How Much Muscle Can You Gain?

gaining muscles

You can gain 2 to 3 pounds of muscle within a month, according to The Lean Muscle Diet by Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon.

However, for those who have been lifting for more than a year, the muscle gain rate can slow down due to the ongoing muscle stress.

The key goal here is hypertrophy - increasing muscle size through exercise.

In my practice, weightlifting has proven to be the most effective method for achieving this. But remember, factors like workout intensity, age, genetics, frequency, and nutrition play a significant role in hypertrophy.

You can also add pre-workout supplements for maximum results.

To clarify the above factors, let's address each of them below.

Factors That Affect Muscle Gain

gym workout

The following factors play a significant role in hypertrophy:

1. Age

As we age, we start to lose lean muscle (after the age of 30), as much as 3-5% a year. To combat this, strength training is essential.

One of my clients, in their mid-30s, began lifting weights with me 2-3 times a week. Not only did this routine halt their muscle loss, but it also boosted their metabolism significantly.

This approach is particularly beneficial for those with osteoporosis or advised to incorporate weight-bearing exercises into their regimen.

2. Body Type

woman's body

Understanding your body type is crucial in fitness. The three main types are:

  • Ectomorphs (lean, smaller frames)
  • Endomorphs (prone to weight gain)
  • Mesomorphs (muscular, athletic build)

In my coaching career, I've seen these differences firsthand.

For example, an ectomorph client of mine initially had difficulty gaining muscle. However, with a customized exercise and diet plan, they achieved notable muscle growth.

Remember, most people are a mix of these body types, so a personalized approach is key.

Read More: Mesomorph Workout: Exercises for Mesomorph Body Type

3. Frequency

Consistency is key to fitness. In my coaching experience, clients often see significant improvements in muscle tone and strength when they commit to a regular workout schedule, like 4 days a week.

It's not about long hours every day, but rather focused and smart training. For instance, combining 3-4 days of strength training with 3-5 days of cardio has consistently yielded excellent results for my clients.

A well-structured workout plan, tailored to individual needs, makes all the difference.

4. Genetics

exercise

Genetics play a significant role in muscle growth and strength, but they're not the final word.

In my coaching experience, I've seen clients, particularly ectomorphs, who initially struggled to gain muscle. With perseverance and tailored training, they overcame their genetic predispositions.

Remember, while we can't change certain genetic traits, areas like muscle development can be improved with dedication and the right approach. It might require more effort for some, but the results are rewarding.

5. Intensity/Workout

weight lifting

For visible muscle gains, light weights with high reps aren't enough.

In my coaching, I advise lifting about 75% of your max rep for real progress. But even without heavy weights, effective muscle building is possible with bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups.

Consistent training, ideally 2-3 days a week, is crucial for hypertrophy. As an experienced trainer, I recommend 6 to 12 reps per set, depending on the weight percentage of your 1-RM.

Beginners should start with lower intensity. Also, adhering to the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommendation of a 2/0/2 tempo for repetitions – 2 seconds eccentric, no pause, and 2 seconds concentric – is essential for effective muscle contraction and growth [1].

6. Nutrition

healthy eating

Good nutrition is crucial for muscle gain. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, or about 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound [2].

In my experience, a well-balanced diet usually meets these needs without supplements.

Activity level dictates protein needs; non-trainers might need around 0.8 grams per kilogram as recommended by Precision Nutrition, while high-intensity trainers require about 1.4-2.0 grams [3].

Various diets can meet these needs through foods like lentils, beans, soy, and lean meats. However, muscle growth also depends on factors like age, micronutrients, and quality sleep.

7. Weight

weighing scale

Your current weight can play a major factor in your goals. This is something I always assess with new clients.

While you can increase your lean muscle while trying to lose body fat, keep in mind that as you do lose body fat will start becoming more visible not only to you but to others.

Don't get too caught up in what the scales say. Instead, focus on knowing your body fat percentage as well as your measurements. Those are the true indicators of your success.


References

  1. https://blog.nasm.org/strength-and-size-considerations
  2. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdfsfvrsn=688d8896_2#:~:text=To%20increase%20muscle%20mass%20in,per%20pound%20of%20body%20weight
  3. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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