muscle building guyIf you’re looking to pack on muscle mass, one thing that you may start to question after a while is how long does it take to build muscle? What’s the maximum amount of muscle that you could gain if you did absolutely everything correctly?

Many guys often become very distraught when they just aren’t seeing the rate of muscle gains that they thought they would from their weight-training program. They wonder if they’re perhaps doing something incorrectly.

Maybe they aren’t doing the right exercises in the gym or perhaps their diet just isn’t up to par.

While both of these factors definitely will influence the results that you see with your muscle-building program, it’s important to take some additional factors into account.

Whenever you ask the question, “how long does it take to build muscle,” you really must evaluate your own situation personally. Each and every person will build muscle at a slightly different speed, so evaluating your own characteristics will help you set a goal that’s realistic for your own body.

Let’s take a look at the factors that answer this burning question, “how long does it take to build muscle?”

Your Past Training History

bodybuilding historyThe very first element to take a look at when figuring out how quickly you’ll be able to build muscle is what your past training history is. If you’re someone who has been in the gym for years already, you’re going to be building muscle at a much slower rate than someone who has never picked up a weight in their life.

Generally speaking, the more experience you have behind you, assuming you were using a properly planned workout program, the slower size gains will be.

Likewise, the more muscle you’ve already gained in the past, the slower additional muscle is going to come on.

If you were to keep building muscle at the same rate as you continued on about your program, we’d have gigantic 400-pound men walking around.

There comes a point where muscle mass gains will be incredibly slow as you reach close to your genetic potential.

Your Body Type

somatotype body types

The second factor to consider in terms of how quickly you can build muscle is what your body type is. If you’re someone who’s naturally skinny (an ectomorph), you’re going to see slower muscle gain results compared to someone who easily adds muscle without a problem.

[adrotate group=”1″]These various body types are referred to as ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs, and by learning which body type you have, you’ll be in a position to set some clear expectations.

Ectomorphs may only be able to add a pound or two of dry muscle per month while a mesomorph who is in the beginning of his muscle building career may double or even triple that in some instances.

Keep in mind when I say 1 – 2 pounds of muscle per month I’m talking about “dry muscle.” The TRUTH is, with the right weight gain program, it’s possible to gain more like 8 pounds of solid muscle weight per month if you include the water and glycogen weight that the new muscle tissue holds.

Endomorphs have a higher tendency to gain body fat, so while you may see the same weight gain as you would for a mesomorph, not all of it will be lean muscle tissue.

For this reason, many guys who have this body type tend to approach muscle building slower to avoid putting on excess body fat in the process.

Your Dietary Adherence

starting dietThe next thing that you also need to consider is your dietary adherence. You can really only build muscle as fast as you can eat. Stated another way, if you aren’t eating more calories than you need to maintain your body weight, it’s not going to matter what you do in the gym, you won’t see results.

Food is an absolute must to pack on more muscle mass, so generally speaking the more you eat the faster you gain.

Realize though, that there are limitations to this. If you sit around all day long and shove too much food down your throat, you’ll gain a high amount of muscle, but you’ll also be gaining too much additional body fat.

Since your body can only gain so much muscle each day, excess calories consumed beyond that point will be converted to body fat.

But, by making sure you are eating enough, you can maximize your muscle gain.

Your Recovery Rate

rest and recoveryYou’re overall recovery rate is the next thing that you’ll want to consider. How fast you recover from any given gym workout is going to dictate how quickly you can get back into the gym and train once again.

If it takes you two to three days to recover fully from a workout session, this means that your overall rate of progress may be slower.

The more frequently you can train, assuming that you are in a recovered state, the faster muscle will be built.

Doing whatever you can to maximize recovery rates such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and supplementing with glutamine will all help move you in the right direction.

Your Hormonal Levels

hormone levelsFinally, you also need to think about your hormonal level. Generally, guys who are in their early to late twenties will have the highest level of testosterone present in their system at this time, so are in the prime muscle building years, so to speak.

If you’re already in your 30’s or entering your 40’s, this doesn’t mean you can’t still get good results, but your muscle building hormone profile will have shifted so it may be slower moving.

Understanding this and adjusting expectations accordingly will be important.

So there you have the main things to note about your question, “how long does it take to build muscle?” Most people training properly can build 1 – 2 pounds of dry muscle mass per month at the start of their weight gain program and as they advance onwards, rates of ½ pound to one pound become more appropriate.

Keep in mind you may see more weight gain than this amount (up to 2 – 3 pounds per week) due to additional muscle glycogen, water, and any extra fat added in the process, but this is a good estimate for the amount of raw muscle tissue that will be added if you’re following a high-quality weight gain program.

Dan Merrell, CPT

I'm a certified personal trainer from Scottsdale, Arizona. My area of focus is helping skinny guys gain weight and build muscle fast. I've worked with hundreds of skinny guys and helped them transform their bodies. Read all of my articles on and you can follow in their footsteps.

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