When people set fitness goals, they are often made in the context of time. By having deadlines attached to your goals, you will have more motivation and be able to track the progress you’re making better.
Some common times that are used for setting goals are at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year. To make and hit your goals for these increments of time, it is important to have realistic expectations for what is possible to achieve.
A good estimate for the average amount of muscle a new lifter could gain in the first 3 months of training would be 4 pounds. Adding fat and water weight, a new lifter could expect around 10-14 pounds gained total after the first 3 months. These numbers will vary based on several variables.
The Factors That Effect Gains
These are the main factors that will affect the amount of muscle you can gain in 3 months.
- How long you have been lifting
- The style of training you’re doing
- Number of calories in vs out per day
- Overall nutrition
- Lifestyle habits
Age, Gender, and Genetics
Your age, gender, and genetics all play a large role in how much muscle you can gain.
Your age is one of the most important things for determining how quickly you can make progress. This is because levels of testosterone, growth hormone, luteinizing hormone, DHT, and other androgenic hormones are at their highest around the late teens to early twenties. The average man has the most testosterone during the ages of 17-19, so a 19 year old starting out lifting will gain more muscle in 3 months than a 14 year old or 65 year old.
Gender also is an important factor for how much muscle a person can gain in 3 months. Guys have more muscle fibers, a larger heart, larger cross-sectional muscle areas, more red blood cells, and higher amounts of anabolic hormones. Because of this, men gain muscle generally 3-4 times as fast as women.
A third innate factor that has influence over your rate of muscle gain is genetics. Your genetics can affect how quickly you recover from workouts, the response of your muscles to training, and your muscle insertions. There are 47 different genes which have been identified to have an impact on hypertrophy. Everyone will have a different combination of these genes that will render either a slight advantage or disadvantage on the rate of gaining muscle. Muscle insertions also matter since they determine the length of the muscle and muscle fibers. Based on the locations of your muscle insertions, you might be able to add more or less muscle to your body, also depending on height.
How Long You’ve Been Lifting
Another large variable that impacts the rate at which you can gain muscle is the amount of lifting experience you already have. If you are new to lifting you will be able to build a lot of muscle quickly whereas if you are in your 5th year of weightlifting, the progress will be much slower since you will be closer to your genetic potential.
If you are in your first year of lifting, you can expect to gain 2-6 pounds of muscle after 3 months if you are consistently applying progressive overload and stay in a slight to high caloric surplus. If you already have a year of weightlifting experience, you will probably be able to add 1-2 pounds of muscle in 3 months.
If you are in your third straight year of lifting, you will likely be able to add .2-1 pound of muscle per 3 months period. And if you are beyond three years of weightlifting then you will likely be able to only add .1-.5 pounds of muscle in 3 months.
This can, of course, all be affected by your genetics and training style. If you have elite genetics and train well you will add more muscle than if you are disadvantaged genetically and do not follow a well-structured routine.
A third variable that influences the rate of muscle gains is your style of training. The training style you are doing is crucial for the amount of gains you can make in 3 months.
In order to get the best results from lifting, it is beneficial to be following some sort of program so that there is structure, adequate volume, strategy to your workouts, and consistency.
Without sticking to a good program, the workouts you do will be haphazard and your progress will not be as linear as it would be if you were to have a strategy for how you train. If you do not know how to write yourself a program, there are many free programs online that instruct new lifters on how to gain muscle. You can also follow a push-pull-leg split at the same rep ranges per exercise that vary by month, this will be the next best option for optimized training.
Your training should at minimum incorporate an optimized frequency of days per week where every muscle is being targeted at least twice every 7 days.
Diet and Number of Calories per Day
Along with training, diet and caloric intake are also very important for making gains. The foods you are eating on a bulk and cut should vary. When on a bulk, the goal is to put yourself within a “surplus of energy” so that the body has sufficient energy to put towards building muscle. When on a cut, the objective is to put yourself in an “energy deficit” so that your body is forced to burn fat.
If you are not in a caloric surplus, gaining muscle is going to be vey hard. This is because the body will not have enough to calories to both supply energy for regular function and add additional muscle. The best amount of calories to eat for building muscle is around 400-500 calories above maintenance.
Finally, your lifestyle habits can also impact how quickly you gain muscle. The number of hours you sleep every night, your alcohol intake, how much you party on weekends, drug use, and how sedentary you are can all affect your ability to make gains.
For building muscle, you should sleep 7-10 hours every night. Your alcohol consumption should also be kept to a moderate amount since alcohol directly inhibits building muscle by lowering testosterone, blocking protein synthesis, and increasing estrogen and fat. Drugs can also be detrimental since many stimulants like adderall and cocaine can put your body in a catabolic state where your body is breaking down molecules for energy.
If you get decent sleep every night, only go out and drink no more than 2 days a week, and limit your drug intake while staying somewhat active, you will be able to build muscle mostly unaffected. The more you control for alcohol, sleep, and drugs, the more optimized your progress in the gym will be.
Reasonable Timeline For Gaining Muscle
If all these factors that influence building muscle are manipulated to enhance results from lifting, this timeline is fairly accurate. This is a timeline that models the progress of the average weightlifter during their first year of lifting.
This table assumes that you are beginning to lift between the ages of 16 and 28. If you are younger than 16 then you will most likely gain muscle at 60% the rate of this timeline. If you are older than 28, you will likely gain muscle at around 75% the rate of this timeline. It also assumes that you have optimized your training, diet, and lifestyle for making gains.
|Time||Pounds of Muscle||Total Weight Gained|
A general estimation for how many pounds of muscle a new lifter can gain in 3 months would be 4 pounds. This number depends on several different variables, however, and is not guaranteed.
The variables that influence the amount of muscle you can build in 3 months the most are your age, your genetics, your lifting experience, the style of training you are using, wether you are in a caloric surplus, your nutrition, and your lifestyle. If all of these variables are arranged optimally, you are likely to be able to hit 4 pounds of muscle in 3 months successfully.
For more on training and building muscle, such as wether or not you can workout the same muscle every day and the benefits of mobility training for weightlifting, click here.