Are you tired of being the skinny guy and wondering how long does it take to gain muscle? Or does your small frame make you self-conscious? Perhaps you believe that you would feel more in your skin if you gained muscles?
Well, whether you need to bulk up to create the image you have in your mind, to fit into some of the fancy shirts in your wardrobe, or if you need to bulk up to attract the ladies, or for stamina, we are here with all the juicy details.
While the process of bulking up will not happen overnight and some weeks it will feel as if you are not really doing or seeing much of a difference, you shouldn’t lose hope because you can gain muscle, and you will be unrecognisable.
All you need is patience, the right workout regimen and team, the right diet for bulking, and a lot more patience!!! Yes, we notice that we’ve mentioned notice twice – totally intentional – because you will need it!
The process will be fun some days but, on most days, your grit and tenacity will be tested. There are no shortcuts. The bulking supplements may sound like a great idea, but you will notice that these supplements never work on their own, and you have to put in the work; otherwise, you will be flushing your cash down the drain.
So, how long does it take to to see muscle gain?
Gaining muscle, and subsequently, weight in the form of muscle could offer significant benefits, besides making you feel much stronger.
The extra muscle, especially the power muscle groups like the glutes, would boost your performance in the gym significantly, while also making it easier for you to handle all your day-to-day activities.
On top of all that, having extra muscle means better protection to your organs, bones, and tissues, while also encouraging faster healing and making it easier for you to maintain your weight (muscle needs more energy than fats, and the muscle will encourage burning of fats for their sustenance and growth).
Now that you know all about the health benefits of gaining muscle, and that gaining muscle is more than being the irresistible guy with perfectly sculpted abs, let’s look at the time it takes for the desired transformation to be seen.
How long does it take to notice muscle gain?
The time it takes for you to see some definition when you flex your abs is variable, and on some days, you will see some muscle, but they will disappear after sometime before you have well-defined abs. Some people will also build muscle faster than others, and you cannot be too hard on yourself when you don’t see the abs too soon.
How do muscles grow?
The human body is made of many types of muscles, and these muscles all serve important roles. For the sake of muscle building and bulking up, we’ll focus on the skeletal muscles – did you know that the body has 650 skeletal muscles?
The skeletal muscle is made of billions of thread-like structures called sarcomeres and myofibrils – these two make the muscle fiber, and they are crucial for the contraction of muscles.
All the 650 skeletal muscles will contract when the motor neurons transmit signals from the sarcoplasmic reticulum to them. The motor neurons are part of the peripheral nervous system, and they are the ones that will tell your muscles to contract.
The contraction of muscles is an essential process in bodybuilding, because, with every muscle contraction, the body (muscles) grow stronger. Essentially, a weightlifter is capable of lifting weights that are heavier than their weight, even when they don’t look that bulky because they derive their strength from the activated motor neurons and the consequential contraction of muscles.
The functions of the motor neurons and contracting muscles are the reason why some movements become easier after some practice – the contraction of the muscles strengthens the muscles and the rest of the body.
But where does muscle growth take place?
Well, muscle growth takes place at a steady pace once the initial strength gaining processes powered by the contracting muscles takes place. These gains result from your ability to activate more skeletal muscles.
Here is how muscle growth takes place:
Someone, once asked me a question, how long does it take to gain a pound of muscle? Well first, you need to work out. After your workout, the body automatically goes into the repair mode where the injured muscle fibers are repaired, and the ones that are irreparable are replaced through a series of concerted cellular processes that require minerals, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
The replacement of the damaged fibers involves the fusion of the muscle fibers, and when many tiny fibers come together, they form myofibrils or the muscle protein strand. With each repair and replacement of the fibers, the thickness of the myofibrils increase, as does the number of the myofibrils, hence muscle hypertrophy or growth.
Generally, the growth of muscles will take place when the total muscle protein synthesis rate exceeds the rate of muscle breakdown.
Now, it’s important to note that contrary to popular beliefs, muscle growth doesn’t take place when you are in the gym hard lifting weights, the whole growth and muscle protein synthesis takes place at rest – hence the recommendation for rest and recovery.
Why then, do your muscles look somewhat bigger during your workout?
The reason for the apparent increase in the size of the muscle during a workout is as a result of a process called transient hypertrophy or the muscle pump –a physiological phenomenon which results from the rush of blood into the muscles, supplying the muscles with some additional workout fuel. The good news is that the muscle pump will also jump-start your muscle recovery process.
Back to muscle growth… it’s worth noting that you will not add muscle from the myofibrils on their own. Muscle growth is more of a coupling process that requires the input of other cells, aside from the muscle cells.
We are talking about the Satellite cells which sweep in then act like the muscles’ stem cells. Once the Satellite cells are activated, there are more nuclei which encourage more myofibrils’ growth.
What all that mean is that the activation of the satellite cells is the most important process in muscle growth, and it is the hallmark that differentiates the hard-gainers from the generic freaks.
According to experts, individuals that recorded the biggest gains from the gym had a high rate of hypertrophy, which was recorded at 58%. The activation of the satellite cells in these individuals was 23%.
With the activation of the satellite cells in the muscles, a powerful driving force when it comes to gaining muscle, you need to know exactly what you need to activate those muscles.
Some of the things that enhance the action and the activation of the satellite cells include:
- The creation of muscle tension through the progressive lifting of heavier weights
- Cause some localized damage to your muscles – this damage is the reason why you feel sore after your workout. So, if your lower abs burn/ ache after a workout, you’ve experienced some local muscle damage. Doesn’t make sense? The localized muscle damage stimulates the release of immune cells and inflammatory molecules, which will reel into action the satellite cells. Now you know why you are encouraged to workout hard – no pain, no gain!
- Create a level of metabolic stress. Here, you need to go for that burn or the muscle pump (mentioned above).
Beware of the actions of hormones
Muscle growth isn’t without the involvement of muscles. The hormones are crucial for the growth and repair of muscles, and the hormones also regulate the activities of the satellite cells. Two hormones are crucial for muscle growth – Insulin Growth Factor (IGF)-1, specifically, the Mecho-Growth Factor (MGF), and you also have testosterone.
Testosterone increases the synthesis of proteins, it activates the satellite cells, it inhibits the breakdown of proteins/ muscle, and it also stimulates the other important anabolic hormones. IGF-1, on the other hand, regulates muscle mass growth through the enhancement of protein synthesis.
Now that you know exactly how the muscles build-up and growth, let’s look at time.
How long does it take to gain a pound of muscle?
It takes a few weeks for you to build a pound of muscle.
And as mentioned above, you start to build muscle the moment you challenge your muscles, the moment you engage in something new and unfamiliar to your muscles.
However, the muscle gains will not be seen immediately. There is a lot that takes place at a physiological level, and their effects of these actions will be seen only after the muscle fibers are damaged, repaired, healed, and when newer cells are synthesized.
Most people will gain 1-2 pounds of lean muscle every month, unless you are looking at the professional and competitive bodybuilders who build up as much as 2-3 pounds of pure lean muscle in a month, as long as they are in for dedicated muscle bulking. These individuals live and breathe muscle growth, and they live in the gym.
If you are one of the individuals who seem to be putting in the work, yet you cannot see much growth, remember that we all have different physiques and physiological setups. You will attain your goals, just not as fast as your best friend or brother.
For the best results, start slow. You cannot run into the deep end in the strength training world, and when you are starting, you will build muscle albeit at a lower percentage of your 1RM, also called the maximum amount of weight you could lift at once.
With time and longer training hours, however, you will get closer to your natural lifting potential, and when that happens, you will see results faster. Grow slowly, but steadily. Those week by week gains are crucial.
To gain 5 pounds, you have to give your body up to 5 months of hard work in the gym, 7 months for 10 pounds, and about a year for 20 pounds of muscle. These numbers could be variable, though, and you’d have to listen to and work with your body.
How long does it take to see muscle gain?
Generally, you will start to notice some gains from the gym after about 4-6 weeks of hard work in the gym, healthy diet, and rest.
How long does it take to see muscle growth?
Muscle growth will, however, become more noticeable after about 8 weeks from the time you start out on the new strength training workout routine. Note, however, that it could take less (half) that time for the experienced weight lifters to notice changes resulting from muscle growth.
The reason for this is that muscle growth becomes noticeable in the parts of the body that carry less fats. Muscle growth in areas with more fat will be noticeable after months, and in other people, it may take years.
Remember that the process of gaining muscle is not pegged on a straight line; it ebbs and flows. The right nutrition plan and exercise will, however, take you closer to your goals sooner.
The Unlikelihood of Rapid Muscle Growth
Somehow, the current pace at which different things move makes us think that we can force our bodies into doing what we want to do overnight, but this is not the case.
The cells, tissues, and systems work at their own pace, and with many systems involved, you shouldn’t expect the growth of your muscles to be a rapid process. Muscle hypertrophy will take some time, and for most of us, the process takes place at a snail pace, and you have to be comfortable with seeing results in weeks or months.
Besides the activation of cells and the repair of the muscle fibers, there is the involvement of the nervous system, a process that is important for the activation and the activity of the satellite cells.
Then there is the matter of genetics, and the influence of genetics on your prevalent muscle fiber type and the number of the muscle fibers, your hormonal output, and the activation of the satellite cells. All these factors could either limit or enhance muscle growth.
So, for the level of muscle growth that you desire, you need to do your best in growing muscle, bearing in mind that muscle growth is made possible by a rate of protein synthesis that exceeds the rate at which the muscles are broken down.
It means proper nutrition – an adequate supply of proteins with essential amino acids, as well as carbohydrates for the facilitation of all cellular processes and for the rebuilding of the muscle tissue that’s already broken down.
Finally, you need to give your body time to rest. That burn will be worth it only if you keep at it, and if you gradually increase the intensity of the strength exercises you engage in.
At the end of the day, your answer to ‘How long does it take to gain muscle?’ depends on how much effort you will be willing to put in. Your body will yield the results you seek if you put in the work. Be ready to hit it hard in the gym, engage in whole-body strengthening exercises besides weightlifting, and eat for the body you want.