Lifting weights has been shown to increase muscle growth in all individuals, regardless of age, gender, and training level. The rate at which you can gain muscle however, is highly depending on the individual and their training program, diet, lifestyle, and genetics
So, how much muscle can you realistically gain in one month?
For most beginners, gaining 2-4lbs of muscle per month is a realistic rate of muscle gain. More advanced lifters should aim to gain 1-2lbs of muscle per month, as research has shown slower rates of muscle gain the more advanced a lifter becomes.
It is important to note that these ranges are all assuming you are training optimally, eating properly, and recovering adequately (all of which we will discuss below), so if you are not doing those things you should not expect to achieve the most optimal rates of muscle gain.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- How Much Muscle Can You Realistically Gain in One Month?
- 8 Factors that Can Impact Maximal Muscle Gain
- How to Gain More Muscle This Month
Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.
What Can You Realistically Expect To Gain In A Month?
After scouring studies that looked at the subject of muscle growth and the rate at which various subjects are able to gain muscle tissue through resistance training, we have found a few of the most compelling studies to share with you.
Note that the below studies are not the only ones on this topic, however they are studies that can detail out the most concise answer to the question of how much muscle you can gain in one month.
Study 1 – Beginners Could Gain Up to 2-4lbs of Muscle in 4 Weeks
When looking at maximal muscle growth in one month, many factors can play a role in the end result. One such factor is the training age or level of the lifter.
One study found that untrained (beginner) males who participated in resistance training five times a week increased their lean muscle mass an average of 2 kilograms per month, or roughly 4.4lbs (1).
Gaining an average of one pound per week of muscle tissue (not scale weight, which is a measure of muscle tissue, water weight, and fat tissue), is a very optimistic and aggressive benchmark.
It is important to note that these subjects trained five days a week, and performed high volume training programs per muscle group (often performing 20 work sets per week per muscle), with sessions lasting upwards of 90 minutes, under highly monitored and controlled settings.
Additionally, they adhered strictly to a hypercaloric diet (caloric surplus) and supplemented with post-workout milk consumption. Groups that prioritized drinking protein and carbohydrates post workout had the best results.
Takeaway: Most lifters should aim to gain 2-4lbs per month (0.5-1.0lbs per week) of lean muscle mass under ideal conditions (training 5 days a week, being in a caloric surplus, and ingesting a protein/carbohydrate rich diet and post workout meal). Beginners should expect to gain more lean muscle mass than more advanced lifters.
Study 2 – Resistance Training Can Significant Increase Muscle Hypertrophy, Regardless of Age or Gender
In a study that looked at the training effects of young and old men and women, found that relative increases in muscle has been shown to be significant in all groups, regardless of age or gender (2).
This is great news for lifters of any age of gender who may have previously been discouraged about gaining muscle, as this study has shown that you can still gain significant muscle mass regardless of your age or gender.
Takeaway: When taken with the other studies throughout this article, you can aim to gain roughly 2lbs of muscle tissue per month for most people, with beginners and more untrained individuals potentially gaining at a slightly faster rate.
Study 3 – Slower Progress for More Advanced Lifters
Beginner gains are a real thing.
Most advanced lifters should aim to gain 1-2lbs of muscle per month, which is roughly half the rate of muscle growth seen in beginners.
While the specific reasons are unclear beghin why this occurs, research has shown that there is a downward slope of muscle growth rates the more experienced a lifter becomes (3).
For example, if a beginner gained three pounds per month for the first six months of their training career, they should prepare to gain muscle mass at a slower rate as they become more advanced. Some researchers believe this is due to the body becoming more resistant to hypertrophy as it approaches the genetic potential (4).
To further illustrate the slower rate of progress as one progresses in the training age, we have collected data points from our FitBod app, tracking 1RM strength from the major barbell lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift) from beginner users.
We omitted any data from non-beginners, as we wanted to track untrained or new trained beginners to further illustrate this point.
Factors That Impact Gaining Muscle Quicker In 1 Month
Optimizing the rate at which you gain muscle tissue during a training period is dependent on many factors, most of which you can control.
Below, we will discuss eight factors that impact how much muscle you can gain in a month, and beyond.
The biggest factor that impacts your rate of muscle growth during a workout is your overall training approach.
Training volume and intensity are two of the most important factors when looking at maximal muscle growth.
Some variables that can be manipulated to achieve the most optimal training volumes and intensities are training frequency (how often you train), exercise selection (the movements you implement), and tension development (how many reps you do and the tempo you use).
Below, you will find a comprehensive list of training recommendations you can follow to maximize muscle growth:
- Focus on fuller ranges of motion movements that allow for a deep eccentric stretch on the muscle under controlled velocities.
- Keep tension on the muscle, therefore try to minimize and excessive momentum or swinging of the weight
- Maintain proper body positioning and alignment throughout the entire movement, and focus on feeling the muscle stretch under load, and contract.
Exercise Intensity and Volume
- Train to the point that you have 1-5 reps left in the tank (good reps with good technique). If you are using loads that are too light, in which you stop short of having less than 5 good technical reps in the tank, you are not training intensely enough. Conversely, if you are training to a technical failure all the time, you may be setting yourself up for injury, and you can get the same results from training to one rep less than fatigue.
- Training volume is a range that can be explored, however for most muscle groups, you can effectively build muscle in the 12-20 work sets per week range. Work sets assume you are training with proper intensity. More is not always better, however it can be more impactful for others.
- Your goal should be to workout hard so that the workout elicits some soreness, yet not a debilitating one because you want to be able to train the muscle 2-3 times a week for best results.
- Train the muscle in a variety of repetition ranges, such as 5-10 reps, 10-20 reps, or 20-30 reps. Find the rep ranges that build up the most metabolic fatigue, stretch, and tension in a muscle. For most muscle groups, 8-15 reps is the best of all worlds and the majority of your training should be done in this range.
- Compound lifts are great for building muscle and strength when done properly, and are often great to do in the lower to moderate rep ranges (not 20+ rep sets).
- Machines are a great option to train moderate and higher rep ranges, as they allow you to push closer to target muscle failure without having to worry about other limiting factors like balance, surrounding muscle fatigue, etc.
- Listen to your body. If you get a great muscle stretch, contraction, and muscle pump doing machine hack squats, then do them. If you do back squats but your lower back hurts, odds are you are doing back squats poorly, you are training too heavy, or your quads may be underdeveloped, and therefore you should prioritize the exercise that targets them the best.
Are you looking for a strength program that includes compound exercise to help you maximize your muscle growth and gain serious size? Download the Fitbod app and get 3 free workouts!
Eating is essential for growing muscle.
For beginners, especially those who may have extra body fat (above 10% body fat), they will most likely be able to start working out and gain muscle.
The more advanced you are, and leaner you are, the more you need to increase your caloric intake (eat more) to build more muscle, with most people needing to eat at least 500 calories per day than their maintenance diet, or more.
The more body fat you have to lose however, you may be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, however this is not the case for leaner (under 10% bodyfat) individuals.
Focus on eating slightly more calories, preferably increasing carbohydrates and protein. Aim to eat roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Then, aim to get 2-4g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. The remaining calories will come from fat.
Note, that the biggest factors for muscle growth and weight gain (as well as weight loss), is energy balance.
You need to consume calories to build new muscle (with the exception of individuals who carry more fat, they can do both most of the time). Focus on consuming enough protein, and prioritize carbohydrates in the diet as those are the preferred fuel for hard training and can also be stored within the muscle itself (muscle glycogen).
Check out our article on the 16 Best Healthy Bulking Foods For Hard Gainers.
Genetics is one of the few factors that you cannot have direct control over.
That said, most people will be able to drastically improve their muscle growth and physique through proper training, diet, sleep, and stress management.
Telling yourself you have “poor genetics” is not a viable reason to not train hard, eat healthy, and get fit.
Genetics plays a bigger role the closer you get to top levels of elite competition, however for most people worrying about your genetics is something that should not come before addressing all of the factors on this list.
Stress (from any source, such as family, relationships, work, financial, etc) has been correlated with decreased recovery, which can have an impact on hormones, sleep habits, diet, and energy (5).
But how does stress impact your performance in the gym (i.e. your ability to build muscle)?
Research found that individuals who self-reported themselves as “lower in life stress”, had greater increases in both bench press and squat strength (6). Higher stress means less energy to train hard, and a blunted ability to recover from said training.
It is important to note that high vs low stress is highly dependent on the individual and their perception of the stress. Some individuals may subjectively feel they are under the weight of the world, while others may not feel as stressed under the same conditions.
Having the ability to rationalize your stressors, recognize what you can and can’t control, controlling your diet, getting enough sleep, and prioritizing the controllable actions you can do to lessen your stress is key.
Lastly, the same study showed that there was no significant impact on performance due to higher vs lower levels of social support, which means that you can 100% build muscle and get results on your own.
While it may be “tougher” for some people to get motivated, research has shown that results can get the same results with or without social support.
As you age, the rate of which you lose muscle tissue declines, however exercise has been shown to slow this rate of decline significantly.
As discussed above, significant improvements in muscle mass have been reported in older individuals, regardless of gender.
While younger individuals may be able to gain more absolute muscle mass in a 4 week period, the research does suggest that relative rates of muscle gain are not significantly different when we compare the rate of muscle growth between trained and untrained younger individuals vs trained and untrained older individuals (2).
Regardless of your age, resistance training has been shown to significantly increase muscle mass when compared to similar aged subjects who did not train. The rate at which muscle was gained was similar to that of the relative muscle growth rate of younger individuals (trained vs untrained).
Beginner vs Trained
Training age can be defined as the length of time a person has been training seriously.
Generally speaking, beginners (less than six months of regular resistance training, most days a week) tend to have higher rates of muscle gain during a given period of training time when compared to more experienced lifters (3).
Most beginners can expect to gain 2-4lbs of muscle per month, for the first few months of training, with a downward slope of the rate of muscle growth as they progress.
More advanced lifters can expect to gain 1-2lbs per month, however optimal results are seen in all lifters, regardless of training age, when the other factors on the list are addressed.
Prior Training History
Training age, also known as prior training history, does have an impact on the rate of progress you will have when starting out.
Untrained beginners will often gain muscle and strength at a quicker rate, simply because they are starting from a lower base.
As you become more trained, you can certainly gain muscle and strength, however your rates will not be as quick as a beginner simply because you are approaching closer and closer to your genetic ceiling.
Additionally, for individuals who have had prior training history, yet for whatever reason took a long hiatus from training, researchers have shown prior trained individuals have quicker retraining and regaining of muscle than a true beginner, often back to the level of before the training hiatus, or even an improvement from previous levels (7).
While some intermediate and advanced lifters may find this discouraging, this is meant to inform those individuals that beginner gains and beginner progress is not linear. That said, as a beginner you will be able to set a new personal best and increase muscle monthly, if not weekly, whereas more advanced lifters may need months to get significant results (and this is normal).
Supplements can be helpful, however they play a small role in the overall success of the program.
Lifters who perfect their training and diet who don’t take supplements will undoubtedly outperform and succeed those who have a poor diet and train irregularly or importantly.
When looking at the efficacy of supplements, the only ones that have repeatedly shown to have a significant impact on muscle growth are:
- Hypercaloric Diets: Eating more calories to fuel muscle growth and hard training.
- Carbohydrate Powders: These can help increase carbohydrate consumption and be highly effective at restoring muscle glycogen and boost recovery post workouts.
- Protein Powders: Supplemental protein can help you increase overall protein consumption when you cannot eat enough protein in the diet from food. Most forms of protein powders work fine, however some do have greater absorption rates. Whey protein powders seem to be one of the most studied protein powders.
- Creatine: Creatine has been shown to increase muscle tissue, boost strength and power, and increase performance during resistance training, especially with heavier loads.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can be a potent energy enhancing and mood boosting supplement, which can be used to help you train harder for longer during a session.
While there are hundreds of other supplements and compounds being marketed to consumers, the above are the select few that have repeatedly been shown to have a significant, and legal, impact on muscle growth.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
Below are two of the most common questions around how much muscle you can gain in a month.
Can You Build 10 pounds of Muscle in a month?
No, this is highly unlikely, as research has indicated that the most people could gain in one month, under ideal conditions, and from a very low base, is 4-5lbs of muscle per month. The body can only build new muscle tissue so fast, and to our knowledge this seems to be the fastest it can be done without performance enhancing drugs.
Can you gain an inch of muscle in a month?
This is a relative question, and really depends on the individual, their diet, training, and genetics.
Gaining an inch of measurement on a limb or body part is different from gaining an inch of muscle tissue, as this would need to be measured without the skin or fluids in most cases (which is not a practical way to measure muscle growth for most individuals).
If you are asking this question, you most likely want to know, can you grow your arms, for example, by one inch in one month?
Yes, you can, however it also depends on your initial starting measurements, water retention, diet, and training programs. If you are looking to increase your muscle size, opt to train the muscle to fatigue so that you get intense muscle pumps, often by following the training guidelines above.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.
- Hartman, J. W., Tang, J. E., Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Lawrence, R. L., Fullerton, A. V., & Phillips, S. M. (2007). Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(2), 373–381. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.2.373
- Roth, S. M. (2002). Muscle size responses to strength training in young and older men and women. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1532-5415.2001.4911233.x
- Wernbom, M., Augustsson, J., & Thome??, R. (2007). The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Medicine, 37(3), 225–264. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737030-00004
- Arden, N. K., & Spector, T. D. (1997). Genetic influences on muscle strength, Lean Body Mass, and bone mineral density: A twin study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12(12), 2076–2081. https://doi.org/10.1359/jbmr.19126.96.36.1996
- Stults-Kolehmainen, M. A., Bartholomew, J. B., & Sinha, R. (2014). Chronic psychological stress impairs recovery of muscular function and somatic sensations over a 96-hour period. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(7), 2007–2017. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000335
- Bartholomew, J. B., Stults-Kolehmainen, M. A., Elrod, C. C., & Todd, J. S. (2008). Strength gains after resistance training: The effect of stressful, negative life events. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(4), 1215–1221. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e318173d0bf
- Staron, R. S., Leonardi, M. J., Karapondo, D. L., Malicky, E. S., Falkel, J. E., Hagerman, F. C., & Hikida, R. S. (1991). Strength and skeletal muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women after detraining and retraining. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70(2), 631–640. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.19188.8.131.521