As a preface, there are obviously several factors that go into such a consideration. Therefore simply assume that we are looking at a genetically average individual who has gone through puberty and is no longer growing, training and nutrition are being optimized for muscle growth.

Which then circles back to my question; What are realistic rates of muscle growth? Starting from the new lifter and ending at the advanced level. I would also prefer that FFMI be used as an objective measure of progress instead of subjective “beginner” and “advanced” labels, but if that’s not possible then so be it.

Please note that this question is not asking about general lean mass gains, but rather muscle mass specifically. It’s also not asking about individuals who are predisposed towards being notably different than average (such as those with short, tall, broad, or lithe frames) and is instead looking at the typical expectations from which deviations may be surmised. This question isn’t interested in rates of muscle regrowth, only new muscle. Finally, this question is not merely asking for the popular Lyle McDonald or Alan Aragon models of muscle growth.

I’m calling into question these models as being potentially inaccurate for the situation I’ve described above. After a lot of consideration, I’m really not sure what their measures are based upon, but they suggest that an average skinny guy in his mid 20’s could go from an FFMI of 18 to an FFMI of 23 in two years time. Having some more gym experience behind me as well as hearing the thoughts of experts and others leads me to believe that this is ridiculous.

  • Going from FFMI of 18 to 23 in 2 years doesn't seem impossible. A 175cm tall person would only need to gain 150g of muscle per week to do that. (Taking them from 58.3kg lean mass to 74.5kg.) Not impossible if they're on a 2 year bulk and aren't concerned about gaining a moderate amount a fat alongside it. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 0:29
  • My understanding of the McDonald model was it was 27 lbs in the first year if everything else (training, nutrition, etc.) was absolutely perfect. This of course is impossible for 99% of the population (also how do you know something is perfect?), so a more realistic goal would be considerably less.
    – DeeV
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 13:17
  • @DavidScarlett - A two year bulk gaining a total of 54-76 lbs (3:1 - 1:1 muscle:fat ratios) certainly seems like a commitment worthy of gaining 36 pounds of muscle, but is that actually possible for the average guy in the first place? Or is that only for the genetic elite? Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


If you are not concerned with fat, and are just trying to gain muscle mass alone.. typically 2 pounds or more is achievable a week with a hard diet and exercise. This is usually how celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg can gain 40 pounds in 7 weeks. He also put on a lot of fat along with this. Or how Henry Cavil can look like Superman starting from a skinny Greek body in 6 to 8 months.

Keep in mind it's nearly impossible physiologically to gain more than a pound a week of lean mass no matter what supplements.. but here are the averages for lean muscle mass:

Dr Colgan from The Colgan Institute of Nutritional Sciences stated that the most he has ever seen someone gain in a year in all of his research due to the limit of muscle turnover rates was 18 and 1/4 pounds. He stated that you cannot gain more than an ounce a day, equating to roughly 23 pounds in a year.

A newbie lifter's progress relies on how skinny you start out.. if you are underweight and out of shape.. than simply going to the gym and getting in shape alone will add bone density and muscle growth because your body is playing catch up. Judge for yourself but a regular newbie will gain a lot but not as much as an out of shape newbie.

According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the modern encyclopedia of bodybuilding, he states that an experienced lifter on average gains 5 pounds+ a year.

Steroids change the rules a bit and you can gain a lot more, which is how 70's and 80's bodybuilders were able to win titles as early as age 23

If you reached your max genetic potential and you are not taking steroids(typically 100 pounds from your starting weight) then you will just redistribute muscle rather than gaining muscle mass as a whole.

  • I’m assuming that in your first two paragraphs you meant “Months” and not “Weeks”. Also I’m pretty sure that Wahlberg is an example of muscle regrowth, but I don’t know much about Cavil’s transformation. Providing some links and citations would help this answer quite a bit. I feel like something is missing though, it doesn’t quite answer the question. Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:44
  • No I meant a week.. you can gain 2 pounds in a week(not lean muscle mass). Mark Wahlberg also gained 40 pounds in 7 weeks, not months. I also cited two sources, a doctor from the national institute of science, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    – user32213
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 21:00

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