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June 16 2010 Realistic expectations about muscle growth

By Iron Addict
Copyright 2009,

This topic is important because there is so much absolute confusion and so many myths and outright lies made about how much muscle bodybuilders gain or are “supposed” to gain during a given period. A big part of the problem stems from the mainstream bodybuilding magazines focusing on the genetically elite, and their bogus ads about how “good ol’ Fred, Bob, and Charles” all gained 30 lbs in 6 weeks using Cell-Tech or whatever the product is that’s being pushed. And of course we have steroids and pro-hormones to lay some blame on too because everyone gains 30-40 lbs of pure muscle in a matter of weeks when on a cycle, right?  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH……. That’s BS! 

It has even got worse with the creation of the new very effective pro-hormones that have all the “newbies” swearing that they are gaining 20lbs of pure muscle in 2 weeks on 10 mg of M1-T. (And that is definitely not a M-1T bash, because I absolutely love this product). But…let’s just say all those people that are talking about the 20 lbs of MUSCLE that they gained in 2 weeks on M1-T are just flapping their gums!  Oh yeah, that brings up another BIG problem…the internet!  On the internet, ANYONE can say anything, and damn, do they ever!  To read some of their posts, you would think it should be no sweat at all to gain 20 lbs every month like some of these guys KEEP saying they do. A few of them should be right up to about 375 lbs if were really gaining 20 lbs every time they say that they did.  And the crap goes on and on, and yes, people end up confused and left with unrealistic expectations.

Let’s first talk about the BIG gains and when and how they are likely to occur and then move to what comes next. It is quite common for “newbies” (as in BRAND-NEW trainees) to gain 10-50 lbs their first year when training clean, and even doing quite a bit wrong. (10-30 lbs is more likely than the higher numbers of course and a good amount of that weight may very well come in the first few months). There is another category of newbie that may experience the same type of gains. These are the guys that are “newbies”  to EFFECTIVE training. There are many, many, OK let me say it again, MANY guys that have trained for years and barely gained a freaking ounce. This is usually because they follow the “routines of the champs” and eat like little old ladies. When you take one of these guys and get them on a “real world” routine, and get them eating right as well, they often make “newbie-type” gains because they never made them in the first place, despite training for years. I know, because I was one of them, and very often help people make these types of gains after they have trained unsuccessfully for years.

Next, we have the quick gains that steroids and pro-hormones can provide many trainees. It may come as a big surprise to all of you out there who train clean and have never done a cycle, but most people DON’T gain huge amounts of pure muscle when doing a cycle. Almost everyone though gains much better when “on” as long as they don’t make too many rookie mistakes (like changing their routine to the “pro’s style” while on steroids, and not fueling it with enough food). Also, after your first couple of cycles each subsequent cycle has diminishing returns. You lose a large percentage of your gains post cycle. Don’t tell me you keep all or most of your gains. If it worked that way the average guy starting out at 170 that gained 20 lbs each cycle and kept 15 would only need to do 6 cycles spread out over two years to be a 260 lb FREAK. It doesn’t work that way… sorry!

Be that as it may, a well planned out 8-12 week cycle will net many people 15-30 lbs of muscle that they can keep quite a bit of, if they do things right post cycle. The big gains are more likely to come to those that haven’t already made huge gains clean, and of course, those with better then average genetics.

OK, we have the big gain periods covered. Let’s now talk about what can be expected AFTER these periods are done and over with, and the trainee is in for the long-haul. What is realistic, and what is average? Well like anything else that applied to humans it is as individualistic as each and every one of us is individual in the way that our bodies respond to stimulus. But…we can still provide some GENERAL answers to the topic as long as it is understood that many will do worse, and some will do better.

Let’s just let the math do the talking and see if that and a little common sense can answer some of the questions for us. Joe average trainee has been training for a couple of years now and started out at 5’10 150.  He floundered a lot with bad training and diet, but still managed to put on 25 lbs of pretty solid muscle and looks a lot different than he did at 150, but still is nowhere near satisfied. So…..he goes out and reads everything he can get his hands on and scours the internet forums and sees how poorly he has been doing, considering lots of guys out there are talking about the 10 lbs they gained just last month. Hmmmm….let’s do explore that: 10 lbs x 12 months and he now weighs 295 and is ready to make his splash on the pro circuit. OK, we know it doesn’t work that way, so lets half that 5 lbs x 12 months = 60 lbs and he’s now a 235 lb guy ready to hit the state level… Crap, it’s pretty obvious it doesn’t work quite that way either.

Now let’s get real. How about 2 lbs a month x 12 months = 24 lbs a year.  Now a year later, our 175 lb lifter is a 200 lb lifter and if he is lean at 5’10, he looks like a million bucks, and turns heads wherever he goes. Now if he can repeat that again the following year, or come close to it, he is a bodybuilder by anyone’s standards.  If the shape and symmetry are there, he can think about competing at lower level events if he is so inclined. That is closer to what an optimal situation looks like. Most guys simply don’t have the genetics to do that well without juice and the gain pattern would probably follow more along the lines of:

Year one: (if done correctly) 35 lbs
Year two: 15 lbs
Year three: 10 lbs


This gets you a 210 lb guy at 5’10 in three years. I am talking about 5’10 and LEAN, not a fat guy because 5’10 210 and fat is nothing, but a 5’10 guy that is lean is something altogether different. Anyway, done at this rate 3 years COULD get you there. Is that not soon enough? Then you are in the wrong sport my friend because bodybuilding is not a “6 weeks to a new you” regardless of what the supplement company ads may tell you. I very often have personal training clients add a 10-25 lbs of muscle to their frames in a short period of time when first starting and of course then it slows down and many are dumbfounded because they don’t understand why they can’t just keep doing that. The BIG gains only last a short time whether they are newbie gains, or gains from gear use. Enjoy them while they last and then settle in for the long-haul. If you do things right, you can make the long-haul a MUCH shorter trip. If you don’t, it will take a L-O-N-G time if ever to get to that point. Don’t eat your way fat like so many do just to watch the scale go up and stroke their ego. A full 75% of the personal training clients I work with come to me because they are simply too fat and still don’t carry that much muscle under the fat. A LARGE percentage of these guys got fat by using ridiculous “bulk-at-any-cost” diets, and this is simply a stupid mistake that can be avoided if you are realistic about what your rate of gain should look like. Yes, you can and will make great gains when doing things right, and almost everyone can build a physique that will turn heads. But it isn’t an overnight process, and those guys that make it sound like adding 10 lbs of pure muscle is child’s play and can and should happen on a monthly basis are LYING TO YOU!

Iron Addict

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