How Long Does It Take To Become A Bodybuilder?

Most of us discover that, unfortunately, you can’t just go to the gym for a month and be shredded. In fact, the process is much much much longer than that.

So, how long does it take to become a bodybuilder?

Well, it takes an average, around 5 years for a natural person to become a bodybuilder. But, it will take around 1-1.5 years for you to get that physique where people look at you and say ‘hey, he lifts!’ and 3 years for people to call you big.

Let’s cover this more in-depth. I’m going to go in-depth about how muscle growth slows down as you get bigger, and the different milestones for lifting. For instance, how long it will take for people to look at you and say you’re ‘big’, how long to be shredded, compete, et cetera.

Let’s get into it!

How Long Does It Take To Become A Bodybuilder?
How Long Does It Take To Become A Bodybuilder?

Muscle Growth, Unfortunately, Slows Down The More Muscle You have

Unfortunately, muscle building isn’t ‘linear’.

If you’ve just started lifting, you’ll notice a ton of muscle growth in the first few months.

Unfortunately, this reduces as you build more muscle. Even worse, it’s like exponential decay- meaning you just don’t build much muscle at all.

Those were some confusing math terms, so I’m going to try and explain it in simple terms.

Linear muscle growth would mean that every month you gain 5 pounds of muscle, nonstop.

Exponential decay means that if you gain 15 pounds of muscle, the next year you may only gain 8-10 pounds, and after that- only 3-5 pounds. It just decreases at a really extreme rate.

While that’s discouraging, it’s kind of a good thing!

If muscle growth was linear, that would mean that everybody in the world would be able to compete with you. Instead, only the disciplined and hard workers in the gym will compete with you.

That’s why so many people don’t lift and so many people don’t look big. They aren’t willing to put in that hard work that takes years.

So, if you’re someone that can go to the gym consistently for years on end, you’ll be rewarded. But, if you won’t make that commitment- you won’t be able to see that muscle.

How Much Muscle Can You Grow Every Year?

Since I mentioned that you grow less muscle every year you lift- you’re probably wondering how much muscle can you grow every year you lift.

Here are the average amounts of muscle you can grow every year you lift. This is assuming you workout consistently without any hiccups (which is easier said than done haha).

So, as you can see, the amount of muscle you can gain just decreases. And yes, it is as frustrating as it sounds.

However, it’s really not that bad. As long as you keep putting in hard work, eating a ton of food, and supplementing well, you’ll still see muscle growth.

A pro is that, honestly, after years 2-3: you’ll be big enough that the slow muscle growth doesn’t really matter. You’ve kind of already reached your goal, and anything is more of the ‘sprinkles on top’.

Speaking of, let’s talk about how your physique will look after a certain amount of time lifting.

How Will You Look After 3 Months Of Lifting?

Alright, let’s assume you just started lifting. You’re probably loving it and you’ve seen some serious muscle growth already.

After 3 months of lifting, you will start to look ‘toned’. You won’t really look ‘big’ or anything yet, but you’ll start to have some definition in your arms and legs now. It isn’t really noticeable, but when you look close- you will see a big difference.

So, how will you look after 6 months?

How Will You Look After 6 Months Of Lifting?

6 months of lifting is impressive, most people quit after the 3-month mark! Stay in there!

After 6 months of lifting, you will look much different. Your muscles will start to pop a little bit, and it becomes more noticeable than before. You’ll start to have people saying, “Hey, have you been working out?”. Still, you won’t look ‘big’ or anything yet, but people will notice you’ve been in the gym.

So, how will you look after a year of lifting?

How Will You Look After 1 Year Of Lifting?

So, let’s say you’ve stayed on the path of lifting for a whole year. How will you look?

After 1 year of lifting, you’ll finally reach that phase where people say you look ‘bigger’ or ‘stocky’. Your muscles will be REALLY defined, and oftentimes people will start to point out how much bigger your arms are. You won’t be huge, but now everybody will notice.

How about 2 years?

How Will You Look After 2 Years Of Lifting?

After 2 years of lifting, things get much more intense.

This is the phase where people really start to call you ‘big’. Your body will be huge compared to your old tiny self. Everybody who sees you will instantly recognize you as a bigger and more muscular person, but you won’t necessarily be Arnold Schwarzenegger levels yet.

How Will You Look After 3 Years Of Lifting?

How about 3 years?

I find that most people will hit some form of ‘plateau’ after 3 years of lifting. But after 3 years is where you finally start to put on more ‘size’ instead of shape. You start to move into that ‘BIG’ phase where people start to think you’re a giant.

How Will You Look After 4 Years Of Lifting?

After 4 years of lifting, you will reach that phase where you look like a ‘giant’. All of your muscles will be shredded, massive, and everybody will compliment you on your muscles. This is when you really start to realize how much your progress has paid off.

How Will You Look After 5+ Years Of Lifting?

After 5+ years of lifting- what happens?

Well, after 5 years, things get really tough. This is when it becomes incredibly hard to put on any muscle, but you look like a giant. Any muscle you put on is just basically like adding muscle to the hulk. Regardless, everybody will know you’re a giant and respect you as so.

You Will Look Like An ‘Amateur Bodybuilder’ After 4-5 Years

‘Amateur bodybuilder’ is a term that’s thrown around very loosely. Officially, it means someone that bodybuilds but isn’t yet paid for it.

In this context, I am using that term as basically you are trying to reach professional status, or you may even compete at lower level competitions- but you aren’t at ‘professional competitions’ yet.

You will look like an ‘amateur bodybuilder’ after 4-5 years of hard training. That’s when people will ask you if you bodybuild for a living and ask if you compete, you are past the stage of people just saying you look big.

You Will Look Like a Professional Bodybuilder After 6+ Years

A ‘professional bodybuilder’ is someone who is paid to bodybuild and even competes on stage at famous competitions like the Arnold Classic or Mr.Olympia.

To look like a professional bodybuilder, it will often take 6+ years of nonstop hard work in the gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the youngest ever Mr.Olympia winner at 23- that means he lifted weights for 8 years straight before winning that title!

It will take a long time, but with hard work and dedication, it’s possible. If you’re looking for some motivation, look no further than some good Rich Piana quotes!

Conclusion of How Long Does It Take to Become a Bodybuilder

So, how long does it take to become a bodybuilder? Around 4-5 years. But, people will notice you started lifting around 1-2 years in of you hitting the gym.

Let me know how your progress has been- have you had any setbacks or has it been really steady? I’m interested to hear!

2 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Become A Bodybuilder?”

    • Hey Falcon,

      I’m glad I could provide some useful information to you, it’s always great to hear from the readers that my articles are helping them- I make these articles with the pure intention of helping people for free- so thank you!

      Yes, bodybuilding is a tough sport that has a weird years-muscle growth relationship. But I am glad I emphasized the point of, ‘it’s a long haul’. Don’t get discouraged in your first year of bodybuilding where you don’t look that muscular, don’t get discouraged in your second year either. Your hard work is paying off, it just takes a long time for it to really show.

      And that’s why MOST people you see aren’t big or shredded, and most don’t even workout. And that’s why people respect people that have a lot of muscle, you cannot get it overnight- it is YEARS of hard work.

      Stay with it, I hope to see you on the stage one day!


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