How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?

One of the most common questions that comes across the minds of bodybuilders is how much muscle they can gain naturally.

We have to be careful here. Natural bodybuilding is different. The results in natural bodybuilding are slightly less than what you would expect from someone using performance enhancers and HGH. Secondly, there are misconceptions about the topic.

So real quick, let’s answer the question for the average person- how much muscle can you gain naturally? Well, typically most men can gain around 40-50 pounds naturally over their bodybuilding career. Women can typically gain 20-30 pounds naturally.

How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?

Not everyone is the same, thus not everyone will make the same amount and kind of gains. There are so many factors that ultimately decide how much muscle you naturally gain that it can be quite difficult to come to an exact number. Let us get to the bottom of this.

How Much Can You Gain Naturally?

Let us get this out of the way first. We know there are many different factors that affect the final muscle mass that you end up gaining. Still, ignoring those for now, we can say that most men on average gain somewhere between 40 to 50 lbs of muscle mass throughout the years. 

Understand firstly that that is a range, so people can gain anywhere from 40 lbs to 50 lbs in total. Secondly, gaining that much muscle requires years of dedicated hard work, discipline, and determination. Nobody gained 50 lbs in six months of training. 

Lastly, also understand that a lot is out of your control. How and how much your body grows and can grow is largely decided by your genetics. Some males who have the genetics will likely be hitting the upper limits of the range. For example, if somebody’s father was an Olympic athlete, they might have genes more suitable for bulking up. Or if someone’s grandfather was a bodybuilder himself, even then they will have a great advantage over the others.

Ways To Find Out Maximum Gains

Given the huge diversity of humans and the different results that bodybuilders show, it is understandable that we don’t have a single empirical formula or method to find out how much muscle you can gain naturally.

In this section, we will look at a few ways of finding out how much you can gain the maximum, in a natural way.

Lyle McDonald’s research

Lyle McDonald is a fitness researcher. He looked at multiple different studies and analyzed many different bodybuilders. From his research, he came up with the following chart:

Reading the chart we notice a few things:

  • The amount of muscle you gain each year is less than the previous year.
    • This is called the law of diminishing marginal returns. Each year, the muscular gains that you make will be less than what you had made in the previous year. This is obviously given that you are working out and training with full determination.
  • Secondly we can total up and try to find out the sum of muscle mass gained in n years.
    • For example total muscle gained in the first year was 20 lbs, but toal muscle gained in the first two years is 30 lbs. Similarly, total muscle gained in the four years is close to 38 lbs. 

Continuous training for years can lead to achieving up to 40 lbs of lean muscle mass. Remember that the law of diminishing marginal returns still applies, so each year, you should see fewer and fewer gains. While that sounds disappointing, remember- that’s what makes bodybuilding such a tough and respected sport.

Most people you see don’t have all that muscle for good reason, it requires years of hard work.

Martin Berkhan’s Formula

Martin is famous for popularizing the intermittent fasting technique. He has also done research on bodybuilding. He looked at hundreds of bodybuilders and after analyzing them, came up with this simple formula:

Your height in centimeters – 100  =  Your stage lean weight

That simple formula gives you your stage lean weight. We need to make a few adjustments to it to make it usable. First, we convert the value to pounds and then add 2% to include the weight of water since lean weight does not include water. A further adjustment can be made to add body fat in percentage and the formula should give you a pretty good picture of the maximum weight that you can have.

Once you hit that maximum weight, consider it your natural limit. The progress beyond that will be extremely extremely slow and the main focus at that point should be maintaining the weight instead of gaining more.

Factors Affecting Muscle Gains

Muscle gains are affected by a variety of factors, here we look at some of those factors that affect muscle growth so that you can try your best to make the most gains possible. 

  • Genetics:
    • We know there are many other factors, but we are keeping genetics first because it is the most hard hitting factor that affects muscle gains. It is a factor that you can not control. Everyone has a unique set of genetics, some people are taller, some broader. Genetics decide your overall build and also where you hold muscle in your body. Some people are thigh heavy and hold a lot of muscle in their thighs. They remain top lean for most of their lives. On the other hand, there are people that are torso heavy and are able to collect a good amount of muscle in the chest and shoulder region.
  • How soon you start training:
    • This one affects your overall gains a great much. People who start lifting and gaining early on have a competitive advantage over those who start lifting late. This is not to say that the late lifter will always gain less than the early lifter, but in most cases that is the situation. This is mainly due to your hormone levels. A teenager has an easier time gaining muscle than someone in their 70s for instance.
      • However, don’t let your age hold you back, most famous bodybuilders are in their late 30s and some even in their late 40s.
  • Caloric intake: So much focus on proteins and vitamins that we forget the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body and help your muscles do work. It is through work that your muscles grow. Thus carbohydrate intake, aka caloric intake is of extreme importance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Muscle Can You Gain In a Year Female?

Females can typically gain around 12 pounds of muscle in a year. On the higher end with perfect training and diet, it can be closer to 17 pounds in one year. But, realistically speaking it will be closer to 12 pounds in a year.

How Much Muscle Can I Gain in a Month?

Most people can gain around 4 pounds of muscle in their first month. This is called ‘beginner’s gains’ because your body so rapidly adapts to building your muscle right away.

However, this slows dramatically after the first month to about 2 pounds a month, then 1 pound (after about a year or so), etc… resulting in a lot of people quitting weight lifting due to the diminishing returns.

How Much Muscle Can a Man Gain In A Year?

On average a man can gain about 25 pounds of muscle in their first year of bodybuilding assuming they do everything perfectly. Realistically, this number will be closer to 18-20 pounds.


Making natural gains is a tough and long process. It may be super exciting to find out the maximum amount that you can naturally gain, but getting there, the journey, that is the real destination. With that said, there are many other ways and techniques of finding out the maximum weight you can achieve, we only discussed the simple yet effective ones.      

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