How Much Muscle Can I Build in a Month?

With lockdown keeping us indoors, we ask the question: Can you really go from skinny to swole in 30 days?
IMAGE Men's Health

There’s a reason “How quickly can I build muscle?” is the question on a lot men's lips. We’re living in a world wired into the idea of instant gratification, with quick-fix pills peddled in shady corners of the internet and pumped-up superheroes claiming to pack on muscle for their roles in weeks. We don’t want to work hard. We want results, and we want them yesterday.

So just how quickly can men build muscle? We’ve dug into the science of swole to discover the limits of attainable gains, and how skinny men can best achieve their potential. Strap in.

Starting Strength

There’s a reason your first month of lifting is likely to be your best. Novice gains, when inexperienced lifters gain size and strength quicker than experienced ones, are going to be key when it comes to fast bulking.

“The novice lifter is generally able to gain between 1 and 4lbs of muscle in a month,” says celebrity PT Scott Laidler. This equates to a maximum of just over 1.8kg of muscle – enough for skinny men to start seeing serious definition. Some genetic variation should be accounted for, but according to Laidler, at least two pounds should be achievable to any first timer.

This is fast work. A study from McMaster University found experienced lifters, ones training for an average of two years or more, only obtain around 0.5lbs of lean muscle mass a month, as their body has already adapted to the rigors of their regime. The same study found most novices gaining between two and three pounds under a weight-training program, similar to Laidler’s predictions.


A beginner in an intensive weight training program can generally expect around 1.5kg of lean muscle gains.

The Elephant in the (Changing) Room

When discussing muscle gain within a very short period of time, the first thing men bring up is steroid use. And there is a reason anabolic steroid use is so rampant in the fitness community: it works.

A study from the New England Journal of Medicine conducted a 10-week trial on men in four groups: exercising clean, exercising on steroids, not exercising clean, not exercising on steroids. The clean-exercisers put on about 4lbs of muscle in those 10 weeks (they weren't beginners), but both steroid groups put on much more than that, 13lbs to be precise. A staggering difference.

However, the dangers of steroid use are well documented. America’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found steroids contribute to acne, balding, oily skin, and more serious conditions like heart and liver disease, depression, and shriveled testicles. The methods you use to gain muscle – and the price you choose to pay – are up to you. But for our money, it’s better to chase the pump slowly, safely, and sustainably, affording you lean muscle for life.

Method man

So, how do you go about packing on the pounds in your first month? Laidler recommends a simple, four-day routine. “Chest and tris, back and bis, shoulders and legs should be separated into their own days. This gives adequate recovery time for each muscle group.” Laidler recommends sticking to ten reps of each exercise. Any more than this would inevitably lead to overtraining, hampering your workouts instead of helping and forcing you to take time out.

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Diet Hard with a vengeance

As any fitness expert worth their salt knows, training alone doesn’t put on muscle. You’ll need to eat for size if you want any hope of gaining that 1.5kg, and that means eating more. PT and strength specialist Rogan Allport recommends recording a week’s worth of meals in a food diary, finding out the amount of calories you consume on a daily basis, and increasing that number.

Of course, it’s not just calories alone that matter – steak will fuel your muscles very differently to Sloppy Joe’s. To bulk up, Laidler recommends at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, with the rest of your diet adjusted to accommodate the right ratio of protein, carbs, and fat.

Happy bulking, gents.

From: Men's Health UK

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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