We all have different body goals, whether it be to improve our health, appearance, or strength. And one of the best things about building muscle is that it helps in all three categories!
That said, there is one major drawback to strength training. It takes an incredibly long time. We’d all love to hit the weights once and wake up the next morning with our dream body, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Now, exactly how long does it take to build muscle? Well, the honest answer is – it depends. The science behind building muscle is complex, and there are a number of factors that can influence the speed of your muscle growth.
The good news is, if you’re interested in learning all about muscle growth and how to get stronger, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover everything you need to know about muscle growth, as well as some tried and true muscle-building tips.
How Does Building Muscle Work?
Before we dive into how to become stronger, let’s have a quick physiology lesson. Having a better understanding of how your body functions will help you to build muscle the right way.
Each muscle in your body is made up of thousands of muscle fibers. When you lift heavy weights or perform bodyweight exercises, these fibers are strained to the point of injury.
This might sound concerning, but these injuries are minor and both completely natural and necessary!
When you rest, your body goes to work repairing the damaged muscle fibers. And because the human body is a highly intelligent machine, it’s able to match supply with demand.
In other words, to support the added strain you’re placing on your muscles through strength training, it doesn’t just repair the fibers. It rebuilds the muscle bigger and stronger than it was before.
Bear in mind that this is an extremely simplified version of what happens in the various systems within your body during muscle growth, but you now have a basic understanding of the process.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?
As we mentioned above, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. We’ll get into the factors that can speed up or slow down your muscle growth in a moment. For now, let’s talk about some general milestones.
If your only goal is to learn how to become stronger, we’ve got great news for you. You’ll notice improvements in your strength almost immediately.
This is because you don’t necessarily need larger muscles for more strength. When you place additional demand on your muscles, your brain recruits more fibers to help the muscle you’re using in your lift. These added muscle fibers allow you to produce more force and feel stronger.
That said, even though you might feel the difference right away, you won’t see a difference for several weeks. On average, it takes about 12 weeks of consistent strength training to begin to see changes in your physique.
You will get a “post-workout pump,” meaning your muscles will appear bigger directly after a lifting session. But this is a result of increased blood flow and inflammation, it won’t last.
Track Your Progress
At this point, you’re probably thinking “twelve weeks before I see any improvements?!” Yes, building muscle is a long and difficult journey. If it were easy, everyone would be shredded!
The end results are worth all the hard work required along the way, but it’s natural to feel discouraged when you spend weeks working out with no visible changes to your body. To help combat these feelings and stay motivated, we recommended tracking your progress.
Start a new note on your phone or buy a notebook that you can bring to the gym. In each training session, write down what you did, including exercises, weights, reps, and sets. Once a week, take your measurements and write those down as well.
When you’re feeling discouraged, you can look back through your notes and see how far you’ve come. The numbers don’t lie!
Factors That Influence Muscle Growth
Though it’s true that building muscle takes time no matter what, there are things you can do that will either speed up or slow down your muscle growth. As with any fitness or health journey, far more goes into building muscle than lifting weights.
Listed below are a few of the most important factors to consider when working toward muscle growth.
Believe it or not, muscle growth doesn’t start in the gym but in the kitchen. When you’re building muscle, you’re gaining weight. In order to gain weight, you have to increase your caloric intake.
Because here’s the thing. Weight loss and gain are made to seem impossibly complicated when, in reality, it couldn’t be more simple.
If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. Burning more calories than you eat will result in weight loss. That’s it!
That said, you have to be careful with how much you increase your intake at one time. If you only eat 1000 calories a day, you shouldn’t jump straight to 3000.
Try increasing your calories by 500 per day, then wait two weeks. If the number on the scale hasn’t changed, increase your caloric intake by another 500 calories.
While you certainly could eat anything and, as long as you’re increasing your calories, you’d gain weight, this is a bad idea. By increasing your caloric intake with junk food, you’ll likely notice a greater increase in your body fat percentage than you would like.
To gain weight in a healthy way, stick to whole, nutrient-dense foods. There’s nothing wrong with a bowl of ice cream now and then, but the bulk of your diet should be made up of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and carbs, and lean protein.
And for growing muscle, you’ll need to pay special attention to your protein consumption. For the best results, aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Now, it can be tough to get this many calories through food alone, so don’t be afraid to add some supplements to your routine. Protein shakes are a fantastic choice here, just be sure to buy quality products, such as those from Wilsonsupplements.com.
Stepping into the gym without a plan can be overwhelming and is often unproductive. It’s much better to have a detailed schedule, including which days and times you’ll be going to the gym and what you’ll do once you get there.
The American Heart Association recommends strength training at least twice a week. If you’re new to weightlifting, this is a great place to start. When you gain more experience, you can lift up to five times a week, as long as you aren’t training the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
There are tons of machines in the gym, capable of training even the smallest, most specific muscle. However, most of them are going to be a waste of your time if you want to build muscle.
To gain muscle mass, stick to the big five lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, row, and overhead press. These are highly efficient, as each is a compound lift. This means you can train all your major muscle groups with just five exercises.
Amount of Rest
As we’ve already discussed, you build muscle not when you’re exercising but when you’re resting. With that in mind, proper rest is essential to maximize your results.
If you don’t already get 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep per night, it’s time to start. While you’re building your training routine, set a sleep schedule as well. You should be going to bed and waking up around the same time every day (even on weekends).
Those who have trouble falling or staying asleep might need to take a few extra steps to ensure that restful sleep is achieved. Try limiting your caffeine consumption to the morning hours or creating a relaxing nighttime routine to get your body and mind ready for bed an hour or so before it’s time to go to sleep.
Start Your Journey Toward Huge Muscles Today
Now that you no longer have to ask, “how long does it take to build muscle?” or what steps you need to take to get there, there’s nothing stopping you!
Because building muscle takes time, there are going to be moments along the way in which you feel discouraged. But remember that just because you don’t see the results right away doesn’t mean you aren’t making improvements.
Keep working toward your goals and one day soon you’ll be able to look back with pride at how far you’ve come.
If you’re interested in learning more about taking your health and fitness to the next level, be sure to check out our blog!