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  1. #1
    Registered User spartan09's Avatar
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    Question Muscle - how fast should women be able to gain?

    My goal right now is to gain weight, but of course I want the majority of that weight to be lean.

    How much muscle (in pounds) can a female my age expect to be able to put on in a given month?

    I see a lotta threads about how much muscle men can gain but I know for women the number has to be different! Thanks in advance everyone
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  2. #2
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    not much, probably 1/4 or less of what a male could in the same time, with the same routine and diet.
    weights are heavy :(
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  3. #3
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    Originally Posted by LordCAG View Post
    not much, probably 1/4 or less of what a male could in the same time, with the same routine and diet.
    So how much would that be? Thanks!
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  4. #4
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    5-7 pounds a year tops with solid program and good nutrition.
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    Originally Posted by juliacheh View Post
    5-7 pounds a year tops with solid program and good nutrition.
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
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  6. #6
    community gym PT KyleAaron's Avatar
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    Much broscience in this thread.

    spartan09, there is little real science studying this, most studies of lean mass gain are of untrained healthy adult males of college age who undertake 12 weeks of training... because that's who's most easily available to the university staff doing these studies.

    The experience of trainers is generally that in young adult males we see gains of,

    1st year of solid training, 20-24lbs
    2nd year, 10-12lbs
    3rd year, 5-6lbs
    4th year and each year afterwards, 1-3lbs

    Women and males over 35 typically manage about half these rates. I stress, this is not based on any real studies, it's just observations of trainers over the years.

    There have been studies of the maximum possible lean mass achievable without drugs for men. Looking at the 5-10 years it takes people to achieve that physique, we can extrapolate backwards to the figures above. For example, if someone's maximum lean mass is 180lbs, achieved today in 2010, and they started at a lean mass of 130lbs in 2005, we know that they took 5 years to add 50lbs. We can then ask them if they added 10lbs a year, and what they usually tell us is that about half their gains they got in the first year, half of the rest in the second, and so on.

    No studies of the maximum lean mass achievable by drug-free women have been done. Unfortunately, women's bodybuilding started in the age of widespread use of steroids (after 1965-70) so we don't have a good idea of what women can achieve without drugs; this is different to men where we have the examples of guys like Steve Reeves and Reg Park.

    Anyway, for women of a normal beginning physique, a lean mass gain of 10-12lbs in the first year, 5-6lbs in the second, and 1-3lbs per year thereafter seems reasonable.

    The exceptions are when people begin as underweight, and/or during adolescence. If underweight, you can fairly quickly add mass to reach what is a healthy bodyweight for you. If an adolescent, your body is primed by hormones to grow like mad anyway. So it's quite possible for a scrawny 15 year old to become a buff 17 year old.

    In addition, the growth never seems to be spread evenly. For example, if as a young woman you were to add 12lbs in one year, it's not going to be 1lb a month. You'll get 4 months of frustration where nothing happens, then bang, 3lbs in two weeks, nothing for two weeks, then bang, 2lbs in a week, then nothing for another three months... and so on.

    When adding lean mass, you are doing well if you add the same amount again in fat. You can maintain the muscle or lose little of it and cut the fat later. Many people overestimate their lean mass gain, counting just total weight gained and assuming it's all muscle.

    In the media and thus people's minds the issue is confused by lack of real science on the subject, by lies told by supplement companies and trainers to sell their products, and by things like a bodybuilder coming back from an injury and quickly returning to their pre-injury lean mass - if you were big and strong in the past, you'll become big and strong again more quickly than it took you the first time.

    Whatever the physiological limits, most people never reach them because their training, diet and rest are off; usually the limit is effort and knowledge, not physiology. Get yoiur training, diet and rest right, and you'll grow. How much? Try it and we'll find out!
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  7. #7
    Buff bride to be imperfectly_lou's Avatar
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    LOL I think your trainer is full of shiit... In someone who is first picking up a weight, they may see a few pounds of gain very quickly, but after that.... an experienced trainee is lucky to gain 5lbs of lean mass per 6 month period naturally. I suggest you start doing your own reading and research rather than relying on your trainer

    Originally Posted by ObscureDreamer View Post
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
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  8. #8
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    Originally Posted by ObscureDreamer View Post
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
    If women could put on 5-7 pounds a month, I should be the size of a goddamn barn. Sorry, your trainer is full of ****.
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  9. #9
    Plain Jane Who Lifts **** kimm4's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ObscureDreamer View Post
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
    Nothing like a trainer filling your head with the wrong info.

    Most newbies are lucky if they can add 7 lbs a year. Your diet needs to be spot on and you better be busting your ass to make it happen. Most newbies have trouble doing this, because they don't have the right experience/knowledge with diet and training in order to get there.
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  10. #10
    Registered User spartan09's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses everybody!

    I really just wanted to know cuz the scale hasn't been changing for me much and if it does happen to change I wanna know how much it should if it really is just lean mass I am gaining. My diet could def use some improvement, so that's probably the major step I need to take.

    @KyleAaron Is it inevitable that women will gain at least as much fat as they do muscle? I don't see why this should happen if your diet and training are up to par. Thanks in advance
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  11. #11
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    I've asked a similar question to this before. In short, the answer would be not a lot, but obviously the more correct work you put in, the more results you will see.
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    Originally Posted by ObscureDreamer View Post
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
    i lol'd!
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    Originally Posted by KyleAaron View Post
    Much broscience in this thread.

    spartan09, there is little real science studying this, most studies of lean mass gain are of untrained healthy adult males of college age who undertake 12 weeks of training... because that's who's most easily available to the university staff doing these studies.

    The experience of trainers is generally that in young adult males we see gains of,

    1st year of solid training, 20-24lbs
    2nd year, 10-12lbs
    3rd year, 5-6lbs
    4th year and each year afterwards, 1-3lbs

    Women and males over 35 typically manage about half these rates. I stress, this is not based on any real studies, it's just observations of trainers over the years.

    There have been studies of the maximum possible lean mass achievable without drugs for men. Looking at the 5-10 years it takes people to achieve that physique, we can extrapolate backwards to the figures above. For example, if someone's maximum lean mass is 180lbs, achieved today in 2010, and they started at a lean mass of 130lbs in 2005, we know that they took 5 years to add 50lbs. We can then ask them if they added 10lbs a year, and what they usually tell us is that about half their gains they got in the first year, half of the rest in the second, and so on.

    No studies of the maximum lean mass achievable by drug-free women have been done. Unfortunately, women's bodybuilding started in the age of widespread use of steroids (after 1965-70) so we don't have a good idea of what women can achieve without drugs; this is different to men where we have the examples of guys like Steve Reeves and Reg Park.

    Anyway, for women of a normal beginning physique, a lean mass gain of 10-12lbs in the first year, 5-6lbs in the second, and 1-3lbs per year thereafter seems reasonable.

    The exceptions are when people begin as underweight, and/or during adolescence. If underweight, you can fairly quickly add mass to reach what is a healthy bodyweight for you. If an adolescent, your body is primed by hormones to grow like mad anyway. So it's quite possible for a scrawny 15 year old to become a buff 17 year old.

    In addition, the growth never seems to be spread evenly. For example, if as a young woman you were to add 12lbs in one year, it's not going to be 1lb a month. You'll get 4 months of frustration where nothing happens, then bang, 3lbs in two weeks, nothing for two weeks, then bang, 2lbs in a week, then nothing for another three months... and so on.

    When adding lean mass, you are doing well if you add the same amount again in fat. You can maintain the muscle or lose little of it and cut the fat later. Many people overestimate their lean mass gain, counting just total weight gained and assuming it's all muscle.

    In the media and thus people's minds the issue is confused by lack of real science on the subject, by lies told by supplement companies and trainers to sell their products, and by things like a bodybuilder coming back from an injury and quickly returning to their pre-injury lean mass - if you were big and strong in the past, you'll become big and strong again more quickly than it took you the first time.

    Whatever the physiological limits, most people never reach them because their training, diet and rest are off; usually the limit is effort and knowledge, not physiology. Get yoiur training, diet and rest right, and you'll grow. How much? Try it and we'll find out!
    cool I gained 10 lbs of scale weight after my first (and only year) of lifting! most of it happened in the first 6 months but I think it was mostly water/glycogen. Keeping in mind that I weighed myself before I had ever lifted one weight but was a cardio junkie. So lean mass gain would probably be more like 6 or 7 lbs if you take away the water my muscles are holding.
    Last edited by IronCitGrl; 03-15-2010 at 02:09 PM.
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  14. #14
    community gym PT KyleAaron's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by spartan09 View Post
    @KyleAaron Is it inevitable that women will gain at least as much fat as they do muscle? I don't see why this should happen if your diet and training are up to par. Thanks in advance
    It's physiology.

    Your body requires a certain amount of energy to stay alive and do your workouts. To build muscle, it requires a bit more - an energy surplus.

    But when your body has an energy surplus, it sets some aside for later in the form of fat. If our bodies didn't do this we'd be dead.

    So any time you add some muscle, you will add some fat.

    Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, "but what if I figured out exactly how much energy it took to build muscle, I could just have that, then I wouldn't add any fat at all!" But it doesn't work like that - your body doesn't require X for muscle-building and anything over X turns to fat. It just takes the energy surplus you have, and part goes to muscle-building and part to fat.

    So if you reduce the energy surplus, you get less fat - but less muscle, too, getting less muscle growth than you could have. But if the energy surplus is really big, you get the maximum muscle-building, but get quite a lot of fat. So between a too-small surplus (say, 100kcal) and a too-large one (say, 2,000kcal), most people chooses something in between - 500-1,000kcal daily. This lets them build muscle and fat at the same time, getting the maximum muscle growth with the minimum fat growth.

    And that's usually about 50:50. It sounds horrible, but actually you are going to look more impressive - you'll be overall bigger, your bodyfat percentage roughly the same, but your muscles bigger and harder. It's like the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance - most of them have bodyfat in the low 20s%, but they have quite a bit of muscle, you can see that muscle and they look good.

    If you want to be lower bodyfat than that, then as I said, after your bulking you have a cutting cycle. This is what's been done by generations of bodybuilders, if there were shortcuts to adding only muscle and no fat believe me they'd have discovered them by now!
    Originally Posted by IronCitGirl
    cool I gained 10 lbs of scale weight after my first (and only year) of lifting! most of it happened in the first 6 months but I think it was mostly water/glycogen. Keeping in mind that I weighed myself before I had ever lifted one weight but was a cardio junkie. So lean mass gain would probably be more like 6 or 7 lbs if you take away the water my muscles are holding.
    Impossible to say without knowing before and after measurements, and impossible to guess without knowing your training. It's very very unlikely that all 10lbs were muscle, much more likely that it was about half muscle and half fat.

    Glycogen is constant over time, it varies day-to-day. It's the sugar your body stores for quick energy. There are usually 1-2lbs of it in your body, if you starve yourself for a day or two that gets burned up, you drop a pound or two. If you carb-load before a marathon you might boost it to 2-3lbs in your body. You might burn half a pound of it in a heavy workout. So it varies day-to-day depending on your diet and exercise. But over 6 months it'll be constant, unless you have a big lifestyle change like going from a carb-heavy to a keto diet or vice versa.
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    Originally Posted by KyleAaron View Post

    Glycogen is constant over time, it varies day-to-day. It's the sugar your body stores for quick energy. There are usually 1-2lbs of it in your body, if you starve yourself for a day or two that gets burned up, you drop a pound or two. If you carb-load before a marathon you might boost it to 2-3lbs in your body. You might burn half a pound of it in a heavy workout. So it varies day-to-day depending on your diet and exercise. But over 6 months it'll be constant, unless you have a big lifestyle change like going from a carb-heavy to a keto diet or vice versa.
    Prior to beginning lifting I had been starving myself on a 1300 cal/day diet and doing lots of cardio. I know the glycogen is probably constant now but going from that to lifting and eating more calories would probably make a difference when I first started. Plus don't muscles hold more water too? I'm not trying to say all 10 lbs were muscle, in fact I'm trying to say that I probably only gained 6 especially since I wasn't bulking. I just don't want to give anyone false hope.

    And, just a question-- what about bone? Don't you grow bone also when you lift heavy? Or is that over the course of many many years?
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    Originally Posted by ObscureDreamer View Post
    5-7 lbs per year????? I think you mean per month!

    A realistic goal for a woman according to the 28 Day Body Shapeover program is 2-4lbs increase in lean muscle tissue in 28 days. A diet high in protein and intense exercise lifting heavy weights is necessary.

    My personal trainer says 3-6 lbs increase is possible in a month with proper diet and exercise. (lots of heavy lifting, lots of protein).
    A woman produces less testosterone than men which prevents us from huge muscle gains on par with them unless we chemically alter those levels in our body through steroid use. With a dedicated weight training plan, supplements and nutrition through what foods we eat we can maximize our muscle growth, but 3-6 lbs a month? That is "naturally" not realistic. In the beginning you will see the most growth. Best of luck on your goals! There is a lot of useful information in these forums that will help you
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    community gym PT KyleAaron's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by IronCitGrl View Post
    Prior to beginning lifting I had been starving myself on a 1300 cal/day diet and doing lots of cardio. I know the glycogen is probably constant now but going from that to lifting and eating more calories would probably make a difference when I first started.
    I've checked up about the glycogen, my memory was vague, I usually deal with strength-oriented people and beginners, not endurance athletes, so it's not been an issue.

    The average adult male will have 0.5-1lb of glycogen in their body. A keto victim - er, keto dieter - will halve that, a carb-loaded cyclists might double or triple it. There's about the same again in water to keep it company. So it'll make a difference of a pound or so, tops.

    Plus don't muscles hold more water too?
    Sure. But they're a fundamental part of their structure, muscles without water are just jerky. I mean there's water in your bones, too, it's everywhere in your body, right in the middle of cells.

    So we don't say we put on Xlbs of muscle, Ylbs of fat, and Zlbs of water. We just say, "lean mass and fat."

    And, just a question-- what about bone? Don't you grow bone also when you lift heavy? Or is that over the course of many many years?
    Yes, we gain some bone, too.

    We say "lean mass" rather than "muscle" because of the gain is bone, too - resistance training improves bone density in everyone, and increases bone thickness in the young.

    I can't say how much, there are studies showing that density improves for most adults, and decay drops or stops in the elderly, but I'm not aware of rigorous ones showing exactly how much bone gets added. Your skeleton is around 1/7th your bodyweight given a healthy person in the ordinary weight range, so we're only talking about 15-30lbs, I don't see how the bone mass gain could be more than half a pound or so over a year then topped off and not increasing further, any more than that and it'd be obvious to the eye.

    If during a bulk you get half muscle and half fat, you're doing pretty well - and that's a 500-1,000kcal surplus daily. It seems like when people bulk faster than that, with 2,000+kcal surpluses, then unless their workload is enormous (eg Olympic lifters training 10-18 times a week), the ratio drops, so they might add a few pounds of fat for every one of lean mass.

    If all you want is to get stronger that's fine, but if there are looks considerations, you'll not want to go faster than gives you 50:50 lean:fat. Otherwise the cut later becomes a pain, either you cut fast and lose the fat quickly but lose some of the muscle gained too, or you cut slowly and keep the muscle, but we're talking cuts of 6+months, that'd drive most people crazy.
    Last edited by KyleAaron; 03-15-2010 at 07:30 PM.
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    lol i HAD to add this: When you first posted this earlier, I read it on my phone in anatomy class haha....(i know, i know)...I BURST out laughing for like 5 minutes straight and of course, everyone thought I was on crack or something. I had to leave early, I kept giggling XD
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    community gym PT KyleAaron's Avatar
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    What? I wasn't being funny this time...
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    DAMN! I thought I had replied as a quote...

    I was referring to ives' comment about being as big as a barn
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    Originally Posted by fery321 View Post
    i lol'd!
    Me, too. Loudly.
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    Originally Posted by spartan09 View Post
    My goal right now is to gain weight, but of course I want the majority of that weight to be lean.

    How much muscle (in pounds) can a female my age expect to be able to put on in a given month?

    I see a lotta threads about how much muscle men can gain but I know for women the number has to be different! Thanks in advance everyone
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