I started to work out this month. How long does it take until the muscle show up after the workout session? Does it happen right away or….?
Thanks for the question.
This question reminds me of a time when I was 15 or 16 years of age. At the time, I just got a pair of York dumbbells from my parents, complete with a dumbbell routine and illustrations.
I finished my first workout and immediately went to the mirror to flex my little arms and chest. To my surprise, my arms didn’t look like Arnold’s and my chest still looked small and weak. No matter how much I flexed, my muscles still looked the same.
My mom saw me and said “Blake, your muscles don’t develop that quickly – Give them time to grow”.
You see, I was under the impression that I was actually building muscle while I was working out, so naturally the muscle should be there after my workout.
Well, to my surprise, no matter how hard I flexed my muscles, I didn’t look any different after that initial workout. I was very dissapointed but you can’t argue with human physiology. It took me some time to figure out that it takes time for muscle tissue to grow. However, I did catch on to the fact that in order for muscle tissue to get bigger, the first thing that has to happen is for the muscle to actually get stronger.
Muscle tissue just doesn’t magically appear. A person simply can’t show up to the gym do a few sets of a bench press and expect new muscle to grow. It just doesn’t work like that.
There has to be a very good reason for your muscles to get bigger. Without a good enough reason to get bigger, they simply won’t grow. Now, one of the best reasons for your muscle to grow is to get stronger. You see, every time you place more stress on the muscles, they have to “evolve” in order to accomodate the new stress levels being placed on it. One of the ways your muscles adjust to new levels of stress is to actually get stronger.
By adjusting to the new stress levels, it will actually get stronger. Once your muscles start to get stronger, they will eventually adapt to these new strength levels by getting bigger.
This is a very gradual process and one that takes time. I think this is a very confusing process to beginners and intermediate weight trainers. Once your muscles start to get stronger, you should start seeing some initial growth in about 2 weeks to a month after the initial strength increase happens. Of course this is not exact and everyone is different so some may take longer and some shorter. It depends on your age, diet, rest levels, and so on. Genetics wills play a huge role in determining how long it takes to build muscle mass.
However, the things you do have in control over your own bodies growth process is 1) Diet; And 2) Rest and recovery. Optimize these two elements in conjunction with a smart weight training routine and you can expect some quick muscle growth – No matter who you are.
I think the main thing you have to remember is that the higher your intensity levels, the more stress you place on your muscles. Using heavier weights is on way (and one of the best ways) to add more intensity to your muscles. So, as you gradually add more intensity to your weight training program, you add more stress to your muscles which will, over a period of time, grow.
But, the main thing to remember, is that the intensity levels must be continous and must increase with each weight training period in order for the muscle to continously adapt to the new stress levels. This progression of intensity levels takes time and must be progressive.
However, as long as your muscles are improving with each passing workout, your going to build muscle. How do you improve with each passing workout? Well, you can either use more weight, do more repetitions with the same weight, or perform the workout in faster time. All these elements will increase intensity, which keep your muscles growing. Stop improving and you have a problem.
Remember, all things being equal, a strong muscle will always be a big muscle. The stronger you get, the bigger you get – Simple as that. You also have to remember that muscle growth doesn’t happen in the gym, it occurs while you are resting.
So, the process is to place stress on your muscles, give them rest and feed them adequatly and hit the gym again with well rested muscles. This way you ensure that you are consistently improving with each workout – Remember – Well Rested Muscles will always be stronger.
How long does it take? Well, again, it all depends on how well you progress. Beginners will see an immediate improvement (provided the training is consistent) in strength and muscle tone. Mind you, the gains won’t be slabs of muscle mass but there will be some improvement. In terms of time frames, probably after one month of consistent training.
If you consistently improve on a 3 month weight training cycle, you should see some pretty good muscle gains in about 15 weeks or so. Hate to bust your bubble but gaining 10 pounds of pure muscle in one month is physiological impossible. Sure, you might be able to gain 10 pounds of body weight in one month but I’ll tell you right now, you’ll be lucky if two of these pounds is muscle. Realistically, a 2 pound muscle gain per month is possible for beginners for the first 6 months to a year. If that doesn’t sound like much, take 5 pounds of hamburger and pack it onto your body. Believe me, its a lot.
Intermediates and advanced trainers (after one year of consistent training) can expect around 5 to 15 pound muscle gains per year. However, the longer you train and improve, the harder it gets to build additional muscle. This is a sliding, downward scale of time versus muscle gain. After 4 plus years of training, you’ll be lucky to gain 10 pounds of pure muscle mass after one year.
Remember, this is a gradual process and you will see sporadic growth spurts here and there in your weight training cycle. Also remember that muscle growth is never uniform. That is, muscle growth never progresses on a consistent basis and it occurs in spurts so be prepared for that.
The real secret to gaining muscle mass is how well you improve from workout to workout. Stop improving and you’re not going to build any new muscle mass.
Now, your diet and rest levels play a huge part in this process. Honestly, if you want to add those pounds of muscle on you faster, you MUST have your diet down. There is no question about it. If you can eat a healthy, calorie dense diet that is over and above your daily calorie expenditure, you will see results alot faster. For more information on these subjects, please see the following pages:
You want to know why alot of people have a hard time gaining muscle? Its because they simply don’t understand their own body type. If you can manage to train and eat for your specific body type, I’ll gaurantee you’ll build muscle in a much shorter period of time. Check this article out here to find out how you can train for your body type.
I know a lot of you are pretty confused when it comes to building lean muscle mass and I understand your confusion. I’ve been there and I’ve come out the other side. Find out how I went from a skinny and weak dude to a 200 pound powerhouse in 3 short years! Find out here.
All the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.