I want this video and article to help you avoid making the mistakes I did when lean bulking. We’re going to talk about:
- How much weight should you gain per month depending on your training status. And why gaining strength without weight may be a good thing sometimes
- How to track your weight accurately
- How do you know you’re gaining muscle not fat
Let’s get started!
How much weight should you gain per month
First of all when you want to build a lot of muscle, you need to gain weight. Yes, you can gain muscle without gaining weight. You can even gain muscle when your weight is going down but if we’re talking about gaining a lot of muscle, getting visually bigger, that means your weight will have to go up.
There is a limit to how much muscle your body can create in a given time. And that depends mainly on how close you are to your genetic potential. A complete beginner may be able to gain 20lbs (9kg) or muscle in his first year whereas someone training for 4 years may only be able to gain 4 pounds (2kg) a year.
Here are two tables that show the maximum rate of muscle gain achievable at any training status:
|Years of training||Maximum Muscle Growth Potential|
|Year 1||20-25lbs (2lbs per month) / 9 – 11 kg (0.9kg per month)|
|Year 2||10-12lbs (1lbs per month) / 4.5 – 5.5 kg (0.45kg per month)|
|Year 3||5-6lbs (0.5lbs per month) / 2 – 2.7 kg (0.22kg per month)|
|Year 4||2-3lbs / 0.9 – 1.3 kg|
|Year 5+||2-3 lbs / 0.9 – 1.3kg|
These figures come from Lyle McDonald
|Category||Maximum Rate of Muscle Growth|
|Beginner||1-1.5% of lean body mass per month|
|Intermediate||0.5-1% of lean body mass per month|
|Advanced||0.25-0.5% of lean body mass per month|
These figures come from Alan Aragon
Ok, what do you do with this information? It shows you how much weight you need to gain each month.
Here’s what I recommend:
In your first year of training – gain 2-3 lbs per month
In your second year of training – gain 1-2 lbs per month
In your third year of training – gain 1-1.5 lbs per month
In your fourth year and beyond – progressive overload
Bulking doesn’t make any sense after the 4th year of lifting. At that time you can only gain 3 lbs (1.5kg) per year. So even if you gain very slowly like 1-2lbs per month that is still going to be mostly fat gain.
That’s why as an intermediate or advanced lifter gaining strength without weight may be a good thing.
For example if you’ve been lifting for more that 2 years and for a few weeks your weight stayed the same but you gained a lot of weight, I wouldn’t eat more.
Gaining strength without much weight is usually an indicator for lean gains. Note that sometimes there is a delay though between when you gain the strength and when you see your muscles getting bigger. But don’t worry, strength gains in a medium rep range always lead to muscle growth.
How to track your weight accurately
Your daily morning weigh-in can fluctuate a lot depending on how much food you ate the day before and your hydration status.
That’s why it’s best to weight yourself at least 3 days in a row and do a daily average.
What I do is I weight myself everyday and do a weekly average. And that average is the figure I track my progress with. Here’s how:
*The first value is weight in kilograms and the second one is the waist measurement in centimeters. The weekly average is only for weight.
Now I’m a little old school and I use the good old pen and paper but you can use whatever method you like for this.
Why does your weight fluctuate? There are a million reasons but the 2 most important ones are:
- How much quantity of food you consumed to get your macros. You may get the same macros everyday but you’re not getting the same quantity. For example 100g of carbs from potatoes is 500g of food. 100g of carbs from chocolate cereal is only 120g. That difference will show on the scale.
- Hydration status. How much water you hold in your body fluctuates a lot from day to day. Did you know that you lose about 1% of your bodyweight during sleep just through the moisture you exhale through your breath? If for example you slept in one day you may find your weight is slightly lower than usual. That may be because you went a longer period of time without drinking water and you lost a lot of water weight through the moisture we exhale and sweat.
Fun fact of the day.
How do you know you’re gaining muscle not fat
1. Checking your relative strength
If your lifts are going up faster than your bodyweight, you’re gaining mostly muscle mass. Ideally, for each pound you gain you should be able to add 3 pounds to your bench, 2lbs to your weighted chin up, 1-2 lbs to your standing press and 4-5 lbs on your squat or deadlift.
This would be the ideal. If you can’t quite achieve these number don’t worry at least make sure you’re gaining better than a 1 to 1 ratio – that’s usually an indicator for fat gain.
2. Body part measurements
There are 4 points you need to measure:
Your waist, your chest, your shoulders and your arms.
Your waist measurement is the most important because it usually correlates with your body fat percentage. You want your waist to stay the same or go up very slowly.
You should measure your waist at the navel without a relaxed posture (not flexing or sucking in).
Your goal when lean bulking is to not allow your waist to go up by more than 1cm (0.4 inches) every month.
Then you measure your chest. It’s best to measure it in the middle of your pecs because that way you can track the growth of your upper pecs as well. Good upper chest development are essential for looking great.
Measuring your chest also tracks the growth of your lats because the tape measure goes around your whole upper body.
Then you measure your shoulders at the widest point.
And finally your flexed arms at the widest point.
That’s it. What you want is your waist measurement to stay pretty much the same and your other measurements to go up as much as possible.
What’s your take on tracking progress while lean bulking? Do you have any questions? Any feedback? Leave a comment below and let me know. I read and answer everything!
The Program that built my physique
If you’re looking for a muscle building program I recommend you check out The Greek God Program. Greg designed it to help you build proportionate mass and incredible strength while staying lean.
It is the program I used to build my physique and I’m still making gains on it.