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How to Track Progress when Lean Bulking

I want this video and article to help you avoid making the mistakes I did when lean bulking. We’re going to talk about:

  1. 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
  2. How to track your weight accurately
  3. 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:

weight tracking progress

*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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Two methods:

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.

Click here to see a few more success stories with it


  1. Moonlight15 on October 4, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Faza tare ! Chrstian Guzman foloseste Intermitten Fasting :)) !

    • Radu Antoniu on October 5, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Serios? haha

      Nu l-am urmarit de ceva vreme

  2. Alex on October 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    salut radu.. fac si eu antrenamentu tau pentru merge great!! adica mna la tractiuni am ajuns la 20 kg! piept undeva la 65 la presa merge 130 de kg! am cam 1 .75…dar am fost plecat prin am pus acolo o gramada de kg dar cu multa grasime adica mancare de restaurant…acuma am undeva la 66 de kg! am dat jos o gramada…si acuma vr sa pun si sa ajung undeva la 74 de kg! dar cu mancare aleasa adica facuta dupa un program fix ! as vrea sa te rog sa imi dai un program sau cv de genu sa vad cum mias face mesele e mai greu la mine adica muncesc… de la 7 la 3:30! si lunia miercurea si vinerea dupa munca merg la sala deci ajung acasa pe la 19:00! deci ma gandeam sa fac o masa la 9:00 cand am pauza cu cv fructe…! apoi la 12 o masa mare! si inca 1 la 19:30…ar fi o idee buna..m-as bucura daca mi-ai -ai ajuta..! o seara faina!!

    • Radu Antoniu on October 13, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Super Alex !

      Da, poti imparti mancarea cum vrei pe parcursul zilei. Important e cat mananci in total.

      Uite articolul asta o sa te ajute.

  3. Klaus on January 9, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Hi, I seem to habe problems to get comparable measurements, especially at the waist and chest. It feels, as if I do not use the exact amount of force each time, if this is at all possible.
    I wondered, if inhale maximally befire each chest measurement would make it more comparable. Same goes for waist. Maybe just fleximg the abs maximally would make it more comparable, too. What do you think?
    Regards from germany.

    • Radu Antoniu on January 17, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Hmm I guess that could work too.

      But you shouldn’t worry about being 100% accurate every time. If you’re getting stronger your chest measurements should also go up.

  4. Ameen on January 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    dude , let’s assume that someone doesn’t train legs .. and he gain 1 kg in a month and he got the exact ratio ( ex : 3:1 bench press ) on the other lifts ( except squat ) how to deal with this situation ? .. ( btw it’s not me i do train legs 😀 )

    • Radu Antoniu on January 28, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      It’s almost the same thing. I guess it would mean he’s gaining a little more fat because that kilogram of weight gain doesn’t include the muscle mass he would have added to his legs.

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