The spurge of home workout videos following the global pandemic has debunked the belief that you need access to a gym for an effective exercise regimen. But have they also distorted our expectations?
However, many modern-day fitness videos use 30 days as a benchmark for reaching your fitness goal. With so many fitness influencers and self-proclaimed trainers propagating this benchmark, surely they must be on to something, right?
But you have to take these claims with a grain of salt.
Think about it: can you really gain a six-pack or grow massive glutes in a mere four weeks?
Sure, you can speed the process by complementing your workouts with a muscle massager and supplementing your diet with protein powder. Still, there is a limit to how much muscle you can realistically gain in a month.
Let’s try to figure out what that limit is.
The Short Answer
While the health and fitness community is a substantial one, there are very few formal studies on lean muscle gain in a set period of time.
However, experts within the community generally agree that men can expect to gain 1-2 lbs of lean muscle every month. For women, that range is considerably less at 0.5-1 lbs. That sounds like a good enough answer, right?
But hold on; how come the expected muscle gain is considerably higher in men than in women? Moreover, why is there a range at all as opposed to a single, definitive number?
This should give you a hint that muscle gain is far from consistent, not only across the sexes but also between members of the same sex. So, does that mean that other factors could affect your monthly muscle gain as well?
Keep in mind that there is no mathematical formula or a conclusive number that can help you figure out how much lean muscle you can gain in a month. If someone were to come up with a formula, it would have countless variables.
But before we get into those, let’s first understand how muscles actually grow from a physiological standpoint.
The Physiology of Muscle Gain— How Do Muscles Grow?
Did you know that technically speaking, your muscles don’t actually grow while you are working out? This might sound a little odd to you, but it’s factually correct.
When you do any form of resistance exercise, your muscles are undergoing intense trauma— so much so that the muscle fibers actually start breaking down. So in a way, you are always constantly injuring yourself when you work out.
Of course, your body immediately springs into action and tries to repair those torn muscle fibers.
Satellite cells surrounding your muscles flood towards these damaged sites and fuse to the muscle fibers. At the same time, they also fuse into each other, forming a kind of adhesive to hold the torn muscle fibers together.
Over time, these satellite cells differentiate into skeletal muscle cells, thereby increasing the volume of your muscles.
The real kicker is that all of this is happening over the course of a few days while you are resting. Thus, while exercising gets the ball rolling, it is the crucial rest period following your workout that promotes muscle gain.
Now, do you understand why rest days are so important?
Percussive Massage Therapy and Muscle Growth
Don't get us wrong; your body is more than capable enough to repair itself following post-workout muscle trauma. But it doesn’t hurt to lend a helping hand.
Moreover, sometimes the trauma can be so intense that the repair period becomes annoyingly long. This usually happens when you have just started working out after staying dormant for a long time. However, people who work out regularly can experience delayed muscle repair because of over-exercising or poor form.
Luckily, you can help speed up the repair process through percussive massage therapy using a muscle massager such as the ExoGun DreamPro.
Even though it is a relatively new phenomenon, percussive massage therapy has shown promising results. Basically, using a muscle massager improves blood circulation towards the targeted muscles, which achieves two things:
- Soothes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and lets you function better post-workout
- Proliferates the amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching the satellite muscles, which helps them grow into full-formed muscle cells much quicker.
Moreover, not only is percussive massage therapy effective post-workout, but pre-workout as well. Similar to warming up, a muscle massager helps you get the blood flowing to your muscles and subsequently lets you perform optimally.
Of course, you can always go to a licensed masseuse. However, a muscle massager is much more practical in that it is a one-time investment that you can use at your disposal.
Considering the fact that percussive massages are considerably more effective immediately after a workout, you can reap the full benefits of massage therapy as soon as you finish exercising.
Also read: Can We Do Deep Tissue Massage Therapy at Home? Tips & Tools
Muscle Gain Isn’t Always Steady.
If you have just started on your muscle gain journey, the first few months can be really encouraging. During this time, you can gain a substantial amount of lean muscle and see promising visual results. Over time, however, this growth rate tends to decrease.
Research suggests that people with no prior strength training actually experience greater muscle gain than those who are used to working out regularly.
But wait, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Shouldn’t you gain more muscle over time as your form improves and you are able to lift heavier and exercise for longer?
Well, you’d think so.
But in reality, your muscles are actually adapting to the increased stimulation. In fact, many people experience a muscle growth plateau where they might be increasing their strength but not their muscle mass. This is why trainers advise you to increase the weights, add more reps, and mix things up as often as you can.
The idea here is never to let your body get too comfortable, lest it starts becoming complacent.
Factors Affecting Muscle Gain
Let’s come back to that hypothetical mathematical formula we were talking about earlier. If such as formula was to be created, here are the most important factors that we would need to consider:
Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. Other factors such as the age at which you began training, training history, mental well-being, training frequency and intensity, hydration, alcohol consumption, etc., are also important.
Your genetics affect all aspects of your life, including how your muscles respond to resistance training.
Many studies have shown that skeletal muscle is a highly heritable quantitative trait. This means that if every other variable is held constant, two people with different genetics will exhibit vastly different muscle growth rates.
Other related factors such as your testosterone levels and your body type stem from your genetic makeup.
Testosterone is a major growth hormone, and the amount of testosterone you have depends on your sex as well as your genetic makeup.
Similarly, your body type also determines how positively your muscles react to resistance training. The three main body types include:
- Mesomorphic: these body types can gain lean muscle very quickly.
- Ectomorph: these body types have a hard time putting on lean muscle but can build their strength very effectively.
- Endomorph: these body types can build muscle most effectively through strength training.
This is why you should never hold yourself to any external and superficial standards, such as a fixed lean muscle weight gain in a month, nor should you compare your progress with that of others.
We have already discussed, in detail, the significance of rest days for effective muscle growth. You might be tempted to hit the gym six to seven days a week for faster results. But you must remember that more is not better in this case.
Trust us; you’ll be doing more harm than good.
Instead, exercising each muscle group two to three times a week is more than enough for beginners to start seeing results.
Hitting the gym isn’t enough to gain considerable muscle mass. Instead, you need to complement your workout regimen with an equally well-thought-out diet plan.
You probably already know the importance of a protein-rich diet in building muscle. While your body is in the rest phase, it requires an adequate amount of amino acids to help rebuild the muscles.
However, the protein hype often overshadows the importance of other macronutrients such as carbohydrates. While carbohydrates don’t directly influence muscle gain, they do help you restore your glycogen levels. This, in turn, can help you recover faster and exercise more efficiently.
The Long Answer
Setting a time limit on your fitness goals can be counterproductive. However, it can help to know how much muscle gain you should expect in a certain period of time to have a point of reference.
With that in mind, the “1-2 lbs for men” and “0.5-1 lbs for women” should be a good benchmark for expected monthly muscle gain.
But don’t be surprised if you see results that fall outside this range. As long as you are exercising frequently and safely, as well as treating yourself with a muscle massager on your rest days, you’re on the right track!