How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle? 7 Factors to Consider

Building and maintaining muscle is not just about flaunting a shredded physique.

Aesthetics aside, exercised muscle mass can play an important role in protecting bones from osteoporosis in addition to burning fat.

Now you know the benefits, you may be wondering how long the process of building muscle actually takes.

Georgie Spurling, fitness coach and founder of GS Method & Re:Nou Retreat, describes building muscle as complex, meaning there are many factors to consider.

She told Newsweek: "It requires the balancing of several different elements to find the magic combination.

"These include movement, food, lifestyle, stress levels, and consideration of genetics."

She added that despite how daunting the procedure may appear, "with the right guidance and knowledge [building muscle] will become an easy process."

Spurling added: "The basic science behind building muscle is that we tear the muscle when exercising.

"After this, your body goes through a process of repair where it fuses muscle fibres back together to form new protein structures. This causes hypertrophy, the growth of muscle."

How to Build Muscles
Joanna Dase, a fitness expert at Curves Gym, describes resistance training as "a key component of fitness and should form part of your weekly fitness routine in order to build muscle" Ridofranz/Getty Images

Flo Seabright, a personal trainer nutritionist and Founder of FBF Collective, agrees, describing muscle gain as "a slow game', requiring "consistency, hard work and time."

She told Newsweek: "New gym-goers might find that they can build muscle quickly and relatively easily at first but over time, changes in muscle mass become a little harder to see.

"Ultimately, when trying to build muscle, we want to be thinking about the changes we can see over months and years not day-to-day."

Woman bench pressing
The ability to build muscle with exercises such as pumping iron can depend on several factors Antonio_Diaz/istock

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Growing muscle via resistance training exercise is reliant on several factors, meaning this can take weeks or even months.

Volume and increasing the intensity of effort are the basic components required when increasing muscle mass. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests "1−3 sets per exercise of 8−12 repetitions with 70−85% of one repetition maximum (1RM) for novice and 3−6 sets of 1−12 repetitions with 70−100% 1RM for advanced individuals".

According to a study by Texas Tech, muscle growth usually begins after a month of consistent weight training. This mass will be small though, and was only visible to the researchers on an ultrasound. While, a Japanese study found that three months was the average length of time it takes for muscle gain to be noticeable.

Jenny Hutchins; personal trainer and JNY Personal Training Founder, told Newsweek: "When it comes to building muscle and how long that can take, my answer is always 'how long is a piece of string?', because it's so dependent on so many things.

"It is hard to pinpoint a specific length of time. Things to take in to consideration include your starting body type, the type of training you are doing, how much sleep you are getting, your diet and in particular the quantities of protein in your diet.

"Some people will have a more naturally slim build that will make it harder for them to put on muscle, while others will have a more athletic build."

She added: "While we can't change our build, there are things we can do to speed up our muscle building journey."

How to Maximize Your Ability to Build Muscle

How to Build Muscle
Building and maintaining muscle is not just about flaunting a shredded physique AnnaStills/Getty Images

Increase Your Protein Intake

According to an article in 'International journal of environmental research and public health'. Building muscle can be achieved by combining resistance training with increased protein ingestion.

Jodie McKnight, Trainer at F45 Mill Hill, notes how protein plays "a huge part" in muscle growth and suggests increasing your protein intake can "help build muscle more efficiently."

She said: "It currently is recommended that you consume 0.8g of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day.

"Great sources of protein include chicken, eggs and beef—however, protein can also be found in non-animal sources, such as nuts and beans.

Remember to Recover

Joanna Dase, a fitness expert at Curves Gym, believes "allowing time for muscle repair and recovery" is one of the key factors for strength training.

She said: "Taking rest days is important. On average muscles need about 48 hours to fully recover, but it does also depend on the individual.

"Rest days do not need to be total rest, but instead can be active rest days where the focus is more on cardio or flexibility rather than overloading the muscles."

Build Muscle
Exercised muscle mass can play an important role in protecting bones from osteoporosis in addition to burning fat gorodenkoff/Getty Images

Set Realistic Timeframes for Goals

Elliott Upton, Head of Online Training at Ultimate Performance believes it is important to commit to what you want to achieve and to set a deadline for accomplishing it.

He said: "There is a world of difference between thinking 'one day I would like to be ripped' and 'I will be ripped in 12 weeks'.

"I wish it were possible to create your ideal body in just a few weeks. But results are always a function of time.

"Yes, amazing things can happen for some people in even as little as six weeks, but the longer you have, the better your results.

"Embracing the pressure of time-driven goals can give you the motivation to stay on track with your workouts and diet.

Don't Stress

Georgie Spurling suggests stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol can "hugely affect" muscle growth and maintenance potential.

She said: "I realize it is not that helpful because we live in a world of worry at the moment, but there are things you can do to take a little stress off your load.

"Firstly, if you have had a stressful day in the office and are feeling anxious, you need to do movement that doesn't increase this stress further.

"Sometimes going to a High-Intensity [HIIT] class after work spikes your cortisol and adrenaline, keeping your body in fight or flight for that much longer, which causes many side effects.

"Perhaps swapping your HIIT class for a high burn pilates class that's still high burn, but it's low stress.

"Secondly, stretching after your workouts will help lower inflammation in the body, length the muscles, and calm the central nervous system."


How to Build Muscle
The basic science behind building muscle is that we tear the muscle when exercising Ridofranz/Getty Images

Flo Seabright believes some supplements can, in conjunction with the correct exercise, help you optimize performance and therefore help facilitate muscle growth.

She said: "Although not really a supplement, protein powder can be useful when trying to hit high protein targets, while supplements such as Creatine Monohydrate have been shown to have a positive effect on the process of muscle gain."

Combining Weight Training With Cardio

Jodie McKnight notes while weight training is crucial for building muscle, budding gym bunnies should not forget about cardio.

She said: "Weight training is a great place to start, and should be a constant in your workout routine.

"Try challenging yourself to 10 to 15 reps per set, and gradually increase your weights, if you feel like your body can handle it.

"However, cardio doesn't have to take a back seat—in fact, combining cardio and weight training can increase overall strength, heart health and fitness, leading to elevated muscle mass."

How to Build Muscle
There are so many factors when it comes to how long it will take for an individual to build muscle Images

Patience Is Key

Georgie Spurling cautions "consistency, and most of the time, experimentation" are necessary when building muscle.

She said: "I know it's boring when people say have patience but you need patience in abundance when it comes to building muscle.

"Unfortunately, genetics can't be changed, some of us grow muscle super quickly, some of us don't."

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts