T Nation

Are Beginner Gains a Myth?


After reading this article by Christian Thibaudeau:


He states:

"Gaining 1.5 to 2 pounds of muscle per month is the most you can expect."

Is this a general rule for everyone or does this include beginners as well?


If you are a beginner: eat clean, train hard, don't worry yourself with the "maximum muscle gain". Your body will transform itself on it's own :wink:



I'm interested in what others will say, and I didn't read that article, but I think if you eat enough and train hard enough, you should be able to put on double that amount for the first SEVERAL months. This is an individual thing though.


And therein lies the problem. A new/beginning trainee most likely has no clue as to what eating "enough" and training "hard enough" really is. Sure there will always be exceptions.


I sure put on more then 24 pounds in my first year. I wouldn't be suprised if I almost did that in the first 6 months tbh.


Beginner gains will be optimal if you workout and get nutrition help from an experienced partner. It will take the guess work out of everything and maximize your body's ability to adapt to the newly introduced stresses. I see it a lot with new soldiers I work with everyday


A lot of beginner gains come from nervous system adaption. An untrained person can't neurologically use all the muscle they have. When you start training, your body learns to use more muscle that you already have. This results is much larger strength gains when first beginning training.


You're right. The way I see it, if you're trying to gain muscle, you start by eating enough to get the scale moving. Then you just need to train the fuck out of your body and make sure you are getting stronger week to week.


This does not include absolute beginners. I think CT might have mentioned it somewhere. This is written for the natural trainee who has built some sort of a base to begin with. Anybody who has made all their beginners' gains and put on more than 25 pounds of muscle will have a hard time putting on 25 more pounds of Muscle in the following years constantly. If it worked like that way, we would have a lot of people who have trained for 4-5 years and they'd be at 250 pounds sub 10% body fat.

You need to read into this correctly however. CT is not saying to put on no more than 25 pounds a year. When you gain weight, you don't just gain muscle mass. there's some fat involved, almost always. So adjust your weight gain accordingly.

If you're beginner, you shouldn't worry about this at all. It is common for a skinny person to put on 50 pounds in their first year of training and 20 in their first 3 months. Just keep eating and lifting hard without thinking about the details.


I'm an absolute beginner and have gone from 200 to roughly 228 since august (almost 6 months so far). I'm guessing probably 24 pounds of actual muscle though. So i've hit 4lbs/month. (It's kinda sad but i'm 6'2" and have a big frame, so while 24lbs is a difference it's not a HUGE difference).

I don't think i'm that special in terms of diet or training though, I bet I could have done even better had my diet been nailed down, I just hit the basics but still cheat a fair amount.


Hey, that was no knock on you.


My 2 cents. If the body composition machine thingy at my gym is correct, I gained 7 pounds last month. About 4 of it was muscle because my body fat stayed the same. I was just eating what I wanted along with supplements. I am trying to clean up my diet a little, but I did have chili cheese dogs for dinner and ice cream for dessert.


My first post in this forum. Yay.

  1. As a complete beginner to weight training, your body will be incredibly responsive to training. Unless you are obese, it is in your best interests to eat and train as though you expect to gain 15-20 pounds of lean mass in the first month. I've seen far far crazier things happen, and you may ignore this advice at your own peril.

  2. However, most/all beginners WILL withhold the food intake and train with a nagging fear of overtraining and never take advantage of this phase. Sad but true. As hard as you may try to ignore this, this WILL happen to you. Beginner gains can be freakishly scary if "allowed to happen", but they won;t continue for too long. you miss the boat, its sailed. Move on.

  3. Its a phase which comes exactly once in a lifter's life.....and not taking advantage of it may wreck your chances of EVER having a good physique. PERMANENTLY. you train against a ticking clock (your age AND your training age will play against you exponentially)

  4. If there's someone who gained nothing in his first year of training but suddenly added 30 pounds of lean mass in the second, I can't even imagine how much some of these guys who claim to "whittle away" their first couple of years and then start making progress would have gained with the same work ethic and food intake in their first year of training. OR if they started training earlier.
    Boggles the mind.

(I believe that a similar stage (though nowhere near the same magnitude/duration) occurs when training after a layoff, but not sure this happens for everyone.)




Beginners main focus should be on gaining strength. Without strength big muscles will just remain a pipe dream.


I took this little tidbit of info to heart, and it fucked up my first quality attempt at a bulk. I did a stupid mini-cut, and then got back on the bulk.. Gained 30 lbs in about 3 months. Hoping to get another 10-20 in the next 2.5 months.

Now, I was on a ridiculously long cut when I first started training.. wasted 6 months or so before bulking. I still managed to gain a lot of quality mass, FAST, when I started eating enough.. So, while I do wish I'd eaten enough from the get-go, I don't feel, like tribunaldude, that not eating a boatload when you start training will fuck up your chances of having a good physique or w/e.



Agree on all counts. I think that, even if you've been training a year, let's say, but haven't seen any growth (due to fat loss dieting, etc...) you can still see huge "newbie gains" as soon as you start shoveling food down and increase your training volume. I think it has more to do with how far you still are from you genetic potential than anything else.


Depends on what you consider a good physique.


Tribunaldude, when I say "good physique," I am talking about attaining one's potential. Speaking for myself, I don't feel like I fucked up my chances of reaching my potential by not eating enough as soon as I started training. I wonder how you would disprove this belief of mine.


LOL. My grandfather didn't feel he shortened his life span by smoking a carton of cigarettes a day since he was 25.......even when he died at 65. Cos he considered that a "long life" anyway.

You have NO idea what your potential is anyway, since it keeps changing. Most of the RMP posters feel they have a good physique as well....until they post and get an opinion from the posters on this site. XcelticX thinks he reached hius full potential. Eliteballa thinks he reached his full potential. Drivethruhero thinks he reached his full potential...most of the guys we laugh at on the physique forums think they reached their full potential. Can I disprove it? No who the hell can? Labor under delusions and lead the rest of the blind lol.

I repeat, if you lose out on your beginner gains, your potential phsyique (after 10 years of training) is going to be vastly DIFFERENT from what it was if you ate properly from the onset. Look at your physique 10 years from now, and while YOU will think you reached your full potential...others will know the truth when they look at you.

If you miss out on your beginner gains, you might as well adopt the practice of being content with your progress instead of trying to stand out in public. The important thing is that YOU'RE happy with your progress after all lol.

EDIT: NOT a knock on you..you may well have a superb physique and get on stage in a couple of years even after missing out on your full potential. That may not/will not be the case with everyone though.