Views On How Much Muscle You Can Gain in a Year

Hi Ellington, You may be aware - there’s a You Tube re-emergence of Mike Mentzer being led by John Little. One thing Mentzer regularly stated was his belief that an average (drug free) bodybuilder could only gain about 5 -7 lbs of muscle a year. Do you recall if this came from anyone in particular other than Mentzer?

I’m sad (embarrassed) to say it’s one I swallowed hook, line and sinker in the late 70’s and early 80’s and is probably responsible for me being satisfied with very unsatisfactory results. Good job I discovered your books!

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Plot the function

Y = 1 - exp(-X) for x >= 0

That is what muscle gain over time looks like whether drug free or not. Otherwise we would have many walking around 8% BF and 400 lb.

You can multiply the whole expression by a constant if you want to get picky to account for drugs/no drugs. You can stretch the behavior along time axis with another constant in front the the independent variable X…

Y = A * [1 - exp(- B * X)] for x >= 0

Quit believing the BS.

0 to 3 lb of lean tissue per year for an experienced lifter is excellent. Stay lean. Notice the range includes 0.

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If only that were true. Even at 5lbs a year.


This is a good expression of how the next pound of muscle is harder to gain than the previous pound of muscle was. If muscle gain has a rate, it isn’t linear. The more you have gained, the harder the next pound is to gain.

Edit: I commented too soon on the equation. In a bit of a hurry to get out of the house. With exponents I usually do a quick check (for reasonableness) where the exponent is zero, because the value is always one (1). In the above equation, where x=0, Y becomes 1 - 1/1 which equals 0.

I don’t believe there is a simple equation, other than a tapering decline in additional muscle potential over the years. As you get older there are other forces in play that actually cause a decline in muscle already achieved.


Yes, you proved my point. Hence, you gained nothing from your original pre-COVID baseline. Thanks for taking a look. Sometimes the best gain is not to lose.

Will delete this too in the next few hours.

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But I captured part that will stay.

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This is an entertaining post by a (mostly) HIT guy on his own experience with trying to gain muscle. But if you make it through to the end, he offers many examples that illustrate just how hard muscle gain becomes after the newbie gains have been taken.


Easy to add an additional term to capture the muscle loss after 40 that comes with sarcopenia and wasting. I was trying to capture the time period from say teen years to adult male peak but if you wanted an equation that captured entire lifespan it wouldn’t be too much trouble. Just another nonlinear term that kicks in later.

In honor of @RT_Nomad:

Y = A * [1 - exp(- B * X)] - [1 - C * exp(- D * X)] for x >= 0


4 degrees of freedom quite a bunch. Allows you to change the peak, decline, etc.


@RT_Nomad let me know when you have had time to review so I can delete. Trust it is simple enough for you.

I do believe there is much merit if it is rephrased: “An average bodybuilder (drug free) could only gain about 5 - 7lbs of muscle in a year.” But that rate is unsustainable year after year.


Mike Mentzer actually stated in Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body that a bodybuilder should reach his potential in one year or less.

I am a pitiful example of progress. It took me 11 years to be competitive on the national level.

Two compound moves every 7 days is all you had to do. LOL

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I was clearly overtraining.

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Wow, I wonder how many supplements I can sell with such an inspiring claim? Maybe I will carry on a conversation with myself. This thread is going places.

Excellent article by a dude only trying to sell you the truth LOL.

Very nice, but I would have turned on the sarcopenia between 50 and 60 years old (or about 30 to 40 years of training, considering starting at age 20.)

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Just an example. If you want the coefficients as a starting point happy to share. You can tune as you see fit. Good point. I put in the “autoimmune disease” case haha.

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If you had it would have shown a 50% step drop (5 weeks) of muscle, (probably more, because I was getting fatter during that 40lb drop in body weight.)

There are many shades and flavors of autoimmune disease. I understand your struggles.

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It’s an excellent article. I wish he would start blogging more.

Interesting and thought provoking article. Written in 2011, it would be interesting to hear Skyler Tanner’s comments on development now, 12 years after.

I have later learned and realized there is an upper limit to what you can achieve as a natural. Online calculators estimate I’ve reached more than 90% of my “potential”
gains. Resting comfortably in this fact, when people raise comments on how “big” I plan to be? The answer is I will never get too big on a natural foundation based on my genetics, diet and training opportunities. The body regulates itself. The challenge lies in how far you can stretch it through wise corrections, in order to resist adaptation and promote further growth. I’d rather have these restrictions applied than risking my health for an enhanced look. It just isn’t worth it. Life has more to offer than spending the majority of time, health and resources on placing your eggs in only one basket.

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