If you’re a skinny guy who’s new to lifting weights, it’s possible to build muscle incredibly quickly. Lifters call this phenomenon “newbie gains,” and it lasts for about a year.

During that first year alone, the average man will often claim to gain around 20 pounds of muscle. Skinny guys often claim to be able to do even better, gaining upwards of 40 pounds in just a single year. Can beginners really build muscle that quickly?

However, although newbie gains seem to allow some beginners to build muscle unbelievably quickly, research shows that other lifters fail to gain any muscle when they first start working out. When that happens, they’re dubbed non-responders. Do non-responders really exist? And if they do, how do you know if you’re a non-responder?

Why are some guys able to build a lifetime of muscle in a single year, whereas other guys spend an entire lifetime unable to build a single year’s worth of muscle?

Let’s dive into the science of newbie gains.

How Quickly Can a Skinny Beginner Gain Muscle?

During my first five weeks of bulking, I gained twelve pounds. My roommate gained 22. But then, after posting our results online, we discovered that what we’d just done was considered scientifically impossible.

The skeptics had a point. That rate of muscle growth is virtually unheard of, even for beginners making newbie gains. For example, here’s a quote from Vice Magazine’s article about how quickly beginners can build muscle:

How fast can you gain muscle naturally? If all the muscle-building stars are aligned—you’re new to lifting weights, eating enough food, lifting weights 4-5 times a week, and in your twenties with a relatively low-stress lifestyle—the average guy can hope to gain around eight or nine pounds of muscle after three months of hard training.

There’s a small mistake there. A single full-body workout will usually stimulate 48–72 hours of muscle growth in a beginner (study). That means that there’s no need for a beginner to work out more than three times per week. In fact, given how sensitive beginners are to muscle damage, extra workouts may slow down muscle growth. It’s only advanced lifters who benefit from training 4–5 times per week (study, study).

But that’s beside the point. Their claim is that a newbie would be lucky to gain 8–9 pounds of muscle during their first three months of lifting. If we look at the research, that’s not quite the case:

  • This study on beginners found that guys were able to gain 9 pounds of muscle during their first 8 weeks of working out.
  • In this study, a group of untrained beginners were able to gain an average of 12 pounds of muscle during their first 10 weeks of working out.
  • In another study, beginners were able to gain 15 pounds of muscle during their first 12 weeks of lifting weights.

If the average beginner in these studies is able to gain more than 8–9 pounds in three months, then if the stars are aligned for a particular participant, we’d expect him to gain muscle even more quickly than that. After all, even if their circumstances are the same, genetics must play a role in how quickly a beginner can build muscle, right?

To see whether that assumption is true, we can look at the research on how rates of muscle growth vary between individuals. For example, this study found that:

  • The average beginner was able to add 2 inches to their biceps in 12 weeks
  • Some beginners were able to add up to 5 inches to their biceps in 12 weeks
  • Other guys lost muscle, despite following the exact same workout routine

There are a couple of interesting things about this study. First, it shows that some beginners can gain muscle almost three times as quickly as others. Second, it shows the phenomenon of “non-responders.” Some newbies really don’t gain any muscle whatsoever when they start lifting weights.

This is where things get interesting:

  • Skinny guys can build muscle the most quickly: It’s not the naturally muscular guys who gain the most muscle when they start lifting weights, it’s the skinny guys. We’re further away from our genetic potential and so our ability to build muscle is exaggerated. (More on ectomorph muscle-growth rates in this article.)
  • The “non-responders” don’t necessarily have bad muscle-building genetics. Their muscles may have a totally typical response to lifting weights. More often than not, the problem is that they’re hardgainers. These are guys who have a hard time eating enough calories to gain weight. It’s not a workout issue, it’s a diet issue. (More on hardgainers here.)

The first reason that I was able to gain twelve pounds during my first month of lifting weights wasn’t that I had exceptional muscle-building genetics, it’s just because I was skinny. When I first started lifting weights, I had a BMI of 16.7. I was underweight. So was my roommate. Our newbie gains were so dramatic because our lanky frames still had so much room for muscle growth.

David Epstein, the author of The Sports Gene, found that each pound of bone can support five pounds of muscle. So if right now you’re shaped more by your bone structure than your muscle mass, you’ve still got plenty of room for muscle growth, allowing you to have more extreme newbie gains.

The second reason that I was able to gain muscle so quickly was that I was eating a good bulking diet. I was making sure to eat enough protein, I was getting most of my calories from carbohydrates, and I was eating close to 1000 extra calories every single day. Not only was I in a calorie surplus, but I was also in a huge calorie surplus.

The third reason, of course, was that I was following a good workout program. The quality of your workout program (and how consistently you follow it) has a huge impact on how quickly you can build muscle. Most studies that produce great newbie gains put beginners on a good workout program and then force them to do it with perfect consistency.

Within four months, I’d gained over twenty pounds of muscle while losing a significant amount of fat:

The science of newbie gains, and how quickly a beginner can gain muscle when they first start lifting weights

I wasn’t even a total beginner during this transformation. I’d already gained twenty pounds, going from 130 up to 150 pounds. This set of progress photos was from the middle of my transformation, showing me going from 150 up to 170 pounds.

Here’s the entirety of my newbie gains, showing 55 pounds of drug-free muscle growth over the course of a couple of years:

Newbie Gains Explained: How quickly can a beginner build muscle when he starts working out?

A common objection that people make when guys claim to gain muscle this quickly is that it’s not all muscle. They argue that when someone gains weight this quickly, a huge proportion of the weight gain is fat. In my case, I got a DEXA scan showing that I had a body-fat percentage of 10.8%, which seems to be even lower than when I started:

When someone gains weight quickly, is it muscle or fat?

The next thing to keep in mind is that newbie gains aren’t linear. Rather, as you build more muscle, your rate of muscle growth gradually slows. The closer you get towards your genetic potential, the more your growth will slow.

Because skinny guys are starting further away from their potential, their newbie gains are more dramatic and they last longer. For example, the average man starts off with roughly 80 pounds of muscle on his frame. If we imagine a skinny guy who’s starting with just 40 pounds of muscle on his frame, he’s essentially starting behind the starting line, and so his newbie gains will look more like this:

Regardless of where you’re starting, though, your first workout will produce the most muscle growth, your second workout will produce slightly less, and so on. By the time you get to your hundredth workout, you’re going to notice that you’re gaining muscle much more slowly. Your newbie gains will have gradually run dry.

For the average lifter, we can divide newbie gains up into two stages:

  • Early-stage newbie gains (months 0–3): the average newbie can expect to gain up to 15 pounds of muscle within their first three months of working out, but if you’re a naturally skinny, you can expect to gain even more. We often see skinny guys gaining upwards of 20 pounds within three months. Sometimes more.
  • Late-stage newbie gains (months 3–12): as you become more muscular, you’ll start to gain muscle more slowly. It might take another 6–9 months to double that initial amount of muscle mass that you gained. For the average guy, that might bring his newbie gains to 20–25 pounds within his first year of lifting weights. For a skinny guy, that would bring his newbie gains to upwards of 40 pounds within his first year.

Because skinny guys can build muscle so much quicker, and because we have much further to go before reaching our genetic potential, it might even make sense to break our first round of newbie gains off into their own stage:

  • Pre-newbie gains (first year): This is when a skinny guy can gain up to 40 pounds in just a single year, with upwards of 20 pounds gained in the first 3 months alone. This stage lasts until the skinny guy has as much muscle on his frame as a regular untrained man. After this stage, a skinny guy will start making progress similar to an average newbie.

Mind you, this depends on how skinny you’re starting. If you’re only a little bit more skinny than average, then your newbie gains will be more like the average man’s. If you’re like me, though, where you’re starting with a very underweight BMI, then you can expect to build muscle far more quickly.

Keep in mind that these rapid rates of muscle growth assume that right from your very first workout, you’re following a near-perfect bulking program. In real life, it’s rare for a beginner to have any idea what they’re doing in the gym. It usually takes a lifter a few years to get his newbie gains as he gradually learns how to bulk.

In fact, some guys spend entire lifetimes lifting weights without even making it out of their early-stage newbie gains. They still have an incredible potential for rapid muscle growth, they just never figure out how to do it.

Newbie gains explained: how much muscle can a skinny beginning gain in a year

But if you’re starting out skinny, and you jump right into a professionally programmed bulking routine, including both a bulking workout and diet (such as our bulking program), then it’s realistic to gain a full 40 pounds in your first year of lifting weights.

How to Know If You Can Still Make Newbie Gains

Keep in mind that newbie gains have nothing to do with how many times you’ve tried to build muscle, they only have to do with how much muscle you’ve succeeded at building.

Before I succeed at gaining my first 20 pounds, I had tried and failed to build muscle six times. That was irrelevant to my newbie gains, though, because failing to build muscle wasn’t bringing me any closer to my muscle-building potential. If you aren’t muscular yet, you can still make newbie gains.

To understand why newbie gains work this way, we need to look at what’s going on inside our muscle fibres.

The Science of Newbie Gains

Muscle fibre diagram for newbie gains

If you haven’t gotten your newbie gains yet, this is what your muscle fibres look like: thin and with only a few nuclei in them. Even though your muscle fibres only have a few nuclei in them, though, that’s already quite remarkable. Most cells in our bodies have just one nuclei, which limits how big they can get. Our muscle fibres have multiple, though, and by lifting weights, we can gain more of them. This ability to add more nuclei to our muscle fibres is what allows our muscles to grow so much bigger.

To understand how these special “myonuclei” work, the researcher Greg Nuckols uses the analogy of a wifi router. The wifi router can project an internet signal a certain distance. Once you get too far from the signal, your device can no longer connect. Myonuclei function the same way. Each one can only handle an area so big. That area is called the maximum myonuclear domain.

That means that building muscle, at least as a newbie, comes down to:

  • Filling out your nuclear domains with muscle.
  • Adding new nuclei to expand your domain.

Early-Stage Newbie Gains: Filling Out Your Domain

Newbie gains science diagram

When you first start bulking, your muscle fibres will quickly expand to the limit of their nuclear domains, as shown above. You can expect your muscle fibres to grow 15–27% before hitting that limit (study).

This early stage of newbie gains is so quick and explosive that it’s described as steroid-like growth. This stage will last until you’ve maximized your nuclear domains. At that point, if your muscle fibres were to grow any bigger, your nuclei would lose control of them. Your muscles won’t grow until you add new nuclei.

It’s common for people to hit a plateau at this point. Almost any workout will be enough to maximize your nuclear domains, but in order to gain new nuclei, your lifting routine needs to be quite good.

But let’s say your workout routine and diet are good enough. At that point, you’ll start making a new kind of adaptation: adding new nuclei to your muscle fibres.

Late-Stage Newbie Gains: Adding New Nuclei

Newbie gains science diagram

These processes blend together. Right from your first workout, you’ll start gaining new nuclei in your muscle fibres. And as you gain new nuclei, you’ll need to fill out that bigger domain. However, during the early stage of newbie gains, since all of your domains aren’t maximized yet, there’s almost no limit to how quickly you can build muscle.

By the time you reach late-stage newbie gains, those low-hanging fruits are gone. Every pound of muscle you gain will need to be preceded by gaining new nuclei. Your body does this by growing satellite cells and then fusing them into your muscle fibres. When your muscle fibre consumes a satellite cell, it gains that satellite cell’s nuclei. Cannibalism.

This allows for even more muscle growth, and this is where most of your overall muscle growth will come from. At first, this growth can be quite quick. This is the stage of newbie gains is where guys gain another 10–20 pounds of muscle over the course of another couple months.

This is where the magic happens. The growth isn’t quite as quick, but the changes in your body are far more exciting. By adding new nuclei to your muscle fibres, you’re improving your ability to turn protein into muscle and improve your insulin sensitivity, making you naturally leaner and more muscular. Best of all, these changes are permanent. You’re essentially improving your genetics.

You aren’t just carrying your computer to the limit of your wifi signal anymore, you’re installing new routers, expanding your domain. This allows you to make your muscle fibres much bigger (study).

This is how you build a strong and healthy body that lasts.

The End of Newbie Gains: Growing Tougher

As you push deeper into late-stage newbie gains, you’ll start to notice that your muscles are adapting in two separate ways:

  1. Lifting makes your muscles grow bigger: This first adaptation is the one we all know and love. After a good workout, your muscles will rebuild themselves bigger so that next time, they are strong enough.
  2. Lifting makes your muscles grow tougher: This new, second adaptation is more nuanced. After a good workout, your muscles will rebuild themselves in a more durable way so that they won’t be as easily damaged next time. This is called the repeated bout effect (RBE).

The first adaptation is what newbie gains are all about: we build bigger, stronger muscles. The second adaptation marks the end of newbie gains: our muscles grow more resilient, harder to stimulate, and more resistant to growth.

You’ll notice this happening. As a beginner, it’s common to be brutally sore for a full week after a hard workout. During that time, your muscles will be so inflamed that you’ll feel like a cripple. After a year of lifting, though, you’ll be lifting twice as much weight, doing far more sets, pushing closer to failure, and yet your workouts will barely even make you sore.

Growing tougher is technically a good thing. Your muscles are gaining the ability to do more work without sustaining as much damage. Without a doubt, this is an upgrade to your body. You are no longer fragile. However, if your goal is to continue building muscle, this can be a big problem. Your body is making itself immune to your workouts.

You’ve gone from gaining two pounds per week (early-stage newbie gains) to gaining one pound per week (late-stage newbie gains), and now even that pace is impossible. Your newbie gains are grinding to a halt.

The good news is that by the time newbie gains end, the average lifter will have gained a good 20 pounds of muscle over the course of a year. By the time a skinny guy finishes making his newbie gains, he’ll have gained a whopping 40–60 pounds of muscle over the course of a couple of years, depending on how skinny he starts.

By this point, you’ll have quite a muscular physique. And that brings us to the final and most brutal stage of adaptation: building new muscle fibres.

What Happens After Newbie Gains?

Diagram of muscle fibres splitting into multiple fibres

These stages all blend together. You can continue adding nuclei to your muscle fibres for quite a long time, just with increasingly diminishing returns. If you’ve been bulking steadily, by the time you finish your second year of lifting, you’ll probably be about 80% of the way to your genetic muscular potential. Again, most people don’t build muscle anywhere close to that efficiently, but with a perfect bulk, that would be the case.

At that point, your muscle fibres will be as large as those of an athlete, strongman, and bodybuilder (study). You won’t be quite as big as them yet, though. They have more muscle fibres… maybe.

We’re at the advanced muscle-building stage now, which is beyond the scope of this article. That’s a good thing, too, because this advanced muscle growth science is highly theoretical. We know that elite powerlifters have more muscle fibres than intermediate lifters, and we also know that animals are able to create new muscle fibres. With those two facts, we can infer that men are able to build new muscle fibres. That’s one plausible theory, anyway.

Anyway, now that you understand the stages of muscle growth, we can talk about why some guys struggle to get any newbie gains whatsoever.

How to Bulk up Quickly as a Beginner

How to get your newbie gains with a bulking workout routine and diet

Do a Workout Routine Designed for Beginners

Three full-body workouts per week: As a beginner, each workout will stimulate 48–72 hours of muscle growth. That means that if you do three full-body workouts per week, you can have every muscle in your body growing at full speed all week long. This approach also gives you plenty of recovery days, giving your body plenty of time to build muscle between workouts.

Avoid regularly training to failure: When doing these workouts, remember that during early-stage newbie gains, your muscles will be quite easy to stimulate. You don’t need an intense lifting routine, you don’t need to go lift to muscle failure, and you certainly don’t need advanced techniques like drop sets. In fact, the more muscle damage you cause, the more resources will be wasted repairing muscle damage instead of building new muscle.

However, sometimes it can be hard to know how far away from failure you are. Maybe you’re trying to stop 2 reps shy of failure, but since you aren’t experienced with lifting to failure, you aren’t sure how to do that. In that case, try taking a set all the way to failure. Don’t make a habit of it, but feel free to use it as a learning tool.

Start with beginner bulking lifts: Finally, you aren’t a skilled lifter yet, so start with lifts that are easy to learn, hard to mess up, and great for stimulating as many muscles as possible, bringing up any weak links you might have. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to avoid lifting weights while you work on your flexibility or technique. You can start right into a full-fledged bulking program, stimulating muscle growth right from Day One. Just choose lifts that match your experience level.

Here are some good bulking lifts for beginners:

  • Goblet squats instead of back squats: A goblet squat is where you hold a dumbbell in front of your chest while squatting. Having the weight held in front of you makes it easier to sink lower, helping to build up better hip mobility. It’s also a great lift for building size and strength in your arms, shoulders, and back. When you can do ten reps with the heaviest dumbbell, switch to a front squat or high-bar back squat. (Or if you only have dumbbells, grab a second dumbbell.)
  • Push-ups instead of bench press: If you aren’t able to do 20 push-ups yet, then they’ll be absolutely perfect for building up your chest, shoulders, and arms. They’ll allow you to build up some shoulder strength and stability before you progress to the bench press, which is harder to learn and has a greater injury risk. As a bonus, push-ups are great for building up the muscles under your armpits (the serratus muscles). When you can do 20 reps with great technique, progress to the dumbbell or barbell bench press.
  • Romanian deadlifts instead of conventional deadlifts: Conventional deadlifts are ideal for bulking up your posterior chain, but if you aren’t doing them properly, they can hurt your back. If you start with a Romanian deadlift, you’ll get the same muscle-building stimulus in your posterior chain, but without the increased risk of injury. When this movement pattern feels comfortable, switch to raised deadlifts. When those feel comfortable, start doing conventional deadlifts from the floor.

Isolation lifts are great for building muscle. There’s nothing wrong with doing curls for your biceps and lateral raises for your shoulders. These are easy lifts that are great for stimulating muscle growth. If you want bigger biceps, do curls. If you want to build broader shoulders, do lateral raises.

Don’t be afraid to add weight: While you’re making newbie gains, your muscles will be growing extremely quickly, gaining a ton of strength as they grow. You’ll also be improving your coordination, allowing you to lift more forcefully and with better leverage. Every time you step into the gym, you should be trying to outlift yourself. Add weight, add reps.

Here’s our article about which type of lifting is best for gaining muscle size.

Eat a Good Bulking Diet

Extra muscle is built out of extra calories: This is especially true if you’re a skinny guy making newbie gains, given that your body doesn’t have much body fat to use for energy, and you’ll be able to gain muscle at a tremendous pace, requiring a tremendous amount of extra calories.

To build a pound of muscle, you need to eat around 3500 extra calories. That means that if you want to gain a pound of muscle per week, you’ll need to eat an extra 500 calories per day. If a week goes by and you haven’t gained weight, add even more calories into your diet. Making consistent newbie gains is a constant process of weighing yourself and adjusting your calorie intake accordingly.

When you’re gaining weight this quickly, keeping up with your calories can be incredibly difficult, especially if you’re a naturally skinny guy who has a smaller stomach, a faster metabolism, or good appetite control. If you force-feed yourself, you’ll eventually get to a point where you’re too tired or stressed, and you’ll lose the willpower to overcome your appetite. You have to take a smarter approach, learning how to eat more food with less effort.

Here’s our Ectomorph Bulking Diet article about how to eat more calories.

You need to eat enough protein: After you have your calories sorted out, you need to make sure that you’re eating enough protein. This is especially important while making newbie gains because the nuclei in your muscle fibres are able to stimulate an immense amount of muscle protein synthesis (aka muscle growth). However, in order to do that, you need to regularly consume protein.

If eating that much protein that often seems daunting, you might want to get some protein powder. If you sneak in a scoop of protein powder between your main meals, that will probably do the trick. You could also snack on some cottage cheese or a protein bar (either homemade or pre-made).

Also, remember that bulking isn’t forever. You only need to eat this many calories and this much protein because your newbie gains are allowing you to build muscle at such a breakneck pace. As soon as your newbie gains start to slow down, you can ease back.

But hopefully, your newbie gains won’t slow down until you’ve gained a good 40 pounds of muscle.

If you want a full bulking guide, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program.

Shane Duquette, BDes, is a writer and illustrator with a degree in design from York University. He co-founded Bony to Beastly and Bony to Bombshell, where he specializes in helping skinny people bulk up.

More about Shane here.

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How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before


  1. Ashish on December 16, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Nice article. You are being blessed by so many skinny people. Keep it up.
    I can relate it to many things but still there are some questions roaming around in my mind.

    I am training since 3 years. The first 2 years I did weight training. I even hired an online coaching and followed 3 day full body workouts. My strength increased but unfortunately no change in body measurements or the mirror.
    So since last 1 year I started with progressive calisthenics. Again my strength keeps increasing gradually but no change in measurements. Although I look better in mirror now and specially my arms feel “filled” at the same size. Still no vein can be seen on arms. Whatever I try to do I cant seem to gain size.

    During the entire 3 year period I tried to eat more. But at one point if I try to eat even more, I feel bloated and gassy.

    What could be the reason behind this? And can “The Bony to Beastly program” help with it??

    Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post.

    • Shane Duquette on December 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

      Hey Ashish, the reason why you’re gaining strength but not size with both strength training and calisthenics is because of the reason we talk about in the “Why Some Newbies Gain Nothing” section of the article: you’re improving your coordination instead of building muscle.

      The reason why you STILL didn’t gain weight, even after 2 whole years of lifting, and even after your coordination gains surely plateaued, is for the reason we talk about in the “LEARN how to eat enough, don’t just force-feed yourself” subsection. If there isn’t a consistent calorie surplus, you cannot gain weight even if your workout program is okay.

      But force-feeding yourself, as you now know, is a horrible approach. Like you noticed, it just makes us feel bloated, gassy, and tired. That’s not a sustainable way to eat, and even for the quickest and easiest of newbie gains, we need to eat in a surplus every day for a whole month.

      Can the Bony to Beastly Program help? Absolutely! The program is written by skinny guys who struggle to eat enough for skinny guys who struggle to eat enough. Most of us have tried to build muscle and failed for the same reasons you have. I sure have.

      It’s the people who would read your comment and not understand where you’re coming from—that’s who the program isn’t for. But they probably don’t need our help anyway 😛

      • Ashish on December 22, 2016 at 8:32 pm

        How to know whether one is gaining muscle or fat while gaining weight? Thanks.

        • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2016 at 9:58 am

          The most accurate way would be to use something like a DEXA scan, however that would be incredibly impractical. An easier at-home way would be to use a caliper to measure your skin folds. My preferred way of tracking fat gains is visually, though, using your abs (or lack thereof) to guesstimate your body fat.

          For example, losing sight of your abs is usually a sign that you’re going up a little above 15% body fat.

          • oscar on March 17, 2017 at 10:52 am

            I can see my abs in good lighting, else it disappears lol, but there is no bulge either way. So do I assume it’s less than 15% at least?

          • Shane Duquette on March 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

            Sounds like you’re in that sub-15% neighbourhood, yeah 🙂

  2. Nate on December 20, 2016 at 3:13 am

    How would one know if they have spent some or all of their newbie gains ?
    Since they are dependant on nutrition surplus one would not expect gains in a cut, even though fat loss can look like gains.
    I measure nearly 100% exactly the same as day one. Aside from losses in pants size. So I expect I still have most of not all my potential gains ahead of me assuming I hit my feeding goals when I do begin a ‘bulk’

    • Shane Duquette on December 20, 2016 at 10:26 am

      Heya Nate! You’re getting the other benefits of being a newbie: being able to build a little muscle while losing fat. For every pound of muscle you gain, that’s a little bit of newbie gains you’re using up, but I suspect by the time you lean out to your liking, you’ll still have some easy gains when you transition to your bulk 🙂

      • Nate on December 22, 2016 at 5:00 am

        It was a good article. With good news.
        I’m curious if there are examples of this in connection with age.
        But I’m game to find out from practical experience myself either way.

        • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2016 at 9:55 am

          There are some differences with age, and also with how long you’ve been inactive. So a guy who hasn’t been exercising for 40 years is in a different situation from a guy who hasn’t been exercising for 5 years. However, the best study to date found no differences in the rate that men built muscle between the ages of 18–40, suspecting that it would carry on that way up until about 60.

  3. Luke on December 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    How many pounds do you think you should put on (on average) before you start to ‘lean’ bulk (lower caloric surplus). I ask because I’ve gained about 20lb over the last 12-14 weeks while staying relatively lean, however I’m struggling to maintain gaining 2lbs a week, it seems every time I put on an extra 2-3 pounds I have to up my calorie intake, but at what point should I start expecting to put on more fat than muscle?
    Ideally I would like to gain about 10lb in the next 5-6 weeks leanly and then slow the bulk down to 1lb a week maximum, or do you think trying to force 2lb for the next few weeks would just cause fat gain?
    Thanks guys.

    • Shane Duquette on December 20, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Hey Luke, congrats on the 20-pound gain! That’s awesome 😀

      I would gear down your caloric surplus and start gaining around 1 pound per week at around the +12 point. You’ve gone further, and that’s great, but that’s generally the point where we at least need to start really making sure the gains are lean. So at +20 now, I think it’s probably time to slow down. We’ve seen guys go further, so I won’t say it’s impossible, but that would be my advice.

      So yes, I think trying to force it during these next few weeks is more risk than it’s worth. Better to arrive at your goal a few weeks later but with way better muscle definition.

  4. Clarke on December 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Hey guys!
    When doing half kneeling landmine presses, i feel my triceps wprking instead of my shoulders. What may i be doing wrong?

  5. Tony on December 24, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Do you think gaining muscle has any effect on the skin? I don’t know why but the pictures B2B members posted show not only a muscle gain but also a healthier skin. A more tanned skin if that makes sense haha
    I wonder if it has anything to do with that too.

    • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2016 at 10:04 am

      I’m not sure if having more muscle mass would have any effect, but the diet and exercise that goes along with it sure is. When we exercise and eat well, it improves the balance of red and yellow in our skin tone. For example, one way that regular exercise helps is by leading to a higher level of oxygenated blood, giving us a healthier tone.

      You could probably build muscle without improving your skin tone, though, or improve your skin tone without building muscle. Depends on the manner in which you do it. In our program we take a pretty health-conscious approach to it, so most guys look and feel healthier by the end of it, not just bigger and stronger.

      Even then, some of the difference in skin tone that you see might be lighting or an actual tan. Someone might start the program in the winter and finish in the summer (or vis versa).

  6. Erick on December 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    What should someone do if he finishes your program, but would like to grow even more? Start it again from the beginning with heavier weights, or what?

    Is it just me, or you, naturally skinny guys doesnt look broad from the side, even after bulking up a lot? My friend has a bmi of 27, has flat stomach, but still looks somewhat lean and skinnyish at his lats..? Only steroid users will have full looking shoulders and back?

    • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Hey Erick. Some guys have gone through the main program a few times, but there are other options too. When someone graduates from the program, we give them another 5-week bonus phase. Just for being a member in the community, though, and a yearlong membership comes with the Bony to Beastly Program, we give you advanced workouts. You’d pick an advanced program based on your goals, and then every month you’d get a new 4-week phase that has you progressing through that new program. When you finish it, you pick a new one.

      You can become quite a lot thicker by developing your entire back (including spinal erectors), entire bore and your chest. However, there’s only so much you can do. Many naturally skinny guys have thin ribcages. We’re shaped more like a deck of cards than a barrel. No amount of bulking (or steroids) will affect this. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter that much. You can become very strong and very attractive without needing to worry much about the shape of your ribcage. For some recognizable examples, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale—all guys with thinner ribcages.

  7. S on December 28, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Just to confirm, if you have been training consistently for many years, but have not even gained 1 KG on the scales then you can still gain ‘newbie gains’ in the same way someone who follows the B2B program has never really lifted before and is a ‘newbie’.

    Just concerned that my body thinks I’m an experienced lifter and won’t be fooled into getting newbie gains if that makes sense.

    • Shane Duquette on December 28, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Hey S.


      If you haven’t built any muscle mass yet, you haven’t maximized your myonuclear domains any more than a beginner has. So yes, your newbie gains are still waiting for you 🙂

  8. nate on December 29, 2016 at 2:05 am

    was wondering if you guys have a sale going on this month for the bony to beastly program? i just came across your site on the internet and found your site to be very informative

    • Shane Duquette on December 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Glad you’ve been liking the site, Nate! We’ve only ever run one sale in the history of our company… but if you get on the newsletter asap, you might get an email with some good news in it in a few days.

  9. Krsiak Daniel on January 7, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Love this article, great read! As usual but I really liked this one 🙂 Wish I read something like this when I started but I can relate so much now. Mostly on the failing part 😀 But as you said it is true, over time, gains do come and show. Keep up the great articles guys 😉

    • Shane Duquette on January 7, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you, Daniel! “Mostly on the failing part” Lol! Ahaha but your progress updates also tend to have happy endings. You must’ve done that prototypical hero’s journey like a dozen times by now.

  10. Max on January 10, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Hey Shane,

    I’m a former NCAA cross country athlete on a mission to go from bony to beastly. I’m not running 80 miles a week anymore, tired of having the body of an 11 year boy and want to gain some weight/muscle. However, I’m a bit confused. In this article you mention that we need to aim for protein rich meals for each meal, but I also read in another article on Bony to Beastly that most of our diet should come from carbohydrates (70% or something like that?). I tried a protein-dominate diet a few months ago where I was eating heavy protein meals like every 2-3 hours and… it didn’t work. I gained about 10lbs but plateaued right there and couldn’t get above 150lbs. Without making this a long story, I took a break after failing but now I’m giving it another shot and this time with the carbohydrate approach (based off one of your articles).

    If my goal is to gain 20-25 lbs, could you clarify where the bulk of my diet should come from? (Carbs or protein)

    Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post!

    • Shane Duquette on January 11, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Hey Max,

      Both are true, and not conflicting at all. Ideally you want roughly 0.8–1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day, 20+ grams of protein in each meal, and 50% or more of your calories coming from carbs. That all fits. If you have 4–5 meals per day, that’s just 80–100 grams of protein if you have 20 grams of protein with each meal. That’s not very much protein, and you’ll actually probably want a little more. Still, all of those meals can be at least half carbs.

      Eating too much protein won’t stall progress directly, but it might make it harder to eat a lot, and that will make it harder to get into a calorie surplus. Not being in a calorie surplus will always plateau your gains. A good solution for that, as outlined in the other article, is to consume more macros that are easier to eat in bulk, like carbohydrates: rice, dried fruit, bananas, pasta, maltodextrin, milk, beans, grains, smoothies, juice, etc.

      Good luck on your bulk!! 🙂

      • Max on January 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm

        Okay, so what you’re saying is my daily diet should roughly consist of at least 50% from carbs, 20% (or more) from protein, and the remaining 20% in healthy fats, etc. Is that correct? (I started using the myfitnesspal app so I’m kind of using the daily pie charts from Calorie and Macronutrient goals feature to better understand)

        Seriously, thank you so much for being available and willing to answer our questions. You are the man!

        • Max on January 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm

          *** sorry for the math typo… Obviously 50+20+20 does NOT equal 100! I meant to write: at least 50% from carbs, 20% (or more) from protein, and the remaining 20-30% from fats etc… (I promise I graduated college! Haha)

        • Shane Duquette on January 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

          That sounds like a good approach, yeah 🙂

          I’m glad I could help!

  11. Zack on January 31, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I have been bodybuilding on and off for 7 years. When I left the Army, I was 6’2″ 221 16% bodyfat and ending a bulking period. When I stop working out, I get skinny.. fast.
    I started working out about 4 weeks ago, weighing 180 or a little less. I only weigh myself every 6 weeks, but I weigh around 195 with decent fat gains and a 34″ waist. My working out bench weight has gone from 135 – 205, I expect to be working out with 225 in two weeks. My form is perfect, my diet is right, and my beginning routine is spot on. I’ll swap to my regular bulking routing at 8-12 weeks depending.

    I Do Not Get Very Sore. Not even my first day back into the gym. If I do it’s very slight, and lasts 2 days max.

    So I have two questions.
    1.Is this Muscle Memory + Noob Gains?

    2.What happens to your myonuclei when you stop working out? It would seem they condense and are in waiting.

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      Nice work, man! Sounds like you’re doing a real rad job with this. That’s a really astute pair of questions, too.

      Yes, it’s muscle memory. Yes, your myonuclei condensed but stayed inside your muscle fibres even as your muscles shrunk. (They seemingly only disappear if you starve yourself.) And yes, it’s essentially the same thing as newbie gains… except you’re filling out a much larger myonuclear domain because you have far more myonuclei in your muscle fibres than a beginner would.

      So, your history of bulking up drew more myonuclei into your muscle fibres (intermediate gains), then you lost some muscle mass but the extra nuclei remained, and now you’re filling up your huge myonuclear domains that you painstakingly developed in the past (newbie gains+).

      Does that make sense? Sounds like you totally understood the concepts and put them together exactly right.

  12. […] by increasing the rate at which muscle fibres can pull in new myonuclei from satellite cells (more on that here). Calories are then directed into the muscles to feed this growth. Taking testosterone also greatly […]

  13. […] than half a year by capitalizing on the extreme response that our bodies have to new stressors. (The science of newbie gains explained here.) This allows a skinny guy to very quickly move into the “fit” category—often in a […]

  14. adam wild on March 23, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I think you were a great inspiration to me and many skinny people out there. The thing is that when i was 11 years old, i was only 130 pounds at 5ft 7 but after many years of training, i experienced a huge and enormous huge growth spurt. When i reached 16 which is how old i am, im currently 330 pounds and 6ft 2, so that means i put on 200 pounds in 5 years and went 7 inches taller. Everybody is different, you might be skinny but have similiar genetics to Ronnie coleman, or even Thor Bjornnson who is 6ft 9 and 430 pounds, he gained like 200 pounds in two years, but if you dont try u will never know. My advice is to just lift big, and eat big, because by no9t doing that, u will never know your fantastic potential in weightlifting, respect brother

    • Shane Duquette on March 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Congratulations on gaining such an incredible amount of weight, Adam! Amazing! 😀

  15. Jim on April 22, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Newbie gains are the best! It truly is a great time when you start seeing your body transform and motivation is sky-high! This is a very detailed post on the topic- nice job!

    • Shane Duquette on April 22, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, Jim 🙂

  16. K on June 21, 2017 at 9:28 am

    After many years of failing at lifting, I finally learned about proper diet. I started a heavy lifting routine and for the first time ever began eating like someone who was really trying to gain weight. I suppose this flew over my head before because gaining weight had never been my goal, despite my ectomorph form – strength was.

    I couldn’t believe how fast I gained weight. I had never had noticeable weight gain in my life, always stuck at ~150. Suddenly, 3 months into this, I was 185 pounds and it was all muscle (well, almost all). Like you, as I read more, I began to see all this stuff about how what I did was impossible. I’m glad I came across this article, because those massive initial gains had perplexed me. Very informative and it all makes sense now.

    • Shane Duquette on June 27, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story K, and congratulations on gaining 35 pounds! That’s amazing, dude!

  17. […] of us to look great in a t-shirt. If you’re curious about how that’s even possible, check out our article on newbie gains. If you’d like to actually do it, I’d recommend our Bony to Beastly […]

  18. […] can grow extremely quickly due to a phenomenon called newbie gains, and beginners also experience the most muscle soreness, which leads most people to assume that […]

  19. […] NOTE: if you’re skinny, take this as an encouragement—but this will be the only time that you’ll be able to get steroid-like gains naturally. You can build a lot of muscle, very very quickly (called newbie gains.) […]

  20. […] you read our newbie gains article, then you know that the further away from our genetic potential we are, the faster we’re able […]

  21. […] process is helpful for all skinny guys, and we explain it in our newbie gains article. What makes it especially helpful for skinny-fat guys, though, is that these nuclei improve […]

  22. Killerdone on August 2, 2019 at 11:54 pm

    I can gain 2 pounds per week for 3 month with creatine or without creatine?

    • Shane Duquette on August 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      If you want to gain at the quickest possible rate, you’d want to take creatine, yeah. It’s the best supplement for improving the rate that you can build muscle, and especially during the first few weeks, it can really cause your muscles to swell up. It pairs great with making newbie gains.

      And to be clear, we aren’t recommending that you try to gain 2 pounds per week. There’s a high risk of gaining a lot of fat if you do that, so we generally recommend limiting your weight gain to around a pound per week.

      In some cases, if a guy is skinny, lean, and not scared of gaining fat, we put the upper limit at 2 pounds per week during the first 5 weeks of his bulk, and in most cases, that works out great. That’s the approach I personally took, and I loved it, but it’s not for everyone. If you want lean gains, safer to gain a pound per week during that first 3-month period of early newbie gains.

      • Killerdone on August 3, 2019 at 9:53 pm

        So if I am gaining 1 pound per week (500 calorie surplus) and with creatine i gained 1.5 pounds. Either do I need to have a 750 calorie surplus to turn .5 fat and water into muscle gaining total of 1.5 lbs a week with creatine or I can gain 1.5 with 500 calories surplus with creatine?

        • Shane Duquette on August 4, 2019 at 8:44 am

          In some people, creatine will draw a few pounds of water into their muscles over the course of the first month. That wouldn’t require an especially large calorie surplus, just adequate water intake.

          However, the main benefit of creatine is that it allows you to build muscle more quickly, and building muscle more quickly will require eating more calories, yeah.

          So the answer is yes to both.

          But you should adjust your calorie surplus based on how much weight you gain each week anyway. If you bulk for a week and gain 1.5 pounds, but you were trying to gain 1 pound, then try removing 200 calories per day, and vice versa.

  23. […] and it absolutely is, but that alone doesn’t make this study suspect. As we covered in our newbie gains article, there are plenty of studies showing tremendous amounts of muscle growth, especially in untrained […]

  24. What's the Best Type of Lifting for Skinny Guys? on August 15, 2019 at 10:06 am

    […] good news is that once we start training for muscle growth, we can gain muscle more quickly than any other body type. We’re far enough away from our genetic potential that our bodies are primed for muscle […]

  25. Zihe on August 18, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Hello, I’ve been doing exercises with 5kg dumbells for the past 7months, once a week. I have not gained any weight on the scales, however I am positive I’ve lost fat as I’ve been eating on a slight deficit and I can start to see my abs. Have a utilised my newbie gains yet, or do I only utilise it when I start bulking?

    Thanks so much

  26. Hans on August 28, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Hi, I just noticed from your article that you seemed to equalize the quantity of muscle mass growth with the quantity of body mass. Shouldn’t they be differed? When I look at the formula of lean body mass calculator that calculate the muscle mass, the growth of muscle mass is pretty affected by body fat percentage. But when I compared to my own body data, the percentage growth of my muscle mass and my body mass is linear and almost equal as the growth of body fat percentage is so small that it doesn’t seem to affect the calculation. So I wonder if you try to equalize them in the same manner esp. for skinny guys and hardgainers as they seem to be hardly get an increase of body fat? And do you think it is necessary to differentiate them esp. when we talked about the average guys as to decrease some confusion perhaps of many readers including myself..:D I hope for your kind explanation. Thank you in advance.

    • Shane Duquette on August 28, 2019 at 9:17 am

      You’re right. I always try to talk about weight gained, not muscle gained. But sometimes I use “muscle” as a shorthand, and I probably shouldn’t. In our transformation photos, you’ll notice that we just list X pounds gained. And when I talk about my own transformation, I try to say “55 pounds gained at 10.8% body fat.”

      As for fat gains being negligible, yes and no. My body-fat percentage is the same as it was before, but I also gained 55 pounds, and if 11% of that is fat, then that’s 6 pounds of fat. So that leaves 49 pounds. And is all of that muscle? Surely not. My bones and tendons grew denser, my stomach may have gotten bigger (which I’m very thankful for), and, of course, I also gained quite a bit hair.

      So you’re absolutely right that if I ever accidentally claim to have gained 55 pounds of muscle, that’s incorrect.

      I see what you’re saying about this article, too. We talk about 40 pounds of muscle gain and the we show a photo that represents 40 pounds of weight gain. That’s a really good point. I’ll fix that.

  27. The Complete Barbell Guide - Outlift on September 1, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    […] The simple 1″ sleeve on a standard barbell doesn’t rotate around the barbell, which meant that any movement of the plates would knock me off balance. This made even the light weights I was lifting feel unwieldy. Still, it was the only barbell I had, and it wound up doing it’s job—I gained twenty pounds over the course of four months while losing a bit of fat. If that sounds crazy, it was, but keep in mind that I was underweight (130 pounds at 6’2) and that this was my first time successfully gaining weight. (Here’s our article explaining newbie gain science.) […]

  28. […] I know this might look impossible. More about the science of newbie gains here. […]

  29. […] you’re a beginner, you’re going to experience a phenomenon called newbie gains, which is going to allow you to build muscle extremely quickly during your first few […]

  30. Stew on September 4, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Shane I’ve been lurking around the site for a while. I’m an older guy..48 to be exact and I’m in reasonable shape. 5ft 9in and 165lbs. I estimate from a visual that I have about 15-16% body fat. Im also an ecto. I’m struggling to put on muscle. I’ve been at it for months. I’ve made some small gains but not much for the effort. I’m wondering if your program would work for older ecto’s or whether I should look elsewhere. I’m very concerned about gaining fat when bulking at my age. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Shane Duquette on September 4, 2019 at 1:02 pm

      Hey Stew, congrats for sticking with this even though it hasn’t given you the results that you want yet. There’s that fine line between sticking with something that clearly isn’t working versus trying to improve upon your approach until it finally starts yielding results.

      Muscle growth is pretty similar between 18–60. Strength gains seems pretty similar between 18–70. I know that might sound crazy, but building muscle isn’t like a lot of professional sports, where people peak early and retire young. The current Mr Olympia is 44, for example, and he’s still not at his peak. Not that we should be copying professional bodybuilders or anything. I just mean that even at the highest echelons where people push their bodies the furthest, even then it’s not dominated by younger guys.

      Yeah, the program definitely works for older guys. Mind you, I wouldn’t call you old yet. Here’s EddiB’s 3-month progress update, who bulked up very leanly with our program at 60-years-old. Here’s JohnnyD’s 5-month progress update. He wanted to lose fat and build muscle. They’re quite a bit older than you and still getting results that are comparable to our younger members, as the research would predict.

      The main thing with older guys is that they often want assurances that they can work around old injuries while avoiding making new ones. Older guys generally have enough wisdom to care about that stuff, whereas younger guys will sometimes brush that stuff aside. Mind you, that’s still important with younger guys, it’s just that they haven’t learned to care about it yet.

      As for building muscle without gaining fat, yeah, we can absolutely help you do that. Our program talks about how to bulk aggressively (more muscle) versus cautiously (less fat). You’ll just want to take the more cautious approach to bulking 🙂

      Does that help / answer your questions?

      • Stew on September 4, 2019 at 3:45 pm

        Thanks for the quick reply Shane. Yeah you’ve definitely answered my questions and what you’ve said is very encouraging. I think I’m getting ready to take the plunge. I’ve been putting in a lot of effort and want to see more results. I think I need some fresh insight and some help.

        • Shane Duquette on September 4, 2019 at 4:47 pm

          My pleasure, Stew! I hope to see you on the other side 🙂

  31. Hans on September 4, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Shane, thanks for your generous answers and for accepting my feedback. I know it might sound unimportant, but I am very thankful that you hear me too as I am now becoming more of an avid follower and reader of your articles, they are indeed very helpful. 😀
    So to make it clear, all in your articles are basically saying that the weight gain is a gain that includes muscle mass, body fat and everything in between incuding the gain of denser bones, tendons and hairs, not to forget the bigger stomach you are very thankful for. XD
    I hope for the best of you, your family and also your website and programs.
    Mind you if I may ask something again in the future when I get confused.

  32. […] But again, regardless of your situation, if cardio is making it impossible to eat enough calories, just save it for later. You can always add in some cardio after you’ve gotten your newbie gains. […]

  33. […] Having narrower bones limits how muscular we can become, so this will often get us pegged as “hardgainers.” However, that’s a misnomer. The rate that people can build muscle is mostly determined by how far away from our genetic muscular potential we are. Since ectomorphs tend to start out thinner, that puts us further away from our genetic ceiling. As a result, when we first start training and dieting for muscle growth, we tend to build muscle more quickly (an…. […]

  34. Why Ectomorphs Should Lift a Little Differently on September 22, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    […] So squatting deeply is generally a good thing, especially for us ectomorphs who are trying to bulk up as quickly as possible. […]

  35. As I website owner I think the content material here is real superb,
    appreciate it for your efforts.

  36. […] for naturally skinny guys, these proportions are often realistically achievable, and usually within just a couple of years, […]

  37. […] the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program, partially thanks to a phenomenon called newbie gains, the average member will gain ten pounds in the first five weeks and twenty within the first three […]

  38. […] When someone first starts bulking, they go through a period of rapid muscle growth. This phenomenon is called newbie gains. […]

  39. […] a nutshell, when you lift weights, special stem cells called “satellite cells” donate their myonucle…. That extra nucleus helps the muscle support a slightly larger area, and your muscles get bigger. […]

  40. […] Newbie gains: how quickly can a skinny guy build muscle? […]

  41. What BMI is skinny? — Outlive on February 7, 2020 at 9:48 am

    […] Now, this may seem unbelievable at first, but skinny guys and gals can build muscle so fast, that it’s almost on a steroid-like level — the reason why is because they are very far from their genetic potential in terms of muscle mass. Their body is practically begging to build muscle, and just need the right stimulus (resistance training), the right nutrition (such as lots of protein), and the right amount of quality sleep. If you want to learn more about this phenomenon, check out this nerdy article on the science of “newbie gains.“ […]

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