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April 12, 2021 9 min read

Every fitness journey starts with a goal. If you are trying to lose weight, you may have a goal of losing 30 pounds. If you are trying to build up your strength, you may have a goal to bench press 225 pounds.

Regardless of your goal, setting an estimated deadline for when you can expect to reach your fitness goals helps you stay on track. The problem is, how do you know how long it will actually take you to be able to bench 225? There is a handful of factors that can affect how fast you reach that goal.

Factors That Affect How Fast Muscle Grows

When it comes to building muscles, there are things we are able to control and things we cannot that will affect how long it takes to build enough muscle to reach your weight lifting goals. Those factors include:

Two guys in a gym comparing muscles

Where Are You Starting?

For those who are brand new to lifting weights, you are going to have a long way to go compared to a bodybuilder who has been out of the game for a while due to a serious injury.

The bodybuilder will most likely gain their strength back quickly because they essentially just have to work at retraining their muscles. Meanwhile, as a newbie, you are starting from scratch thus your muscles don’t just have growing to do, they have learning to do as well.

How Much Do You Weigh?

Your body weight also makes a big difference when it comes to how much you can start out powerlifting. The more you weigh, the more muscle you should have. The more muscle you have, the more power you should have to put into your lift.

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you are trying to lift 225 pounds, it might not be that hard for you as that is only 25 pounds more than your actual body weight. On the other hand, if you are short for a man or weigh around 170 pounds, you may only be able to lift about 150 pounds to start.

This would mean that you have to be able to gain an additional 75 pounds in lifting power to be able to lift 225 pounds. Building muscle is a process that cannot be rush, so it will take longer to achieve your goal.

Are you Getting Enough Rest?

Rest is an important part of the muscle gaining process. In order for your muscles to be repaired and stimulate growth, your body needs rest so that it can replenish any nutrients you have lost.

If you lack rest, you can do yourself more harm than good by outdoing your limits leading to serious injury; which only sets you back even more. Paired with good nutrition and healthy eating habits, rest should come easy after an intense session at the gym, just make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the rest as well.

What About Your Genetics?

Another factor that can affect your muscle gain would be genetics. When it comes to anabolic hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH).

If you have genes that lower the amount of anabolic hormones your body is producing, it can indirectly mess with your muscle tissue as these hormones are necessary for promoting muscle growth and repair. This would cause your muscle tissue and strength to decline.

Our muscles also depending on a protein called α-actinin-3 (ACTN3) which is found in the fast-twitch fibers of our muscles. ACTN3 is necessary to create the forceful contractions used in exercises such as weight lifting. Lack of ACTN3 will not poorly affect your muscles; however, it can hinder your strength capabilities.

There is a lot of data and research on genetics and how they can affect muscle growth, one of the more interesting ones is this study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

How Often Do You Exercise?

How much you frequent the gym will make a big difference in how fast or slow you reach your fitness goals. This is something that you will most likely decide at the beginning of your fitness journey based on your schedule.

You should aim to exercise 3-5 times per week. However, it is important to note, if you are able to hit the gym 5 days a week, you will see results faster than someone who is only going 3 days a week. 

In addition, the type of exercises you are choosing to do while at the gym can also affect your progress. If you only focus on your upper body it is likely you will see serious muscle gains.

If you go to the gym for strictly cardio exercises such as running on a treadmill or using the elliptical, you will lose weight fast, but your actual muscle gain will be slower. This is an example of why balance in your workout routine is good for the body.

If you are trying to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, your workout plan should include a variety of cardio, strength, and assistance training. Whereas, if you are focused solely on muscle gains, you can rotate your workouts to focus on different upper and lower body muscle groups as the week progresses.

If you are a newbie and you are unsure of what exercises to incorporate into your exercise routine, we will provide some great muscle-building exercises in a little bit.

Black and white image of power muscular bodybuilder guy doing pullups in gym

Best Muscle-Building Exercises

The first and most obvious exercise everyone thinks of first when they start their journey to lift heavier is to hit those bench presses. Though bench pressing is one of the best exercises for building upper body strength, you do not want to focus on just bench presses.

There are many other exercises you can do to help you see those gains faster, such as the following 10 strength-building exercises:

  • Pullup: You will most likely have to use equipment at the gym in order to complete a pullup. You will begin by gripping the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and feet off of the floor. Engage your muscles and pull yourself up so that your chin is higher than the bar. Slowly lower your body back to a “hanging” position to complete the first rep. Repeat as many times as needed to meet your repetition count for your set.
  • Deadlifts: You can do this using a barbell or dumbbells. Begin with the equipment in front of you on the floor. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and pick up the barbell or dumbbells. Lift the equipment off the floor and return to a standing position leaving the barbell/dumbbells around thigh height before returning to the bent forward position. This completes one rep.
  • Pushup: This is always a favorite because it works the whole body and requires no equipment. Start by placing your palms flat on the ground and stretch your legs out behind you. Hold your body above the floor and keep your back straight. If it is too hard to support your full body weight, you can rest on your knees until you build up your strength. Next, slowly lower yourself towards the ground by bending at the elbows and then slowly pushing yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat as many times as needed to complete your set.
  • Barbell Pullover: To perform this exercise you will need a barbell, as the name implies. Begin by lying with your back flat on the bench as you normally would. Instead of pushing the barbell up as you do for a bench press, you will reach backward behind your head with the barbell and then return to the starting position.
  • Bent Over Rows: This exercise can also be completed using a barbell or dumbbells, whichever works best for your body and fitness goals. Stand as if you are going to complete a deadlift. However, instead of lifting the barbell/dumbbells up as you return to a standing position, you will keep your back flat with your body bent at the hips as you lift the weights in towards your chest. Pause for a moment before returning to the starting position to start the next rep.
  • One-Arm Row: In order to execute this exercise, you will need a bench and a dumbbell. Rest your left knee on the weight bench to support yourself while you bend over and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Start with the weight down by your shin and arm fully extended. Bend at the elbow to pull the dumbbell up towards your hips. Slowly release and extend the arm again to return to the starting position. Meet your rep count and then switch sides, meaning the right knee rests on the bench while you hold the dumbbell in your left hand.
  • Dumbbell Curl: This exercise will require dumbbells. Stand up straight and hold the dumbbells with your palms facing up. Bend at the elbow and lift the weights towards you as if they are “curling” into you. Keep the elbows tucked in to your sides as you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. You just completed one rep.
  • Chest Flys: You can do this standing or lay flat on your back. Also, you will need a set of dumbbells. Stand or lay with the dumbbells in your hands and arms extended straight out in front of you. Squeeze your core to keep the body straight as you push the dumbbells out to your sides (as if you are spreading your wings), pause, and then return your arms to be straight out in front of you. Repeat this process to complete your set.
  • Overhead Press: This exercise also requires a barbell. Stand with the barbell at your chest and feet shoulder-width apart. Begin to press the bar upward above your head until your arms are fully extended. Squeeze your core to keep the body aligned and return the barbell to your chest. This completes one rep.
  • Farmer’s Walk/Carry: Typically done using dumbbells, this exercise can be done with any type of weight. Stand with the weights by your side and you take small, quick steps for the designated distance, which will usually be limited to the size of your workout space. Do this back and forth as many times as needed to complete your set.

Cutting vs Bulking

If you have been doing your research, you have most likely come across the terms cutting and bulking, but how are they related to how much you can lift? Well, that is a great question. Essentially, cutting and bulking are strategic periods of weight gain and loss. In order to answer the question in more detail, let’s discuss the difference between the two first.

Cutting for Fat Loss

Cutting is for fat loss. When cutting, you eat at a calorie deficit based on your maintenance calorie level to promote fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. If you have a large amount of body fat, you will begin with cutting.

A cutting period typically lasts 2-4 months. During your months of cutting, you will aim to lose 0.5–1.0% of body weight per week. Throughout the cutting phase, your workouts will typically involve cardio and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to stimulate fat loss and increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

You should plan to perform cardio-related exercises 3-5 days per week. On the other days, you should still be lifting weights to maintain your muscle mass; however, you should stick to lighter weights. If it seems too easy, increase the number of reps you complete using the lighter weight.

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Bulking for Building Muscle

Bulking is for building muscle without gaining unnecessary fat. Since we can build muscle faster when there is fat, you would want to eat with a calorie surplus so that you eat more calories than you burn during your workouts.

If you are underweight or a fairly lean individual, you will want to start with bulking. Since building muscle tends to take longer than losing fat, one may bulk for 6 months or longer.

To determine the right calorie surplus for you, determine how many more calories you need to eat than your current daily calorie intake to see a weight gain of 0.25–0.5% of your body weight per week.

While bulking you will focus on lifting weights most days of the week. However, you should also include 1-2 days of slow-steady cardo to keep your fat increase at a minimum.  Now to answer your question, bulking and cutting relate to weight lifting in the sense that regardless of your goals, you cannot bulk forever.

This means as you continue through your fitness journey, you will rotate between the two phases. Lifting 225 pounds or more is a serious feat and takes a lot more than just bench pressing.

Whether you begin with cutting or bulking, there is one thing that remains the same. You should eat clean and healthy throughout both phases as well as give yourself plenty of time for rest.

It is important to note that cutting and bulking are not for beginners. If you are a newbie, you will want to work on continuously making better food choices and slowly increasing your workout intensity.

Once you feel comfortable with your food and exercise habits, you can talk to a professional fitness instructor about incorporating cutting and bulking into your fitness plan.

How Long Will It Take To Bench 225 Pounds?

So based on what we just learned, you can expect to lift an additional 5-8 pounds every month if you stay committed and consistent for about a year or so. Strength building takes a lot of patience because it is a slow process.

Choose workouts such as pull-ups, bent-over rows, and deadlifts to quicken the muscle gaining process. Don’t forget about plenty of rest paired with clean eating habits that work best for you and your body and you should be on the right track to seeing the results you were hoping for from your fitness journey!