The muscle mass experiment: How much sustainable muscle mass can you build in 4 weeks?
Many men want it, only a few really manage it in the end: we are talking about visible muscle build-up. Some people go to the gym regularly for months without noticing any noticeable growth in muscle mass.
What goes wrong here and what do these people do wrong? Or to put it another way: What do those who really build muscle mass do right?
I wanted to track down this secret in a self-experiment. The big problem here: Probably nowhere are there so many untruths as in weight training or bodybuilding. At every corner someone wants to sell you his miracle program and earn money with it. Most of these programs, of which there are probably hundreds, advertise with impressive before/after pictures to get potential customers to buy.
How should you keep track in this jungle of information?
My answer: Not at all. It is hardly possible for a beginner or advanced to get the necessary overview. One gets lost here faster than one thinks in a paralysis by analysis. The consequence: You turn the wrong screws, lose motivation and ultimately the goal out of sight.
If you can’t afford or don’t want a personal trainer that covers both training and nutrition, there’s only one thing left to do: Back to the roots! Put the focus on a few basic principles and create a basis from which you can approach your goal step by step.
Apropos goal: With this article I would like to give you a (really very) detailed insight into how you can build muscle mass sustainably. Ideally, this is the only article you need to read to build up several kilograms of muscle mass in a few weeks.
The following article is also mainly aimed at the male community out there, because due to my genetic construction I can contribute nothing to the gender-specific characteristics of the women’s world when it comes to muscle building. Nevertheless, the article contains a lot of information about training and nutrition, which can also be interesting for women 😉
The experiment and my goal
As in any other area of life, it is essential in sport to have a clear goal in mind. A goal that keeps you motivated and mentally on course, so that you stay on the ball persistently and for the long term. The whole thing is also known by the term persistence, one of the main characteristics that distinguishes successful from less successful people. 1
My personal goal for the muscle mass experiment was:
Can I gain two kilograms of sustainable muscle mass in a healthy way within four weeks without putting on too much fat?
So the goal was clearly muscle building and not strength. This is important to know because it has a big impact on both training and nutrition.
In order to cast the experiment in an appropriate frame, I got professional support from Ralf Mackrodt, a sports scientist, passionate Spartan runner and co-founder of Senseble.
Muscle growth – The reality check
Maybe for some of you now the question arises how I a) reached my goal of two kilograms in four weeks and b) whether this goal is realistic at all. Here’s a little reality check:
The tip of the iceberg
One of the most blatant muscle growth experiments was probably Nate Green’s experiment, in which Nate gained a total of 9 kilograms (20 pounds) of muscle mass within 28 days.
I think this is possible, but not for the average recreational athlete. For the following reasons:
Most will neither be able to afford a professional nutrition coach nor a special training coach. By professional I mean in this case coaches of professional athletes and world class athletes.
Realistically speaking, recreational athletes will not be able to invest 100 percent of their time in nutrition and training.
It is obvious that Nate Green benefited greatly from his muscle memory in the experiment mentioned above. That “memory” that ensures that both muscles and strength return much faster after a long break. 2
If the potential for muscle growth is based on a Gaussian normal distribution, then about 68 percent of athletes form the average. 16 percent are below average and the other 16 percent are above average for muscle growth. It cannot be ruled out that Nate Green is one of those athletes with an above-average potential for muscle growth.
If one takes a look at the average after the extreme example above, then we get a little closer to reality.
Since I had not been working on any targeted muscle building for the last 18 months before the experiment, but my fitness program consisted mainly of HIT in the form of freeletics, I classified myself in year 1. This meant for me: a muscle growth potential of 900 grams per month. However, since I can already look back on about five years of training experience in weight training and promised me an additional effect through my muscle memory, I set my goal to the described 2 kilograms of muscle growth within four weeks
Good to know – The wrong picture of reality
As far as your personal goals and also the comparison to others are concerned, you should keep two small things in mind:
About 13.5 percent of all members of German fitness studios have already taken anabolic steroids, a doping agent based on the male sex hormone testosterone. That’s more than every tenth you see there! 3
The natural muscle building potential of humans is limited and it can be assumed that the majority of fitness and television models (e.g. in music videos) use doping agents. A very good article on calculating your natural muscle building potential can be found on MarathonFitness.
The basic principles
Before I now go into detail (and by detailed I mean really detailed) about my experiment and the necessary background knowledge, I would like to show you the basic principles according to which I approached the experiment:
Take one step at a time. Don’t try to change your complete training including nutrition from one day to the next. That won’t work because it requires a habit change! The goal should be that you change individual habits in small steps and continuously and sustainably improve yourself.
Nutrition is the most important thing! You can assume, for example, that nutrition contributes 70 percent and training itself only 30 percent to your success. This is the reason why I have put my focus mainly on nutrition and a little less on the design of my training plan.
Ok, ready? Let’s hit the gym! 🏋🏼
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Not quite yet. We said yes: Nutrition is the most important thing, so let’s start with it.