Seeing the first signs of muscle gain is what really gets new lifters hooked on the gym. The annoying part, especially as you become more advanced, is that muscle growth can be very slow.
So how do you know if your muscles are growing? Here are the top signs you are gaining muscle.
Top Signs You Are Gaining Muscle
1. You Are Getting Stronger
Simply put, a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle. There will always be outliers—those who lift more than their muscles suggest and those who lift less than their muscles suggest.
But by just focusing on your own personal strength training, you will be able to get a good idea of whether you are gaining muscle or not. I promise that for every 20–30 pounds you add to your deadlift, squat, bench press, row, etc., you will see dramatic differences in your physique.
An important thing to remember is that this does not have to be in terms of pure one rep max either. If you can do more reps with the same weight or do the same number of reps with better form, this is still a clear sign of strength and muscle gains. As long as you are improving on your PRs in some way, you should be good to go.
2. You Look Different In The Mirror
Looking at yourself in the mirror is the most basic and simple form of progress checking there is.
If you look more muscular or bigger in the mirror, the chances are that positive changes are actually occurring in your body.
The only thing you want to be aware of is that sometimes your mind can play cruel tricks. Whether it be because of body dysmorphia or just because we see ourselves every day, we are not always the most accurate judges of progress with our eyes.
For that reason, taking progress pictures is an even better way to establish some clear signs of building muslce. Ideally, you would take the pictures in the same spot every day so you can go back and look at your progress.
3. Your Clothes Fit Differently
If you start to notice that your sleeves are a little around your arms or that your pants are tighter around your legs, these are great signs that some mass has been packed on in these areas.
Crucially, if you notice that most of the added tightness is your chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and not your waist, you are clearly on the right path.
Besides, muscle growth is likely won of the few legitimate reasons to buy a whole new wardrobe.
4. Faster Metabolism
One of the best benefits of muscle growth is that it makes you more metabolically active.
You see, maintaining muscle is hard work for your body. To maintain muscle mass, your body has to work harder throughout the day. By just your muscle mass sitting on your body. you will be burning fat and calories.
So if you notice that your maintenance calories have gone up or that you can eat more food while on a cut, it is a good sign that you have put on some muscle mass.
5. You Start Getting Compliments From Other People
One of the best feelings early on in your gym career is going to an event like Thanksgiving dinner or a family reunion with people that have not seen you for months, and having them compliment you on your gains.
Since we and the people closest to us see us every day, they may not notice the muscle gains you are making week after week. But if someone has not seen you for months, the pounds of muscle mass you gained will make you look very different and they will notice.
Furthermore, once strange start noticing your muscular build and you get comments about being strong or questions about your training, you know that you made it.
6. Your Weight Is Up But Your Body Fat Percentage Is The Same
If you are tracking your progress correctly, you should be weighing yourself on a regular basis to have a record of your body weight. If you do gain weight, there are accurate ways to test your body fat percentage such calipers or specialized scales. But if you generally feel like you are getting leaner, whether that be with more veins or definition, chances are that this weight gain has been mostly muscle. In some cases, you even be losing fat while gaining muscle as a beginner.
What this means is that the weight you are gaining, at least the majority of it, has been muscle.
This is also important because if you noticed that things are swinging in the opposite direction, it means you need to make some changes to your diet and training. Sure having some extra calories will help with your gains but do not gain extra fat in the process.
7. Your Measurements Increase
Besides weight, another objective of tracking muscular progress is taking measurements in some key areas to gauge how much muscle you have gained.
For your arms, you should be taking a measurement of your flexed arm. Since the arms do not tend to accumulate much fat, if you gain an inch or two on your arms, it is likely mostly muscle in the biceps and triceps.
Similarly, if you gain a few inches around your thighs, this indicates muscle growth in your quads and hamstrings.
In terms of what will actually contribute to a thicker look for your physique, gaining inches in your chest measurements will alter how you look and how clothes fit the most. Any inches gained in this area mean that you have put some muscle on in your chest and back.
8. Your Recovery Is Better
When you first start training in the weight room, even a low-intensity workout routine will cause heavily delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This DOMS comes from the small tears that you cause in your muscle fibers with your training. Since your body is not accustomed to lifting weights, it will need more time in the beginning to recover.
This is largely why most beginners programs have you in the gym 2-3 times per week working your full body. In this novice stage, it is all you need to provide enough stimulus for your muscles to grow.
As more muscles grow and adapt to lifting heavier weights, the soreness will still be present but not as severe. This is why, as you gain more experience and muscle mass, you can handle higher volume and more specialized workout routines.
9. You Are Hungrier
If you are training at the level you need to be to gain muscle, you will notice that your body demands adequate nutrients to support muscle growth. You will notice this the most after your training sessions.
There is also the fact that just by existing on your body, your muscles will burn more calories by default. The increase in calorie expenditure will also result in greater hunger needs.
These are all great signs but just be mindful that your body will likely need only a few hundred more calories to build muscle. Of course, you can increase this as time goes on.
10. Better Mind Muscle Connection
The “mind-muscle connection” refers to the connection and control you have over your muscles while training. The lifters with the best mind-muscle connection have the ability to isolate a muscle so that they feel the contraction and ensure that the muscle they are trying to work is doing all the hard work.
As your muscles and level of experience grow, it will be easier to connect your mind to your muscles. After all, being stronger and having larger muscles, makes it easier to isolate a muscle mentally.
11. Daily Tasks Become Easier
You would be surprised at how much everyday tasks become easier with just a little more muscle on your body.
Lifting random objects up off the floor will seem worlds lighter.
Pushing things out of the way.
Walking up the stairs.
A whole number of daily tasks will just feel easier in comparison to the heavyweights you are moving in the gym.
12. You Become More Confident
It is something quite primal, but the truth is that if you are bigger and stronger, you will become more confident as well.
Part of this is just knowing that you are bigger and stronger than the average person. Simply having more size will make you feel safer and more secure in any situation.
There is also just the feeling of knowing that you have put yourself through something difficult. The process of gaining muscle can be slow and complex, but knowing that you stuck it out will give you an extra level of confidence.
13. You Are Excited To Go To The Gym
When you first start, it will likely feel like a chore or something that you are doing out of pure discipline instead of enjoyment. The high levels of soreness and difficulty performing any exercise will be somewhat discouring in the beginning.
But as you come into your own, get an established routine, and start to see results you will find that you actually feel excited to go to the gym.
How Long Does It Take To Gain Muscles?
How long it takes you to gain muscle will depend on your genetics, training style, and diet. However, most people will see the first signs of muscle growth after just a few weeks of training. It will not be a significant amount, but enough for you you to see changes in your body.
The good news is that if you are starting out, you are in a prime position to gain muscle. Since your body is not accustomed to weightlifting, you will gain plenty of muscle even if your diet and training are not 100% optimal.
During your first year or two of training, you can expect to put on the majority of your gains. Past that, things slow down and you will make progress at a slower rate.
Signs That You Are Gaining Muscle Female
As a female, most of the signs of gaining muscle will be the same as that of males. Just be aware that the standards for strength and body fat percentage will naturally be different
Due to the diffrence in testosterone and other hormones, women will naturally have more body fat. The progression in terms of strength will also not be as rapid. However, as long as you are working hard in the gym, you will notice substantial changes in your body.
If you are a female and dedicate to diet and weight training, you expect to see your first signs of muscle growth in just a few weeks.
How Do I Know If I’m Gaining Muscle Or Fat?
It can be difficult to determine how much of your weight gain is muscle and how much is fat if you are eating in a caloric surplus and lifting weights.
Here are the main methods to determine the difference. Some are more advanced and require special equipment, while others you can do it yourself at home.
Hydrostatic weighing, also known as underwater weighing, is one of the more accurate ways to measure body fat.
It’s a little more complicated than that, but it basically compared your weight on land to your weight underwater to determine your body composition.
The DEXA scan is another highly accurate method of testing body fat percentage. The DEXA method uses low-intensity X-rays to measure bone density. You can usually find a few places in your town that offer a DEXA scan but they can be quite expensive.
The skin caliper method takes a series of skin-fold measurements and then plugs them into an equation to determine body fat percentage.
There are a number of different equations you can use and no one is 100% accurate. However, if you use the same method over and over again, you can get a good baseline to determine whether or not you are heading in the right direction.
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
BIA measures body fat by looking at how fast an electrical current moves through your body. The more fat you have on your body, the slower the electrical current moves.
This is the method that most body fat measuring scales use. This method is not 100% accurate either. However, as long as you are consistent in the way you use it, you can at least determine if you are heading in the right direction.
Since most people tend to accumulate body fat around their waist area, a growing waist is usually indicative of fat gain.
This does not mean that every inch you add is fat, but if the growth of your waist starts outpacing the growth of your chest, back, arms, and legs then you are not gaining a good ratio of fat to muscle.
Using your own eyes to judge your body composition is probably one of the least accurate ways to do so. But as you gain more experience and learn more about your body, you will begin to develop a sense of the type of weight you are putting on.
If you notice that things are getting out of hand, maybe lower your calories or do more cardio.
How Do I Gain Muscle?
The process of building muscle is a complicated, intensive one. Here is a good video explanation of every aspect of muscle gain:
From a high level, it can essentially be boiled down to
Progressively Overloading (Strength, Volume, Tempo)
Being in a caloric surplus
In the first few months of training, you will be itching to see any signs that all your hard work is paying off. There are plenty of small signs that you can look for, whether it be in the mirror or in the gym.
If you are eating in excess, you can gain too much fat in your pursuit of muscle gain. Muscular gain should not result in a fatter look, it should make you look bigger but not fatter.
A few weeks. Females do gain muscle at a slower rate but females should still begin to see some changes over the course of a few weeks.
MAPS Anabolic is a good program that can be used for beginners to put on a foundational level of strength and size.