How Much Weight Should You Gain Per Week When Bulking?

When you are trying to bulk up, the question of how much weight should you gain per week is an important one.

If you try to bulk up by eating as many calories as possible, you will likely gain too much weight, mostly in the form of body fat. You will then find it difficult to lose fat later on. On the other hand, if you don’t consume enough calories and as a result gain too little weight, you will not see the results that you are hoping for.

In this article, I will provide a definitive answer to the question of how much body weight you should gain every week when bulking. By following the advice, you can ensure that you are gaining the right amount of weight each week – neither too much nor too little.

But first, let’s cover the fundamentals:

What is Bulking?

Bulking is the process of building muscle by eating more calories than you burn each day while lifting weights and progressively overloading your muscles.

When you bulk up, you will likely gain fat as well, but if you do it correctly, the majority of your weight gain will be lean muscle.

There are two main ways to go about your bulking phase – clean bulking or lean bulking and dirty bulking.

The clean bulking diet approach is where you eat mostly healthy, unprocessed foods. This helps you build lean muscle mass while minimizing excess body fat gain.

The dirty bulking approach, on the other hand, is where you eat whatever you want. This includes junk food, fast food and having massive cheat meals. While this will allow you to gain weight more quickly, it will also lead to more body fat gain due to a huge calorie surplus.

Recommended Reading: Clean Bulk vs Dirty Bulk – Which One is Best to Gain Muscle?

Should You Bulk Quickly Or Slowly?

You might be wondering whether you should be bulking quickly or slowly.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question – it depends on your personal preferences.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for one or the other approach.

Reasons for Bulking Quickly

There are many reasons why people might want to bulk up quickly.

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • You don’t care about getting fat: Some people just don’t care about packing on a few extra pounds of body fat as long as they can gain muscle fast.
  • You want to get as strong as possible: If getting stronger is your primary goal, then you’ll want to maximize muscle growth in the shortest amount of time.
  • You are a novice lifter: If you are new to weight lifting, your muscles will respond very well to it.
  • You are naturally very lean: Some people have a naturally fast metabolism and it can be difficult for them to put on weight, no matter what they do. Bulking up quickly can help these people reach their goals.
  • You are very skinny and/or a hard-gainer: Some people are just naturally skinny and have a hard time putting on weight, no matter what they do. In these cases, bulking up quickly can be the right solution.

Reasons for Bulking Slowly

Conversely, here are some of the most common reasons for mass gaining slower:

  • You want to minimize the amount of fat you gain: If you want to avoid gaining too much fat while bulking, you should aim to lean bulk at a slower rate.
  • You have a slow metabolism: If you have a slow metabolism (like me), you are burning fewer calories at rest. Thus, you have to control your calorie intake more carefully and correctly calculate your lean bulking macros to avoid excessive fat gain.

How Much Muscle Growth Can You Actually Expect When Bulking?

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons for bulking quickly or slowly, let’s look at how much muscle growth you can realistically expect.

One commonly used model for rates of muscle gain was developed by Alan Aragon (1). For weight lifters of various training ages, it offers different target rates of weight gain as percentages of current body weight.

Below you can see a table showing (roughly) how much muscle gain can both men and women expect per month, depending on their training age.

Training Age/ExperienceRate of Muscle Gain (Men)Rate of Muscle Gain (Women)
Beginner (1 year of training)1 – 1.5% of total body weight/month0.5 – 0.75% of total body weight/month
Intermediate (2 – 3 years of training)0.5 – 1% of total body weight/month0.25 – 0.5% of total body weight/month
Advanced (>3 years of training)0.25 – 0.5% of total body weight/month0.125 – 0.25% of total body weight/month

The rates show that, on average, for women are about half that of men.

Below are some examples of how much muscle growth a man weighing 175 pounds (80 kg) could expect per month depending on training age/experience.

Training Age/ExperienceRate of Muscle Gain (%)Rate of Muscle Gain
Beginner (1 year of training)1 – 1.5% of total body weight/month1.7 – 2.6 lb (0.8 – 1.2 kg)
Intermediate (2 – 3 years of training)0.5 – 1% of total body weight/month0.9 – 1.7 lb (0.4 – 0.8 kg)
Advanced (>3 years of training)0.25 – 0.5% of total body weight/month0.4 – 0.9 lb (0.2 – 0.4 kg)

And these are examples below are of how much muscle gain could a woman weighing 145 pounds (65 kg) expect every month depending on training experience and starting weight.

Training Age/ExperienceRate of Muscle Gain (%)Rate of Muscle Gain
Beginner (1 year of training)0.5 – 0.75% of total body weight/month0.7 – 1.1 lb (0.3 – 0.5 kg)
Intermediate (2 – 3 years of training)0.25 – 0.5% of total body weight/month0.4 – 0.7 lb (0.2 – 0.3 kg)
Advanced (>3 years of training)0.125 – 0.25% of total body weight/month0.2 – 0.4 lb (0.1 – 0.2 kg)

Note that these are just averages, however, and you may gain more or less muscle than this depending on a number of factors, including your diet, genetics and training experience.

What is the Ideal Bulking Weight Gain per Week?

So, how much weight should you be gaining per week while bulking?

Based on the fact that there is a limit to the amount of muscle you can gain, your weight gain should be slightly above the percentage of muscle growth you can expect based on your training experience.

So, if you gain weight at a significantly slower rate, you may not be maximizing muscle growth. On the other hand, if you gain weight too quickly, you may find yourself putting on excessive body fat.

Going forward, let’s assume that you want to minimize the amount of fat you gain while you bulk.

In this case, nutrition recommendations for bulking suggest that novice/intermediate athletes could get away with a large calorie surplus and should consume approximately 10 – 20% above their daily weight maintenance calorie needs for an average weekly weight gain of about 0.25 – 0.5% (2).

More advanced athletes should be more cautious with a lower calorie surplus of about 5-10% above caloric maintenance and aim for a weekly weight gain of about 0.125-0.25% (2).

Below is a table that summarizes these recommendations for men athletes.

Training Age/ExperienceCaloric Surplus (%)Weight Gain per Week
Beginner (1 year of training)10 – 20%0.25 – 0.5%
Intermediate (2 – 3 years of training)10 – 15%0.2 – 0.4%
Advanced (>3 years of training)5 – 10%0.125 – 0.25%

When it comes to female athletes, the calorie surplus and weekly weight gain rates are about half of those mentioned above. See the table below.

Training Age/ExperienceCaloric Surplus (%)Weight Gain per Week
Beginner (1 year of training)5 – 10%0.125 – 0.25%
Intermediate (2 – 3 years of training)5 – 8%0.125 – 0.2%
Advanced (>3 years of training)4 – 5%0.1 – 0.125%

NOTE

It’s normal to experience daily fluctuations in body weight, and it may be higher or lower on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong.

The most important thing is to focus on the trend over time – are you gaining weight at a slow, steady and consistent rate? If so, then you’re on the right track.

I recommend that you don’t follow those numbers strictly. Instead, use those ranges as a guide to ensure that you’re consuming enough calories to support muscle growth without gaining too much fat.

If are concerned about putting on too much body fat during a bulk, I would always recommend starting out at the lower end of the spectrum, while closely monitoring your weight. Then having a larger calorie surplus if needed.

Simple Solution

If you feel too overwhelmed with the rates of muscle growth, training experience, gender differences and percentages, here is a simple solution.

Simply aim to gain 0.25-1 pound per week, depending on your training experience.

Bulking Weight Gain per Week in Pounds

For example, if you are a novice, aim to gain about 1 pound (0.5 kg) per week when bulking. If you are an advanced lifter, aim to gain about 0.25 – 0.5 pounds (0.1 – 0.2 kg) per week.

Why You Should Move Beyond the Scale and Pay Attention to Your Body Fat

When you’re trying to bulk up, the number on the scale can be misleading.

Of course, when you are a novice athlete, a regular weight scale can give you a good indication of the weight you put on as you bulk. However, as you become more experienced, your body will change so much that scale weight alone is not a very accurate indicator of your progress.

EXAMPLE

For example, a 200lb advanced athlete should target a weekly weight gain of 0.125-0.25%, or that’s between 0.25-0.5 pounds per week and between 0.036-0.072 pounds per day…

So, the likelihood is that you can’t really trust your scale.

You might be asking yourself, then, how can I track my progress if the scale isn’t so accurate?

Well, as you continue bulking, there are a few other ways to measure your progress and assess your body composition. In addition to weighting yourself and monitoring body weight gained, you can:

  • Take body part circumference measurements (chest, waist, arms, hips, etc.)
  • Measure your body fat percentage
  • Take pictures and/or videos (specifically to see if you are gaining muscle or gaining fat)
  • Monitor strength gains in the gym

Regarding the last point, if you’re interested in tracking your progress in the gym, I recommend you check my Google Sheets workout template that allows you to build your own workout program and track the results of every weight training session.

It’s definitely worth investing time and effort in some of these methods so that you can have a more accurate understanding of whether your bulk is going successfully.

So, when it comes to bulking, don’t just trust the number on the scale. As you become a more experienced athlete – use other methods to measure your progress.

Frequently Asked Questions About Body Weight Gain During a Bulk

Is Bulking Necessary To Gain Muscle?

No, bulking is not necessary for continuous muscle growth. You can keep building muscle without bulking, just by consuming your daily weight maintenance calorie needs, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. However, it is not the most optimal approach if you want to gain more muscle while maintaining a relatively lean physic.

How Fast Should I Gain Weight When Bulking?

A good rule of thumb is to aim to gain between 0.25-1 pound per week during a bulk, depending on your training age. Aim for a target weight gain of about 1 pound per week if you are a novice athlete, and target a lower weekly weight gain of 0.25 pounds if you are an advanced athlete to prevent excessive fat gain.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to build muscle, remember that the amount of weight you gain will depend on your training age and body weight.

A majority of lifters should aim to increase by 0.25-1 pound each week while bulking, depending on their training age. I would always recommend starting out at the lower end of the spectrum and having extra calories when needed.

While scale weight alone can show whether you are gaining weight, it is not an accurate indicator of progress, there are other ways to measure your muscle growth such as body part circumference measurements, monitoring body fat percentage and strength gains in the gym.


References

1. McDonald L. Four Models for Genetic Muscular Potential (2009). Retrieved from https://bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/genetic-muscular-potential

2. Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6680710/

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