How Long Should Your Off-Season Be? And How Fast Can You Build Muscle?


Although the majority of our clients are weight loss clients, we do have clients who come to us to build muscle. If you are a competitor or even if you are someone who's looking to build muscle, it is important that you set realistic goals when it comes to how much muscle you are looking to gain in a certain period of time.

There are several factors that will affect the rate at which you're able to build muscle such as:

> Training age: training age refers to the amount of years you've been training consistently for. Unfortunately, the longer you've trained for the longer it takes to build muscle. The rate slows down! 

> Genetics: some people tend to build muscle more easily than others. It sucks if you are not one of those people, but don't use genetics as an excuse for a bad training program and lack of consistency! Make sure you get a training program that will help maximise your ability to build muscle and make sure you stick to it!

> Hormonal profile: there are some hormones (such as testosterone) that will help you build muscle and if you have a favourable hormonal profile you'll optimise your ability to build muscle. One thing that's worth mentioning is ensuring adequate amount of sleep. Not getting enough sleep will have an impact on your ability to build muscle. 

> Nutrient/calorie intake: to be able to build muscle it is most beneficial if you are in an 'anabolic' (muscle building) state and this is achieved when you are in a calorie surplus. In addition, it is important that you consider your macronutrient intake. You need to ensure that you eat enough protein to cover your needs. However, eating more than your needs is not necessary as it won't translate into more muscle. 

> Training program: as mentioned above, it is important that your training program is designed to support your muscle building goals. For instance, doing cardio alone will not be the best approach to maximise muscle growth.  

> Muscle memory: This is really interesting… If you've had a larger amount of muscle previously it is actually seems easier for you to regain that muscle mass than it is for someone who's trying to build the same amount of mass but of  'new muscle'.

How fast can you build muscle?

As you can understand there are many factors that will affect the rate at which you can build muscle mass, so it is hard to say how long your off season should be. However, Lyle McDonald has proposed a model that will provide at least an indication of how long it will take to build muscle.

Estimation to build 1 kg of muscle (2.2 lb), as per Lyle McDonald’s model

Person's training age

  • 1 year of proper training: 1-2 months

  • 2 years of proper training: 2-3 months

  • 3 years of proper training: 4-5 months

  • 4+ years of proper training: 1 year


*Women should double the time from the example above

How long should your off-season be?

Well, it depends...

Do you need to build a substantial amount of muscle? If yes, then you may need to take at least a year off depending on how much muscle you'd like to put on and also your training age.

If you don't need to build a substantial amount of muscle, you can most likely compete the next season. Just don't believe that you'll compete being 'bigger', carrying more muscle mass. Going from season to season, not allowing enough time to recover and rebuild/build muscle, will result in less and less muscle mass. 

Diet Smart. Not Hard.

Coach Inger