Disclaimer: this article was originally posted on Liftness and we've obtained a permission to share this valuable info.
It is disheartening to learn that what we want (or need) will not come easy or quickly. In fact, it can be so demoralising that it could put you off for good - and many people are, and it's part of the reason why you don't see perfect physiques everywhere you look. This article is was written to provide clarity on what it takes mentally and time-wise to make progress with building muscle and burning fat.
Finding clarity is extremely important in the case of making progress in fitness, as the stress of going to the gym and not knowing what you are doing or if you are actually improving can get debilitating - and can completely defeat the point of why you're there in the first place.
To build a natural looking and balanced physique takes many years of dedication!
When we ask the question of how long we need to build our perfect physique we must first acknowledge a few things:
1. Our physique needs to be built in the first place
2. This is about Your Physique and no-one else's
3. Progress depends completely on how serious you are
4. It is a marathon not a sprint
5. It will all be worth it
Before you get too scared or intimidated by what is required, you must understand that the beauty of your bodye is not only defined by how it looks visually, but by the journey it took to achieve it. What you will learn about your character as well as your body compares to nothing you could ever conceive. One's character is what defines our life experience, and totally acts as a divide between what we perceive as positive or negative. You will learn along the way that any results you get from the training and dieting is secondary and a bonus to the experiences and self empowerment that a fitness lifestyle provides.
1. Our Physiques Needs To Be Built In The First Place
Wishing and praying alone will do nothing for your physique progression. Our thoughts without actions produce nothing in reality. First realise you need to put in the work consistently for many years, in order to continue to make changes as well maintain what you've already built. How does this translate to weight gain or fat loss? For men it will mean building an average of 25-35lbs of muscle mass over a full lifting career (women 12-20lbs). If you think this is not much muscle over a lifetime then put the same amount of meat by weight on the kitchen counter - this will put it into perspective. Very few trainees will ever reach this level of development (naturally). Men will then need to reach at least 10-12% body fat to have absl definition (preferably 8-10%), and women 15-17% body fat.
2. This Is About Your Physique And No-One Else's
Now you know you need to put in the work, you don't want to fall into the trap of comparing your results to someone else's. Yes, use others as inspiration and motivation, but don't ever hold yourself accountable for not looking identical to a particular person. We are all different, have different muscle shapes and attachments, metabolisms, digestive systems, bones, ligaments, joints and muscle fibres. Many small changes short term manifest themselves as huge changes long term. Focus on improving yourself and you can ensure progress over time.
NOTE: No-one is a super human. The human genome is not so profoundly different that someone can build 50, 60, 70lbs of muscle completely naturally, and you have to remain suspicious of people who claim that it is. Aim for 3-5lbs of muscle per year averagely (yes I'm afraid that is a realistic average - and growth will even slow down the more advanced you get!), 1-2lbs averagely for women.
3. Progress Depends Completely On How Serious You Are
Do you go to the gym with a mission or do you just go to work up a sweat and feel good? Do you eat with a very specific intention or do you eat whatever you want because you know you work out? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about the current condition you're in compared to where you want to be. The great thing is that you can change the answers to these questions right now, and you already know how these questions need to be answered. Being strict is the only way to track and manage progress long term, end of story.
NOTE: You are going to need to make sacrifices regularly in order to make way for your physique progress. Late nights, alcohol, recreational drugs, emotional stress, junk food, and inconsistencies will do nothing good for your dream physique.
4. It Is A Marathon Not A Sprint
If you are looking for a quick fix or fast results then bodybuilding and fitness is not the thing for you. The body never lies, which is a big part of why building the body tests the human character like nothing else. If you don't do the work and if you don't eat the right diet, your body will simply not change. This is where most people trip up, they can maybe stay true to a progressive program for a few weeks, but certainly not a few years. Unfortunately, you will never get away with not doing the work. Every person who has built a great natural physique has spent years and years devoted to their fitness lifestyle. With the average of building 3-5lbs of muscle per year thats 8-10 years of lifting weights and dieting with the intention of progressing to reach your genetic potential and 'dream' physique. Fat loss also takes time, aim for 1lb per week of fat loss, this will need to be performed too in order to reveal the muscle mass you have built.
5. It Will All Be Worth It
Whether you like it or not, the time is going to pass any way so you may as well use that time well and build your dream physique. Learn something about yourself and body you never knew before and join a fitness family that is amongst one of the most supportive of its kind. The beginning of the journey is always very daunting, and the tasks ahead may seem insurmountable, but it is the way you get there that will ensure your emotional fulfilment with the lifestyle - and at the end of it all you'll have the best physical version of yourself to enjoy and be extremely proud of.