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The Science of Building and Losing Muscle

Improving strength and building muscle is a common goal for many people looking to lead healthier lives. Whether you are just starting your fitness journey or are a seasoned gym-goer, understanding how long it takes to build muscle can help you set realistic goals and expectations and stay motivated.

How Your Health Impacts Muscle

Unfortunately, losing muscle happens at a much faster pace. Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle mass and strength that can occur due to various reasons. Losing strength can be a significant problem for people who are injured, have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, or have physically demanding jobs.

Factors That Affect Muscle Growth

The time it takes to see and feel noticeable differences in muscle strength and size depends on several factors, including:


Your genetics play a role in determining the rate at which you build muscle. Some people may see results faster than others, while others may have a slower pace of muscle growth.


As you age, it becomes more challenging to build muscle. After age 30, muscle mass naturally declines, making it harder to gain power and strength.

Diet & Nutrition

A diet rich in protein and calorie-dense is essential for building muscle. If you are not consuming enough calories or protein, your body will struggle to build muscle.

Training Program

The type of training strengthening program you engage in can also impact the speed of muscle growth. Resistance training programs that target specific muscle groups, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, are more effective for building muscle than cardio-based programs. Still trying to figure out what all that means? Ask your physical therapist!

Training Frequency

The frequency of your exercise sessions will vary based on the goals of your program. However, a common rule of thumb is to engage in resistance training at least two to three times per week.


Sleep is critical for muscle growth. When you sleep, your body repairs and regenerates muscle tissue, making it essential to get enough restful sleep each night.

Read our Blog “The Health Benefits of Sleep”

The Timeline for Building Muscle

Building muscle takes time and consistency, so if you are flexing in front of the mirror daily, wondering what’s going on, just be patient. On average, most people expect noticeable muscle growth within four to six months of starting a strength training program. However, the exact timeline for building muscle can vary significantly depending on the factors highlighted above. Here’s what you can expect:

  • 1 Month: You should notice an increase in muscle endurance. This means you can perform more repetitions or move to heavier weights.
  • 2 to 3 Months: After two to three months of consistent strength training, your muscles will become stronger, and you may even notice a slight increase in muscle definition.
  • 4 to 6 Months: You should see and feel your hard work paying off by now, and you will likely feel great about seeing the results!

What Happens When I Stop Strengthening Workouts?

Unfortunately, losing muscle happens at a much faster pace. Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle mass and strength that can occur due to various reasons. Losing strength can be a significant problem for people who are injured, have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, or have physically demanding jobs.

Four Causes of Muscle Atrophy

  • Injury: An injury to a muscle or limb can result in muscle atrophy if the affected area is not used for an extended period.
  • Disease: Certain medical conditions, such as cancer, kidney disease, or respiratory diseases, can cause muscle atrophy.
  • Inactivity: Prolonged inactivity, such as bed rest, can cause muscle atrophy, as the muscles are not regularly used.
  • Aging: People naturally lose muscle mass and strength as they age, leading to muscle atrophy.

The Timeline for Losing Muscle

The timeline for losing muscle strength can vary depending on several factors, such as the cause of the muscle atrophy or the individual's age. Here’s what you can expect when you stop your program:

  • 1 to 2 Weeks: You may start noticing a slight loss of strength. This is due to the decreased demand on the muscles, which causes them to begin breaking down.
  • 3 to 4 Weeks: Inactivity has led to a significant decrease in muscle strength and size decrease. Because of muscle atrophy, you may have difficulty performing strenuous activities that you were previously able to do easily.
  • 8 to 12 Weeks: If you continue to be inactive for 8 to 12 weeks, you may experience substantial muscle loss, making it an even more lofty recovery of strength and function.

Time To Get to Work Again

If you’ve been injured or diagnosed with a chronic health condition, not only is an exercise program essential to staying strong and maintaining independence. But, working with your chiropractor is also at the top of the list. Chiropractic is an integral part of the recovery process for many individuals. However, the work doesn't end once you are healed or out of pain. To fully recover and maintain your gains, it is crucial to continue the progress you’ve made by continuing your chiropractic care plan. Not only do chiropractic adjustments help restore your spine to proper alignment, but they help relieve muscle tension. When we are working on building muscle, it’s important to keep our spine aligned so that our muscles can function the best when working toward gains. Your chiropractor is your partner in health throughout your lifetime, and they will work with you on a consistent basis to keep you progressing toward your health and fitness goals.

Ready, Set, Go Get Strong!

Building muscle takes time and consistent effort, and the results will vary significantly from person to person. However, your long-term health and the ability to help all the essential people in your life are well worth the effort. Understanding the factors that influence muscle strength, having realistic expectations, and having a partner in your health to guide you along the way is a winning combination to put you on the road to regain and maintain your health.