Bodybuilding Basics: Noob Gains Explained

What are “noob gains” ? The so-called noob gains represent 10-20 lbs of muscle gained during the first 6-12 months of serious training. Those are the easiest muscle fibers you will ever build and everything else comes at a much slower rate, if it ever comes at all.

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Think of the “noob gains” as breaking a barrier for the first time. After the barrier is broken, and you are no longer a newbie, everything else is less of shock.

Ex: When you are a teenager and you don’t have much money, your first salary will appear to you as something incredible, even though most of the time it’s cheap change. Your noob gains are essentially that – your first muscle salary. Everything else will require more work, but we all know that salary increases are extremely rare.


The skinnier you are, the more noob gains you will experience.

Noob gains differ from person to person. If you are really skinny, I mean really skinny, you will experience bigger noob gains than somebody who is of normal bodyweight. Let’s say that you are something crazy like 135 lbs at 6’3″. In that case your noob gains may take you all the way to 170 lbs of almost all lean body mass. That’s because 135 lbs is nothing for a 6’3″ guy. In most cases the reason people get to such skinny states is poor nutrition, fast and furious teenage growth, weed, drugs, alcohol…etc. You are too far away even from your average untrained bodyweight.

If you are 6’1 tall and 160 lbs of skinny fat sexiness, you won’t get to 200 lbs with all of the gains being muscle. That’s because you are not as malnourished as the previous example, and you are closer to your natural genetic potential. There is less mass to be gained.

If you are fat on the other hand, you will still gain some muscle. However, unless you eat like a pig your bodyweight will not jump as drastically.

For example, if you are 5’6″ and 180 lbs with a 40 inch gut, you will already be holding more muscle mass for your frame compared to the tall skinny fat dudes presented in the previous examples. Thus, your noobs gain will be much smaller. Most people in that category should focus on losing weight in the first place.

Wait, what?

It’s very simple. Everybody has an average bodyweight and everything above or below takes serious stress. If you want to get super skinny, you will have to starve. If you want to gain weight, you will have to eat more.

People who are used to eating properly are usually closer to that state without even training while those who resemble drug addicts or fat pigs have to play catch up for a longer period of time.

Bodyweight can be deceptive.

When I started training I was 149 lbs at 6′ with high bodyfat. It was nice. People on forums were wondering how I was alive and were advising me to bulk to over 220 lbs. The heaviest I ever I got was 195 lbs with extreme effort.

Anyway, your true weight is dependent on bone structure. I have thin and light bones because I am an ectomorph. That’s why I can’t be as heavy as other people at my height. My father is just little taller than me but has super thick bones and for him to get under 200 lbs requires a diet. He has always carried more lean body mass than me without training, although one can attribute manual labor to this.

The main point is that your bodyweight does not depend solely on your height but also on the thickness of your frame (bone structure). People with light bones will obviously weigh less than stocky individuals, even if both groups have the same height.

Thus, the best naturals are relatively tall people with good bone structure and the worst are super short dudes with fragile bones. When it comes to strength it’s best to be relatively short (no more than 5’11”) but with thick bones. Those people can usually excel naturally at barbell lifting. The only lift that usually suffers is the deadlift because short people tend to have short arms, although there are exceptions to the rule.

The ultimate build for powerlifting is: height between 5’5″ – 5’11”, short legs, long torso, long arms, thick bones (wrist over 7 inches). This is the equivalent to a 6’7″ basketball player.

Be careful how you play your cards.

When you first starting training, you will make some gains. There is no question about it. You have high motivation and lots of room to grow. However, you also have to chose the right exercises and seek balance. Otherwise your noob gains will not be spent appropriately.

Luckily, there’s only one place where muscle looks funky and that’s the rear. Why am I saying that? It’s obvious. A lot of routines, mainly 5×5 and other bullshit, are based around the squat. You squat three times a week, hoping that even your middle leg will grow.

As a result, individuals who are not built to squat and tend to good morning the weight (hello, low bar humping squats!), end up with some weird looking overdeveloped glutes and skinny legs. That sucks because as a natural you have limited growth potential and you are spending it all on your rear.

There are many people who do StartingStrength.com and end up with “T-rex arms”, no chest and aids quads.

I am not against glutes, lol, it’s just that oversquatting causes imbalances. People often make fun of the bros who bench and curl all the time, but how is squatting 3 or more times a week different. It’s the reverse and just as extreme. What? Are you training to become a centaur? Get serious. You don’t need to squat three times a week and also deadlift on top of it. What the hell is that? That’s hip/glute training every training day. It’s stupid.

Similar training may work for the naturally born squatters with short femurs who will build nice legs from the exercise, but the other suckers will just develop an imbalance – big butts with no quads nor hamstrings. This is where more balanced approaches work better.

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