Time to swole

Calculate the realistic time it's gonna take for you to get swole

This page is designed to help you set realistic goals for your weight lifting journey. There is so much misinformation regarding weight training out there that it's easy to get the wrong impression about what it takes to get to your ideal body type.

Setting unrealistic expectations can be harmful to your mental health as you start second guessing your genetics, obsessing over your image, and comparing yourself unfairly to what you see in movies, magazines and on message boards.

The length of time it takes to get to your goal may surprise you.

Who this calculator is for

The calculations below are based on a few assumptions:

Your current stats

lbs / kg %

It is important here to get a decent estimate of your Body Fat % using calipers. It is very common to severely under-estimate your BF% via either strangers guessing on message boards ("I'd say about 20%"), or via BIA scales.

Under-estimating your BF% can make your journey tougher, as you feel like you're right around the corner from a six-pack, but in reality you've got another 10 pounds of fat to lose.

Your ideal stats

lbs / kg %

Generally, people are looking for a six-pack. The point in which a six pack will show is genetic, but 10% is a common number across the board.

Estimating ideal weight can be difficult. It's absolutely subjective, but as a starting point, based on a height of 5'10", a decent goal is 165 lbs (74.8 kg). Add or subtract 3 lbs (1.4 kg) per inch difference in your height to get a ballpark (ie, 5'8" ideal could be 159 lbs / 72 kg). This could be too small or too big for you, depending on your goal so do a bit of research here.

Cut Phase

lb(s) / kg lb(s) / kg lb(s) / kg

Do your research before changing these numbers.

These numbers represent research done by Lyle McDonald and shown in this article here. Make sure you read this article before figuring out your ideal fat loss rate.

The key to losing the least amount of muscle possible on a cut is to keep weights heavy in the gym while lowering volume.

Bulk Phase

lb(s) / kg lb(s) / kg lb(s) / kg

Do your research before changing these numbers.

These numbers are for beginner / intermediate lifters based on research done by Lyle McDonald via this article. Again, please read this article before futzing with numbers. The efficiency of your bulk is going to be determined by your caloric intake, your macronutrient balance, your weight training experience & routine, and genetics.

If you are a beginner, you can expect to put on more muscle mass for 8-12 months, then your numbers will knock down to lower levels. To figure out if you are considered a beginner, click here and put in your current numbers.

I have to warn against over-estimating weight gain and under-estimating fat gain. Plug in the numbers from Lyle's article, then track your progress with a spreadsheet, a scale, and calipers. After a few months you'll figure out your natural proclivities and can adjust your expectations.

It will take you around 66 weeks to reach your goal.

Lean mass to goal Fat to goal Bulking weeks to goal Cutting weeks to goal
12.45 lbs / kgs -9.25 lbs / kgs 42 weeks 12 weeks
You are already swole! You don't have to gain any more muscle mass, so this is calculating how long of a cut you need to achieve your goals You are already below the fat needed for your goal. This is calculating how long you need to bulk to reach your goals Note that these represent TOTAL bulking & cutting weeks. Split up your bulk / cut cycles however you like.

Common Questions

How does this calculation work?
It first calculates how much muscle you need to gain and how much fat you need to lose to get to your ideal physique. Then, it's just a matter of solving a system of equations:
And it solves for x (bulk weeks) and y (cut weeks). It's not perfect as it assumes that muscle/fat gain/loss are linear, but over a long period of time I think that assumption is fair.

Who are you some kind of trainer?
Not even close! I'm actually in the middle of my journey now. I'm just someone who had unrealistic expectations when starting weight lifting, got depressed, was certain I had low T, got mad / more depressed when I didn't get approved for TRT, and almost gave up completely.

I did a ton of reading and found out that nothing was wrong with me, but rather my expectations were skewed by what I was reading on forums and seeing in the movies. I created a spreadsheet to help track my progress and I wanted to share my findings with you.

So do I bulk first or cut first?
Lyle McDonald suggests cutting down to 10-15% BF before bulking up. However, if you aren't very strong, you may find that this puts you at a really low overall weight, so use your best judgment and figure out what aligns with your short term goals and motivations.

I have further questions / comments!
Drop me a note on twitter!