We don't want to waste our time in the gym. We've decided we want to build some muscle and we want to build that muscle as fast as we can. We need to be realistic about how much muscle we can build but 5 to 10 lbs a year is possible, naturally.
The best way to know if we are gaining solid muscle is to track our strength gains. The stronger we get the more muscle we are going to grow. From the training side basic compound lifts work best for building muscle. And the biggest secret to consistently building muscle is learning how to push passed training plateaus.