How Soon Can I See Results from Weightlifting?

You can get some weightlifting results right away, and others in just a few days. That's because weightlifting affects your body in two ways — immediate and delayed. Understanding these two effects will help you reap the many benefits of resistance exercise.

You can see some results right away from lifting weights. (Image: Mireya Acierto/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

Tip

Resistance exercises like weightlifting have an immediate effect on your muscle protein synthesis, according to June 2015 paper in Sports Medicine. You will experience weightlifting results in a few hours, but the size of these increases depends on your current level of fitness. Interestingly, less fit individuals show larger changes.

Know the Immediate Effects

Weightlifting has many immediate effects. For example, the authors of a February 2017 article in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology showed that a single bout of resistance exercise improved body perception in 42 trained athletes.

Many of the men tested felt more muscular and less fat after exercising. These effects disappeared within a day, but the researchers believe that these perceived benefits could make it more likely for people to work out again.

Weightlifting also improves your mood. In fact, the writers of a November 2015 report in the Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry showed that resistance exercise can help older adults fight depression. Depressed people often show a lack of motivation, so fighting depression should increase motivation as well.

Thus, you can use the immediate effects of weightlifting to overcome the barriers to exercise you will likely face as your workout routine progresses over the years. These barriers include not liking exercise, according to an article from the Ridgeview Medical Center.

Having a sense of accomplishment — like feeling more muscular and less fat — after exercising will help motivate you to stick to your exercise plan.

Know the Delayed Effects

Many people want the delayed effects of weightlifting like gaining muscle mass. The authors of a December 2012 paper in Interventional Medicine and Applied Science looked at the timeline for hypertrophy in seven men.

Six months of bench presses increased the pectoralis major muscle size within one week, it increased the triceps brachii muscle size within five weeks, and it had no effect on the biceps brachii muscle size.

However, these delayed effects gradually taper off. The writers of an April 2013 article in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested 14 untrained men for six months and showed that most gains happen within the first six weeks of training. Trainers refer to this phenomenon as an adaptation effect. That is, your muscles will gradually get stronger in response to repeated challenges.

Fortunately, you can easily overcome the adaptation effect, which eventually happens during an extended period of weight lifting. The writer of an August 2015 article from the National Academy of Sports Medicine shows you how to overcome adaptation and build muscle.

The author emphasizes keeping your workout challenging and fresh. They recommend using heavy weights and doing low repetitions. Most importantly, they suggest gradually adding weight and consistently doing your workout.

Keep Your Weightlifting Results

Bedridden patients often show atrophy within a week, according to an October 2016 report in Diabetes. These researchers tested 10 healthy men and showed that bed rest also triggered symptoms of diabetes.

That's why it's important to consistently do your workout. The authors of a November 2016 review in Sports Medicine describe a dose-response relationship between weight lifting and muscle building. Working out three times a week causes more hypertrophy than working out once a week.

Yet, at some point, the dose-response curve levels off. For example, lifting weights every day can cause overtraining. Symptoms of overtraining include increased injury risk and decreased performance, according to a June 2017 article from the American Council on Exercise.

The writer of an August 2016 paper in Sports Medicine describes how to avoid overtraining and maximize hypertrophy. The author recommends putting six- to 24-hour gaps between workouts. They also suggest adding aerobic training — especially cycling — to your weight lifting routine.

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