When I finally broke down and decided to get in shape, I was almost 30.
I hated almost all forms of cardio, but the idea of lifting weights and building muscle appealed to me and finally got me moving.
There are plenty of pros and cons of lifting weights, but I found actually seeing results in the mirror early on was the thing that kept me going.
If you’re thinking about getting started on a strength program, you might be wondering:
What kinds of results can you expect to see after lifting weights for a month?
After 30 days of consistent weight lifting workouts (following a proper program), expect your strength to explode. You’ll never see faster gains in your life than in your first month or so of lifting — you might double or triple the amount of weight you can lift on big compound movements like the squat or bench press in that time.
However, don’t expect to pack on slabs of muscle. While you may add some, most of your strength improvements will come from your body rapidly learning how to recruit muscle fibers and execute the lifts. Similarly, don’t expect to lose weight from lifting unless you’re willing to make the right changes to your diet.
I spoke with a handful of strength coaches and personal trainers about what you should expect if you commit to regular weight lifting workouts for 30 days, so let’s take a closer look.
Strength & Muscle
If you’re thinking about (or just getting started) in strength training, chances are you dream of one day getting jacked.
So how much progress can you make toward your ideal physique in one month?
“In 30 days you will not be putting on much muscle if any in terms of weight,” writes trainer Alysa Boan.
“Your muscles will absolutely get stronger, potentially more defined, and slightly larger (more toned), but on the scale fat versus muscle will most likely not show a major change.”
Trainer Tim Bigknee agrees.
“There will not be a huge change in weight loss or muscle gain in one month, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone,” he writes.
“It’s a slow process but the benefits are worth it,” adding that most people can expect to gain around 1-2 pounds of muscle, max, per month.
Strength coach Steve Hoyles says you should expect your strength to blow up on key lifts if you’re training properly.
“In some cases, it’s not surprising to double your strength on particular lifts, especially if you’ve never lifted before,” he writes.
On most big lifts, you’ll want to start with just the 45-pound barbell if you’re a total beginner. By the end of the month, you could be moving over 100 pounds on your big compounds lifts.
Trainer Tyler Curtis warns that, while the newbie gains come fast and furious early on, don’t expect to half-ass it and get great results.
“Much of the improvement you will see in your first month, first 3 months, first year will be predicated on how well they are eating, sleeping, and overall recovery,” he says. “It’s imperative that lifters capitalize on this rapid growth period by focusing on the technique of each lift for better performance in the long run.”
Why do beginners experience such amazing gains?
It mostly comes down to your completely untrained body developing better coordination, learning proper form, and recruiting muscle fiber more efficiently to execute the lifts.
“In the first 10-14 days, lifters will get a nice spike in neuromuscular efficiency,” writes Sean Light, former strength coach for the LA Lakers.
“Meaning, the brain will be sending more help and prioritizing those pathways more than usual. This will lead to a quick spike in the beginning. After that, creating new strength in a muscle takes six weeks. So be patient and consistent. Don’t expect those big gains to continue forever.”
Strength training/weight lifting is a fantastic (and underrated) way to get lean and toned.
While strength workouts don’t burn as many calories as pure cardio, they encourage your body to maintain or build muscle while you lose fat, and they rapidly improve your metabolism.
(Also read: Running results after one month explained)
But can you get shredded within your first month of lifting?
It all comes down to how you’re eating.
“If you are eating a healthy whole food diet and ADDING weight lifting to your routine, you should expect to lose anywhere from 4-8lbs,” writes Boan, emphasizing that you’ll need to cut calories to meet your weight loss goal (lifting alone isn’t enough).
Strength coach Sarah Ray from Volt Athletics says new lifters will experience a rapid boost in metabolism, which leads to better calorie burn at rest and can help you lose weight.
However… “Sometimes (the scale) will move up. This often discourages new lifters, but I promise you are NOT bulking up!” she adds.
“Resistance training is designed to put stress on muscle fibers that causes small micro-tears. Your body responds to these micro-tears and the inflammation that comes along with it by initiating a healing response (rebuilding those micro-tears to form more muscle!) and retaining fluids to help alleviate the inflammation.”
Bottom line, lifting weights on its own won’t make you lose weight. In fact, the scale could move up as you add muscle and retain more fluids.
Create a daily calorie deficit and eat enough protein and it’s possible to lose fat AND get stronger in your first month.
(More on that here: How much weight should I lose?)
Mind, Mood & More
The primary benefits of lifting weights are:
- Building muscle
- Losing fat
But the perks don’t end there.
What other positive results can you expect in your first 30 days?
“I always encourage clients to focus on how they feel such as energy level, decrease in sugar cravings and crashes, improved sleep quality, and lower stress/anxiety. All of these results are very possbile after one month of consistent weight lifting, your body rewards you for taking care of it and exercising regularly,” writes Boan.
“(My clients) will often have more confidence at work and in social situations along with a decrease in stress and anxiety,” adds Bigknee.
While you shouldn’t expect your muscles to explode, you might end up looking bigger (in a good way) after your first month due to improved posture, says Sarah Ray.
“By focusing on range of motion when lifting weights, we can undo a lot of the “bad” positions we get stuck in all day (looking at you, desk jockeys leaned forward over your computer with your head dropped forward). Additionally, by strengthening the large muscle groups that contribute to spinal alignment (chest, core, back, hips), you’ll be able to sit and stand taller and prouder.”
Tyler Curtis says you should expect to be in a better mood, have more energy, and be more productive throughout the day.
“We’ve all probably heard of the ‘runners high.’ A feeling of euphoria that comes from our brains in the form of endorphins that act similarly to opioids. Endorphins are dumped into the bloodstream then bind to neurotransmitters and act to lift our spirits.”
You’ll also be pretty happy when you spot your burgeoning little muscles in the mirror.
“I still remember the thrill as a teenager when I raised my arm in the shower to wash under it and noticed that my arm had a curve to it,” writes powerlifting champion Robert Herbst.
This all sounds great, but don’t forget to take care of yourself with proper rest, recovery, and nutrition says Sean Light.
“Breaking down and building new muscle requires a lot of energy so make sure to feed you body with a lot of quality nutrients.”
So that about covers your first month of weight lifting!
If you do things right, your strength will improve rapidly. Even if you start by squatting just the 45-pound barbell, you’ll probably be able to add 5-10 pounds per workout your first month and beyond.
You’ll feel amazing from the endorphins and from your fast strength progress, so exect to be in a pretty good mood!
However, don’t expect bulging quads and rippling biceps that soon. Your best case scenario is adding 1-2 pounds of muscle — most of your strength gains are as a result of better neuromuscular connections.
Of course, if you dial in your diet, you could drop anywhere from 4-10 pounds of pure fat WHILE building strength — the perfect scenario for most people.
What did I miss? What do you remember about your first month of lifting, if you’re experienced?
And if you’re looking to begin a strength program but don’t know where to start, I personally got started with the basic routine in the Nerd Fitness beginner’s guide right here.