I see a lot of people asking this question. How long does it take to see results from lifting weights? That depends of course on your current situation. Are you underweight or overweight?
For me, I was underweight. I worked out a ton, but didn’t see ANY results. Why? It turns out, I just wasn’t eating enough.
I have a friend who was overweight. He worked out all of the time, but he didn’t see any results. Why? Because he was eating too much.
This tells us that it isn’t all about lifting weights. I worked out for 7 years before I realized that lifting weights is just a part of the process.
If you are following the process outlined in this article, you will see results in no time.
Step 1 – Understanding expectations of weight lifting results
From what I see on a regular basis, most people have trouble with setting the proper expectations when it comes to results. This ultimately leads to frustration when they don’t see the rapid results that they were hoping for.
When you ask the question, how long does it take to see results from lifting weights, we first must understand the numbers behind our expectations.
If you are trying to build muscle, consider that the maximum amount of muscle you should be able to gain at a consistent and healthy rate is about a half pound per week. This means that you should theoretically be able to gain 26 pounds of muscle in one year.
I can personally confirm that this is accurate, because when I was eating right and working out, I gained over 20 pounds of muscle in 1 year. Not quite the maximum of 26 pounds, but I was and am still very happy about my results.
If you are trying to lose fat, you can do it at a more rapid pace of 2-3 pounds per week. Meaning that losing over 100 pounds in a year is not out of the question. All you have to do is eat right, which we will cover in the next section.
We can now understand that if you are trying to build muscle, you know that you should be able to put on at least 20 pounds in a year. If you are trying to lose weight, it is possible to lose over 100 pounds in a year.
Of course, these all depend on your starting weight and how far overweight you actually are.
Step 2 – Making sure your caloric intake is working for you
You now understand your expectations from lifting weights. But, we can lift all we want. And if we don’t dial in our caloric intake, we won’t see any results. Remember how I told you that I worked out for 7 years without any results?
Well, that is because I was not letting my caloric intake work for me.
If you are trying to build muscle, you absolutely need to be at a caloric surplus. If you are trying to lose weight, you have no choice but to be at a caloric deficit.
How do you know if you are at a caloric surplus or deficit? You first must learn how to calculate your maintenance calories. Just think about this. A deficit is anything under your maintenance calories. And a surplus is anything over your maintenance calories.
So, if you figure out that your maintenance calorie goal per day is 2,500, you will want to decide what is best for you. Do you want to lose fat, or gain muscle?
Since we know that we cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit, we have to eat at a caloric surplus. I always recommend a starting goal of 500 calories per day over maintenance. So in our case, if our per day maintenance calorie goal is 2,500, then our target should be 3,000 calories per day.
It is exactly the opposite if you are trying to lose weight. A caloric deficit of 500 calories under maintenance would be 2,000 calories per day.
Every single person has a different maintenance calorie number, so don’t skip out on the calculations. Also, download a free app like MyFitnessPal to make sure you are counting every calorie you ingest.
Step 3 – Lifting weights enough to see results
Are we lifting weights enough to see results? Or maybe we should ask, are we lifting weights too much to see results? These are both questions that might follow our original question of how long does it take to see results from lifting weights.
The truth is, you only need to lift weights 3-4 days per week as long as you are dialing in your nutrition.
And yes, it is very possible to overtrain. Should you workout everyday to gain muscle? No way! You aren’t giving yourself enough time for your muscles to recover, and you end up hitting them over and over again.
According to WebMd, overtraining can be detrimental to your muscle building process. Overtraining increases your chances of getting sick. You could end up feeling ill and have your bodily functions interrupted.
There is no need to worry about overtraining if you are not working out every single day for hours on end.
In fact, in my first year of building muscle while eating at a caloric surplus, I only lifted weights 3 times per week. I was so sick of the weak workout plans that didn’t produce results. I ended up creating my own workout plan called 3 Day Overload.
If you are interested in that exact workout plan, go ahead and download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). We also have FREE workout plans that will get you started on your journey.
The whole point here is that you should absolutely stick to a routine. Some people think that if they workout everyday, results will come quicker. That is never the case.
Step 4 – Being consistent to see results from lifting weights
Being consistent isn’t just about showing up to the gym 3-4 days per week. Consistency also means that you need to have your nutrition dialed in. Remember, you cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit.
On the other side of the token, you cannot lose belly fat while in a caloric surplus. These statements seem like common knowledge to me, but I am shocked when I see how puzzled people are when I tell them these facts.
Now, you need to find out what your goals are and stick to that. If your goal is to lose weight, then you should eat at a caloric deficit AND lift weights 3-4 days per week.
If your goal is to gain muscle, then you should eat at a caloric surplus AND lift weights 3-4 days per week.
The thing to be sure of here is to choose one track, and stick to it for many months. If you don’t see results, you are probably cheating on one of these steps.
Be careful of cheat days. When you are trying to lose weight, one blowout cheat day can really ruin your results. It is much less important when you are gaining muscle, because the goal is to be in a caloric surplus.
Really what I am trying to illustrate here is that your daily average caloric intake should be either a caloric surplus or deficit from your maintenance calorie goal.
Main Point: How long does it take to see results from lifting weights?
I understand that was a lot to take in. My goal with these blog posts is to prepare you for what you can expect when you dedicate yourself to changing your body. There are too many people and companies out there that want to sell you a quick fix.
I am here to tell you that there are no quick fixes to a great body. It is going to take you time and preparation in order to get where you want to go. But don’t worry, that is great because it is going to change your mindset and confidence for the better.
So let’s get back to our question. How long does it take to see results from lifting weights? Assuming that you are eating right and working out consistently, 3 months is a good benchmark.
After working out for 3 months, you should see enough results to keep moving forward. But if you commit yourself to a year of this type of consistency, your results will be life changing.
Just think of how your life would be with 26 pounds of extra muscles. Or maybe 100+ pounds less fat than you used to have. This is all 100% possible with just a few principles.
I urge you to buck the notion that there are shortcuts to your goals. There aren’t any. Hard work only is going to get you there. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will hit your goals.