New to lifting weights? Here’s how to maximise beginner gains

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The start of your weight lifting journey is a time to be cherished for one very simple reason: muscle gain is not linear. During your first year of resistance training, muscle growth comes easily while fat simultaneously seems to slide right off. You’ll notice changes in the mirror within weeks and in a couple of months people will start commenting on your progress. It’s a fantastic feeling.

Unfortunately, the body is not capable of naturally sustaining this type of progress forever. Muscle growth becomes exponentially slower in the years that follow, with some experts estimating that your potential rate of muscle gain drops by half for every year of training. Assuming your program and nutrition are on point, your progress might look something like this:

  • Year 1: Gain 20-25 pounds of muscle
  • Year 2: Gain 10-12 pounds of muscle
  • Year 3: Gain 3-6 pounds of muscle
  • Year 4: Gain 2-3 pounds of muscle

As you can see, your ability to build muscle is by far at its peak when you first starting lifting weights. With this in mind, it’s vital that you know how to make the most of this time. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose a proven program and stick to it

The world of weightlifting is an exciting place for newcomers, and chances are you’ll be eager to jump right in and start throwing barbells around. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, you can almost always get better results by using an established and effective beginner program that focuses on high frequency training and compound lifts. For best results, consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer, who will be able to help you create a program specifically tailored to your unique goals and physical abilities.

2. Dial in your nutrition

Counting calories and macronutrients can be overwhelming at the start and - unless your goals are centred around bodybuilding - isn’t always necessary. Nevertheless, it’s still important to be mindful of your nutrition in order to maximise your gains. This might involve upping your protein intake (to about 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight) to facilitate muscle growth, incorporating more whole foods into your diet, reducing sugar consumption, taking health supplements and more. Remember, you can’t out-train a bad diet.

3. Train your body equally

Everybody wants their beach muscles to look great, but don’t fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on building your chest and biceps. Doing so not only leaves your body looking disproportionate, it can also result in severe muscular imbalances that may lead to injury further down the track. Like a chain, your body is only as strong as its weakest link. Using a proven program (remember step 1?), work on training your body parts equally from the outset to create a powerful, lean and balanced physique.

4. Be patient

While muscle gains come quickly during the initial training phase, they don’t happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t instantly see changes in your body. Be patient, stay consistent with your training and nutrition, and get in the mindset that working out is now an inextricable part of your day to day lifestyle. Over time and with consistency, you will see your body start to evolve.

patty lee