• How long to see results from lifting?

    If you're newer to lifting, or perhaps just newer to lifting heavy – at some point you'll wanna know just how long to see results from lifting.

    Back in the day, it was easier to avoid the message that “lifting heavy changes your body, ” but lately it seems that most fit pros and enthusiasts have finally hopped on board.  Whether you've decided to test the waters with Crossfit, finally hired a trainer, or simply do some workouts that you find on the internet: you're lifting heavy, you're loving it…and you're not seeing these “miraculous” changes that everyone seems to be promoting.  What.is.the.deal?

    Here's eight reasons why you may not be seeing results yet:

    You still aren't lifting heavy enough

    I'm sure this is insulting to most people reading this.  I mean, of course you're lifting heavy enough.  It's a heavy weight, and you feel the burn when you lift it.  Every body part requires a different weight.  So if you're using only one or two weight sizes, for your entire body – then it's not possibly heavy enough for every area.  A dumbbell of 10-12 pounds may be excruciatingly heavy for your smaller muscle groups like rear delts, but most ladies can lift much more than that for a back, chest, or leg movement.  If you're able to go beyond 12 reps on most exercises, it's probably time to increase your weight.

    Don't think that you hard-core-iron-heads are exempt from this one.  Sometimes, vets, we can be just as likely to get comfy with a certain weight.  Are you're cranking out 25lb dumbbell rows,  just because it seems heavy enough for your 10-12 rep range? Or because it's the highest weight available? Could you possibly go up to 30 or 35? Who cares if you can only make it to six to eight reps before you fail? Accept the challenge — if you can do it with good form — and work your way back up to 10 reps.  If you can't make such a huge jump, add some weighted gloves and increase by only two to four pounds at a time rather than the entire five.  Either way, find your max for that number of reps, and then push past it.  The only way to continue to see changes is to continually challenge yourself.

    You're basing your “results” judgement on a scale number

    We'll often hear from ladies who are lifting and aiming for fat loss say things like “I must be doing something wrong…I should have lost ‘X' pounds/dress sizes by now”

    scale picUmmm…Says who??? ;)  How do we determine how many sizes we should be up or down within a year?  I pray not by the same industry standards that tell us to “eat-less-than-you-need-to-support-your-body-in-a-comatose-state” for weight loss?

    Sure…there will always be tweaks that you'll want to make, but if your butt looks freakin amazing – take a moment to accept that, rather than be overly concerned about the number on the scale OR inside of your jeans.

    Too many of us are still being held captive by our scale weight…or some other tracking method that doesn't take into account the type of changes that are happening.  Case in point: my pant size can vary from a size two to TEN in about 60 seconds (yet look just as lean in either size).  How is this possible?  My butt has seriously gotten so high that it ranges from one extreme to the other, based on the rise (and brand) of the jeans.  If your body shape is changing, maybe it's time to switch brand manufacturers.  It sucks, but sometimes must be done.  Trust me, you will see how great you look in clothes that fit.  Every fashion book/expert on the market (that's worth a darn) will tell you to stop giving two hoots about sizes.  This is because no matter how small you are, sizes will vary — per person — in fit.  FIT is everything.

    Reasons why you are not seeing results yet (part 1)_ (3)Confession time: The other day, I went out in frustration over all my older, lower rise jeans that weren't fitting.  Taking my own redundant advice — I bit the bullet and bought the exact same jeans in LARGER sizes to make sure they fit over my butt. Listen…the size was WAY larger…would you know I had FIVE people tell me I need to STOP losing weight when I was wearing those jeans?!  I have gained over 10 lbs (apparently all in the bootay)!! But wearing jeans that FIT ME (note…did not say jeans that “I fit” into to) FIT, baby. Get clothes that fit, forget the rest. By the time you can squeeze into jeans from over a year ago, they're probably outdated anyway :P

    You're retaining water

    Yeah, yeah…we're all tired of this excuse.  But let's face it.  If you're lifting, you're retaining water.  Sometimes LOTS of water.  The more you lift, the more water you'll retain.  If you're doing tons of HIIT, then consider it the cherry on top of your water-retention-sundae.  Until your body gets familiar with the workout, when you start retaining a bit less.  But then you change it again.  And retain more water.  It's an ugly cycle.  But not really.  It is what it is.  Ladies, we really have to get over this whole “water weight” thing.  The more muscle mass you build, the more water you'll begin to retain at all times.  This really isn't such a bad thing, but rather a sign that things are going well…as you'll see here.  But this does mean that you'll have to give those scale dreams a rest, and focus on all the goodness and shifting that's happening with your body.  When it comes to lifting, things will occasionally appear to get worse before they get better.  I just consider it the “labor pains” of muscle delivery — a tad “painful” when it's happening, but most of us wouldn't trade that muscle baby for the world once it arrives. ;)

    Side note: If you're totally convinced/upset/depressed that your pants are getting tighter, perhaps you need to cut down on low rep squatting for a while?  Work your lower rep squatting in in phases, so that you still get the muscle building benefits, but aren't constantly retaining water.  But, if you adore your 5×5 deadlifts or what have you, just accept that you may be retaining some serious water…and invest in jeggings. 

    Reasons why you are not seeing results yet (part 2)You're not doing compound movements

    If you're not seeing major body changes, it could be for lack of major body movements.  If you're hitting the gym and only concentrating on biceps, triceps, and abs, you're putting a major ceiling on your results.  Compound movements are the basis of most effective routines for a reason.  They work in the actual way that your body works, strengthening your joints and tendons (in addition to your muscles), working multiple muscle groups at once, and burning more calories overall than an isolated move hitting the same muscle group would.  Obviously, there's a time and place for everything, including isolated moves, but generally the newer you are, the more compound moves should be in your routine for best results.

    You're not hitting the entire body enough times per week

    As with compound moves, newbies should be doing more routines that involve the entire body, rather than just hitting one to two body-parts per week.  The traditional splits that are seen in the bodybuilding community work extremely effectively…for veteran bodybuilders.  If you are still in your first year or two of strength training, you would benefit from mainly full body splits.  Not only do these types of workouts get the heart rate up higher, they also produce faster results.  Generally speaking, the less amount of time you've been lifting, the more often you can work that body-part per week.  A typical newbie routine could consist of up to 3 total body workouts per week, or 2 upper, 2 lower (alternating).  The opposite often holds true for vet lifters who need more rest per part — hitting the body part hard, with higher volume, 1-2xs/week, max is optimal and prevent over-training.

    reasons why you are not seeing resultsYou're comparing your results to someone else's

    Try not to compare yourself to anyone else.  If you feel the need to look around for an ideal body goal to shoot for, make sure that it aligns with YOUR genetics, time, interest, and drive.  Most importantly, note their starting point.  There’s no point in shooting to look like a pro figure competitor, when you don’t have the inclination or desire to put in the time that they do.  There's also no use comparing yourself to someone who has taken over a decade to attain their body, and bashing yourself for not accomplishing similar results in your first year of lifting.  Hint: most women you see in fitness magazines, Instagram, or the internet — with any amount of muscle “tone” — have put in years of serious training and eating (and/or have been photoshopped…but I digress).  Keep it real, and be the best that you can be.  If you have a hard time discerning your best one year progress from someone else's five year progress – then you may need to get up close and personal with your “unfollow” or “unsubscribe” button.  Don't keep images, magazines, or Facebook “friends” around that make you feel that you're accomplishing nothing.   Surround yourself with pictures of yourself, and compare new pictures of yourself to the ones from the beginning of this journey.  (But please don't compare pics of your 40 year old self to pics of your 15 year old self…that's just plain freaky)

    You're not being consistent

    Love it or hate it, without consistency, none of this will ever come together.  If someone lifts, gets frustrated because the results aren't coming fast enough, and then goes back to cardio madness, they will be convinced that nothing is working.  Repeatedly lowering cals in a muscle building phase, or under-cutting rest periods in a strength phase, or only sticking to a workout for a couple of weeks before switching “back” is a recipe for disaster.  Trust the process.  As mentioned previously, most lifters with ultra defined musculature took years, upon years, upon Y.E.A.R.S. to develop.  Getting frustrated because you don't look like a person on a magazine/DVD cover, your personal trainer, or (fill-in-the-blank) WFBB Pro, after completing a 4-12 week program will not make the process go any faster.  In fact, it makes take wayyyy longer.  Think of your journey as a college degree, every time you “change your major” you tack on time to your journey.  If you plan on seeing some impressive results, you've gotta buckle down, make the decision, and stick.with.it.  Constantly doubting, and thinking that things aren't working — creates the exact environment you're expecting.

    You're not being realistic or patient…enough

    It's really hard to put your lifting progress on a timetable.  Especially in the first year or so of lifting when you're getting the most coveted results of any lifter:  newbie gains. losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.  It will never again happen in your lifetime of lifting, but it can't be measured by typical dieting methods of measurement.  You may sit still with your weight or go through “clothes getting tighter” phases for the entire first year, but let me tell you…the progress that is happening is UNreal, and will blow.your.mind.  It's just sad that so many of us come from a dieting standpoint and expect things to be so perfectly linear, that we never see results of all the hard work we put in come to fruition.  We get scared, run back to “old” methods, and then when those methods “appear” to be working – we assume that it's because we went back to the old stuff (cardio/circuits/super restrictive eating/starving), not actually understanding that it's results of lifting that were there all along.  So then we keep doing the old stuff, thinking that it will only get better, only eventually undo the results, and put ourselves back at square one.



    Vets: how long did/has it taken you to see results? Any tips for a newbie or frustrated lifter that's just not seeing the results they want?

    Opt In Image
    Get in-depth info on Strength Training
    Exclusive vids, tips, and free workouts

    Should you just do cardio to lose weight? How heavy is heavy lifting? Do "strength" DVDs count? What if you don't want to lift? Sign up now for in-depth info on strength training and fat loss.  You'll also receive special vids and free workout plans to help you get the most from your time in the gym.

    No worries, we hate spam too!

17 Responsesso far.

  1. Maddie says:

    I’m having this same problem. I’ve been lifting 4 days a week with 20 minutes of cardio, and one day of 45 min cardio for a month now. I’ve been regularly exercising for about a month and a half (I did a couple weeks of powerpump before deciding to take lifting into my own hands). I am frustrated with my progress because 1) I’ve gained 5 pounds with no sign of it going down, 2) I look pudgy still, and 3) my bicep definition I used to have is pretty much gone. I’m 5’4″ and 127 pounds, and for some reason I cannot get muscle definition! What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Maddie
      I know it can be tough to wait for progress to happen. Patience is the hardest thing for all of us to overcome so you are not alone! You have to remember, you have only been lifting for a month. Building muscle can take YEARS to develop, so it’s not something you can expect to change overnight. Patience, persistence and consistency will help you along the way. As for the 5 lbs… when you lift weights, your body will automatically hang on to more water. Its just a given when building muscle. So if you want to continue with the building, you have to let go of the “extra” pounds on the scale because muscle NEEDS water, and you don’t want to lose that.
      Just keep at it.. Make sure your protein levels are up, you are eating your correct calorie level for your activity and you have patience. :)

  2. jennifer says:

    Im so happy I came across this read! Im doing CLX, and its not my first time doing it, this first I did this program was about 4-5 years ago, it worked great and I lost an considerable amount of weight. However, this time around I feel like Im not losing anything! I’m on week 6 Sunday will start week 7. my pants and shorts that fit on me 6/7 weeks ago, no way I cant even! my thighs are bigger, butt and hips. Im getting so discouraged. I wont stop what I’m doing because I know eventually things will work out. I have added more cardio from turbo fire to help, this I did not do the first time. I feel like the weight and or pants wont be lose until the 12 weeks.

    • Im glad the article helped! One thing to keep in mind is Cardio will not help you burn fat. “Cardio for Fun, weights to transform!” Do cardio if you ENJOY it, but don’t add it in because you think it will help shed the fat – it will not. https://eatmore2weighless.com/how-much-cardio-is-too-much/

      • jennifer says:

        Thanks! with that being said what about HIIT workouts? On CLX as I’m sure your aware of you life 3 days, cardio 2 (basically. What if I switched out the cardio days for hiit? or kept those cardio days and added Hiit after my lifting sessions? Turbo fire also, has some intense Hiit workouts in there program.

        • HIIT is a different kind of cardio, a good one because it is intense and short. HIIT is a great “finisher” to a strength workout, or as a cardio session on its own. Steady state cardio activites dont give you any fat burn over time because the body adjusts to what its doing in them and the burn is no longer effective. If you had to choose between the two, HIIT will give you far more bang for your buck when it comes to cardio:)

  3. Thank you so much for this article, I’ve been lifting weights for around 13 weeks now and while I have gained some strength (mostly just in my lower body though) it’s only a few pounds extra I’m able to lift and it’s just a bit disheartening when I go to lift a heavier weight and sometimes physically can not. I feel better knowing though that as I do want this to be a long term thing that patience will be the biggest virtue and to not give up with what I’m doing!

  4. Danielle says:

    I’m so happy to read your post. I’m a super tall girl~ 6 feet and when I started working out I weighed about 175. I’ve been lifting for about 3 months now ( 4 days/week for 49 minutes/day) and while I feel WAY stronger, I’m. It seeing any visual results and it’s driving me crazy. I’m so frustrated. I’ve been measuring my inches to stave off the scale obsession but I’ve only lost about a half inch on my hips. Today I weigh 194! My clothes all fit still, but I’ve gained 20 pounds and haven’t lost inches! I’m going insane. :(

    I’m thinking now it’s either the beginning phase like what you’ve talked about here and I just need to give my body time,… or it’s my diet.

    I don’t eat a. Inch of junk but I’m not really dieting either. I have a protein shake right after I work out (in the morning) … then a sandwich after lunch and usually a bean dish for dinner. Sometimes I snack on fruit (mostly bananas), cottage cheese, tomatoes or pickles… but that’s it. I drink coffee, tea and water.. and seriously that’s my diet.

    What is going on with me? I know my weight gain is muscle but why am I still holding onto my fat?

    Please help :(

    • Tiara says:

      Hi there! I might be able to help. When you gain muscle, it’s almost impossible to lose fat. You probably already know this! You’ll start to lose fat once you restrict your caloric intake and go through a “cutting” phase. This is when you would incorporate cardio along with your lifting and lower your calories. Right now you should be eating more calories than you burn and be in a caloric surplus. Sometimes lifting is cardio in in of itself, but that added cardio will really get rid of the fat to show the muscle you’ve added on in the past 3 months. Look up bulking/cutting and go from there. Good luck and stay with it!

    • Hey Danielle, I wanted to point something out to you in your post.
      “My clothes all fit still, but I’ve gained 20 pounds”

      Ask yourself why are my clothes still fitting, if Im 20 pounds heavier? its because you’ve gained muscle, and your body composition is changing. The fat loss will come in time. The muscles that you are building is what was lost in the past from previous dieting attempts, so they have to be replaced before the body will want to rid itself of fat. Patience is the key for sure. If you track your food intake, really look at your macros and make sure they are where they should be 40c/30f/30p. Make sure your calorie intake is where it needs to be as well.

      As much as we want to, we cannot gain muscle AND lose fat at the same time. Its one OR the other. If you haven’t already please take a look at our Metabolism Reset guide to help guide you along the way.

  5. Tanya says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Just this past week I was thinking how am I able to wear a size 12 up to a size 16, but this helps so much. my legs are slimming down from me doing lower body weight exercises with reps between 10 and 12 vs 6. I am truly enjoying my journey , but I have to admit I prefer weights over cardio anyway.

    • EM2WL says:

      Hi Tanya! It can definitely feel confusing when you look in the mirror and KNOW that you’re getting smaller, but all of your “measures” don’t seem to confirm it. The first time I had pants fitting different, and even shirts fitting tighter (from the awesome lift that “the girls” were getting) I freaked! lol. I knew I looked better, but the clothes made me second guess myself. Then I realized the cause, and had to shift my shopping habits a bit to be able to truly flatter all the new curves I was getting.

      Glad to hear that you are killing the weights and getting those results. Congrats on those slim legs of yours! ;) ~Kiki

  6. Temisha A. says:

    I love this article. Thanks so much for posting. I’ve been one of the more lighter weight users and cardio bunnies (distance runner). I’m trying to find a balance with my wanting muscles and wanting “the bling” after finishing a half or full marathon. I know that I will have to have specific periods where I lift, followed by a period of cardio. This was a real nice and easy read.

    • EM2WL says:

      Hey Temisha!
      It’s definitely a delicate balance sometimes between what we want and what we love. I, for one, LOVEEE bulking, lol. But if I never take the time to cut, I’m not the happiest person when it comes time to shop. So I have to balance things out, or just decide to be content (and BEAST!) at a larger size. So it’s up to you to really decide to a) do what you love, relish in your speed/medals, etc., and truly accept the physique that comes with it, or b) do what it takes to get the physique you want, while sprinkling in what you love for “sanity” or c) a mixture/phases if both… No choice is wrong, it’s all about choosing and accepting the one that aligns with your greatest priority. And being content with/sticking to that decision for the time frame you set for it, while acknowledging both pros and cons of each. You’ve got this, girl!!

      ~Kiki :)

  7. April says:

    I just want to say, Kiki, that this is an awesome post! It never hurts to reiterate what I’ve been learning over the past couple years. Plus, I just love your writing style. I learn and laugh and smile the entire time. Oh, and I love that picture of you and your BFF – and that is such a great way to visually show all of us how very, very different every body is!

Get more "Bang for your Buck"


Feeling overwhelmed and confused about where to spend your time and energy in the gym? Download my FREE "Bang for your Buck" training prioritization cheat sheet and learn what training you should focus on and why

Your Download is on the way! Be sure to check your inbox!