Newbie gains are said to be the rapid development of muscle strength and mass in people who are new to strength training. It can be observed in some but not in others. So, is it a real thing or is the muscle growth a result of something else?
Thinking about it logically, it makes sense that the body would respond to a new workout regimen by packing on the gains to help you power through the new physical demands. For our readers however, we don’t rely purely on what seems to make sense, so we dug into the research to see what we could find.
Let’s Look at the Facts
Records from various studies show that there are many biological variables that influence the rate of muscle growth. There is enough of a difference that people are classified as low responders or high responders based on their individual ability to initiate muscle growth.1 This implies that newbie gains can be very dramatic for some and hardly noticeable for others, and that genetics are a major deciding factor.
This doesn’t mean that, if you’re at a genetic disadvantage, you’ll never build muscle. It will just be a slower, more painstaking process. The idea behind successful Newbie Gains is that your body has the building blocks to increase muscle but has not needed to use them. When you start a consistent training program, you activate those building blocks which leads to fast muscle gain. Research indicates that people who experience rapid muscle growth likely have more of these building blocks or are even able to multiply them during exercise.1
Another factor is your nutrition. Your calorie intake can either feed your muscles and help them grow or deprive your muscles from what they need and hold their growth at a plateau. Essentially, if your goal is to increase muscle size, your nutrition will look different than that of someone who is exercising to lose weight. You would need to consume more calories than you burn (as opposed to aiming for a calorie deficit) in order to promote muscle growth.2
Men vs Women
Another note to consider is the difference between men and women. This study shows that after training, women had an advantage in strength gained, while men had a slight advantage in the gain of overall muscle size. Both adhered to 12 weeks of progressive resistance training, yet the results they saw were noticeably different.
To summarize, some of the primary factors that impact rapid muscle growth include your genetics, your nutrition, and to an extent, your gender.
How to Make the Most of Your Early Training Period
Now that we know some of the limitations, let’s peer into what you can do to make the most of your early strength training period.
Keep it Consistent
Your body needs to have a reason to build muscle. If you train several days a week, your body is more likely to feel the need to build muscle because it’s consistently being asked to perform at a certain level. If you’re more sporadic about your workouts, you might still build muscle but much more slowly.
Don’t Hit the Gym Too Hard
You don’t need to push your muscles to the breaking point (yet). When your body is new to exercise, pretty much everything is benefitting and strengthening your muscles. Once body weight exercises become easy, step it up to dumbbells. Once dumbbells get too easy, take on barbells. You don’t want your body spending all of its energy on repairing your muscles when it could be spending that energy on building them up. In other words, challenge yourself to give your muscles the incentive to grow but don’t overdo it.
Our Registered Dietitian, Debbie James, has shared her wisdom on the right nutrition for bulking. Read her advice to learn what you can do to feed your body what it needs while you’re building muscle.
Now that you know what advantages you have as a beginner, it’s time to head to the gym! Let us know in the comments what progress you’re making in your strength training. For more interesting reads, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog!
- Roberts, Michael D, et al. “Physiological Differences Between Low Versus High Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophic Responders to Resistance Exercise Training: Current Perspectives and Future Research Directions.” Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers Media S.A., 4 July 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30022953.
- Stoppani, Jim, and Joe Wuebben. “10 Nutrition Rules to Follow If You Want to Build Muscle.” Muscle & Fitness, www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/10-nutrition-rules-follow-if-you-want-build-muscle.