How long does it take to get in shape?
Megan Anderson, an exercise scientist from University of Winsconsin, put the outlandish statements of Bowflex and Body-for-Life to the test. This is how it went:
- 25 sedentary volunteers
- A six week rigorous exercise program modeled on popular claims of companies such as Bowflex and Body-for-Life
- A panel consisting of 6 judges comparing differences of physical attractiveness before and after the program.
- 0 percent of the subjects managed instant washboard abs
- Six judges could not detect any aesthetic differences in participants before and after the program
So what does happen in the early stages (week 1-9) of strength training?
"Neural activation" is the process of your brain learning how to recruit more muscle fibers and getting them to contract at the same time. This activation allows people to become stronger and the benefits of this can start to happen over a few resistance training sessions.
So how long does it take for your muscles to get noticeably bigger?
Researchers using sophisticated lab equipment can usually detect changes in fat and muscle composition after nine weeks of training. The biggest increases in strength happens after two months and the biggest boost in muscle size after three months, according to a published University of Tokyo study in 2010 (Kubo,2010). This study had the participants training vigorously four times a week. This means the average person should look to train for six months before looking for significant sculpting of the body- although positive changes at a cellular level have been improving since day one.
How long does it take to lose weight?
Your workout routine, diet, genetics, and health history all influence the speed in which you lose weight. Aerobic exercise, like strength training, gives major performance and health benefits long before you notice them aesthetically. At the cellular level, aerobic exercise increases your number of mitochondria, which is commonly known as the “nuclear powerhouse” of the cell. Using oxygen, mitochondria produces energy for the entire cell. Increased mitochondria allows people to run longer and faster (and allows muscles to burn more fat while doing it). Studies have found that you can improve your mitochondria levels by 50 to 100 percent after six weeks of training.
How long does it take to gain health benefits?
The best news, health benefits start immediately following an aerobic workout session. Muscles start consuming more glucose than usual for 48 hours after a workout. This brings down blood sugar levels. After a few more workouts, insulin sensitivity will begin to improve which offers additional control of blood sugar.
What to take from this article:
- 'Neural activation' improves your speed, strength, and power. For most people this improves over the first 9 weeks of training.
- Expect to be training for 6 months before seeing significant changes in muscle size (if you are training for muscle mass).
- Weight change depends on a lot of factors such as diet, genetics, and workout program.
- Health benefits start happening immediately after you exercise.
Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D., “Which comes first, cardio or weights?,” 2011, 6-9
Megan Anderson et al., “Training vs. body image: Does training improve subjective appearance ratings?” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004, 18(2), 255-259.
Vernon Coffey and John Hawley, “The molecular bases of training adaption,” Sports Medicine, 2007, 37(9), 737-763.
J.A Hawley and S.J. Lessard “Exercise training-induced improvements in insulin action,” Acta Physiologica, 2008, 192, 127-135.
Keitaro Kubo et al., “Time course of changes in muscle and tendon properties during strength training and detraining,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010, 24(2), 322-331.
Owner of Bieman Fitness and Personal Trainer