Newbie Gains: Lifting Concept Explained

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
April 8, 2022

The concept of newbie gains is synonymous with practically every novice training program or beginner gym goer, speaking volumes about how commonplace such a phenomenon is and the great benefits it provides to said novice individuals.

Despite how widely known newbie gains are, however, few individuals actually have a firm grasp on its definition and what it exactly is at a biological and biochemical level, which is what this article will hopefully elucidate.

The term newbie gains, in simpler terms, refers to an explosive growth period at the start of an individual’s training career wherein they may make the fastest natural muscular hypertrophic growth and strength conditioning naturally.

What are Newbie Gains Exactly?

beginner weightlifter

Newbie gains occur within the first two to three months of the exerciser’s training, depending on their own genetic potential, muscle mass at the beginning of their career, and particular training methods and diet - all of which may accelerate the development of the newbie gains phase of their growth.

The sustained rate of accelerated muscle growth will not remain at the same speed, however, as newbie gains may even last for as long as a year but at a significantly slower pace, though nonetheless at a rate far faster than individuals of a more advanced growth phase.

This may come with its own set of drawbacks and other physiological changes within the novice lifter’s body, the majority of which are fortunately of a positive effect and theorized by researchers to be a simple bodily response to new and intense physical stimulus, otherwise known as an extrinsic biological adaptation.

Who can Get Newbie Gains?

As was previously touched upon earlier in this article, newbie gains primarily occur in individuals of untrained physical status or those whom have returned to resistance training exercises after a significantly long period of muscle and strength degradation, such as in the case of athletes returning to their sport after a long injury rehabilitation period.

The exact rate and raw amount of muscle mass gained during the period of newbie gains will be variable between individuals and training programs, and as such while it is quite well established who exactly can receive the benefits of newbie gains, the specificity of such gains and its underlying factors are not as well understood.

How Much Is Gained from Newbie Gains?

Though the concept of newbie gains occurs in practically all individuals going into structured resistance training for the first time, the exact amount of raw muscle mass and strength conditioning accrued as a direct benefit of newbie gains is far too variable to accurately predict.

However, generally, individuals with no prior muscle mass development will find anywhere from 15 to 25 pounds of muscle mass being added to their frame over the course of their newbie gains phase, with women clocking in at a somewhat lower volume of muscle mass at around 11 pounds on average.

Other factors that will affect the maximum amount an individual can squeeze out of their newbie gains potential are their unique genetics, age, previous athletic training experience and even certain health conditions that affect anabolism or the endocrine system.

The rate of how quickly these muscle mass gains from the newbie gains phase will develop will also depend on a multitude of factors, with diet and training being the primary motivator behind this development.

How are Newbie Gains Achieved?

Newbie gains are generally achieved in much the same manner as any other form of muscle hypertrophy inducing training routine, with a structured workout program targeting every muscle group in the body within an adequate parameter of intensity resulting in a growth and repair response - of which is otherwise known as muscle growth.

This, of course, is combined with other factors that are direct components of a proper training routine, such as adequate sleep and regulated macronutrient intake that focuses on protein intake and a (controlled) caloric surplus over the exerciser’s daily energy expenditure amount.

However, not all training programs utilize a rate of progression or workout structure suitable for novice exercisers, either because of unnecessarily complex program mechanics such as undulating periodization or a progressive overload scheme in a weekly or monthly basis.

Ideally, individuals wishing to take full advantage of their newbie gains should utilize a program specifically created for novice lifters - preferably one with exercises of low complexity that are nonetheless capable of being progressed at a session by session basis, of which is the ideal rate of progression for the majority of novice exercisers.

Why do Newbie Gains Occur? (According to Science)

The concept of newbie gains, or of muscular hypertrophy itself, is not entirely understood by clinical research, though what little is known points to the newbie gains response being that of a physiological response associated with stimuli that has not been adapted to.

This is also applicable to individuals that have taken an extended break from athletic endeavors - or those who have as of yet begun training in a manner conducive to muscular hypertrophy, such as in the case of an exerciser used to low intensity exercises suddenly switching to powerlifting style compound movements.

Newbie gains applies to practically every positive benefit of resistance training, from muscle fiber expansion and myonuclei population to central nervous system muscle contractility, all of which are major components of muscle “gains” and generally seen as something to strive for in resistance exercise training.

How to Take Advantage of Newbie Gains

Though the total muscle mass and raw strength gained from newbie gains is generally kept within a certain range, the exact length of time an exerciser will take to reach this upper limit will depend on many factors directly related to their training and recovery habits.

If performed in the appropriate manner and if no other external conditions are directly interfering with the exerciser’s development of newbie gains, the rate at which they should pack on mass and increase their physical strength can be greatly accelerated - resulting in dramatic changes in bodily composition and physical capabilities.

Proper Training Stimulus

The first and most often focused on aspect of maximizing an exerciser’s newbie gains development is that of their particular type and method of training.

Generally, training programs that make use of low complexity but high intensity free weight compound exercises such as the barbell bench press and the barbell squat are the best possible choice for novice level exercisers - though the usage of proper form and an appropriate amount of weight is vital owing to the exerciser’s lack of experience in free weight compound movements.

The usage of low to moderate intensity isolation movements to make up for any missed or undertrained muscle groups in the training program can also bring great benefit to the exerciser, as the rapid muscular development found in the newbie gains phase can quickly lead to muscular imbalances if not accounted for early in the exerciser’s training.

And though individuals of novice exercise experience can readily take advantage of advanced athletic training methods, it is generally unnecessary as simple progressive overload of the body’s musculature is more than sufficient enough to induce the newbie gains response that they are seeking to maximize.

It should be noted that, even with increasing complexity and exercise intensity, the rate at which newbie gains will be developed by the exerciser will eventually slow down as the body and its subsequent musculature begins to adapt to the training stimulus in an entirely unavoidable and normal fashion.

Alongside this, if the exerciser has managed to perfect the training stimulus required to take advantage of their newbie gains phase, it will generally be ineffective without other components of their fitness being in check - especially that of proper muscle recovery and dietary intake, all of which are just as vital as the training stimulus itself.

Caloric Intake and Macronutrient Intake

Another major factor related to maximizing the development of an exerciser’s newbie gains is their caloric intake, and the sort of macronutrients that make up that caloric intake, with a particular focus on achieving a caloric surplus being vital for the development of muscle tissue and neurological strength adaptations.

macronutrients

Generally, a caloric surplus of 250-500 calories over the exerciser’s estimated daily energy expenditure should be more than sufficient enough to provide the body with appropriate amounts of energy to maximize its newbie gains.

This, of course, will depend on the particular macronutrient makeup of the exerciser’s diet, with a particular focus on protein macronutirent partitioning being of a similar level of importance as that of a caloric surplus as well.

Rest and Recovery

Stressed on a repetitive basis by practically every qualified athletic coach, proper rest and recovery is possibly the most important component of the novice exerciser maximizing the rate at which they gain muscle mass during their newbie gains growth phase.

This is achieved by achieving a proper length of quality sleep, ensuring that no overtraining is occuring during the exerciser’s training program, as well as any injuries are immediately attended to or entirely prevented in the first place.

Remedial and Preparatory Exercises

Sequentially related to the usage of proper rest and recovery, remedial and preparatory exercises both before and after a bout of exercise can also play a major role in improving the rate at which the exerciser can achieve their newbie gains.

This generally takes the form of performing a simple flexibility routine on a regular basis alongside their usual training routine, as well as the usage of muscle warm-up exercises prior to the workout session itself so as to reduce the incidence of injury and improve muscle contractility.

Coaching, Injury Prevention and Risk Management

Tertiary in importance but nonetheless a characteristic of fitness that may aid in the development of newbie gains for the exerciser, the tutelage of a licensed athletic coach or similar athletic professional can ensure that no training routine arresting injuries are occuring, either due to improper programming of the training routine itself or mistakes the novice exerciser may be making in their exercise form.

This can directly carry over into efforts the novice exerciser themselves can make towards risk management and injury prevention, the majority of which concern the usage of proper form and proper preparatory work prior to a workout session.

Can You Miss Newbie Gains?

Newbie gains are less of a time based phase and more of one based on the training age and raw muscle mass accrued at the start of an exerciser’s career.

As such, though an exerciser failing to properly train or one unable to take advantage of their newbie gains will generally not see the full effect of their newbie gains themselves, it does not mean that they have missed out on such accelerated muscular hypertrophy.

Instead, all that is required of the exerciser is to rectify whatever deficit in their training that is causing such a delay in the development of their newbie gains - of which should have the immediate physiological response of accelerated muscular hypertrophy and strength adaptation that they are seeking.

Are There Drawbacks to Newbie Gains?

Newbie gains are generally seen as a positive in nearly every aspect, with the sole drawback involved in this particular phase of resistance training being the ability of the skeletal muscle tissue to out-compete the connective tissues that it depends on, occasionally resulting in injuries if the exerciser progresses too quickly for their joints to keep up.

This, of course, is easily remedied by simply utilizing a structured and athletic coach certified training program, and is otherwise not usually an issue for the majority of individuals training with a reasonable amount of resistance and at an ordinary pace.

References

1. Atherton PJ, Smith K. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. J Physiol. 2012 Mar 1;590(5):1049-57. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.225003. Epub 2012 Jan 30. PMID: 22289911; PMCID: PMC3381813.

2. Churchward-Venne, T.A., Burd, N.A. & Phillips, S.M. Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: strategies to enhance anabolism. Nutr Metab (Lond) 9, 40 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-9-40

3. Aasa U, Svartholm I, Andersson F, et alInjuries among weightlifters and powerlifters: a systematic reviewBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:211-219.

4. Damas F, Phillips SM, Libardi CA, Vechin FC, Lixandrão ME, Jannig PR, Costa LA, Bacurau AV, Snijders T, Parise G, Tricoli V, Roschel H, Ugrinowitsch C. Resistance training-induced changes in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis are related to hypertrophy only after attenuation of muscle damage. J Physiol. 2016 Sep 15;594(18):5209-22. doi: 10.1113/JP272472. Epub 2016 Jul 9. PMID: 27219125; PMCID: PMC5023708.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2022