14 Things that Happen When You Start a Beginner Weight-Lifting Workout

Updated: Mar. 14, 2022

Spoiler alert: Reading this may inspire you to try a brand-new fitness routine.

Weight-lifting benefits for beginners

Whether you’re eyeing that set of weights or just considering some new machines at the gym, there are all sorts of benefits to weight lifting. These exercises use resistance to increase muscle mass, tone your muscles, and strengthen bones. National guidelines recommend exercises that strengthen muscles at least twice a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That includes all major muscle groups: abdomen, arms, back, chest, hips, legs, and shoulders. Here’s what happens when you begin lifting weights.

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You’ll have more energy

Even though strength training uses a lot of energy, you’ll actually have more stamina for the rest of the day, says Dani Singer, certified personal trainer and fitness director of Fit2Go Personal Training. “You’re improving your body’s efficiency,” he says. “Everything else becomes easier.” Tasks like walking up the stairs or cooking dinner will suddenly be easier compared to the effort you put in at the gym. Don’t miss these everyday things draining your energy.

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You probably won’t lose weight

You’ll be disappointed if you use the number on the scale to gauge the success of a weight lifting workout. Muscle weighs more than fat, so even though you’ll look leaner, you might not actually lose weight, says Steven McDaniels, certified personal trainer and director of fitness and athletics at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. “You may not see a change in weight, but you will likely see a change in how clothing fits,” he says. He recommends looking to body weight percentage instead of weight if you like to go by the numbers.

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You’ll want to go shopping

When you start seeing your newly toned body, you might want to start showing it off a bit. People often gain confidence when they start lifting weights and start wearing clothes that they were too shy to wear before, says McDaniels. Try these other confidence boosts too.

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You’ll start standing taller

Confidence isn’t the only reason you’ll be holding your head high—your muscles themselves might get you to stand straighter. Because you’re used to working your muscles in the gym, you’ll continue contracting them throughout the day, says Singer. “If you’re doing it right and with correct form, it’s very common to hear you look taller,” he says. “They’re not actively trying to stand straighter. It’s a nice side benefit.” Check out these other ways to improve posture.

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You’ll ease off the painkillers

Sitting in front of a computer all day doesn’t just make your posture look bad. Constant hunching could lead to joint or spinal pain, says Singer. But once you start to fix your posture, you might notice that pain going away. “You’re balancing out all those muscles that are de-conditioned,” he says. “As opposed to taking an Advil and treating the symptom, you’re treating the cause.” Add this back stretch to your routine to fight the pain.

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You’ll actually want to go to the gym

People are often surprised by how much they love weight lifting, says Singer. “Most people think of cardio as a chore,” he says. “With strength training, you can do a circuit of more fun, engaging exercises without going on the treadmill,” he says. Not only will your toned muscles make you feel more confident, but lifting a barbell or nailing a bodyweight move is empowering, he says. Read more about the importance of strength training.

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You won’t see results immediately

Strength training will definitely make you stronger and more toned, but you’ll have to work for it. Muscle takes time to grow, so don’t expect to see a change after the first session. “They may think that they’ll see results faster,” says McDaniels. With steady training, though, you’ll see some difference after about four weeks, and dramatic changes when you stick with it, he says.

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You’ll keep going back for seconds

Weight lifting uses up your energy, so your body will be begging for more calories later on. Without realizing you’re eating more, you could end up going overboard and negating your workout. “Plan out what you’re eating in the initial periods to make sure you’re not eating more,” says Singer. These portion control tricks will keep you in check.

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You’ll get protein-obsessed

There’s a reason bodybuilders are so obsessed with protein powder. Protein is the building block for muscle, so you’ll need make sure you eat enough protein to power the work they do. Every day, you should eat 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight you have, says McDaniels. To make it easy to judge, serve yourself a portion of protein the size of your palm, says Singer.

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You’ll feel less stressed

Studies have shown that exercising can reduce your stress levels for the whole day. Strength training in the morning could prepare your body and mind to deal with the stress ahead of you, says McDaniels. “If you’re having a stressful work situation…absolutely work out before you come to work if you can,” he says. But hitting the weight room any time of day could be a help, he says.

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Your program won’t look how you pictured

When it comes to weight lifting, most people think of bicep curls, but those aren’t actually the best for beginners, says Singer. “That’s a very isolated exercise—you’re working a very small muscle group there,” he says. “You want to start off using your body together as opposed to isolating one muscle group.” Moves like push-ups, bench presses, and dumbbell rows use more muscles, he says. Avoid these exercise moves that work against you.

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You’ll work muscles you never use

Weight lifting targets muscles that you rarely work in your day-to-day life. “They’re using muscles they literally didn’t know they had,” says Singer. You might run into a learning curve while you figure out what it feels like to use those muscles, he says, but you should get the hang of it in a couple of weeks. Check out these 8 health problems that can be improved with strength training.

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Exercise will become a priority

If you want to see results, you’ll have to really commit to a weight-lifting program. “Once you start missing one or two sessions, it’s easy to fall off the tracks,” says McDaniels. Life will get in the way sometimes, but pick a time when you won’t have too many things popping up. Don’t miss these secrets of women who manage to exercise every day.

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You’ll get strong bones

Lifting weights doesn’t just work your muscles—it also puts stress on your bones, letting your body know they need to get stronger. Because weight training strengthens your bones, it’s great for preventing osteopenia and osteoporosis, says Singer. Next: Check out this 15-minute strength training routine that works out your whole body.