Q: I noticed big gains after the first few weeks of working out. But since then I haven’t made much progress. Am I doing something wrong?
A: No, your experience is pretty typical of beginners to resistance training. When you first start working out, you may feel a bit awkward. And you’ll probably be weak. However, you’ll quickly notice that the exercises become easier to perform, and you’re able to lift more weight after the first few weeks.
These quick gains don’t necessarily indicate increased strength. Your central nervous system adapts to your lifting heavier weight. Your brain fires more muscle fibers in a synchronized fashion, so more of your muscles contribute to lifting the weight.
Let’s say someone who has never performed the Bench Press can lift 115 pounds. After three weeks, he has increased his weight load by 20 pounds to 135. This is a 17-percent increase, which is massive. But improvements of that magnitude in such a short time cannot be sustained as you get stronger.
To put it in perspective, a 17-percent increase for an experienced lifter who benches 225 is about 38 pounds. Improving that much in three weeks is extremely difficult—if not impossible—because gains are caused by muscle adaptations.
So initially, you may be encouraged by your results—and there’s no reason not to be. However, it’s important to temper your expectations as you advance in your training.