New to Lifting Weights


Goal:  Muscle growth. I am a 5' 10" 170 lbs male. I'm new to lifting weights.

What should my muscles feel like when they are exercised enough to achieve growth (fibers broken down)?

Should I feel a burn... tenderness... fatigue.. all three?  How long should the feeling last?

I am asking because I am doing a single set on some exercises, and unable to do another rep after about 8. However, I never feel a burn, and my fatigue/tenderness lasts less than a day... even though I am maxing out.

I am new to this, and I thought I was supposed to feel "the burn", and I am not. It's too soon for me to determine if I am seeing progress.

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken


If you are new to lifting weights the most important thing to know is your nutrition will determine whether or not you gain muscle or not. Weight training is only the stimulus your body needs to increase muscle size from the food you put in your body which rebuilds your muscles.

New to Lifting Weights

The first month or so of a training program for someone new to lifting weights will cause mainly neurological benefits. If you are untrained your motor units which are responsible for contracting your muscles will not be fully activated.

As you keep lifting weights, a larger percentage of your muscle fibers will be recruited. This is why you will increase strength rather rapidly at the outset of your training program but you will not achieve much muscle gain.

It is important to perform slow, controlled movements for your lifts during the beginning of your training program because it will help you neurologically adapt best.

Essential Reads before Get Serious about Weight Training

After a Month or so

You are most likely not neurotically adapted yet. This is most likely why you are not "feeling the burn" during your exercises.

After about a month (give or take a few weeks) you will be able to recruit a large percentage of our muscle fibers which will enable you to gain muscle with a proper diet.

The feeling you are talking about is the pump. It is the blood which has rushed into the working muscles. This lasts usually around an hour after each training session. The muscle pump usually accompanies muscle fatigue. The complete mechanism of muscle fatigue is not entirely understood even to this day.

Then usually in 24-48 hours you may experience DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) which is a sore/stiff feeling in the working muscles.

Just because your muscles are sore does not mean you are making progress. Make sure you have a proper post workout recovery shake or bar.

Performing a single set of 8 or any number of reps to failure is a good start. Some people claim all you need is a single set to failure while others may say you need more. It is a matter of trial and error which deals with your personal preference and time available to devote to training.

Keep up your lifting and you will achieve results in time.

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