How To Maximize Your Noob Gains In The Gym
If you have spent any time searching around the internet for lifting advice as a beginner, you have most probably come across the term “noob gains” at least once.
Noob gains refer to the unique type of progress that you are able to make in your newbie phase of lifting weights. They are unique in that the amount of progress can be quite substantial for such a short period of time.
Being a novice and having the ability to make these noob gains puts you in a rather enviable position without even realising it yet. You see, as your lifting career goes on, it becomes harder and harder to make progress inside of the gym. The rate at which you are able to gain size and strength quickly decreases.
After a few years of good training, the amount of work you need to put in to make progress can be extraordinary. You make bust your butt for a whole year and gain 5lbs on your squat or 2lbs of solid muscle tissue.
On the other hand, as a novice, increases of 10lbs on your squat could happen between workouts and it isn’t uncommon for 15-20lbs of weight to be gained in the first 6-12 months of lifting. Now you can probably see why many seasoned lifters would be quite jealous of your ability for such progress.
What Causes Noob Gains?
The prime driver behind the beginner’s capacity to make gains at a high rate comes down to the body’s ability to adapt quickly to a new stimulus. Since your body isn’t used being put under the demands of lifting weights, it is forced to adapt rapidly. It adapts by adding muscle mass at a quicker rate in the beginning than it does once you are accustomed to the initial stimulus of lifting weights.
Perhaps the most drastic adaptation comes from your body’s neural response to lifting weights. This response is two-fold.
Firstly, you get better at just performing the skill of an exercise. The neurons that are responsible for proprioception get better at performing a certain movement pattern. Your increased efficiency in executing an exercise means that you are able to add more weight to that exercise pretty regularly in the beginning.
The second neural response comes from your nervous system’s capacity to recruit more motor units and muscle fibres.
A phenomenon known as neural inhibition is in place when you first start lifting. This is a safety mechanism that your body has in place. As the name suggests, your nervous system is inhibited from firing some of your motor units and recruiting all of the available muscle fibres. This is to prevent you generating high amounts of force in order to lower your risk of injuries.
As you train more often, your body nervous system “allows” itself to generate more force, which leads to rapid gains in strength over relatively short periods of time.
Often times, a beginner is able to add weight to an exercise every single time they step foot in the gym. This kind of progress simply isn’t possible for a more experienced lifter.
5 Tips To Maximize Your Noob Gains
As I have already mentioned, your noob gains are probably only going to last for a period of around 6-12 months.
This is variable and other factors can have an impact on how long an individual can make noob gains for but generally, they last no more than a year.
As a result of this, it is important that you train in a way that allows you to make the absolute most out of this wonderful period of enhanced gains. Below is a list of tips that you can use to make the very best noob gains possible.
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1. Enforce Good Exercise Technique
This is honestly so crucial. When you are new to lifting, you are fortunate enough to have not ingrained any bad lifting habits, you are a blank canvas.
Remember that I said your body adapts quickly to new movement patterns in the beginning? Well, if you are performing incorrect movement patterns, those are what your body will adapt to.
The bad patterns become ingrained after repeating them a period of time and it is much harder to re-learn the correct way of doing an exercise. Your absolute best bet is to learn every single exercise the proper way from the very beginning. That way, you will be getting the most out of each movement and working your muscles effectively from day one.
2. Have A Plan
You need to plan your training out according to your goals if you ever want to reach them.
By plan, I don’t just mean that you know what body part you are training that particular day. Knowing that Monday is chest day and Tuesday is legs isn’t enough, you need to go deeper.
You should have a plan of the particular exercises, sets and reps that you are going to be doing over the coming weeks. More importantly, you should have a plan for how you are going to progress from week to week. This progress can take on a few different forms, such as adding weight, doing more reps, increasing your total number of sets or even decreasing rest time.
It doesn’t matter how you progress, what matters is that you are aiming to progress and you have a plan for it.
3. Train Each Body Part Multiple Times Per Week
It is now well known that training a muscle group twice per week versus just once leads to more hypertrophy.
It is unclear whether training each muscle more than twice will lead to even more gains, but training more should lead to more strength gains as a result of the neural adaptations to each movement.
Therefore, it can be recommended that you train each muscle group 2-3 times per week. A very popular and effective training method for beginners is to use full body workouts for 3 sessions each week. These workouts should involve the use of predominantly free weights and compound exercises. A compound exercise is an exercise that involves movement at more than one joint in your body.
For example, a squat requires movement at your ankle, knee and hip joints so is definitely a compound exercise. Moving more joints means more muscles have to get involved, which has the potential to lead to more strength and growth.
4. Recover Well
The time you spend in the gym isn’t actually where you are growing.
In fact, it’s the opposite. In the gym, you are breaking down your muscles. Outside of the gym is where you are repairing and rebuilding them.
The process of repairing and rebuilding can only happen if you are supplying your muscles with what they need in order to grow. Nutrition is the first place to start if you want to make the most of your recovery. Supplying your muscles with sufficient amounts of protein will help to repair them.
Carbohydrates and healthy fats are also key for re-energizing your muscles before your next workout. A well-balanced diet that consists mainly of whole, unprocessed foods is the way to go if you want to fill your body with the nutrients it needs.
Aside from your diet, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated will also play a role in your gains. Being tired and/or dehydrated heavily impacts your performance levels in the gym and your recovery levels outside of it.
5. Be Consistent
This is probably the most important tip of all. Even though your noob gains come rapidly when compared to the gains of a more seasoned trainee, things still take time to come together.
There will be times of frustration and periods where you feel your progress is minimal. Just stick to the tips above and keep doing the things you are meant to be doing.
A good tip here is to take measurements and progress pictures so that you can see how far you have come whenever you feel frustrated. It all takes time, just trust in the process and stick with it.
Your noob gains, if trained properly, will be the foundation on which you can build your dream physique.