How Long Does it Take to See Results with a Personal Trainer?

You build confidence by achieving success. If your weights crush you at the gym on your first day, it might be some time before you feel up to going again.

If you want to see results from working with a personal trainer, you should expect to notice a difference in 4-12 or so weeks. It can however, take longer or shorter than that.

The real answer depends on a few things:

  1. Your goals. It takes longer to build muscle and strength than it does to lose weight (or build confidence).
  2. Your lifestyle and starting point. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that more than three-fifths (63.6%) of your BMI is determined by your genes¹.
  3. Your body will fight against your weight changes. Your body regulates hormones and activity to sustain your current weight.

Expect to commit to a long-term sustainable process. You don't need to train like an athlete or a bodybuilder (if those aren't your goals).

The more you can learn, the more successful you'll be.

What Are Your Fitness Goals?

Personal trainers make different decisions to tailor routines towards different goals.

If your goal is to build confidence and strength, you'll focus on lifting heavier weights.

A plan for strength focuses on:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Progressive overload-focused on lifting heavier weights over time
  • Selecting exercises that are easier to use heavy weights with

Exercises that are easier to load include squats, deadlifts, and various pulling movements.

You build confidence by achieving success. If your weights crush you at the gym on your first day, it might be some time before you feel up to going again.

If your goal is to lose weight (or gain weight) your focus is more on volume and creating an energy imbalance.

A plan for weight change focuses on:

  • Weight loss (or gain)
  • Progressive overload-focused on doing more sets and reps with moderate weights
  • Selecting a mix of exercises that may include aesthetic or full body movements

You'll still need to lift weights to maintain the lean mass you have. What changes is that you can't lift real heavy weights for high volumes.

You can choose to focus on both strength and weight change at different points (or the same). Some lose weight then shift to strength, often the exercises used are pretty similar.

For more on what goes into a strength training routine, check out What Beginners Need to Know About Strength Training.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Your Time Outside the Gym

More than three-fifths of your size is determined by your genetics (thanks mom). This is part of the reason why you need to work to find an individualized fitness routine.

Some exercises are more friendly for people with longer limbs (deadlifts). Larger bodies can be extremely strong and simultaneously not be able to do 10 pull-ups. For example, NFL offensive linemen.

This isn't to say that you can't make changes and grow confident in the body you have now.

In the analysis, 36.4% of BMI was controlled by environment and other factors.

Some lifestyle factors you can change include:

  • Exercise (duh)
  • Rest
  • Nutrition
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Professional stress levels
  • At-home stress levels

The more stressful your life outside of your fitness routine, the more stress your body has to deal with.

Let's say for example you're skipping fueling up for your workouts (aka breakfast). On a small scale, that might mean that you’re able to perform one less set per workout.

If it’s one day, an extra set won't matter much. Over a year, that one extra set per week adds up to a pretty big difference.

Why Your Fitness Plateau has nothing to do with Willpower

Adaptive thermogenesis is a survival mechanism your body uses to regulate your weight.

When you lose weight, your body increases hunger hormones (mainly Ghrelin).

When you gain weight, your body does the opposite (via a hormone called Leptin).

There is a tendency to blame people for a lack of "willpower" when they hit a plateau. It's not your willpower that's to blame, it's science.

Starting with a larger body doesn't mean that you can't achieve a smaller size. (if that's even your goal in the first place) Your starting place is simply that, your starting place.

Once you see results, you shouldn't stop exercising.

In a review of Adaptive Thermogenesis, Rosenbaum and Leibel note:²

"In long-term studies of weight-reduced children and adults, 80%-90% return to their previous weight percentiles, while studies of those successful at sustained weight loss indicate that the maintenance of a reduced degree of body fatness will probably require a lifetime of meticulous attention to energy intake and expenditure."

Your goal likely includes maintaining your new level of fitness. It's important to commit to a lifestyle.

The best thing you can do is find a personal trainer that is focused on education. The more you learn, the more likely you are to be successful.

Learn more about what a commitment to nutrition looks like by reading What Beginners Need to Know about Nutrition and Dieting.

References:

  1. Segal, N L, et al. “Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Body Mass Index: Comparative Analysis of Monozygotic Twins, Dizygotic Twins and Same-Age Unrelated Siblings.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 33, no. 1, 2008, pp. 37–41., doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.228.
  2. Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans.Int J Obes (Lond). 2010;34 Suppl 1(0 1):S47-55.

Learn the most effective strategies for getting the results you want — without spending your life in the gym.

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