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

The most important part of your fitness and nutrition habits are consistency. You build confidence by setting clear expectations and achieving success. Learn how long it might take you to see results with a personal trainer by reading more.

How long does it take to see results with a personal trainer?

If you want to see results from working with a personal trainer, you should expect to notice a difference in four to twelve 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.

The truth is, no one knows. A trainer who tells you exactly where you'll be after following a six week magic fat blaster, toning program is flat out lying to you.

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 in the long run.

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:

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.

Learn more about how you can build your confidence by reading What You Need to Know About Goals and Motivation.

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 Strength Training for Beginners.

How Fit Can You Get in 3 Months?

How fit you can get in 3 months largely depends on how you respond to your training. More than three-fifths of your size is determined by your genetics (thanks mom). This is part of the reason why your personal trainer constantly works to individualize your routine.

Some exercises are more friendly for people with longer arms (deadlifts). Larger bodies can be extremely strong and simultaneously not be able to do 10 pull-ups. Think 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 aforementioned 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

Your "lack of willpower" is not the reason that you have reached a plateau. Your body works against massive changes using a series of mechanisms related to homeostasis.

Adaptive thermogenesis is one 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).

It's not your willpower that's to blame, it's science.

Your body doesn't want you to rapidly change your weight, temperature or level of hydration.

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.

A "plateau" is a good thing. It's a new point of maintenance, your new normal once you adjust. 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.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself and keep at it. I know that you still want to achieve your goals, even if things have been a little hard lately.

Find a personal trainer that will commit to getting to know you, mentoring you from wherever you currently find yourself.

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

Why You May Never Reach Your Goals

This almost goes without saying but, some goals are simply out of reach for us. You may want to become a world class sprinter - no amount of training will turn you into the next Usain Bolt.

The best runners are the most ergonomically efficient.

If your goal is not in the cards for you genetically, that's okay. Everyone can get better at something, not every fitness goal has to be weight or strength related.

I hope that you're able to find enjoyment in the process of exercising. Everyone deserves to feel strong and confident or at least happy with the progress they've made.

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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Here's How Long it Takes to See Results with a Personal Trainer:

  1. Four to twelve weeks, if your goals are within reach.
  2. Months to year, if your goal is to completely change the way you look (think Adele).

It all depends on where you're starting from. No one can give you an exact answer, if your goal is achievable for you.