T Nation

Muscle Gain Question-First 6 weeks


Hey, just have quick a question here. I was hoping someone knowledgeable could solve a dispute I'm having. My bud is in school for physical therapy, and he was trying to tell me that the first 6 weeks of lifting you aren't gaining any muscle, just that muscle fiber is being activiated more.. basically he was saying the nerves are coming back to life.

I have heard that a lot of the strength gains in the first several weeks are from this, so I don't doubt that strength gains in the beginning are partially due to this.

However, I have stopped lifting, then started again several times in my life, and I get bigger during the first 6 weeks each time. Is he wrong? I'm pretty sure that you can gain muscle during the first 6 weeks (along with whatever turbocharging your nerves are going through).

The first 6 weeks is when I tend to gain the most weight. If he's wrong, why do you think a PT professor would be saying you can't gain muscle for the first 6 weeks of training?


I have heard this from several exercise physiologists... specifically those who specialize in muscle development.

If you look at size gain much if it is from increasing the actual SIZE of the muscle fibers and not actually increasing the amount of muscle fibers in the tissue. In fact, it has been said that increasing the amount of fibers is near impossible.

Logistically speaking, this would make sense that much of the results we see in the first six weeks are from increased muscle tone (the scientific definition of tone) and increased water storage simply from increased glycogen retention. Remember that resistance training will increase insulin sensitivity and likely cause super compensation in terms of stored glycogen. More stored glycogen = more weight and more size from the amount of water that accompanies it.

I have heard up to the first 8 weeks are generally entirely at the neuromuscular level. This was actually utilized by endurance athletes and still is. They will start weight training 8 weeks out from a competition to boost strength and minimize additional weight gain. Weird concept but some swear by it.


From what I have read it he is correct. The thing is you are comparing apples to oranges with your own experiances. What I mean is restarting weight training is much different then starting from scratch. Someone who has some experiance but hasnt lifted in awhile will see faster progress then someone who has never lifted. The person who was just on a break still has some of the neurological pathways in place.


He was saying that you can't increase the amount of muscle fiber in the first 6 weeks. I told him I wasn't suprised that that's true, and I had heard from an unreliable source that you can't increase the amount of muscle fibers ever. He said you do increase the number of muscle fibers after the first 6 weeks.

All muscle fiber BS aside, is it possible for muscles to get bigger within the first 6 weeks of lifting weights? He was argueing that you will not see any increase in muscle mass withint the first 6 weeks of training. I belive he took something his Professor said about muscle fibers not increasing in number to mean that a muscle will not get bigger until you have been training for over 6 weeks.


I think you are talking about two different things. General consensus regarding absolute beginning lifters is most of the initial gains are neural gains. Your CNS is being activated. Also, you get stronger by improving your technique.

What you are talking about, gaining muscle returning to lifting after a lay-off, is known as 'muscle memory'. It's much easier to rebuild a de-trained muscle than it was to build it up in the first place.


I think your buddy just has textbook syndrome.

Taking something he learned and trying to apply it when really he is talking about an absolute extreme.

His theory might make sense in the first 6 weeks of ANY muscle stimulation. This depends a lot on the persons physical history.