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It can take between several weeks and several months to see the results of weightlifting.
Although strength-training can be fun, odds are good that you're doing it to see results, not for pure pleasure. Real changes in muscle tone and strength can be a powerful incentive to keep pushing forward with a challenging routine. In the first weeks and months of a new workout, though, the signs will be so subtle that you might miss them.
One of the first signs of muscle toning is an improvement in mobility, particularly if you're new to exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle tension that makes it challenging to move your muscles through their range of motion. As you gain strength and flexibility, however, you may feel less stiff, and may be able to lift weights more effectively, pulling the weight up higher and more forcefully.
Longer, More Intense Workouts
Weightlifting challenges your muscles, causing them to become stronger. Several weeks into your workout, you may notice that the same routine simply doesn't feel as challenging anymore, and this is a sure sign that your muscles are developing. To continue the trend, increase the length or intensity of your workout. Even increasing the weight you lift by 5 or 10 lbs. can have powerful muscle-growing effects. If you notice that you're lifting longer without even thinking about it, this is another important clue that your muscles are getting toned.
Particularly when you first begin a new routine, you may experience muscle soreness in the hours and days after your workout. While this isn't a guarantee that your muscles are toned, it is the first sign of stronger muscles. Your muscles don't add new muscle cells; instead, each current muscle cell grows larger in response to the minor trauma -- such as microscopic tears -- that weightlifting causes. If you continue pushing your muscles to the point of exhaustion, your muscle cells will grow and you'll start to see strong, toned muscles.
Muscle is more dense than fat, which means that you might see a change in your weight even before your muscles become visible. If you're doing anaerobic exercises, you may gain a few pounds. Some muscle-strengthening routines, such as aerobic squats, burn fat. Consequently, you might actually lose a few pounds or even look a bit slimmer before your muscles become visibly larger. You might also notice your body feels firmer, due to a mix of stronger muscle tissue and less fat on your body.