So I read about something called 'Newbie Gains', which is essentially how new people starting a workout routine will see themselves gaining a lot of muscle mass in the initial first few weeks of training. A good example is my friend who spends all his days on the computer, very unfit and skinny, however upon starting a 5x5 training routine and sticking to it, found himself dead lifting 60kg very easily after about 4-5 weeks (though after that he stayed in the 60-70kg weight range for a good few months).

So my question being, since I have no access to a gym (but do have dumbbells at home), will I end up sacrificing any gains by doing low weight exercises such as dumbbell dead lifts with only about 12kg weights max on each hand? I imagine 12kg is going to become extremely easy to dead lift very fast, so could the unavailability of higher weights end up making me miss out on my 'newbie gains'? If it helps at all, my intention with all this is to gain muscle mass.

2 Answers 2


what newbie gains are not: when you start working out you have 2 months to workout every day as hard as possible and eat all the food in the world because if you don't you will have wasted an opportunity window.

what newbie gains are: you start with a 45 bar squat and add 15 lbs every week and in 12 weeks your are squatting 225 lbs.

essentially newbie gains is the term for the fact that new trainees don't and shouldn't use a super complicated Russian program:

newbie gains are in part due to quick strenght increse due to practice not muscle as bret contreras put it

"In Neuromechanics of Human Movement, Roger Enoka (Enoka, 2008) lists eight potential neurological areas for non-hypertrophy related strength gains:

Enhanced output from supraspinal centers as suggested by findings with imagined contractions Reduced coactivation of antagonist muscles Greater activation of agonist and synergist muscles Enhanced coupling of spinal interneurons that produces cross-education Changes in descending drive that reduce the bilateral deficit Shared input to motor neurons that increases motor unit synchronization Greater muscle activation (EMG) Heightened excitability and altered connections into motor neurons"

"will I end up sacrificing any gains by doing low weight exercises such as dumbbell dead lifts with only about 12kg weights max on each hand"

no. please dont use that as an excuse. just start lifting and try your best to get a bar or gym equipment

  • 1
    The first paragraph is very important. Newbie gains is not a time window, where you have to work as hard as humanly possible. The last paragraph could be missunderstood, though. He probably won't "use up" his gains, but he won't make them with two 12lbs dumbbells either. While it's a good idea to start now and buy equipment as he goes, he won't make those gains until he uses the right tools (until then, they're not lost, though).
    – user8119
    Apr 7, 2014 at 5:40
  • What Larissa said seems to be the most clear to me. Like what was said, I'm not expecting to make huge gains by sticking to a low weight range for a good 3 months, but I was worried that doing so would end up wasting my 'newbie gains'. If my understanding here is correct, when I join a gym 3 months later and start increasing my weight range weekly, I'll be seeing normal gains regardless of my low weight training for the 3 months before that?
    – JimmyK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 8:04
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    Correct. Dont sweat it man. If you need help just contact me.
    – ofalbertm
    Apr 11, 2014 at 1:41

Hi Jimmyk (and welcome),

First and foremost, you should not deadlift with dumbbells. Deadlifting 60-lbs on each arm is completely different from deadlifting a 120-lb barbell. Please, if you're interested in deadlifting and/or weight squatting, purchase a barbell (preferably an olympic-sized one).

Second, you'll find newbie gains in almost everything in life, including exercises. If you start a diet program, you'll lose your weight faster in the beginning and then stall/reduce at some point. This is normal; don't obsess over it. As long as you continue the intensity, your gains (fat loss, muscle gain, etc) will continue.

Again, if you're ready to gain muscles, you'll need more than 12-lbs dumbbells. You can't be good at cycling by riding a tricycle. You need the right equipment for the right result.

Want to get ripped? Either join a gym that has the equipment or purchase your own equipment. Then, start a program such as StrongLifts, Starting Strength, or Wendel's 5-3-1. Their core principle is progressively increasing the weights being lifted Pick any of the programs, follow it for at least 2 months and observe the result for yourself :).

Happy exercising :).

  • Thanks for the response! Just to clear things up, I don't intend to do anything dangerous like deadlifting with 60kg dumbbells. Sadly the issue is I'm working for 3 months in quite a remote location with no gym nearby. I could buy a squat rack, more weights, barbell etc, however my house in London won't have any room... So sadly it will all go to waste. Besides, when I'm in London I'll easily be able to travel to a gym regardless of exact location, making buying more weights a waste here.
    – JimmyK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 7:57
  • So just to confirm, like you said the "core principle is progressively increasing the weights being lifted." I'm not picturing myself making massive gains with my limited set of weights, but if I do follow a routine and NOT increase the weights being lifted (due to the lack of them) until 3 months where in I will move back to London, I won't end up hurting any future gains will I?
    – JimmyK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 7:59
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    @JimmyK If you're in a (temporary) location where you don't want to set up your equipment, include bodyweight exercises in your routine. All you need is a pullup bar. Pull-ups, chin ups, and push-ups, and goblet squats can bulk your biceps/triceps/thighs up. You can add plank (bridge) into the mix also. Do as many as you can and keep increasing the numbers. You'll see results Apr 7, 2014 at 14:32
  • I actually do have a pull up bar, so that is a great tip!
    – JimmyK
    Apr 7, 2014 at 14:37
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    @VPeric Thanks for the link. That should help at least one person :) Apr 7, 2014 at 18:15

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