Serious summer muscle (or muscle anytime, for that matter) doesn’t happen in a single half-hour workout. And deep down, we know that.
There’s no easy path to the visible, visceral muscle that fills out T-shirts. Even a standard “good-sweat” workout doesn’t necessarily pack on serious superhero muscle. If it were that easy, you’d walk off a sweaty summer subway ride looking like Deadpool.
Truth be told, if you want to pack on muscle, you have to start by focusing on strength. And you add strength by pushing yourself to lift heavy weights with good clean form (pro-tip: This shreds your abs too). And that’s exactly what you’re going to do in this four-week training program, which goes in-depth to help you add muscle and strength.
It’s a routine that’s built to let you train heavy, and built to give your muscles ample time to rest and grow, too. You’ll break things up by body functions, pulling some days, pushing on others, and training legs on others, and the end result will have you training five days a week. You’ll rest on weekends to recharge, then bounce back for more tough sessions the following week.
It’ll all push your body to muscle growth, and, just as importantly, you’ll be getting stronger, too. So get ready to work! This summer, you build the muscle and strength you’ve always wanted.
The Big-Picture Game Plan
There are two key ideas we’ll use to guide you to muscle in this four-week program. There’s the training split (basically, which body parts or movements you hit on which days). There’s also ever-changing rep schemes in this workout, allowing you to gradually progress toward heavier weights. Understanding both is key to the program.
The Functional Split
By building workouts based on function, you insure you can attack each session and still have time to recover for the next workout. Go hard and heavy in every session, because you won’t hit those bodyparts for at least two days after each session. Your schedule will be as follows.
- Do Workout 1 on Mondays and Thursdays.
- Do Workout 2 on Tuesdays and Fridays.
- Do Workout 3 on Wednesdays. You can also do it on Saturdays if you want an extra challenge.
- On Saturdays and Sundays, recover. That doesn’t mean sitting around and playing video games all day, though. Yes, you can relax plenty on those weekend days, but on each day, find some time to get good movement. That may be a yoga session, a relaxing run, or some time outside with the kids. But it shouldn’t be an entire 24-hour period spent in bed.
The Rep Scheme Level-Up
- Each week, you’ll do the same workouts, but your rep patterns will change slightly. This will enable you to train heavier as the weeks go on.
- In Week 1, you’ll aim to do 10-12 reps per set on all movements, building mind-muscle connection and honing your form. Do 4 sets of each exercise.
- In Week 2, you’ll do 8-10 reps of each movement. Do 4 sets of each exercise.
- In Week 3, you’ll do 5 sets of your first exercise. Do 6-8 reps during the first 4 sets; on the fifth set, do 3-6 reps. Do 3 sets of 6-8 on all other exercises.
- In Week 4, you’ll ditch reps, and you’ll stop moving heavy weights, deloading your body while ramping up your heart rate and honing technique. During this week, you’ll do each exercise for 4 minutes, working for 40 seconds, then resting for 20 seconds. Rest 1 minute in between exercises.
Using This Program
You can do this program for a month, but you can do it longer than that, too. Repeat this program for 12 straight weeks, and expect to continually progress in strength as you go.
Warm up for every workout with one minute each of bodyweight reverse lunges, plank shoulder-taps, and bent-over Y’s, T’s and W’s. Then jump into the action.
Mondays and Thursdays: Your Back and Biceps Blast
You’re starting each week by hitting your pulling muscles, which are critical to posture, and better posture helps your abs pop. It’ll also help your chest show proudly. Oh, and a strong back also creates that V-taper that shows through any T-shirt. Lead your weeks off with this session (and return to it on Thursdays too).
Work with a heavy weight and focus on technique.
This one won’t be easy, but it’ll blast biceps, forearms, and back all at once. If you’re using a small pullup bar, that’s OK too; work across whatever span you have for the desired amount of reps.
Half-Iso Incline Row Countup
Focus on not just surviving each iso-hold rep, but on continuing to pull upwards every rep. Don’t alter your reps each week for this move; aim to make the round of 3 every week.
Exercise A: Mixed-Style Biceps Curl
This is an ideal way to attack biceps without pushing you to use a lot of load. You’re fatigued already; focus on the pump here.
Exercise B: Hammer Curl
After each set of mixed-style biceps curls, without resting, immediately go into hammer curls, blasting your brachialis.
Tuesdays and Fridays: Chest and Triceps Blast
Now you’ll blast your chest, focusing on dumbbell press ideas and bodyweight moves. Barbell presses are often considered the gold standard of chest exercises, but by attacking the dumbbell press, you can build serious muscle, too. Bonus: Dumbbell presses are easier on your shoulders.
Work to go heavy here, but don’t arch your back. Keep your abs tight and squeeze your glutes as you near the end of each set.
Mixed-Style Incline Press
Now, you’ll blast your upper chest, but this isn’t just about chest. The mixed-style motion challenges your core to constantly stay active for the life of each set, and you’ll attack your shoulders more than you think here, too.
Half-Bench Single-Arm Press
This is another chance to activate chest and core at once, and it’ll hammer your glutes, too. Make sure you squeeze your glute on the side that’s off the bench.
Mixed-Style Close-Grip Pushup
Finish off your chest and fire up your triceps with the mixed-style close-grip pushup.
Rocker Bodyweight Skullcrusher
Blast your triceps with time-under-tension and a vicious triceps stretch. Hit your reps on this one, even if you need to take a brief break in between the set.
Wednesdays and Saturdays (optional): Legs
Ahh, leg day. It’s a training day that many avoid, but any leg workout pushes you in multiple ways. Sure, you’re adding size and muscle to your lower half, but you’re also burning serious calories and adding critical core strength, too.
Use a kettlebell or dumbbell here, and focus on keeping your core tight. Own every rep!
You can use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells for this one. Focus on lowering slowly, then aim to pause for a second when you’ve lowered to your proper depth. Explode up and squeeze your glutes every rep.
Hover to Drive Lunge
This move is all about technique. Use kettlebells or dumbbells here.
Bulgarian Split Squat Dropset
Finish off leg day by doing 2 sets per side of this split squat dropset. Your rep-load and set-load on this exercise will stay the same for all four weeks.
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