The Tried-And-Tested Muscle-Building Workout

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Want to make a big change to the way you look with your shirt off? Then you need to make a big effort in the gym – but there’s no point throwing weights around if you’re not training smart. That’s where this four-week training block, designed by the experts at Men’s Fitness, comes in. It’ll transform your torso in double-quick time by hitting your major upper muscle groups multiple times each week to shock your body into rebuilding the damaged muscle fibres bigger and stronger. The result? In just 28 days, you will have packed on serious size across your upper body – and will be stronger and leaner to boot.

How the plan works

In each of the four weeks of this 28-day plan, you will train your major upper-body muscles twice to stimulate a response that will build them back bigger and stronger.

Don’t worry if working your chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps more than once a week sounds like a lot. Firstly, it is a lot, and that’s what it takes to make big changes to your physique fast.

Secondly, you won’t hit these muscles in the same way in consecutive sessions: the workout plan has been carefully designed so these muscles get a fresh stimulus to keep the gains coming without the risk of injury, fatigue or overtraining. The first session of each week hits your chest and back, the second one your biceps and triceps, the third your legs and back, and the fourth your shoulders and chest.

All four weekly workouts have five moves, which you’ll perform as straight sets, so simply work through moves 1 to 5. Do the workouts in order, sticking to the exercises, sets, reps, tempo and rest periods detailed. Try to leave a day between sessions where possible, and ensure you’re consuming lots of protein and getting enough sleep.

Tempo training

To get the full effect from these workouts, you need to stick to the four-digit tempo code for each exercise. The first digit indicates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight, the second how long you pause at the bottom of the move, the third how long you take to lift the weight, and the final digit how long you pause at the top. X means that part of the move should be done explosively. The accumulated time under tension increases your heart rate to burn fat and break down muscle tissue so it’s rebuilt bigger and stronger. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so your muscles – not momentum – do the work.

Workout 1: Chest And Back

1 Bench press

Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

2 Bent-over row

Barbell bent-over row

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 1110 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly and brace your core, then pull the bar up, leading with your elbows. Lower it back to the start.

3 Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders. Press the weights up until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start under control.

4 Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

5 Pull-up

Superset workout one: 1B Pull-up

Sets 3 Reps 6-12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

Workout 2: Biceps And Triceps

1 Chin-up

Chin-up

Sets 5 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing you. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

2 Triceps dip

Sets 5 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

3 Triceps extension

Dumbbell triceps extension

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding dumbbells over your head with both hands, arms straight. Keeping your chest up, lower the weights behind your head, then raise them back to the start.

4 Standing biceps curl

Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding dumbbells by your sides, palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps at the top. Lower them back to the start.

5 Seated incline curl

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on an incline bench, holding dumbbells by your sides, palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps at the top. Lower them back to the start.

Workout 3: Legs And Back

1 Back squat

Barbell back squat

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and core braced, squat down as deep as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

2 Good morning

Barbell good morning

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a light barbell across the back of your shoulders, feet shoulder-width apart. With your core braced, bend forwards slowly from the hips, as far as your hamstrings allow but not past horizontal. Return to the start.

3 Glute bridge

Glute bridge

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit with your upper back supported on a bench, holding a barbell across the tops of your thighs. Thrust your hips up, squeeze your glutes at the top, and then return to the start.

4 Pull-up

Superset workout one: 1B Pull-up

Sets 3 Reps 6-12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

5 Chin-up

Chin-up

Sets 3 Reps 6-12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing you. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

Workout 4: Shoulders And Chest

1 Overhead press

Overhead press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Hold a bar in front of your neck with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight. Lower it back to the start.

2 Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

3 Seated dumbbell press

Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Sit on an upright bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Keeping your chest up, press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start.

4 Lateral raise

Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with palms facing. Keeping your chest up and a bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.

5 Reverse flye

Dumbbell reverse flye

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Bend forwards from the hips, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with palms facing. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.