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Continue to learn more about muscle building: Fitness Articles Home


By:Alex Borja

Within this guide will be explanations on how you should train in order to produce the greatest results in terms of building muscle. The most important aspects will be looked at and a recommended exercise template given. It will be up to the reader to create a customizable plan that will fit their best needs and the purpose of this guide is meant to show them how.

First key concepts will be discussed that should be the basis of your muscle building plan. It is in a FAQ format to answer the majority of the most common questions you may have.

Next an example of an exercise plan is given to guide your workout planning in the right direction. Use the plan given if you like or create a variation of your own!

Muscle Building Guidelines

These are made from some of the most commonly asked questions regarding muscle building:

What type of exercise should I engage in to build the most muscle?

• Weight lifting is the best form of exercise with the greatest potential for building muscle. There are also certain kinds of cardiovascular exercise you can incorporate into your workouts if you want to such as interval training.

What’s “Interval Training?”

• This is a type of cardiovascular training which can be done while weight lifting for muscle without risking muscle breakdown. It is commonly used in such cardiovascular activities such as running or biking.
An example: Exercise on a workout bike for a 5 minute warm-up. Next put up the resistance to a light-moderate level for 2 minutes. Then follow by 1 minute of high intensity biking. Repeat the 2:1 ratio of light: high intensity exercise for 15-20 minutes. If you can go for longer than this you aren’t training intensely enough (or you’re a cardiovascular monster). Either way keep the cardio time low to promote muscle growth.

What repetition range should I work out in?

• Train in the overall 8-12 repetition range for the best results. Slight variation outside of this range works better for some individuals.

What muscle groups should I focus on?

• Consider the fact that your legs are some of the biggest muscles in your body. Now consider the fact that they also release the most growth hormone which will cause muscle gains. All parts of your body should be trained but all too often the legs are neglected. Don’t become one of these people! Train your legs and you will be rewarded.

Can I vary my repetition range for different muscles?

• Train uniquely to fit your body. Some individuals may see improvement with bicep curls in the 5-8 rep range while others may get better results in the 10-15 rep range. While this guide serves to guide you in the right direction—train to your strengths.

How long should my workouts be?

• Make the workout last no longer than 45 min to 1 hr. The 45 minute mark is ideal and should not really be past if you are training hard enough. If you find yourself going past this mark, increase the intensity and decrease the recovery time in between sets.

What kinds of foods should I focus on?

• Eat plenty of foods that will do your body good. Include plenty of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and fruits. Supplementation with a protein product may enhance your diet as well.

Whole grains will keep your glycogen stores in check as this will be your primary source of fuel during your workouts and keep you full for a longer period of time. Whole grain pasta, bagels, bread, humus, etc., will work.

Lean protein sources such as chicken, salmon, lean beef, cottage cheese, tuna, are all examples of muscle building proteins that won’t add unnecessary fat.

What if I don’t feel like I have a lot of energy to weight lift one day?

• Train with intensity at every work out. If you do not have energy and feel you must exercise, save your muscle building workout for the next session and do another activity like running for that day. It is far better to put off your maximally intense workout a day than to “waste” the workout on a sub maximal effort.

Should I change my routine ever to keep my muscles “guessing?”

• Change the exercise routine frequently. It doesn’t have to be a big change, something as simple as changing reps or exercise order will suffice. It is encouraged to change your plan about every month (1-1.5 months seems to work best). Try not to change it before every 2 weeks or any longer than 3 months. This allows your muscles to adapt and get stronger/bigger, but at the same time you shock your muscles with new workouts.

How much sleep should I get?

• Get enough sleep! This can’t be overemphasized enough and will be the key to your success. Once you start to train frequently at a high intensity you will require more sleep than usual. Shoot for at least 8 hours. Some of us will need much more.

How long will it take?

• Be sure to keep your attitude positive. Muscle building will not come over night and thus high expectations should be kept at bay. Know you will see great improvement by sticking to your workout plan, but also realize the time it takes to reach those goals can take time.

Typically strength precedes muscle growth by about 6-8 weeks. During this time your body is adapting and gaining strength for the muscle gain to come. Expect muscle gain to be noticeable around this time but some people can gain muscle sooner especially if you already engage in exercise currently.

Can stress really have an impact on my gains?

• Avoid stressful situations. Stress is your worst enemy on your way to muscle gain. It can cause muscle catabolism and tear apart all of your precious muscle you have worked so hard for. Reduce daily stressors as much as possibly to keep your goals in reach.

Should I workout everyday to see the best gains?

• Don’t over-train. If you do this there will be more harm done than good. Your muscles need to be broken down to be rebuilt even stronger the next time around but continued abuse to them will only leave them broken down and eventually lead to failure. Not to mention all the side effects such as excessive exhaustion, nausea, stress increase, muscle atrophy, etc.

So the short answer is no. But keep in mind that not everyone recovers at the same rate. I have seen many people gain big with 4 days breaks and others require 1-2 day breaks in between workouts. Your best bet is to shoot for about 48-72 hours in between training the same muscle group. Adjust over time if depending on your personal recovery rate.

What will have the biggest impact on my muscle gains?

• Food! Food, food, and more food. You need a surplus of calories in order to gain ANY type of tissue to your body—whether it is fat or muscle. The idea is to eat a surplus of healthy foods to encourage muscle building. Remember this golden rule to weight gain (muscle gain): Calories in > Calories Burned = Weight Gain

Without this caloric surplus you will never build muscle. 90% of the muscle building battle is your diet. The other 10% is what you do in the gym.

Muscle Building Exercise Template

Here is an example of a muscle building template you may use to start your own workout plan.

Exercise Areas: Chest and Triceps
Exercises: Bench Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Chest Dumbbell fly’s, Triceps Dips, Triceps Press-downs
Repetition/Set Range: 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets per exercise
Rest Period: 1-2 Minutes (between sets)

Exercise Areas: Legs
Exercises: Squats, dumbbell lunges, Leg press, seated calf raises, standing calf raises
Repetition/Set Range: 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets per exercise
Rest Period: 1-2 Minutes (between sets)

Exercise Areas: OFF DAY (Optional Cardio day/Core Work—depending on muscle soreness)

Exercise Areas: Shoulders, Trapezius, Abdominals, Lower back
Exercises: Lateral shoulder raises, Front shoulder raises, Dumbbell shrugs, Planks, Lower back extensions, Other abdominal exercises
Repetition/Set Range: 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets per exercise
Rest Period: 1-2 Minutes (between sets)

Exercise Areas: OFF DAY (Optional Cardio day/Core Work—depending on muscle soreness)

Exercise Areas: Back and Biceps
Exercises: Lat pull-downs, Lat Rows Wide, Lat Rows Narrow, Barbell Bicep Curls, Preacher Curls
Repetition/Set Range: 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets per exercise
Rest Period: 1-2 Minutes (between sets)

Exercise Areas: OFF DAY (Optional Cardio day/Core Work—depending on muscle soreness)

There you have it, a nice example of a typical muscle building program. Be sure to adapt this to your own needs and for what works best for you. This was an example of a “4 day on/ 3 day off split”. In other words, 4 days of the week lifting and the other 3 are rest days. You can create a wide variety of workouts such as “3 days on/4 days off” or “5 days on/2 days off”. The possibilities are endless and the above example is what I recommend for beginners to try out.

If you would like to keep your plan in an easy to read writing format, I have a section of this site dedicated to providing you with Exercise and Diet Logs! Check it out and feel free to print them off for your muscle building plans!


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