If you want to build your best ever body, your first step is to find the perfect plan to help you realise your goal. Because with the best will in the world, embarking on a mission to build a bigger, stronger or leaner physique is doomed to fail without a smart and detailed blueprint that will get you to where you want to be in the fastest possible time.
The New Body Plan Plus programme is just that: an eight-week training programme tailored to your body-composition goal – whether that’s losing body fat or building lean muscle mass – with extra training time dedicated to those muscle groups you most want to improve. It also includes a supporting eight-week meal planner, with recipes, so you can eat the right foods at the right time for faster progress.
A two-week sample of the Muscle plan, which was used by Joe Warner to build a cover model body, is below. Pair it with this high-protein, muscle-building diet plan to help you add lean size fast.
How To Build Muscle FAQ
I’ve tried to add muscle in the past but failed. How did you get the results you wanted?
The most important part of any body transformation challenge is to have a plan. Without one, all the motivation and determination in the world won’t be enough to deliver the results you want. Once you have a challenging but achievable plan you can fully commit yourself to your muscle-building mission to start making gains and build more and more confidence in your plan and your abilities.
Where do most people go wrong when trying to build muscle?
There are two main reasons that people struggle to add muscle. The first is that they don’t train hard enough or smart enough. To coax your muscles into growing you need to push them to get to a point where they’re pumped with blood and burning with fatigue. It sounds horrible, but it’s one of the most satisfying feelings you can get in a gym.
The second is people lift too heavy. That might sound strange considering I’ve just said you need to train hard, but there has to be a compromise between lifting as heavy as you can while maintaining perfect form and doing each rep in a slow and controlled fashion to work as many muscle fibres as possible. That’s what causes the muscle pump and burn.
What about eating for muscle?
When your main training aim is to build muscle, your diet is just as important as when you want to lose fat. You need to consume enough protein to repair your damaged muscle fibres so they grow back bigger and stronger, as well as fats, which are essential for keeping your muscle-building hormone levels high. And if you are naturally lean, you will benefit from eating more carbs around your training sessions to fuel and then refuel your muscles, so more of the protein you eat can be used solely for laying down new muscle tissue.
The Training Plan Explained
Explaining the two-week muscle-building block that allows you to build all-over muscle as well as add size to individual muscle groups.
In this two-week training block the workouts follow a pattern. The first session of both weeks is a “push” workout, which hits your chest, shoulders and triceps. The second is a “pull” session, which targets your back and biceps. The third session works your legs, while the fourth and final workout targets the muscle group you most want to make bigger and more defined – your abs, arms or chest. Train on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then Saturday or Sunday to give yourself maximum recovery time.
Every workout in this two-week block is made up of six different exercises, which you’ll perform as straight sets. This means you do all the sets and reps of exercise 1, sticking to the tempo and rest periods detailed, and then move on to do all the sets and reps of exercise 2, and so on until you finish all the reps of the final set of exercise 6. This approach will fully test your muscles to improve your strength levels, while also creating the ideal stimulus for your body to start adding lean muscle mass.
The second week of this block is similar to the first week in that it follows the same muscle-group split – push, pull, legs, then a body-part specific session – in order, for your four weekly sessions. The moves are also the same and in the same order, but with one major difference: to help you add size faster you’ll do an extra two reps in every set of the first two moves of each session, and then do a full extra set for the other four moves. Try to lift slightly heavier weights for each move in the second week.
Alongside the sets, reps and rest period details for each exercise you’ll see a column marked “tempo”, which is a four-digit number. Tempo is the speed at which you perform one rep, and the number is the time in seconds you take to lower and lift the weight, and pause at the top and bottom. For example, a 2010 tempo for the bench press means you lower the bar to your chest in two seconds, with no pause at the bottom, then lift the bar in one second, with no pause at the top. X means you should do the move explosively.
For the fourth sessions of both weeks you choose which muscle group you train. There are three options: abs, arms or chest. Pick just one. These muscle-group goal workouts use straight sets like the other three weekly sessions, so do the exercises in order as instructed to add serious size to your chosen muscle fast. In the second week, as with the other three sessions, do two extra reps per set of the first two moves, then a full extra set of the next four moves to train both harder and smarter.
How To Warm Up
When you’re looking to build serious muscle you’re going to be pushing hard in the gym, and the workouts below are going to test your body to its limits. That means it’s imperative that you devote some time to warming up before you start.
By warming up we don’t mean a short, slow walk on the treadmill while you check your phone. We mean a thorough, workout-specific warm-up that targets the muscles you’re about to use.
Start with this seven-move weights warm-up routine, which will wake up muscles all over the body so they’re ready for the next stage of the warm-up, which is some workout-specific exercises. The simplest way to do this is to run through the exercises in the workout you’re about to do using a very light weight – lifting just the bar for barbell moves is a good example of this – or no weight at all.
Spend five to ten minutes running through that and you’ll hit the first set of your workout primed for success, rather than risking injury and underperforming in your first few sets.
Workout 1: Push Session
The session starts with two compound moves to get your chest, shoulders and triceps working hard. Fully straighten your arms at the tops of moves 1 and 2, and move through a full range of motion. For the next four moves, stick to the 2011 tempo, with the final “1” being a one-second squeeze-and-hold in the end position to recruit more muscle fibres.
Workout 2: Pull Session
For all six moves, ensure your posture is perfect with your chest up and abs tight before starting a set. This puts your body in the right position to allow your back and biceps muscles to do the heavy lifting safely, and minimises momentum which will switch off your muscles. Keep to the tempo for maximum muscular time under tension.
Workout 3: Legs Session
For your front squats keep your chest up, elbows high and core engaged so you can lift heavy but safely to hit your quads, glues and hamstrings. Moving through the session, focus on how the working muscle “feels” as you move through each rep, because this will forge stronger mind-to-muscle connections and lead to quicker gains.
Workout 4: Specialisation Session
How to pick your specialisation: Do one of the following sessions as your fourth workout of the week. Simply choose the body part you most want to develop. In the second week, as with the other three sessions, do two extra reps per set of the first two moves, then a full extra set of the next four moves to train both harder and smarter.
Option 1: Abs
Option 2: Arms
Option 3: Chest
Follow these tried-and-tested tips to pack on size quickly.
Feel the tension
For every rep of every set of every exercise, think about the muscle you’re working and lift at a controlled tempo rather than swinging the weight around. You may need to lift a lighter weight to achieve this. That’s fine. All that matters is you lift in the way that stimulates the maximum number of muscle fibres, because that’s what makes them grow.
Stay in the zone
If you want to listen to music in the gym switch, your phone to airplane mode so you aren’t tempted to check your emails or social media or to take any phone calls. You’ve got the rest of the day to get on with work or check the news, and the more focused you are each time you step into the gym, the quicker you’ll get the results you want.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Sleep is the third pillar, along with training and nutrition, that determines how quickly you add muscle. Aim for eight hours of good-quality sleep every night, which means lowering your caffeine intake and limiting time spent in front of your TV, laptop or phone in the hour before bed. Doing so will significantly increase your chances of falling asleep faster – and then staying asleep for longer – to give your mind and muscles the maximum amount of rest, recovery and recuperation.
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Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.