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How to build lean muscle in 8 weeks

As summer time is just around the corner, it’s time to hit the gym. We all want that perfect beach body but sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we train or how well we diet, sometimes we just can’t seem to get there.

Well, with just a few hours in the gym over the next 8 weeks, you could build some lean and shed 3% body fat.

The term muscle building means to work your muscles against a resistance to form tiny tears in the muscle fibres that heal bigger and stronger than they were before. This is done through heavy weight training.

Building muscle is also a very effective way of burning fat as your body burns calories from your fat stores simply by sustaining the extra muscle that you carry.

Below is a strength continuum that should give you a good idea to how hard and how heavy you should be training.

Strength continuum

As you can see, in order to build muscle you must put your muscles through a very hard resistance. The heavier the weight, the more muscle fibres will be called into action, thus more of the muscle will heal bigger and stronger as we discussed previously.

Training principles

There are many different types of weight routines but if you’re looking to seriously bulk up, then there are two workouts that you need to try.

The first workout is called 5×5 where you would perform 5 sets of 5 reps.

Where most guys work around 3 sets of 8-10 reps with say, 80% of the muscles called into action, this workout forces you to perform 25 reps at 90-95% of your maximum, thus building more muscle.

The next workout is a classic and for good reason. Superset workouts are some of the most brutal routines in the gym.

Supersets are where you take two exercise and perform 6-8 reps of the first exercise and then perform 6-8 reps of the second exercise straight after without rest. For example, you would take a dumbbell chest press and a one-arm row. Perform 6-8 reps of the chest press and go straight into 6-8 reps of the one-arm row. You would then rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the second and third sets.

I will usually perform two different types of superset routines.

The first is where I work on opposite muscle groups where I would take a chest exercise and a back exercise. The idea behind this is that when I finish the chest exercise, I’m resting that muscle while I work my back, but my heart rate stays high. Therefore the workout is also aerobic.

The second routine is where I work the same muscle in the set but I take a compact exercise and an isolation exercise. For example, a chest press and a chest flye. The idea behind this is that you work the muscles a lot harder whilst also getting an aerobic workout.

Give these workouts a go and see how you get on. Try one for 3-4 weeks and move onto the next. I guarantee you you’ll see a massive increase of size and strength.

Don’t over do it

Make no mistake, muscle building is not easy. It takes a lot of commitment, determination and knowledge. However, don’t think that it involves spending hour upon hour in the gym everyday for the rest of your life.

Each weights programme should last no longer than 1 hour and no more than 4-5 sessions per week.

Rest is the most important factor when taking up a muscle building workout plan. Without proper rest, your muscles will not repair sufficiently enough to grow. Therefore the reverse effects will occur, the muscles will be sore, tired, stiff and will not grow. The term for this is overtraining whereby the volume and intensity of exercise exceeds the recovery period.

Planning your workout

Proper planning is essential when designing any routine, especially a muscle building programme.

Firstly, I only work two muscle groups in any one session, and I will always work opposite muscle groups.

Secondly, I will only perform maximum of 3 exercises per muscle group.

A pre-workout warm up is essential. 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on a rower, treadmill or cross-trainer will raise the temperature of the muscles by increasing the flow of blood to them.

This should be followed by stretching each muscle about to be used to increase the range of movement around the muscles.

Finally, a range of warm up sets should be performed with a light weight to prepare the muscles for the strain about to be put through them.

This routine should take 20 minutes and is essential to help prevent injury.

The routine – Supersets

This is the superset routine I’ve been trying out over the last 2 weeks. In this time, I have gained 2 kg and my strength has majorly increased.

Day 1 – Chest and back

Incline dumbbell chest press – 4 sets of 6 reps

Incline dumbbell chest flye      – 4 sets of 6 reps

For each set perform 6 reps with the chest press and straight after perform 6 reps with the chest flye without rest.

Rest for 2 minutes in between sets. Perform 3 more sets.

Wide grip Lat Pull down – 4 sets of 6 reps

Parallel grip Seated Row – 4 sets of 6 reps

Same as above

Close grip chin ups – 3 sets of 6

Tricep dips                    – 3 sets of 6

Finish the session with press ups – 2 sets of Fail (as many as possible)

Day 2 – shoulders and Arms

Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs – 4 sets of 6 reps

Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 4 sets of 6 reps

Dumbbell Frontal Raises – 4 sets of 6 reps

Dumbbell Bicep Curl – 4 sets of 6 reps

Tricep Rope Press       – 4 sets of 6 reps

Finish the session with Diamond Press ups – 2 sets of Fail

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4 – Legs and Abs

Seated Leg Curl – 4 sets of 6 reps

Leg extension     – 4 sets of 6 reps

Dumbbell Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps

Roman Deadlift   – 4 sets of 6 reps

Medicine Ball Jacknife – 2 sets of 10 reps

Toe touch – 2 sets of 20 reps

Day 5 – Rest

Repeat the routine on a 5 day basis

When you have repeated this routine four times on each muscle group, it’s time to change the routine.

Adding variety to your workout regime is essential for optimum muscle and strength increases. If you don’t change your routine every 2-3 weeks, you mayreach a plateau (no further progression).

Not only changing the exercises, but also changing the amount of sets and reps helps to keep the body guessing which helps to give you the best results over time. So have a go at my nBy James Flatman

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