Fast Gains: A Quick Start Muscle Building Workout Plan

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To build muscle and forge the body you want your workout time needs to be productive. But what does the word productive mean?

Most men and women hit the gym with the same goal: to build a perfect body (or something close to it). To reach this goal 2 primary forms of exercise are used:

  1. Resistance training – Barbells, dumbbells, machines and cables are used to challenge the body. The goal is to build muscle, or “to tone.”
  2. Cardio – Treadmills, Stairmasters and sweat-inducing circuit workouts are used to burn calories and fat. The goal is to lean out, revealing the amazing body that lurks beneath.

Unfortunately, though this combination can work it rarely does. Most folks spend years grinding out intense workouts, only to have a body that looks nothing like the pictures of amazing physiques on the Internet.

Hitting the gym to perform cardio and lift weights is not good enough. While exercise is great for overall heath, when your goal is to build a perfect body exercise is not inherently productive.

Woman Performing Pushups

Productive Gym Time – Building the Perfect Body

So what constitutes productive gym time? Let’s take a look.

A body without a quality amount of muscle mass typically looks skinny-fat. You can lose all the fat you want, but if you haven’t spent any time building muscle you will end up looking unspectacular to say the least.

The best looking bodies on the Internet look lean and fit. To achieve this level of conditioning, 2 things must occur:

  1. You must build at least some muscle.
  2. You must lose fat.

This quick start guide will address the first goal – building muscle. How much muscle you build is up to you. A woman who adds 5 to 10 pounds of muscle will look fit, sleek and sexy. A man who builds 10 to 25 pounds of muscle will look more athletic, sexually attractive and healthier.

Adding muscle to your frame also makes you look better even when you are carrying a few extra pounds of fat. Most men and women fail to understand this reality, but it’s true. A fit and muscular body with 10-20 more pounds of fat is far more likely to catch the eye of onlookers than the same physique that has far less muscle mass.

So with this truth established, it’s time to make your workouts more productive so you can actually build muscle.

Productive resistance training involves:

  • DumbbellsConsistency – If you aren’t getting your backside to the gym, you can’t build muscle. Sounds obvious, right? It is, but how many folks lift for a year straight without missing more than a handful of workouts?
  • Progression – You must progressively challenge your muscles with more resistance, in some form or fashion. If you don’t, they have no reason to grow.
  • Patience – Muscle is built one set at a time. There is much you can do to optimize the process, but little you can do to expedite it. Focus on optimizing training, diet and supplementation. From here it’s all about putting in the work and bidding your time.
  • Proper Diet – Proper training must be backed with a smart diet. If your eating plan lacks proper protein intake, healthy fats and other recovery and muscle building essentials, you are minimizing the efforts of your workouts.
  • Listening – Listening to your body is an essential. If someone tells you to try workout X or exercise Y, but they don’t fit your schedule or body type, it might end up costing you gym time or results.

These “pillars of success” will be discussed more at the end of this article. For now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the program.

Fast Gains Quick Start Muscle Building Plan

This quick start plan is for:

  1. Beginners who have never given resistance training a serious run.
  2. More experienced individuals who have seen little in the way of muscle building results.

If you are not familiar with the exercises listed in this program, please take time to learn proper form using a moderate amount of resistance. Once you have a reasonable understanding of exercise form, it’s game on – or gains on!

There are 2 sections to this guide: a training section and a nutrition section. Do not neglect either. Proper training without nutrition to back it up leads to poor results. On the other side of the coin, perfect nutrition with a halfhearted effort in the gym also leads to sub-par results.

Fast Gains Workouts

This section contains several quick start workout options. Choose the option that fits your schedule and most motivates you to train. No workout in this section is better than the other.

Training Option A – Alternating A/B Split. You will alternate between 2 different workouts, training 3 times per week on non-consecutive days.

Training Option B – Full Body Workout. You will train 3 times per week on non-consecutive training days, working the entire body during each session.

Training Option C – Upper/Lower Split. This is a 4 day per week option that features workouts dedicated to upper and lower body training.

Training Option D – 2 Day Split. This plan is for those of you who have limited time each week to workout but still want quality gains. You will be lifting only 2 days per week.

Training Option A

Training Option A – Alternating A/B Split

You will be training 3 days per week on non-consecutive days. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday – Workout A
  • Wednesday – Workout B
  • Friday – Workout A

The following Monday you will start with Workout B, and continue to alternate during the week.

Workout Notes:
  • Resistance – Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise.
  • When to Add Weight – When you are able to confidently perform the stated number of reps for each of the sets, add a small amount of resistance the next time you perform this movement.
  • Rest – Rest no more than 2 to 3 minutes between sets. For some exercises you may feel ready for your next set after as little as 30 to 60 seconds.
Exercise Swaps:
  • Squats – You may substitute in front squats.
  • Leg Press – You may substitute in hack squats.
  • Bench Press – You may substitute in incline bench press or dumbbell bench press.
  • Pull Ups or V-Bar Pulldowns – You may substitute in any pull down variation.
  • Lateral Raise Superset – Perform a superset of lateral dumbbell raises and bent over dumbbell raises using the same weight.
  • Leg Curls – May be performed seated, lying or standing.
  • EZ Bar Curls – You may substitute in any straight bar or EZ bar curling variation.
  • Dumbbell Curls – You may substitute in any dumbbell curling variation.
  • Calf Exercise – Pick any preferred calf exercise.
  • Abdominal Exercise – Pick any preferred abdominal exercise.
  • Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts – You may substitute in barbell stiff leg deadlifts.
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press – You may substitute in any barbell or dumbbell overhead press variation.
Training OpTION A
WORKOUT A
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  3  8
Bench Press  3  8
Pull Ups or V-Bar Pull Downs  3  10
Lateral Raise Superset  3  10
Leg Curls  2  10
Skullcrushers  2  10
EZ Bar Curls  2  10
Calf Exercise  2  15
Training OpTION A
WORKOUT B
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press  3  10
Barbell Rows  3  8
Machine Chest Press or Incline Dumbbell Bench  3  10
Seated Dumbbell Press or Machine Overhead Press  3  10
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts  2  10
Rope Cable Triceps Extensions  2  10
Alternating Dumbbell Curls  2  10
Abdominal Exercise  2  Varies

Training Option B

Training Option B – Full Body Workout

You will be training 3 days per week on non-consecutive days. Each day will feature a unique workout. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday – Workout A
  • Wednesday – Workout B
  • Friday – Workout C

Take the weekend off and allow yourself 2 complete recovery days.

Workout Notes:
  • Resistance – Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise.
  • When to Add Weight – When you are able to confidently perform the stated number of reps for each of the sets, add a small amount of resistance the next time you perform this movement.
  • Rest – Rest no more than 2 to 3 minutes between sets. For some exercises you may feel ready for your next set after as little as 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Abs/Calves – Alternate between working abs and calves each workout.
Exercise Swaps:
  • Squats – You may substitute in front squats.
  • Bench Press – You may substitute in incline bench press.
  • Seated Cable Rows – You may substitute in V-bar pull downs, one arm dumbbell rows or T-bar rows.
  • Leg Curls – You may use any lying, seated or standing leg curl variation.
  • EZ Bar Curls – You may substitute in any straight bar curl variation.
  • Abdominals/Calves – Use any preferred exercise variation.
  • Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts – You may substitute in barbell stiff leg deadlifts.
  • Pec Dec – You may substitute in flyes or cable crossovers.
  • Lat Pull Downs – You may substitute in any pull up or pull down variation.
  • Leg Press – You may substitute in hack squats.
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curls – You may substitute in any dumbbell curls variation.
Training OpTION B
WORKOUT A
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  3  8
Bench Press  3  8
Seated Cable Rows  3  10
Side Lateral Raise  3  10
Leg Curls  2  10
Cable Tricesp Extension  2  10
EZ Bar Curls  2  10
Abdominal or Calf Exercise  2  */15
Training OpTION B
WORKOUT B
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift  2  10
Pec Dec  3  10
Lat Pull Downs  3  10
Military Press  3  8
Dumbbell Shrugs  2  10
Two Arm Seated Dumbbell Extensions  2  10
Machine or Cable Curls  2  10
Abdominal or Calf Exercise  2  */15
Training OpTION B
WORKOUT C
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press  3  10
Incline Dumbbell Bench  3  10
Barbell Rows  3  8
Bent Over Lateral Raise  3  10
Leg Curls  2  10
Skullcrushers  2  10
Alternating Dumbbell Curls  2  10
Abdominal or Calf Exercise  2  */15

Training Option C

Training Option C – Upper/Lower Split

This is a 4 day plan that can also be run on an every other day basis. Here is the standard schedule:

  • Monday – Upper Workout A
  • Tuesday – Lower Workout A
  • Thursday – Upper Workout B
  • Friday – Lower Workout B
Workout Notes:
  • Resistance – Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise.
  • When to Add Weight – When you are able to confidently perform the stated number of reps for each of the sets, add a small amount of resistance the next time you perform this movement.
  • Rest – Rest no more than 2 to 3 minutes between sets. For some exercises you may feel ready for your next set after as little as 30 to 60 seconds.
Exercise Swaps:
  • Bench Press – You may substitute in incline bench press.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – You may substitute in dumbbell bench press.
  • Lat Pull Downs or V-Bar Pull Downs – You may substitute in any pull down or pull up variation.
  • Military Press – You may substitute in any overhead press variation.
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curls – You may substitute in any dumbbell curl variation.
  • Seated Arnold Press – You may substitute in upright rows or any dumbbell overhead press variation.
  • EZ Bar Curls – You may substitute in any straight bar curl variations.
  • Squats – You may substitute in front squats.
  • Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts – You may substitute in barbell stiff leg deadlifts.
  • Leg Curls – You may use any lying, seated or standing leg press variation.
  • Calf Exercise – Pick any preferred calf exercise.
  • Abdominal Exercise – Pick any preferred abdominal exercise.
Training OpTION C
Upper WORKOUT A
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press  3  8
Lat Pull Downs  3  10
Military Press  3  8
Pec Dec  2  10
Seated Cable Rows  2  10
Side Lateral Raise  2  10
Cable Triceps Extension  3  10
Alternating Dumbbell Curls  3  10
Training OpTION C
Lower WORKOUT A
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  4  8
Leg Extensions  4  8
Leg Curls  4  10
Calf Exercise  4  15
Abdominal Exercise  4  *
Training OpTION C
Upper WORKOUT B
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench  3  10
Barbell Rows  3  8
Seated Arnold Press  3  10
Flyes or Cable Crossovers  2  10
V-Bar Pull Downs  2  10
Bent Over Reverse Lateral  2  10
Skullcrushers  3  10
EZ Bar Curls  3  10
Training OpTION C
Lower Workout B
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press  4  10
Hack Squats  4  8
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts  4  8
 Calf Exercise  4  15
 Abdominal Exercise  4  *

Training Option D

Training Option D – 2 Day Split

With this option you will be training twice a week. You can either follow this sample schedule, or lift every third day:

  • Monday – Workout A
  • Thursday – Workout B
Workout Notes:
  • Resistance – Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise.
  • When to Add Weight – When you are able to confidently perform the stated number of reps for each of the sets, add a small amount of resistance the next time you perform this movement.
  • Rest – Rest no more than 2 to 3 minutes between sets. For some exercises you may feel ready for your next set after as little as 30 to 60 seconds.
Exercise Swaps:
  • Squats – You may substitute in front squats.
  • Bench Press – You may substitute in incline bench press.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – You may substitute in dumbbell bench press.
  • Lat Pull Downs – You may substitute in any pull down or pull up variation.
  • Military Press – You may substitute in any overhead dumbbell or barbell press variation.
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curls – You may substitute in any dumbbell curl variation.
  • EZ Bar Curls – You may substitute in any straight bar curl variations.
  • Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts – You may substitute in barbell stiff leg deadlifts.
  • Leg Curls – You may use any lying, seated or standing leg press variation.
  • Calf Exercise – Pick any preferred calf exercise.
  • Abdominal Exercise – Pick any preferred abdominal exercise.
Training OpTION D
WORKOUT A
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  3  8
Incline Dumbbell Press  3  10
Barbell Rows  3  8
Side Lateral Raise  3  10
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift  2  8
Cable Triceps Extension  2  10
EZ Bar Curls  2  10
Ab or Calf Exercise  2  */15
Training OpTION D
WORKOUT B
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press  3  10
Bench Press  3  8
Lat Pull Downs  3  10
Military Press  3  8
Leg Curls  2  10
Skullcrushers  2  10
Alternating Dumbbell Curls  2  10
Ab or Calf Exercise  2  */15

Protein, Carbs and Fats

Watch the scale and make changes to your daily calorie intake as needed to reach your weight gain goals.

Fast Gains Nutrition – How to Setup a Muscle Building Diet

This section will help you structure a proper muscle building diet. Consider the advice in this section to be a starting point. The magic will be in the adjustments.

Watch the scale and make changes to your daily calorie intake as needed to reach your weight gain goals. Also, don’t hesitate to make minor changes to your carb, fat or protein intake if you feel like adjustments might be needed.

Males – Expected Muscle Rate Gain

As a beginner, males have the potential to build 12 to 16 pounds of muscle mass during their first year of training. If you are not gaining about 1-2 pounds per month, then bump your calories up by about 200 per day and watch the scale for several months. Make further adjustments if needed.

Females – Expected Muscle Rate Gain

Females should be more conservative with calorie intake. They gain muscle at a slower rate then men, and derive little benefit from aggressive food consumption. With that said, women interested in adding muscle to their frame still need to aim for 0.5 to 0.75 pounds of weight gain per month during their first year of training.

If you fail to gain weight at this rate, bump your daily calories up by 100 per day and watch the scale for the next month. It is best to slowly increase calories like this rather than to make big leaps that you will regret. Remember that the muscle building process takes time, and it’s better to dial in calorie intake slowly rather than to make big jumps.

How to Estimate Daily Caloric Intake Levels

The following equation created by Alan Aragon can help you determine your TEE, or total energy expenditure per day based upon the bodyweight you want to achieve. So if you want to gain 12 pounds of mass during the coming year, take your current weight and add 12 to it.

Target Calorie Intake = Target bodyweight in pounds x (8-10 or 9-11 + average total weekly training hours).

MacronutrientsThe bold section of the equation (8-10 or 9-11) can be determined by looking at the chart below. Women will use a range of 8-10, while men will use a range of 9-11.

Woman or less active person:

  • 8 = low intensity training.
  • 9 = moderate intensity training.
  • 10 = high intensity training.

Man or more active person:

  • 9 = low intensity training.
  • 10 = moderate intensity training.
  • 11 = high intensity training.

So let’s say you are a 165 pound male that is training for 5 hours per week. You want to bulk up to 180 pounds using a moderately intense training protocol during the coming year. Your calorie intake would be:

Target Calorie Intake = 180 x (10 + 5) = 180 x 15 = 2,700 calories per day.

Now let’s look at an example for a female. If you are a 130 pound woman who wants to add 5 pounds of muscle during the coming year, and you workout 4 hours per week using a high intensity approach, your daily calorie intake requirements would be:

Target Calorie Intake = 135 x (10 + 5) = 135 x 15 = 2,025 calories per day.

Determining Your Macronutrient Intake

Now that you know your daily calorie needs, it’s time to determine a starting point for your protein, fat and carbohydrate intake. To keep it simple, try to keep your protein intake within the following ranges:

  • Men – 180 to 220 grams of protein per day.
  • Women – 100 to 120 grams of protein per day.

Remember that each gram of protein contains 4 calories. So if you’re consuming 200 grams per day, this would equate to 800 total calories.

Calories From Protein = Grams of protein eaten per day x 4

Now that you know how many calories you are eating per day from protein, it’s time to determine your fat and carbohydrate intake. Fat intake should be about 25 to 35% of your overall daily calories. Try starting with 30% and making adjustments if needed.

Using the above numbers, our male and female lifters would need the following number of daily calories from fats:

  • Male @ 2,700 calories per day = 2,700 x 0.30 = 810 daily calories from fat, or 90 grams of fat (9 calories per gram).
  • Female @ 2,025 calories per day = 2,025 x 0.30 = 607.5 daily calories from fat, or 67.5 grams of fat.

From here, it’s easy to determine daily calories required from carbohydrates. Simply subtract the calories you are eating from fats and protein from your daily intake requirements. This leaves you with the number of calories from carbohydrates you will need each day.

Carbohydrate Calories = Total daily calories – (fat calories + protein calories)

Returning to the examples, our male and female lifters would need the following number of daily calories from carbohydrates:

  • Male @ 2,700 calories per day = 2,700 – (810 fat calories + 800 protein calories = 1,090 daily carbohydrate calories, or 272.5 grams of carbs (4 calories per gram).
  • Female @ 2,025 calories per day = 2,025 – (607.5 fat calories + 480 protein calories = 937.5 daily carbohydrate calories, or 234 grams of carbs (4 calories per gram).

Daily Nutrition Recap

  • Step 1 – Determine your daily calorie requirements using Alan Aragon’s formula.
  • Step 2 – Determine a daily protein intake level in grams. Remember that each gram of protein contains 4 calories.
  • Step 3 – Multiply your daily calorie requirements by 30% to determine how many calories of fat you need. Remember that there are 9 calories per gram of fat.
  • Step 4 – Subtract the calories you consume each day from protein and fats from your overall intake. This yields the number of calories you require from carbohydrates. Remember that each gram of carbs contains 4 calories.

Bodybuilder Eating

Are you able to reach your daily protein intake goals? If not, perhaps it’s time to invest in a protein powder like MTS whey.

7 Days – 7 Fast Start Tips

7 days, 7 tips to help you maximize success. This advice will help get organized and focused. Consider it your boarding pass for the gains train.

Day 1 – Prep your gym bag. Make sure to stock it with a small notebook and a pen (to log your workouts), a small towel to help you keep your sweat off machines, lifting straps or Versa Gripps, your cell phone (so you can record footage of your lifts and analyze your form), several scoops of your favorite pre-workout and intra-workout supplement, whey protein for use after your workout, headphones (in case the music at your gym is annoying) and a backup shaker bottle (a gains insurance policy). You also might want to consider wrist wraps, elbow sleeves and/or a lifting belt if you need extra support for your joints or lower back.

Day 2 – Stock up on protein foods. Proper protein intake is essential. It’s time to hit the store and make sure your fridge and cupboards are stocked with a variety of protein food choices. Eggs, beef, chicken, pork, beans, quinoa, cheese, fish and seafood are all great choices. Make sure you choose options that you won’t grow tired of, and won’t mind eating day in and day out.

Day 3 – Implement a nutrition backup plan. You are no longer living a sedentary lifestyle. Active individuals place greater demands on their bodies. It is wise to consider a nutritional backup plan that includes a quality multivitamin/mineral and fish oil. Products like Machine Greens and EthiTech Fish Oil are quality choices designed by Marc Lobliner for hard-training individuals.

Day 4 – Focus on recovery and sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If that isn’t possible, or you just feel like you need the extra recovery time, try taking a 15 or 30 minute nap whenever you can. With regards to recovery, don’t shy away from active recovery. If your muscles are sore, it might be a good thing to get out and move. Don’t do anything strenuous on your off days, but at least make an effort to get up off the couch and move.

Day 5 – Assess and adjust. After a few days of lifting and trying to eat right, it’s time to make an assessment of how things are going. Are you able to reach your daily protein intake goals? If not, perhaps it’s time to invest in a protein powder like MTS whey. Are you feeling sluggish or tired heading into your workouts? If this is the case, a pre-workout formula like MTS Clash might just give you the boost you need.

Day 6 – Considering exercise swaps. If an exercise doesn’t feel right to you, try one of the alternative movements listed. Everyone is different. Don’t stay chained to an exercise that feels counterproductive or potentially harmful. If you feel like you need to work on form for one of the major lifts, take your time and don’t feel pressure to add weight. Muscle building is a marathon, not a sprint.

Day 7 – Remember to push sets and add weight. Are you trying to push sets for as many (safe) reps as possible? If not it’s time to do so. Failure to maximize sets will result in a minimizing of results. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Aim to improve a bit each workout. This attitude will help you smash your goals.

Fit Couple

Building a better body takes time. Make a long term plan. Set goals to change your physique and muscle levels over the course of 1-2 years, not 1-2 months.

5 Pillars of Success: A Deeper Look

I refer to the previous rules of productivity as the 5 Pillars of Success. Let’s take a deeper look at each.

Pillar #1 – Stay Consistent; Stop Missing Workouts

This is an obvious, but important rule. If you’re missing more than a handful of workouts each year something has to change. Perhaps you’re simply trying to hit the gym on more days than your schedule realistically allows. If so, it’s OK to drop a training day per week and use a lighter schedule. You’ll still experience quality gains.

Remember that results come from progression of weight over time. You don’t need to live in the gym to reach your goals. Do what it takes to remain consistent.

Pick a program and stick to the program. Make sure your current program fits your lifestyle. If work or school demands leave you short on time, it doesn’t make sense to try and exercise 5 to 6 times per week for 90 minutes a pop.

Those that successfully transform their bodies find a way get it done. They don’t make excuses; they find a way to get to the gym. If you are making excuses not to lift rather than finding ways TO lift, your results will suffer.

Far too many men and women place unrealistic demands and burdens upon themselves. They rush out of the starting gate, only to fizzle and burnout a few months later. I have seen this happen way too many times over the years, even to some of the most dedicated individuals.

Consistency is not just about getting to the gym. Consistency is also about choosing a workout system that doesn’t burn you out so that you can continue to workout week in and week out, year in and year out.

Find a way to keep lifting. Transforming your body and improving your health and fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.

Can you imagine the progress you will make during the coming year if you completely dedicated yourself to not missing workouts? I can.

Pillar #2 – Progress in Weight and Challenge Your Body

big-arms-1Progressive overload is an essential during your first several years of training. As a machine your body adapts to change rather quickly. If you fail to challenge your muscles with more resistance, they will not respond and grow. At this point your resistance training turns into an inefficient calorie burning session.

Progression is not optional. Though you do not have to train for pure one rep max strength, you do have to get a heck of a lot stronger than you are now.

Without progression of weight, or progressive overload, nothing else matters. End of story. It is the prime mechanism that challenges a muscle to grow. If you are not pushing for more reps per set and more weight over time, you will build little to no muscle.

So many men and women have dedicated years to resistance training, only to experience minimal body changes. The reason is simple: they are moving weight but not challenging themselves. Lifting the same weight over and over again, week in and week out is a recipe for failure.

I have personally interviewed, trained with and spoken to over a thousand folks who have made stunning body transformation changes. Nearly each of these individuals reached a point in their gym training where they “got it” and started to challenge themselves.

Bottom line – if you want to build muscle, dramatically improve your strength levels compared to where you are now. This is the magic. Progression drives gains.

Pillar #3 – Be Patient, Results Will Come

You can’t build 40 pounds of muscle in 6 months, no matter what anyone tells you. You might be able to lose 10 pounds of fat in 4 weeks, or add ¼ inch to your arms if you are a beginner, but that’s about it.

Each workout is a step. If you don’t enjoy that step, and try to maximize that step, results will never come.

Far too many people hit the gym and neither enjoy, nor maximize their workouts. If this sounds like you changes need to be made. It’s time to put yourself on a program you actually look forward to, and it’s time to learn how to maximize each set and each training session.

Once you are able to enjoy lifting and appreciate where your daily progress is taking you, then you stand a chance.

Remain patient. Building a better body takes time. Make a long term plan. Set goals to change your physique and muscle levels over the course of 1-2 years, not 1-2 months. Enjoy the journey.

To be fully committed to reaching your potential you’ll need to adopt a new lifestyle, not a 10 week “toning” program. While this article features a fast start plan, it is not meant to give you the body you want in only a few short months. This plan is designed to get you headed in the right direction, and keep you there.

Once you build muscle, guess what? It will disappear if you stop training. Once you get ripped and carve out the perfect beach body, guess what? You’ll have to work your back end off (literally) to continue to look that good.

Fitness and health isn’t a “90 day magical program.” It involves commitment and completely changing your habits. You must be patient.

Most of us have seen magazine headlines that look like this: “Gain 30 pounds of muscle in 60 days!” This is nonsense. 100% pure nonsense. Unless you are underweight to begin with, it will take you at best 4 years to build 30 pounds of muscle. Naturally, that is.

And for you women: building muscle takes even more time. Most women fear that they will look like a male bodybuilder if they train too hard. Nothing could be further from the truth! Most men can’t even build a decent amount of muscle mass. Aim to build 5-10 pounds of extra muscle. You will look at feel better, and can enter “maintenance mode” at that point if you feel that you look good enough.

Woman Performing Dumbbell Press

Fitness and health isn’t a “90 day magical program.” It involves commitment and completely changing your habits. You must be patient.

Pillar #4 – Eat to Match Your Goals

One of the biggest mistakes made by gym members is the neglecting of nutrition. The human body is like any other high performance machine. It requires a quality fuel source to perform at its peak.

To maximize the muscle building process, you must maximize your nutrition. If you neglect your diet you will limit your results.

Eating “healthy” is not good enough. Guessing how many calories or grams of protein you are eating per day is not good enough.

Over the years hundreds and hundreds of people have told me “I am eating healthy but not making any muscle gains.” The problem with eating healthy is twofold:

  1. First, the concept of “eating healthy” means different things to different people. For some folks it means eating low fat, and for some folks it means eating reduced calories. Eating healthy is a meaningless term because it is vague. It means different things to different people.
  2. Eating healthy is not the same as eating optimally to maximize the muscle building process.

Eating is not rocket surgery. If you weigh 130 pounds and have the goal of being a muscular 200 pounds, you have to eat more food. If you weigh 240 pounds and have the goal of being a muscular 200 pounds, you need to start by eating better foods.

If you are thin, stop worrying that eating slightly more clean food will turn you into a sumo wrestler. It won’t. Individuals who gain a lot of extra fat have to work hard at it. They overeat junk and processed foods (and drinks) day in and day out for many, many years.

A little extra healthy food will allow you to build and get stronger. Will you gain some fat? Possibly, but if so, not much. During my prime gaining years I added 40 pounds to my frame. About 30 of that was muscle.

I went from a skinny-fat 150 to an impressively muscular 190. Despite adding this trivial amount of fat, I actually looked 10 times better.

The average skinny guy can only see in his mind 10 extra pounds of fat. He can’t picture what the addition of muscle will do to his body. His mind fixates on the possible fat gain so much that he undereats and wastes time in the gym, never reaching his goals.

If you are overweight, your first goal should be to eat better. Drop the cookies, chips and sugary drinks. You didn’t gain fat because you were overeating steak and apples.

Don’t rush out to starve yourself. Eat better, start to lift, do a little cardio and see what happens. Reduce calories slightly (SLIGHTLY), or clean up your diet even more if the scale isn’t moving.

Regardless of your goals, ground them in good nutrition and be patient. Remember you are entertaining into a new lifestyle. Change will take time. Eat in a manner that is aligned with your new goals.

Pillar #5 – Listen To Your Body, Evolve Your Training Based On Needs

Have you ever noticed that no two experienced lifters train the same way? Why is that? The simple but obvious answer is that each lifter is unique.

Over the years, and to be successful, they learned to evolve their training style based on needs. They didn’t follow a cookie cutter template, but rather made changes based on body feedback and results.

Some of these lifters found that training volume left them feeling beat up, while others found that high volume improved gains. Some trainees found that a certain lift felt better with a little higher of a rep range, while others may have lowered the rep range.

Instead of jumping from program to program to program, most successful gym members molded a program to fit their physical and mental needs. Part of this, believe it or not, involves enjoyment.

You might find rest-pause training to be exhilarating, while another lifter likes a high volume of low rep sets with an extended period of rest in between. Or perhaps leg presses bore the living heck out of you, but walking lunges fit your bone structure better.

Each of us is a completely unique physiological package. We have different sleeping patterns, work demands, stress levels, coping mechanisms, recovery abilities, body types, bone structures, etc. It is far better to evolve your training based on what works and doesn’t work; what feels good and doesn’t feel good, then to just blindly try to follow some program designed by Lifter X.

Remember, progressive overload is key. It’s OK to make small changes to a workout system as long as progressive overload is your primary focus. Instead of dumping a program that doesn’t feel 100% right, assess what about the program isn’t working and made changes. This is called training evolution.

Learning to evolve your workouts will help maximize gains and minimize injuries.

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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.