Your Four-Week Workout Plan To Build Muscle

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When asked what body part they would most like to change, many men say they want either a bigger chest, bigger arms or a smaller belly. But to make a major change to the way you look with your shirt off, you don’t need to make a massive change to one body part: you need to focus on making small changes across your torso. Adding width to your shoulders and back, increasing the size of your chest and arms, and stripping away belly fat will transform you from average Joe to athlete-in-waiting with a lean, defined and sculpted V-shape.

That’s what this four-week training plan has been designed to do. It’ll add muscular size to all your major upper-body muscles groups while helping burn excess fat to create a bigger, stronger and leaner physique. Read on to discover the theory behind the plan, as well as simple lifestyle tips that will turn your body into a muscle-building, fat-burning machine. Then start the plan, making sure you give it all you’ve got!

The Training Plan

The plan has two two-week blocks. The first has four sessions a week: chest and arms; legs and shoulders; back and arms; and chest and shoulders. So you’ll train your major upper-body muscles directly or indirectly twice a week, an intensive approach that will add muscle fast.

Block 1 week 1: super six

In this first fortnight each session has six moves: the first four are straight sets, then the fifth and sixth exercises are done as a superset. Follow the order exactly, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest shown.

Block 1 week 2: big gains

In the second week of the first block all the sessions are the same, containing the same moves in the same order. However, while you’ll still do five sets of eight reps for the first two moves of each workout, there’s an extra set for moves 3, 4, 5A and 5B to keep the big gains coming. Jump to block 1 week 2.

Block 2 week 1: up the ante

In the second block the sessions change to prompt faster body composition changes. The four sessions are chest and back; legs and arms; chest and back again; and shoulders and arms. More moves for each major muscle group adds up to faster progress. Jump to block 2 week 1.

Block 2 week 2: fast finish

The exercises are also more challenging in the second block, so try to lift as heavy as you can while maintaining good form. In the final week, the sets and reps have been tweaked from week 3 to push your muscles to their limit. Jump to block 2 week 2.

Four Diet Tips

Accelerate how quickly your body builds mean muscle mass and become more efficient at burning fat by adopting these better-eating habits

1. Break your fast

Eating protein for breakfast is one of the best things you can do when wanting to add muscle and burn fat. Protein allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar levels, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer so you aren’t tempted to snack on sweet treats before lunch. It also repairs the damage done to your muscles through training, to rebuild your muscles bigger and stronger after every session. A great brekkie is eggs, salmon and green leaves.

2. Load up on veg

You should be eating protein at every meal (and favouring high-quality lean sources like steak, chicken, turkey and white fish) but making up most of each meal – about half your plate in fact – should be veg. That’s because it’s high in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals to keep you fighting fit, and full of fibre to keep you feeling full long after eating. Vegetables are also very low in calories. Eat a wide variety of colours for variety of nutrients.

3. Time your carbs

For the duration of this four-week plan you should cut back on your carb intake, especially heavily-processed carbs such as crisps, chips and white bread and pasta. But you still need carbs to help you recover from training, and it’s important to be fully energised for each session so you can push yourself. Stick to carbs in their natural form, such as new potatoes or wholemeal rice. Eat them around your workouts, then back off for the rest of the day.

4. Drink more water

If you’re dehydrated your body’s going to have a tough time both building new muscle mass and burning fat stores. And dehydration results in poor focus and lack of motivation, which will make it much harder to get to the gym (and train well when you’re there), as well as to make smart nutrition choices. Drink two to three litres a day, but more on training days, to stay hydrated and keep your body looking and feeling in optimal nick.

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

1 Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on a bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Lat pull-down

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

3 Cable cross-over

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in the middle of a cable machine, holding a D-handle in each hand attached to the high pulley. Keeping your chest up and core braced, bring your hands down in a smooth arc to meet in front of your body. Hold for a second, then return to the start.

4 Cable straight-arm pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, facing the cable machine and holding a straight bar handle with both hands. Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar down towards your thighs in a smooth arc. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back to the start.

5A Incline dumbbell shoulder press

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 30sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Plant your feet on the floor and get your body tight. Press the weights straight up so your arms are straight, then lower them under control.

5B Prone dumbbell row

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie chest-down on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your chest against the bench, row the weights up, leading with your elbows. Hold the top position for a second, then lower the weights back to the start .

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Shoulders

1 Back squat

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and your whole body tight, bend your knees to squat down as low as you can but don’t let your knees roll inwards. Push through your heels to stand back up.

2 Overhead press

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the front of your chest with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, press the bar directly overhead so your arms are straight. Lower it under control to return to the start.

3 Leg extension

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the bottom of your shins. Keeping your upper body tight, raise your feet to straighten your legs. Pause at the top with your quads engaged, then return to the start.

4 Hamstring curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the back of your lower legs. Keeping your upper body tight, push your feet down to bend your legs. Pause at the top with your hamstrings engaged, then return to the start.

5A Seated dumbbell overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 30sec

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

5B Seated dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on an upright bench, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your chest up and core braced, raise the weights out to shoulder height, leading with your elbows, then return slowly to the start.

Friday Workout: Back And Arms

1 Triceps dip

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Grip parallel bars with straight arms and your legs crossed behind you. Keeping your chest up and core braced, lower your body by bending your elbows until they’re at 90°. Press back up to return to the start.

2 Underhand lat pull-down

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a narrow underhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

3 Seated cable row

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on the machine, holding a double-grip cable attachment in both hands. Keeping your chest up, row your hands in towards your body, leading with your elbows. Pause, then return to the start.

4 Incline dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forwards and elbows tight to your sides. Keeping your elbows there, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights.

5A Cable biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Stand tall facing a cable machine, holding a straight bar handle with both hands. Keeping your chest up, pull the bar down towards your thighs in a smooth arc. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back to the start.

5B Cable triceps press-down

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a double-rope handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

Saturday Workout: Chest And Shoulders

1 Incline bench press

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Dumbbell pull-over

Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench holding a dumbbell with both hands above your chest with straight arms. Lower the weight under control behind your head, keeping your arms straight. Then raise it back to the start position.

3 EZ-bar upright row

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding an EZ-bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, row the bar up to chin height, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top, then lower the bar back to the start under control.

4 Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your chest up and core braced, raise the weights out to shoulder height, leading with your elbows, then return slowly to the start.

5A Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Lie back on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your chest with a slight bend in your elbows. Lower the weights out ato the sides under control, keeping that bend in your elbows, then return to the start position.

5B Press-up

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Get on all fours with your legs and arms straight, your hands under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Engage your abs and bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor, then press back up powerfully.

Block 1: Week 2

We’ve made some smart tweaks to the training sessions to transform your torso even faster

The first week of this plan – as you now know – isn’t easy, but it is effective. Because the only way to pack on lean muscle mass quickly while also stripping away unwanted belly fat is to push your muscles hard with enough high-quality reps, and with only the briefest rest between sets and moves to keep your heart rate high.

In this second week of the first fortnight of the plan you’ll do the same workouts in the same order as the first week. However, while the total number of sets and reps for moves 1 and 2 remain the same, there is an extra set for all the other moves in the workout. This means you’ll do a total of five sets for moves 3, 4 and superset moves 5A and 5A, up from four total sets in week 1.

If possible, try to lift slightly heavier weights than in the previous week, especially for the first two moves, and at least the first set or two of all subsequent moves. Even a small increase, so long as your form doesn’t suffer, will add up to a big difference to your progress.

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Bench press 5 8 2010 60sec
2 Lat pull-down 5 8 2011 60sec
3 Cable cross-over 5 12 2010 60sec
4 Straight-arm pull-down 5 12 2011 60sec
5A Incline dumbbell press 5 12 2010 30sec
5B Prone dumbbell row 5 12 2011 60sec

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Squat 5 8 2010 60sec
2 Overhead press 5 8 2010 60sec
3 Leg extension 5 12 2011 60sec
4 Hamstring curl 5 12 2011 60sec
5A Seated overhead press 5 12 2010 30sec
5B Seated lat raise 5 12 2011 60sec

Friday Workout: Back And Arms

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Triceps dip 5 8 2010 60sec
2 Underhand lat pull-down 5 8 2011 60sec
3 Seated row 5 12 2011 60sec
4 Incline dumbbell curl 5 12 2011 60sec
5A Cable biceps curl 5 12 2011 30sec
5B Cable triceps press 5 12 2011 60sec

Saturday Workout: Chest And Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Incline bench press 5 8 2010 60sec
2 Dumbbell pull-over 5 8 2011 60sec
3 EZ-bar upright row 5 12 2011 60sec
4 Dumbbell lateral raise 5 12 2011 60sec
5A Incline dumbbell flye 5 12 2010 30sec
5B Press-up 5 12 2010 60sec

Block 2: Week 1

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

1 Incline bench press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Bent-over row

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip, bending your knees slightly. Bend at the hips until you’re at roughly 45° to the floor. Pull the bar up to touch your sternum, then lower under control. If you’re moving your upper body to shift the bar, the weight’s too heavy.

3 Dumbbell bench press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Press the weights straight up so your arms are straight, then lower them under control.

4 Dumbbell prone reverse flye

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie chest-down on an incline bench, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your chest against the bench, raise the weights out to the sides, leading with your elbows. Hold the top position for a second, then lower the weights back to the start.

5A Cable cross-over

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in the middle of a cable machine, holding a D-handle in each hand attached to the high pulley. Keeping your chest up and core braced, bring your hands down in a smooth arc to meet in front of your body. Hold for a second, then return to the start.

5B Cable straight-arm pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, facing the cable machine and holding a straight bar handle with both hands. Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar down towards your thighs in a smooth arc. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back to the start.

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Arms

1 Back squat

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and your whole body tight, bend your knees to squat down as low as you can but don’t let your knees roll inwards. Push through your heels to stand back up.

2 Romanian deadlift

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge forwards from the hips and lower the bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Reverse to the start.

3 Underhand lat pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a narrow underhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

4 Triceps dip

Sets 4 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Grip parallel bars with straight arms and your legs crossed behind you. Keeping your chest up and core braced, lower your body by bending your elbows until they’re at 90°. Press back up to return to the start.

5A Cable biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a bar handle attached to the lower pulley with palms facing up. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, curl your hands up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower.

5B Cable triceps press-down

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a bar handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing down. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

Friday Workout: Chest And Back

1 Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on a bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Wide lat pull-down

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

3 Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your chest with a slight bend in your elbows. Lower the weights out to the sides under control, keeping that bend in your elbows, then return to the start position.

4 Seated row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on the machine, holding a double-grip cable attachment in both hands. Keeping your chest up, row your hands in towards your body, leading with your elbows. Pause, then return to the start.

5A Dumbbell pull-over

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Lie flat on a bench holding a dumbbell with both hands above your chest with straight arms. Lower the weight under control behind your head, keeping your arms straight, then raise it back to the start position.

5B Press-up

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Get on all fours with your legs and arms straight, your hands under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Engage your abs and bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor, then press back up powerfully.

Saturday Workout: Shoulders And Arms

1 Overhead press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the front of your chest with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, press the bar directly overhead so your arms are straight. Lower it under control to return to the start.

2 Chin-up

Sets 5 Reps 6-10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Hold the bar with an underhand grip and hang with your body straight. Brace your abs and glutes and engage your lats, then pull up until your chin is above your hands. Pause at the top, then lower yourself back to the start under control.

3 EZ-bar upright row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding an EZ-bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, row the bar up to chin height, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top, then lower the bar back to the start under control.

4 Incline dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forwards and your elbows tight to your sides. Keeping your elbows there, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights.

5A Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your chest up and core braced, raise the weights out to shoulder height, leading with your elbows, then return slowly to the start.

5B Cable triceps press-down

Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a bar handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing down. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

Block 2: Week 2

For the start of the second block of the plan we shook things up with a change to the session structure, which meant that you were spending more total training time on your chest, back, arms and shoulders to make them bigger and stronger to change your body for the better. And in this final week, while the sessions follow the same structure as in week one, the key variables have again been changed to challenge your muscles even more so they keep getting bigger.

There are still five sets of the first two moves of each workout, but you’ll do an extra two reps per set this week. For the final four moves of each session, the total number of sets stays the same as in the first week – so you’ll do four in total – but the rep count per set increase, from ten to 12 for moves 3 and 4, and from 12 to 15 for the superset moves of 5A and 5B. Don’t worry if you use the same weights as last week: you’re doing more reps per set of all the moves, and form comes first.

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Incline bench press 5 12 2010 60sec
2 Bent-over row 5 12 2011 60sec
3 Dumbbell bench press 4 12 2010 60sec
4 Prone dumbbell flye 4 12 2011 60sec
5A Cable cross-over 4 15 2010 30sec
5B Cable straight-arm pull 4 15 2011 60sec

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Arms

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Back squat 5 12 2010 60sec
2 Romanian deadlift 5 12 2010 60sec
3 Underhand lat pull-down 4 12 2011 60sec
4 Triceps dip 4 8-12 2010 60sec
5A Cable biceps curl 4 15 2011 30sec
5B Cable triceps press 4 15 2011 60sec

Friday Workout: Chest And Back

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Bench press 5 12 2010 60sec
2 Wide lat pull-down 5 12 2011 60sec
3 Incline dumbbell flye 4 12 2011 60sec
4 Seated row 4 12 2011 60sec
5A Dumbbell pull-over 4 15 2011 30sec
5B Press-up 4 15 2010 60sec

Saturday Workout: Shoulders And Arms

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1 Overhead press 5 12 2010 60sec
2 Chin-up 5 8-12 2011 60sec
3 EZ-bar upright row 4 12 2011 60sec
4 Incline dumbbell curl 4 12 2011 60sec
5A Dumbbell lateral raise 4 15 2011 30sec
5B Cable triceps press 4 15 2011 60sec