The New Muscle Blueprint: The Muscle Building Workout You Need!
The New Muscle Blueprint: The Muscle Building Workout You Need!
Presidential elections, astrophysics, explaining the Kardashian's success. All are complicated matters. In the modern world simplicity is lost and the complex reigns supreme. We do it to ourselves, really. If it's simple then there has to be a catch, right?

When it comes to building solid, lean muscle simplicity is your best friend – yes, your BFF. Along with the invention of the wheel, building an impressive physique shouldn't be too perplexing.

Lift weight, get big.

No, the theory isn't a new one but you may need a hand in creating an effective plan of action. You may need a little education on the basics – no textbook required.

With all of the noise on the interwebz it's easy to get frustrated, confused and downright fed-up with the latest and greatest programs, techniques and methods promising to be "The Way" to unlocking new muscle.

Let's breakdown what makes an effective training program if you're either new to the iron game or just need a fresh restart. Take a seat, class is in session. [imagemap id="23009"]
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10 Simple Rules of Muscle-Building, or Gains 101

Rule #1 - Kill your ego

First and foremost, leave your ego at home. If your goal is to build a lean, muscular physique then you have no business lifting like a powerlifter. It's not about how much ya bench. It's about stimulating muscle tissue so it will grow back larger than before.

Setting PRs is fine but that should be reserved for pure strength athletes. Will you grow by lifting with big weights, low reps and long rest periods? Sure, but that's the long road. If you want to look like a golden era bodybuilder then train like one.

Rule #2 - Go mostly compound

On the flip side, performing single-arm, reverse-grip cable triceps pressdowns with light weight for endless reps won't cut it either. Isolation moves have their place but you need (yes need) to fill your program with the big, multi-joint compound exercises.

Since more than one muscle has to engage the weight more of said weight can be lifted and more muscles are stimulated. Go with flat and incline bench presses, rows, pull-ups, squats, leg presses, shoulder presses, close-grip bench presses and any other of the seemingly endless variations.

Rule #3 - Get your rep ranges straight

Although the old adage of hoisting anything heavy will build muscle there are a few things to consider when it comes to creating the ideal stimuli for muscle growth. Notice I said growth and not increases in pure strength.

Will you build muscle performing sets of 3 reps? Sure you will. And the same goes for 20 rep sets. But you want to practice the ideal rep range to get you to your goals faster. Essentially, sticking in the 6 to 12 rep range is best for most gym-goers. You may find yourself at either end of that spectrum as you may have an affinity for higher or lower reps.

Rule #4 - Dial in your volume

This is a tricky subject but keeping with our "keep it simple" mantra here's a simple answer. Generally 2 or 3 angles/exercises for larger body parts such as quads, chest and back and 1 or 2 angles/exercises for smaller body parts such as biceps, triceps, calves and hamstrings is ideal.

Anywhere from 3 to 5 sets per exercise will do the trick. Your mission isn't to demolish and pummel every single muscle fiber until you are left broken and battered. Stimulate the muscle and then leave so you can recover and come back better.

Rule #5 - Get frequent

Answer this honestly: Are you one of the masses that train one body part per day? Let me guess, chest on Monday? Then maybe back, then arms or shoulders? How's that working for you?

On the heels of talking about the moderate amount of volume above you will need to ramp up your frequency a bit. Specifically to training everything twice per week. Why? Muscle tissue recovers rather quickly – just as long as you don't mutilate them with countless sets and intensity techniques.

Rule #6 - Learn how much rest is best

As mentioned above, your mission is to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers as you can without feeling like you were hit by a truck every session – you do have a life outside of the gym, don't you? With that in mind, the goal isn't to set PRs for every set.

Anywhere from 30 seconds (for arms, calves and shoulders) to 90 seconds (for chest, back and legs) is the sweet spot for muscle growth. Think fatigue and muscle breakdown for building muscle not conducting a strength contest.

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Rule #7 - Make appropriate progress

This is where strength is a factor. Measuring reps and weight is about all you have regarding when and how to progress up in weight. Yes, you should be focused on muscle fiber recruitment, but you will need to look at strength for progresses sake. Here's how: Once you reach the upper range of reps (12 or more) on two separate occasions increase the weight by 5 pounds on upper body exercises and 10 pounds on lower body exercises. This may seem miniscule but these baby steps with ensure solid progression without going overboard.

Rule #8 - Change isn't always necessary

So, you hear a lot about changing programs, exercise order, reps, volume, pace, etc. every so often to keep things "fresh." Is this something you should be concerned about? The short answer is no.

If you are showing up every training day, training with intensity, using proper form and technique and adhering to a sensible diet and recovery schedule then you will have little need to switch things up. This isn't to say that you can't substitute an exercise or two or switch from using a barbell to dumbbells. It just means that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Master your current program, tweak it for improvement and stay the course.

Rule #9 - Taking a break is OK

As with most things in life, you can't go all out all the time. You will need downtime or to shift into a lower gear in order to keep progressing. Why? You risk burning out. No one can keep progressing forever day-in and day-out.

You will need to take the proverbial one step back and two steps forward in order for your body to recover and ramp up for the next phase of training. As a rule of thumb, shoot for 6 to 8 weeks of intense training and then either take a full week off or take only a few days off and the a few more days of low-intensity training to give your body a break.

Rule #10 - Record your workouts

One of the most important aspects in training is progression. With that said you will need to use a painfully underutilized tool. One simple, powerful practice that will change the way you look at your long-term goals. Get into the habit of recording your workouts.

Are you still squatting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps as last year at this time? Be sure to log your exercises, sets, reps, weight used and even notes on how you felt that day prior to and after training. This way you will have a hard copy of what you did and where you are going. You will be able to see progression happening or, if not, you can research how you can fix what's broken - find what's wrong, adjust and then move on.

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The New Muscle Blueprint Workout

Perform this program over 4 days per week. For example, you can train on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off.

Tackle a general warm-up prior to each session. Any form will do such as treadmill walking, bike, elliptical, jumping jacks or a light jog. You can also include some specific warm-ups such as burpees, bodyweight squats and push-ups.

Be sure to perform a comprehensive stretch routine after each training session. The interval cardio sessions are optional. Or you can perform a cardio exercise of your choice on off days.

Perform this program for 6 weeks and keep detailed records of your progress. Stay consistent and don't stress out if you miss a day or two. Life gets in the way (for good reasons sometimes). Just pick up where you left off.

Be sure you are sticking to a sensible, practical muscle-building diet and get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Intense training sessions will do little good if you're not supporting them with good food and quality sleep.
Day 1
Upper Body Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Barbell Press - Warm-up  2  12
Incline Bench Barbell Press - 90 seconds rest between sets  4  4-6
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press, 90 seconds rest between sets  4  4-6
Lat Pull Downs- Warm-up  2  15
Medium or Wide Grip Pull-Up (add weight if necessary) - 90 seconds rest between sets  4  4-6
Barbell or Two Arm Dumbbell Row - 90 seconds rest between sets  4  4-8
Standing Barbell Military Press - Warm-up  1  12
Standing Barbell Military Press - 60 seconds rest between sets  3  6-12
Dumbbell Upright Row - 60 seconds rest between sets  3  6-12
Hanging Leg Raise - 30 seconds rest between sets  3  10-15
Floor Crunch - 30 seconds rest between sets  3  10-15
Optional: Interval training – choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes. Two minute warm-up. One minute of high intensity and two minutes of low intensity (four rounds).
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Day 2
Arms & Legs Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Curl - Warm-up  1  12
Barbell Curl - 60 seconds rest between sets  3  6-12
Close Grip Bench Press - Warm-up  1  12
Close Grip Bench Press - 60 seconds rest between sets  4  6-12
Leg Press - Warm-up  2  15
Leg Press - 90 seconds rest between sets  3  10-12
Barbell Squat - 90 seconds rest between sets  3  6-8
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift - Warm-up  1  12
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift - 60 seconds rest between sets  3  6-12
Seated Calf Raise - Warm-up  1  12
Seated Calf Raise - 30 seconds rest between sets  3  10-12
Incline Sit-Up - 30 seconds rest between sets  3  10-15
Optional: Interval training – choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes. Two minute warm-up. One minute of high intensity and two minutes of low intensity (four rounds).
  • Day 3: same as day 1
  • Day 4: same as day 2

What's Next?

After 6 weeks of intense training you will have an opportunity to look back in your training log and in the mirror and see how far you've come. What's next?

As stated above take a week off (but stay active with something not too intense but fun) or take about 3 or 4 days off completely followed by 3 days of light gym work. Afterwards you can ramp back up on the same routine but this time you will be starting off ahead of the game.

You will no longer be a freshman; you will have graduated and will be ready to take the next step toward an even better physique.