How to Create Your Own Muscle-Building Workout Plan
Trainers weigh in on how to design a weekly workout plan that promotes muscle growth.
If you're trying to build more muscle, committing to the correct weekly workout plan is key. For one thing, it'll help you become more efficient at the gym, since you'll be focusing on exercises that are important to your goals-not just wandering around. Plus, you'll be able to avoid overworking your muscles by incorporating adequate rest, which will not only decrease your risk of injury but help you see real results. (Related: Why Some People Get "Toned" Faster Than Others)
However, when it comes to building strength and gaining muscles, there are a few ways to do it. Read on for top trainers' advice for crafting your week. (More interested in losing weight? Here's how to build your own workout routine for weight loss.)
If You Want to Work Out 5 Days Per Week...
To encourage hypertrophy (increased muscle size), you'll want to go with low reps of heavy weights. Rather than performing full-body strength workouts every day, follow a workout split that works different body parts on different days, suggests Autumn Calabrese, Beachbody trainer and creator of 21 Day Fix. (FYI, you won't just build muscle: You'll reap all the other benefits of lifting heavy weights too.)
"When you break it up into specific body parts, it allows you to put the focus on that one muscle group," she says, "so you can exhaust it to the max and then give it a long enough break to recover and repair, which is where the muscle gain happens." A common way to structure this type of workout plan is to do a "pull" routine (focusing on your back and biceps) on Monday, legs on Tuesday, a "push" workout (hitting your chest and triceps) on Wednesday, rest on Thursday, butt on Friday, shoulders and abs on Saturday, and another rest day on Sunday, she says.
If you're trying to put on muscle, you'll want to do less cardio than you would if your main goal was weight loss, says Erin Oprea, trainer to Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini, and author of The 4x4 Diet. You should still do cardio, but not as much, and rely on shorter bursts like sprints rather than prolonged steady state cardio, she says. She suggests aiming for 8 to 10 reps of a heavy weight (one that's still light enough to maintain proper form). It also becomes more critical to get enough protein in your diet, she says. (More on that: What Eating the *Right* Amount of Protein Every Day Actually Looks Like)
If You Want to Work Out 6 Days Per Week...
Oprea suggests that a week of workouts could consist of back and chest on Monday; quads, calves, and core on Tuesday; biceps, triceps, and butt on Wednesday, rest on Thursday; hamstrings, lower back, and shoulders on Friday; core, triceps, and chest on Saturday; and quads, biceps, and obliques on Sunday.
A perfect workout program is nothing without consistency, so whether you're laying out a beginner or advanced routine, make a plan that you'll actually stick to. It doesn't have to be extremely time-consuming. Both Calabrese and Oprea think 30 minutes a day is long enough to see results, providing you're working hard enough during that time.
It's also important to log every workout to make sure you're progressing over time. "Tracking your weights is one of the most important things you can do when you're trying to build muscle," says Calabrese. "You need to make sure that you're making progress and that you're pushing yourself a little more every week." You can't lift the same amount of weight for the same reps for the same amount of time every week-you need to continually challenge your muscles if you want to see growth. (FYI: That principle is called progressive overload.)
Still have some questions? Check out our beginner's guide to lifting heavy weights and this breakdown of everything you need to know about burning fat and building muscle.