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A Four-Week Gym Workout Routine To Get Big And Lean

Build new muscle mass and strip away belly fat fast to reveal a lean, hard physique in 28 days

9 Apr 2021
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How much can you transform your torso in just four weeks? A lot – so long as you follow this 16-session training plan to the letter. It’s been designed to work your chest and back muscles twice a week – which means your biceps and triceps also get a double whammy of workload – to completely push these major muscle groups outside their comfort zone so your body has no option but to repair the damage by building a bigger, stronger and more defined body. You’ll also hit all your other major muscles, including your legs, to increase your fat-burning potential so you can get bigger and leaner – fast.

How The Plan Works

In each of the four weeks of this 28-day plan you will train your chest and back twice. Sound like a lot? It is! But in some plans you only hit each muscle group every seven days, which isn’t enough of a stimulus to force your body into making positive physique adaptations.

But in this plan, doubling up each week on chest and back exercises – and therefore also working your biceps and triceps twice a week, once directly and once indirectly – will provide all the stimulus your body needs to get bigger in less time. And fear not, your shoulders, abs and legs won’t miss out on the size and strength gains: they will still get enough dedicated time each week to allow them to grow bigger and stronger.

Simply do the workouts in order, sticking to the exercises, sets, reps, tempo (explained below) and rest periods detailed. The first workout of each week targets your chest and triceps, the second your back and biceps, the third your legs and chest, and the fourth your back and shoulders.

All four weekly workouts are made up of five moves, which you’ll perform as straight sets, so you’ll simply work through moves 1 to 5 in order. That’s it!

Tempo Training

To get the full effect from these workouts, you need to stick to the four-digit tempo code for each exercise. The first digit indicates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight, the second how long you pause at the bottom of the move, the third how long you take to lift the weight, and the final digit how long you pause at the top. X means that part of the move should be done explosively. The accumulated time under tension increases your heart rate to burn fat and break down muscle tissue so it’s rebuilt bigger and stronger. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so your muscles – not momentum – do the work.

Diet Tips

Even if you follow every step of the workout plan to the letter, you won’t see the results you want if you’re not backing up your work in the gym with a healthy, balanced diet. The obvious first steps are to cut down on fast food, takeaways and booze, and after that it’s all about getting your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and support your training regime.

A minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a good place to start. More than that is even better, although keep your daily fruit portions to two. You should also ensure you’re getting 30g of fibre every day, in part because it will help to keep you feeling full. Opting for wholegrain varieties of carbs where possible will help on the fibre front.

Adequate protein intake is also essential, because it provides the fuel you need to repair and rebuild muscles after a tough workout. When training regularly you should aim to consume about 1.2-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. You can use protein powder to help, but it’s not hard (and much tastier) to get the required amount of protein from food if you’re eating the right stuff. This guide to the best dietary sources will help, as will these run-downs of high-protein foods for vegetarians and vegans. Make sure you’re eating enough carbs too, otherwise your muscles may use protein as fuel for your session rather than putting it towards the task of rebuilding muscle.

If it all sounds like too much work on top of visiting the gym four times a week, another option is to use a healthy meal delivery service. These will deliver meals to your door that are tailored to your exact requirements, so all you have to do is stick them in the microwave. It’s more expensive than meal planning and cooking for yourself, but less expensive than a Deliveroo habit – and it’s undoubtedly the most convenient way to support this training plan if you’re struggling to maintain a healthy diet.

Warm Up

Before you start following the workouts below – or any kind of exercise – it’s crucial that you take the time needed to warm up correctly. Ahead of tackling any of the workouts in this plan we highly recommend trying this quick gym warm-up routine from Yasmin Saadi, director and personal trainer at The Fitting Rooms gym.

It involves doing seven set moves like downward dog walk-outs and lunges with rotation that warm up muscles all over the body, then going into exercises that are specific to the workout you are about to do. The simplest way to do the latter is to scan through the workouts detailed below and then do one or two warm-up sets of each exercise using either very light dumbbells or an unloaded barbell.

You’ll reap the benefits of taking five to ten minutes to warm up correctly in the form of both a reduced risk of injury and improved performance during your workout. Try it once and when you smash your first few sets instead of struggling through them, you’ll never need to be convinced of the value of a proper warm-up again.

Workout 1: Chest And Triceps

Bench press

Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec Lie on a flat bench holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

Triceps dip

Sets 5 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2110 Rest 60sec Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

3 Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Sets Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders. Press the weights up until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start under control.

4 Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

5 Triceps extension

Dumbbell triceps extension

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec Stand tall holding a dumbbell over your head with both hands, arms straight. Keeping your chest up, lower the weight behind your head, then raise it back to the start.

Workout 2: Back And Biceps

Pull-up

Superset workout one: 1B Pull-up

Sets 5 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec Hold a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your lower chest touches the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

Bent-over row

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec Hold a barbell using an overhand grip, hands just outside your legs, and lean forward from the hips. Bend your knees slightly and brace your core, then pull the bar up, leading with your elbows. Lower it back to the start.

3 Chin-up

Chin-up

Sets 3 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec Hold a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing you. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

4 Standing biceps curl

Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec Stand with dumbbells by your sides, palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps at the top. Lower them back to the start.

5 Seated incline curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec Sit on an incline bench with dumbbells by your sides, palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked in, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps at the top. Lower them back to the start.

Workout 3: Legs And Abs

Back squat

Barbell 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 core braced, squat down as deep as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

2 Good morning

Barbell good morning

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a light barbell across the backs of your shoulders, feet shoulder-width apart. With your core braced, bend forwards slowly from the hips, as far as your hamstrings allow but not past horizontal. Return to the start.

3 Hip thrust

Glute bridge

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit with your upper back supported on a bench, holding a barbell across the tops of your thighs. Thrust your hips up, squeeze your glutes at the top, and then return to the start.

4 Incline dumbbell press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2110 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders. Press the weights up until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start under control.

5 Incline dumbbell flye

Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

Workout 4: Back And Shoulders

Overhead press

Overhead press

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Hold a bar in front of your neck with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight. Lower it back to the start.

2 Rack pull

Sets 5 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a barbell resting on safety bars at knee height. Bend and grasp the bar with an overhand grip, then stand up until your back is straight again, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.

3 Seated dumbbell press

Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Sit on an upright bench with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Keeping your chest up, press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start.

4 Lateral raise

Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand with palms facing. Keeping your chest up and a bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower back to the start.

5 Reverse flye

Dumbbell reverse flye

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Bend forward from the hips holding a light dumbbell in each hand with palms facing. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower back to the start.

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