Start Building Muscle and Get Stronger With This 4-Week Strength Training Plan


Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and MSN does not endorse them in any way. Neither can MSN independently verify any claims made in the article. You should consult your physician before starting any weight loss or health management programme to determine if it is right for your needs.

a person holding a kite: Getty / Klaus Vedfelt© Getty / Klaus Vedfelt
Getty / Klaus Vedfelt

Whether your goal is to work out consistently twice a week, do 20 push-ups before the new year, or build muscle, strength training can help you achieve your goal.

If you didn’t already know, “the general benefits of strength training for both men and women include an increase in bone mass and lean mass, improved body composition, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and an enhanced sense of well being,” according to a 2006 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. If that list has you like, “Yes, I’ll take it all,” I’ve got a four-week workout plan that will help you start building lean muscle and increase your overall strength. Sound good? Let’s get started.

Things to Know Before Starting the 4-Week Workout Plan

Before jumping into the first workout, I want to be very clear that you may not see any physical changes in four weeks, and that’s absolutely OK. Track how you feel first and foremost. Do you feel stronger while carrying your groceries? Is it easier to walk up four flights of stairs? Can you hold a plank 10 seconds longer than you could three months ago? These are all great feats and shouldn’t go unnoticed or uncelebrated. If you do see changes, awesome! But remember, unless you were sedentary, you may not see drastic changes, but that shouldn’t discourage you.

That being said, it’s also important to note that exercise alone won’t suddenly help you drop 10 pounds or get down to 15 percent body fat. It can help, but you’re also going to need to focus on your nutrition.

As a trainer, I’m not allowed to prescribe diet advice or create meal plans, but I do recommend eating more whole, minimally processed foods and making sure you’re staying hydrated. If you’re interested in obtaining more nutritional information and advice, please consult a registered dietitian.

Don’t underestimate how important sleep, manageing your stress, and recovery work (massages, stretching, preventive exercises, and mobility work) are. One, you’ll probably feel a lot better, and two, doing all of these things can help you lose weight, if that’s your goal.

You’ll notice that I haven’t listed the amount of weight you’re lifting because this will vary from person to person. I recommend lifting around 75 to 85 percent of your one-rep max. Here’s a detailed guide on how to figure out how much weight you should be lifting. Each week, you can go up in weight as your body begins to get acclimated to the load and movement. On the final week, slightly lighten your weights (about 40 percent lighter) to prevent hitting a plateau.

Ahead, you’ll see that there are only three strength workouts, two cardio workouts, and two optional days depending on how you’re feeling. This is because in order to see progress and build strength, you have to be consistent with your workouts, not just do random workouts every time you hit the gym. You should repeat the following workouts for four to six weeks. This will help you track your progress, master the movements, and build muscle.

This plan features a lot of supersets and trisets, which means you’ll be doing a minimum of two exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between each move. They’re listed in lettered groups, for example: A1, A2, and A3. This simply means that all of those movements should be done together for the designated set and rep scheme. Once you’ve completed a group, you’ll take 45 seconds to one minute of rest and progress to the following group.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to get to work.

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Getty / We Are

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Day 1

Before every workout, make sure that you’ve done a thorough warmup to get your muscles warm and ready for the load you’re going to place on your body. Here’s a dynamic warmup that I like. I also recommend doing some core-activating and glute-activating exercises to prevent injuries and make sure your abdominal and glute muscles are firing as they should.

  • A1. Barbell squat (modification: bodyweight squat, kettlebell squat, or dumbbell squat): four sets of 12 reps
  • A2. Bent-over row: four sets of 12 reps
  • A3. Elbow plank: 30 seconds (if you’re a beginner, start with 10 seconds)
  • B1. Barbell hip thrust (modification: glute bridge or weighted glute bridge): four sets of 10 reps
  • B2. Bent-over fly: four sets of 10 reps
  • B3. Pallof press: 10 reps on each side
  • C1. Lateral lunge with knee drive (modification: alternating side lunge): four sets of 10 reps on each leg
  • C2. Bicep curl: four sets of 10 reps on each arm

Once you’ve completed the workout, be sure to cool down and recover. This can be in the form of foam rolling, doing mobility work with a professional, or stretching. Be sure to rehydrate and refuel your body. Here’s more information on recovery nutrition from a registered dietitian.

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Getty / PeopleImages

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Day 2

To ease any soreness you may have, I recommend foam rolling or taking an epsom salt bath — just keep moving!

Today’s workout is going to be pretty light. If you’re a beginner, I recommend doing a light form of cardio like a 15- to 20-minute jog, cycling, or swimming. If you’re more advanced, aim for 30 minutes of cardio. Whatever you choose to do, know that it doesn’t have to be extremely intense; today should be treated as an active recovery day which means you’re allowing your body to recovery but still moving around.

If you’re feeling really sore, I recommend following a yoga flow or going on a long walk. Don’t forget to get some rest tonight, because tomorrow, we’re strength training.

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Getty / svetikd

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Day 3

Don’t forget to warm up before starting this workout. I highly recommend doing a few glute-activating and core-activating exercises since the lifts you’re going to do utilise those muscle groups. Get your favourite playlist ready and let’s work!

  • A1. Hex bar deadlift (modifications: cable machine deadlift or dumbbell deadlift): four sets of 12 reps
  • A2. Push-up: four sets of 10 reps
  • B1. Dumbbell walking lunge: four sets of 10 reps on each leg
  • B2. Overhead shoulder press: four sets of 10 reps
  • C1. Lying hamstring curl: three sets of 10 reps
  • C2. Russian twist: three sets of 20 reps

Don’t forget to cool down, rehydrate, and refuel after your workout!

Image Source: Getty / Klaus Vedfelt” caption=”

Getty / Klaus Vedfelt

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Day 4

How are you feeling? Sore? Good? If you’re feeling sore, keep moving around and do a low-impact workout like cycling, swimming, yoga, or going for a walk today. If you’re feeling pretty good, I recommend doing 10 to 45 minutes of cardio depending on your fitness level. You can do traditional cardio like running or switch it up with a low-impact but intense cardio workout. Don’t forget to foam roll, stretch, keep your stress levels low, and get ready for tomorrow!

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Getty / Mireya Acierto

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Day 5

Today is going to be a little more intense than the other days, but I know you can do it. This workout is all about conditioning, which means you’re going to be working a little harder and really getting your heart rate up. As always, work at a pace that feels comfortable to you. If you need more rest, take it. If you need water, drink it. Don’t forget to warm up before getting started!

Cardio: three to four rounds

  • A1. Row machine: 250 meters
  • A2. Side plank (modification: side bridge): 30 seconds on each side

Strength

  • B1. Pull-up (modification: lat pull-down): three sets of eight reps
  • B2. Dumbbell step-up: three sets of 10 reps on each leg
  • B3. Ball slam (modification: mountain climber): three sets of 10 reps
  • C1. Dumbbell bench press: three sets of 12 reps
  • C2. Narrow stance deadlift: three sets of 10 reps
  • C3. Resistance band sprint (modification: high knees): three sets of 30 to 50 meters or 30 seconds if stationary

Don’t forget to cool down, rehydrate, and refuel after your workout!

Image Source: Getty / Klaus Vedfelt” caption=”

Getty / Klaus Vedfelt

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Day 6 and Day 7

You’ve officially made it through one week of the workout — congratulations! If your body is feeling extremely sore, don’t push yourself. Instead, consider doing yoga or just going for a walk. If you feel good, feel free to do whatever feels best to you: a strength class with your friend, a Zumba workout, or whatever else you like.

Don’t forget, you should follow this workout plan for four to six weeks. After that, you can progress the exercises and increase the weight you’re lifting, or start a new workout plan.



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