An Advanced Weight Training Workout for Building Mass and Strength
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very fit woman lifting weights Adding some muscle mass is good for anyone - ladies too!

First, ladies, don’t go away! This is for you too. There is a persistent myth that many women have been told that lifting heavy weights will cause you to bulk up like a man. Not true. Not even close. You simply don’t have the necessary testosterone to experience excessive muscle growth – not unless you’re planning to take steroids. Gaining some mass and strength is good for anybody though, as it will raise your Basal Metabolic Rate, burn calories, and make your body more resistant to injury and disease.

An Advanced Workout

Last week, I posted a basic workout that anyone of any age or experience level can do to increase overall strength, muscle tone and cardio fitness. But what happens when you move beyond that? What if you want to put on some real muscle, get better definition and just generally look great naked? Then this advanced workout is for you. It’s the workout that I do, and it takes some people a little time to believe that it works, as it goes on a weekly routine, rather than alternating upper and lower body workouts. This workout trains each muscle group intensively only once per week, but uses ‘maintenance’ exercises on the off days to make sure that gains are not lost. In this way, you can get a great physique while only lifting weights three times per week, and doing cardio twice per week.

On each weight day (Days 1, 3 and 5) you’ll superset the routine I’ve laid out. This means no rest between sets. Move directly from one exercise to the next. It’s exhausting at first, but you’ll get used to it in a few weeks and you’ll be amazed at how toned your muscles are getting. Repeat each routine 3 times with a few minutes rest between supersets. This will give you a great workout in about an hour (a little less on leg day).

Day One: Legs

This is usually Monday for me but it doesn’t matter what day of the week you start.

  1. Half Squats (or full squats if your knees can take it. Mine can’t.)
  2. Hamstring Curls. These can be done with on a hamstring curl machine or on an adjustable bench with the leg raise attachment.
  3. Calf Raises. You can use a dedicated calf raise machine for this, but you’re unlikely to have one in your home gym. Use a Smith machine with a piece of 4 x 4 on the ground. Place the balls of your feet on the 4 x 4 and have the bar resting on your shoulders in the same position you would use for squats. Alternatively this can be done in a power rack with a barbell, but you’ll need really good balance. If trying it this way be certain the safety stops are set just under the bar. If you lose your balance, you won’t get injured.
  4. Seated Dumbbell Curls to Dumbbell Presses. (sit on a bench and curl the dumbbells to shoulder height, making sure to observe good form. On reaching shoulder height, press the dumbbells overhead. Lower and repeat. Be sure to keep the motion smooth and controlled). This is a ‘maintenance exercise’. It works the shoulders and biceps, with the chest and core as stabilizers. Chest and Back are on Day 3 and Shoulders are on Day 5, so this will keep these muscles toned until it’s time to really work them hard again.
  5. (Optional) Forearm curls, both inside and reversed. (Sit on a bench and, using either a barbell or a dumbbell and alternating hands, curl the weight from the wrist. Curl palm up, then get a lower weight and curl palm down.)
  6. Sit Ups & Crunches. This can be done on the floor but I prefer using a reverse incline bench. I like to do 10 crunches followed by 10 sit ups and repeat this pattern to failure. If you want to make it harder, hold a plate to your chest.

It’s only six exercises, but legs are large muscles which use a lot of energy and squats especially are exhausting as you’re going to be squatting as much as you can handle for 6 to 12 reps. I do 10 reps with 140 kilos (315 lbs.) and after three sets of those I’m just about ready to fall over some days. Deadlifts can be substituted for squats if you prefer.

Day Two: Cardio

Do whatever cardio you prefer, for a minimum of 40 minutes.

Day Three: Chest and Back

  1. Bench Press. I always recommend free weights over machines but if you prefer a Smith machine or Universal for this, that’s fine too. Ladies, once again, many of you have been told you don’t need to do this, but women look good with a V shaped torso too, and this, combined with exercising your lats will help get you there. Chest muscles are also stabilizers for your arms.
  2. Seated Rows. Use a cable machine or do bent over rows with a free weight.
  3. Head Crushers. Lay flat on a bench, and using a curling bar, hold the weight at arms length straight above your chest. Moving only from the elbows and being sure not to rotate your shoulders, lower the weight until the bar touches the bench just above your head. (OK, you’ll have to move your shoulders a little at the bottom of the motion to avoid banging yourself in the head – thus the name ‘head crushers’ – but otherwise make the motion from your elbows as much as possible. This exercise is the opposite to curls and strengthens your triceps.
  4. Shoulder Flys. Another ‘maintenance’ exercise. It’s not shoulder day until Day 5, but we want to keep those muscles toned!
  5. Hamstring Curls. Keeping our legs in shape is very important so we do a maintenance exercise for them on both Days 3 and 5.
  6. Calf Raises. Yup. Again. Calves and forearms are difficult muscles to build. We use them all the time so they are resistant to growth. Doing some legs and especially calves at every workout will ensure good development of leg muscles. Don’t skip legs or people will laugh at you at the beach!
  7. (Optional) Forearm curls, both inside and reversed. (Sit on a bench and, using either a barbell or a dumbbell and alternating hands, curl the weight from the wrist. Curl palm up, then get a lower weight and curl palm down.)
  8. Sit Ups & Crunches. This can be done on the floor but I prefer using a reverse incline bench. I like to do 10 crunches followed by 10 sit ups and repeat this pattern to failure. If you want to make it harder, hold a plate to your chest.

Day 4: Cardio

You can do the same thing you did on Day 2 or switch it up. I do recommend you should do at least some rowing on both cardio days. It’s the best full body cardio workout there is.

Day 5: Shoulders and Arms

If you follow the same schedule as me, it’s now Friday. We saved the hardest workout for the last day of the week because we’re about to get two days of rest.

  1. Seated Shoulder Presses. As always, this is most effective when done with a barbell on a military press bench (an upright bench with no incline), however if you don’t have access to one, you can do this with dumbbells on an adjustable bench or use a Smith machine.
  2. Bicep Curls. Best done with a curling bar. If you don’t have one, dumbbells work well too.
  3. Pushups to failure. This gives us a ‘maintenance’ exercise for our chest, but also works the triceps again. Bigger arms! Do these until you literally can't do another one.
  4. Lat Pulldowns. The latissimus dorsi are the muscles on our sides under our arms. Well developed lats give bodybuilders that V shape that looks so impressive. This is best done with a lat pulldown cable machine. This exercise also works the biceps again to really exhaust them. If you don't have access to any kind of machine for this, you can do lat pull ups with a wide grip on a chinning bar. To make it harder, attach a plate to weight belt with chain so the plate hangs between your legs.
  5. Seated Quad Raises. This can be done with a cable machine, or an adjustable bench with a quad raise attachment loaded with free weights. This works the quads in ways that squats and deadlifts don’t and can lead to some excellent definition in these muscles.
  6. Calf Raises. Yup. Again. Calves and forearms are difficult muscles to build. We use them all the time so they are resistant to growth. Doing some legs and especially calves at every workout will ensure good development of leg muscles. Don’t skip legs or people will laugh at you at the beach!
  7. (Optional) Forearm curls, both inside and reversed. (Sit on a bench and, using either a barbell or a dumbbell and alternating hands, curl the weight from the wrist. Curl palm up, then get a lower weight and curl palm down.)
  8. Sit Ups & Crunches. This can be done on the floor but I prefer using a reverse incline bench. I like to do 10 crunches followed by 10 sit ups and repeat this pattern to failure. If you want to make it harder, hold a plate to your chest.

Alternate Muscle Groups

 

Fit man doing lat pulldowns in a home gym Alternating muscle groups is the key to making supersets work. Don't do two exercises in a row that stress the same muscle group.

Note how these routines alternate muscle groups. For example, look at Day 5 again and see how Shoulder Presses, which work the triceps as well as the shoulders, alternate with Bicep Curls, which give the triceps a rest while the biceps work. Then on to pushups, which work the triceps again, and then Lat Pulldowns, which work biceps. It’s important to alternate muscle groups in this manner to make the workout as effective as possible. You’ll be supersetting (no rest between sets) so if you don’t give these muscles a couple of minutes to recover then the next exercise that uses them won’t be as effective.

...and be sure to eat a healthy diet!

Combine this advanced workout with a healthy diet that gives your body a calorie surplus and you’ll see solid muscle growth. This workout is effective for both men and women and can lead to the kind of physique that everyone wants. And the best part….weekends off!

As always, consult your physician before attempting any new exercise routine, especially one as intensive as this.

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Will Dove

Author
Will is a lifelong fitness nut. He started exercising religiously at the age of 16. Now 52, he still works out 5 times per week and maintains a body fat percentage in the single digits. Will is passionate about helping others to achieve their fitness and body image goals, and believes that most people fail to achieve these goals, not through a lack of self-discipline, but through a simple lack of knowledge.
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