The Best Exercises For Big Muscles – Plus A 28 Day Mass-Building Workout Plan

Use this mass-building plan to bulk up your body.


Dan John |

Want a bigger body? It really isn’t any more complicated than this. Pick any number of moves below to add to your current workout or download the poster.  In 28 days you’ll be a bigger man!

Directions: Do this workout three days a week, with at least a day of rest between each session. Note that each workout – designated as Workout A, Workout B and Workout C – recommends a different number for sets and reps of each exercise (see the chart below each move). So you may do Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday and Workout C on Friday. Do the exercises in the order shown. Warm up for five to 10 minutes before you begin.

Related: Think Stretching Sucks? Here’s How To Warm Up Better

Dumbbell Clean And Press

Muscles grow because of a combination of load and time under tension. By starting each rep with the weights at your sides and then lifting them to your shoulders, you effectively double the amount of time your arm, shoulder and upper-back muscles spend working.

How To Do It: Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length, palms facing each other. Bend your hips and knees so that the dumbbells hang at knee level [A]. In one move, explosively pull the dumbbells upwards as you thrust your hips forwards, then “catch” thedumbbells at shoulder height [B]. Stand tall [C] and press the weights above your head [D]. Return to the starting position. Make sure to use a manageable weight: 15 to 20kg dumbbells are about right for most guys

Workout A: Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest
Workout B:Do 5 sets of 5 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest
Workout C: Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions with 90 seconds of rest

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Barbell Squat

We’ve often said that if a move is worth doing, it’s worth doing in every workout. The squat is the most important exercise for building mass.

How To Do It: Hold a bar across your upper back [A]. Extend your hips backwards and squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor [B]. Strive to use a weight equal to your body weight on the last set of Workout A. Try to go a little heavier than that on your last set of Workout C.

Workout A: Do 3 sets of 10 reps, with 3 minutes of rest
Workout B: Do 2 sets of 10 reps, with 3 minutes of rest
Workout C: Do 5 sets of 10 reps, with 3 minutes rest

Straight-Leg Deadlift

You’ll do this just after squats to give your hamstrings an extra stimulus. I call it a “tonic” exercise rather than a training movement because I’m looking for a specific effect in one set of muscles. Do this exercise with just an empty 20kg barbell. Grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s just greater than shoulder width and hold it at arm’s length in front of your thighs [A].

Bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor [B]

Workout A: Do 1 set of 20 reps, and move immediately to the next exercise
Workout B: Do 1 set of 20 reps, and move immediately to the next exercise
Workout C: Do 1 set of 20 reps, and move immediately to the next exercise

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Chest-Supported Row

Five years ago, we would have listed the barbell bent-over row rather than the chest-supported row. Done correctly, it’s a marvelous exercise. Done the way you often see people do it in the gym, it strains the lower back. Rowing with your chest against a bench removes the risk to your lower back.

How To Do It: Set an adjustable bench to a
low incline. Then grab a pair of dumbbells and lie with your chest on the bench.

Let the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders [A]. Pull the dumbbells to the sides of your chest [B].

Workout A: Do 5 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds of rest
Workout B: Do 3 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds of rest
Workout C: Do 2 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds of rest

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Pull-Up

The pull-up is a double-duty move: a great lat builder and perhaps the best ab exercise we know. We’ve yet to find someone who can do more than 20 pull-ups who can’t also dominate any test of abdominal strength.

How To Do It: Hang at arm’s length from a pull-up bar using an overhand grip that’s just greater than shoulder width [A].

Pull your chest up to the bar as you squeeze your shoulder blades together [B]. Pause and slowly lower your body back to the starting position.

Workout A: Do as many sets as it takes to get to 25 reps total. Rest as needed
Workout B: Do as many sets as it takes to get to 15 reps total. Rest as needed
Workout C: Do 1 set of 12 reps. (or do 12 reps in as few sets as possible)

Related: Here’s How To Train To Master Your First Strict Bar Muscle-Up

Barbell Bench Press

Together, the clean and press and bench press provide all the work you need for your chest, shoulders and triceps.

How To Do It: Grab a barbell and lie on a bench. Using an overhand grip that’s just greater than shoulder width, hold the bar above your sternum, keeping your arms straight [A]. Lower the bar to your chest [B], then push it back to the starting position

Workout A: Do 3 sets of 5 reps, with 3 minutes of rest
Workout B: Do 5 sets of 5 reps, with 3 minutes of rest
Workout C: Do 2 sets of 5 reps, with 3 minutes of rest

Related: Kettlebell VS Barbell, The Experts Weigh In On These Workout Tools

Barbell Curl

Many experts have abandoned the barbell curl because they think it’s an “isolation” exercise. But we see the strict curl (elbows aligned with the torso, no rocking, back straight) as a window into an athlete’s overall strength.

How To Do It: Using an underhand, shoulder-width grip, hold the bar at arm’s length in front of your hips [A].

Keeping your elbows close to your body, curl the bar up to shoulder level [B]. Pause, lower the bar and repeat.

Workout A: Do 3 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds of rest
Workout B: Do 3 sets of 10 reps, with 90 seconds of rest
Workout C: Do 2 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds of rest

Farmer’s Walk

We hate being asked what the best movement is for size and strength. But the answer is the farmer’s walk. Put half of your body weight in each hand and take some steps; every centimetre of your body will have an opinion about what you just did.

How To Do It: Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and let them hang naturally at arm’s length. Walk for about 100m in Workout A (if you’re in a gym, you’ll obviously need to walk back and forth).

In Workouts B and C, walk as far as you can without dropping the weights.

Workout A: Do 1 set
Workout B: Do 2 sets, with 90 seconds of rest
Workout C: Do 1 set

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Download the 28-day maximum mass workout.

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