As summer fades away, taking with it the number of available bathing-suit-only days, you might be thinking about what sort of changes you want to make to your fitness program. Most people look at the fall and winter seasons as the perfect opportunity to pack on some muscle. Because you don't have to fret over a 24/7 beach-ready body, it's a perfect time to eat more calories, say "goodbye" to your abs for a little while, and tackle a size-and-strength program.
Although you may feel strange about transitioning from dieting and fat loss into "lean bulking," you'll see and feel some amazing changes to your physique when you make muscle building a priority. Changing your goals and workouts can also keep you mentally invested in your program, so you'll keep moving closer toward achieving your best self!
If you're ready to move into the world of sculpting shapely muscle, then Neon athlete and pro fitness model Ashley Hoffmann has some sound advice. Not only does she share her best muscle-building tips, she also provides the perfect workout to get you started. Read on, then get your (growing) butt to the gym!
Put Your Diet in Reverse
Building muscle requires more calories than maintenance mode. However, dramatically increasing your calories in one fell swoop may cause some undesired gains. "If you've been staying lean through the summer, you were probably on a fairly low-calorie diet," says Hoffmann. "For fall, start adding calories slowly so you can pack on muscle and avoid gaining fat. Give your body time to adjust to your new goal—there's no need to go from zero to sixty overnight."
Once you reach a point where you're gaining around half a pound to a pound every 7-14 days, you know you've hit the right spot for your calorie intake. To get there, add about 100 calories to your diet every 3-4 days until you hit that target.
Keep in mind that you may need to re-evaluate your calorie intake as you go. As you add more muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate will increase. In order to continually build and maintain that muscle mass, you may need to add more calories to keep seeing progress.
Get Your HIIT on
"There's no need to completely eliminate cardio from your muscle-building program," says Hoffmann. "Instead, cut back on the frequency and length of your sessions. Eventually, you can reduce your cardio down to only a few sessions per week, depending on your body's response."
If you've been doing steady-state cardio over the summer, Hoffmann recommends changing to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as your preferred cardio method, because it's optimal for preserving muscle mass. Perform 20-minute sessions of 1-minute sprints coupled with 1-minute rests a few times per week.
Your fall muscle-building workouts are going to look a lot different than your summer shred plan. "Rather than performing high-rep workouts, you'll be moving a lot more weight for fewer reps," explains Hoffmann. "For example, if you were doing sets of 15-20 reps for squats during the summer, you'll now want to be doing sets of 5-8 for that same exercise." From there, you can move into sets of 8-12 reps to build max size.
If you're worried your workouts won't be intense enough, don't be. "Your workouts will still be difficult, because the weight is heavy and you'll need all your strength to complete the sets," Hoffmann says.
Along with more weight, Hoffmann recommends lengthening your rest periods if you're used to lighter weight training. "This doesn't mean you should sit around for five minutes between sets, but giving your body more time to rest between sets will allow you to recover and perform the next set with maximum intensity," she says.
If you tend to lift in the lower rep range year-round, however, Hoffmann suggests increasing your total training volume by adding a few more sets of each exercise. This adjustment will help stress your muscles beyond their normal capacity, which will cause them to respond by growing.
Log it All
"It's important to write the weight you lift on each set so you can keep track of your progress," says Hoffmann. "Having a training log also comes in handy if you forget what weight you used last time and need a quick reminder to ensure you're doing more."
Applying a constant overload to the muscles—primarily through the amount of weight you lift in a rep range, such as 8-12 reps to failure—is critical for muscle-building success. If you don't pay attention to what dumbbell you're picking up or how much weight you're adding to the barbell, progress is going to be impossible.
Track the number of reps and sets you do, as well as the amount of weight you lift and rest you take, every single time you train.
Your Muscle-Building Workout Plan
What good are a bunch of tips if you don't have a plan to apply them to? Luckily, Hoffmann has designed a fall or winter muscle-building program for you to follow! It's a simple upper-body/lower-body split. You'll perform the upper-body workouts on Days 1 and 4, and the lower-body workout on Days 2 and 5. You'll rest one day every two days.
Perform this routine for 4-6 weeks, follow the tips above, and get ready to grow!