When most guys pick up weights in their teens or early 20s, they're hellbent on building muscle. After all, no one wants to be known as the Small Man on Campus or feel that terrifying "everyone's got 30 pounds on me" feeling while playing a sport. Later in life, fat loss tends to take center stage, but initially it's all about building muscle and gaining strength. And lifting weights is the key to unlocking the body they want.
Young men tend to enjoy success from their initial forays into lifting, even if they're not necessarily doing it right—or at least as well as they could. Their metabolism is lightning fast, their body awash in hormones that are just looking to fuel a growth spurt. It doesn't take much science or planning for growth to start occurring in such fertile soil.
Think of the results they would achieve, though, if they followed a detailed plan created by an exercise scientist or certified personal trainer. And for older lifters, such plans become essential. Their metabolism has slowed; their anabolic hormones have receded along with their hairline. At that point, the male body's first impulse is to add belly fat, not build rippling biceps. Hence the "dad bod."
The best place to find detailed muscle-building plans is on BodyFit Elite by Bodybuilding.com. In fact, such plans are the foundation of the app. Here are five that are perfect for guys looking to build.
1. Full-Body Muscle-Building Home Workouts
Working out at home has been growing in popularity for years, but it's taken on new urgency with the spread the COVID-19 pandemic. Most at-home plans are for fat loss and general fitness, but what makes Full-Body Muscle-Building Home Workouts unique is that it's designed for building muscle.
Over the span of four weeks, you can up-size with three weekly workouts—all without a gym or a barbell. This program uses unique intensity boosters like minutes-long timed sets and compound sets to deliver muscle overload with nothing more than a couple of dumbbells and an optional band or two. If you're off work or otherwise confined to home for a month, use this plan to emerge from hibernation bigger and badder than ever!
2. Alternating Rest-Pause Training
If you've spent any time on Bodybuilding.com, you are probably familiar with Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., not only because of his wildly popular supplement line, but also for his training plans and overall expertise. After studying at UConn and Yale, Stoppani spent nearly a decade applying his academic knowledge under the wing of Joe Weider, who, more than anyone, popularized bodybuilding.
The Master Blaster codified much of what he learned over the decades into the so-called Weider Principles. One of them is rest-pause training, a method that involves stopping before the completion of a set, resting for a short period, and then continuing on with the set. It allows lifters to complete total reps with a given weight, and this added load helps build muscle.
Stoppani took this principle and perfected it by combining it with unilateral (single-limb) training in Alternating Rest-Pause Training. This four-week program of four workouts per week is perfect for intermediates, those somewhere between a rank beginner and a competing bodybuilder. In other words, it's suited for most of us.
3. German Volume Training
The Germans have a reputation for building things that are precise, high quality, simple, and durable, like a BMW. Popularized in Germany in the mid '70s, German Volume Training takes the same approach to building bodies. GVT calls for 10 sets of 10 reps (100 reps total) of a single exercise, using the same weight for all 10 sets. Hence its other name, 10x10 training.
This is not the right program if you're a newbie. Even when it's focused around one movement per workout, it can be too much, too soon and may lead to burnout, injury, or both. But if you have some solid training under your belt and a foundation of muscle, this might be the plan that takes your physique to the next level over the course of four weeks.
4. The One-Month Hardgainer Solution
In the introduction, I mentioned the ease with which many teens build muscle. There are exceptions, and those individuals are called hardgainers, or ectomorphs.
Fortunately, The One-Month Hardgainer Solution offers a plan precisely for ectomorphs. Over four weeks, this plan by Christopher Smith, CSCS, manipulates volume and heaviness perfectly to unlock your growth potential, even if your genetics for muscle building aren't quite up to speed with a mesomorph like Arnold.
5. Project Mass
You didn't think we'd forget the hardcore crowd, did you? Designed by Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS, in conjunction with bodybuilder Lawrence Ballenger, Project Mass is for the kind of guy who wants to maximize every science-backed way to add size in the gym.
Wilson is a leading exercise scientist, and this 14-week periodized resistance-training program is built on many of the discoveries emerging from his lab in recent years. You'll lift heavy, do volume work, and also benefit from novel techniques like blood flow restriction training and intra-set stretching. If you want your muscle growth to be based on cutting-edge science, rather than the byproduct of a dirty bulk, this is the plan for you!