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Why did you start going to the gym?

If you’re like a lot of other people, you had grand ideas to beef up and pack on considerable amounts of muscle.

Maybe you want to be stronger in everyday life. Or, you’re going for the aesthetic. That’s fine, too, but it can’t happen without adding muscle mass.

However, many question whether or not it’s possible to put on as much muscle as seen on other gym goers or athletes. 

As a professional trainer, I see people achieve their muscle gain goals all of the time. Those who don’t usually just lack knowledge or an effective training program.

That ends now. Today, in this article, I’m going to share with you the best 4-week muscle gain workout plan with a PDF you can save and keep on hand. 

Keep reading to get those head-turning gains.     

What is the main goal of the muscle gain workout plan?

muscle building workout plan goals

The main goal of a muscle gain workout plan is to stimulate muscle growth. 

Effective programming should challenge the body to promote muscle hypertrophy with planned windows for effective recovery, which is essential for muscle growth.

Factors That May Affect Your Muscle-Building Workout Plan

Building muscle is more than just pushing the weight. Rather, it’s the sum of all your habits inside and outside the gym. 

Below is a list of factors that will affect your muscle gain.

Nutrition

When training for muscle growth, it’s crucial that we fuel our bodies correctly. 

Research recommends that men consume 2,500 calories per day and women 2,000 calories per day.

A calorie increase of 15% is recommended for muscle growth.

Therefore, men should aim for 2,875 calories and women for 2,300 calories. This may vary depending on other factors, but it’s a good general guideline to start with. 

Just ensure your diet consists of nutrient-dense, good-quality foods that have high protein.

Protein Intake

Hitting your protein target is essential for recovery and building muscle.

Protein requirements for muscle hypertrophy are 1.6 – 2.2g per kilogram of body weight. 

This can be consumed through your daily food intake and the use of protein supplements and shakes.  

Training Volume

Science has identified that an increase in training volume is a key factor in promoting greater muscle hypertrophy.

Training muscle groups two to three times per week using split programming can increase mass while still allowing for recovery.

Repetition Range

When training for muscle hypertrophy, it is important that we get our repetitions correct.

Research has indicated that three sets of 8-12 repetitions are required for beginners to build muscle.

Meanwhile, advanced lifters should go for three to six sets of 1-12 repetitions.

Exercise Selection

When creating a program for building muscles, we must choose the right exercises.

A good program is made up of large compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and chest presses.

These are combined with smaller compound movement and isolation exercises, including lat pulldowns, cable flys, bicep curls, and triceps extensions.

By adding variety to your workouts, you’ll be able to build a split program.

As we learned, split programs help to stimulate muscle hypertrophy while allowing for sufficient recovery.  

The 12 Best Required Exercises to Gain Muscle

Here is a list of 12 exercises for your muscle-building workout plan.

1. Barbell Back Squat

The king of compound movements in the gym, the barbell back squat is known for its strength and muscle-building capabilities.

This movement targets the lower body while engaging the upper body, making it essential to your workout plan to gain muscle.

Equipment Requirements

  • Barbell
  • Squat Rack
  • Weight Plate

How To Perform Barbell Back Squats

  • Set up your squat rack with a barbell at collarbone height.
  • Walk yourself under the bar and position it on the belly of your upper trap muscle.
  • Gently engage the legs and take the weight of the bar off the rack.
  • Walk back away from the cage to give yourself some space.
  • Position feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale and engage the core.
  • Unhinge your hips and gradually lower yourself down toward the floor.
  • Lower until your hips are parallel with the floor. 
  • Once you reach the bottom of the movement, drive up with your legs until you reach the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Engages the entire body
  • Great for building mass and strength

Pro Tips

  • Before performing each rep, inhale and engage your core. This will help you maintain rigidity through the entire movement, and increase your lifts.
  • Research indicates that squatting to 90 degrees depth is the most effective way to target the lower body muscles. Going lower will further increase gluteal and quadriceps activation.

2. Barbell Deadlift

Related: Hook Grip Deadlift

A monster of an exercise, the barbell deadlift is renowned for its strength and mass capabilities.

This exercise is the complete body movement that is a must when creating a muscle-building workout plan.

Equipment Requirements

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plate

How To Perform Barbell Deadlift

  • Set up your barbell with weight plates.
  • Standing upright, walk your feet under the bar so that your shoelaces are directly below the bar.
  • Using knees and hips, bend forward and grasp the bar at hip-width.
  • To begin, inhale and engage the core.
  • Gently pull the bar as you pull lats slightly back and down to create tension through the body.
  • Push up with legs and pull bar. Aim to straighten knees first and then extend through the hips.
  • Lift until you reach the upright position. Engage glutes and lockout the movement.
  • Once completed, lower the barbell back to the floor.
  • Unhinge the hips and lower the bar down to the knees.
  • Once the barbell passes the knees, allow the knees to bend and lower the bar until it reaches the floor. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Engages the entire body
  • Great for building mass and strength

Pro Tips

  • Before lifting, create tension through the body by grabbing the bar and engaging the lats back and down. This will help you remain rigid through the movement.
  • The deadlift can be difficult to perform. If you are trying it for the first time, start with a lighter weight until you get your technique right.

3. Barbell Bench Press

The barbell chest press is seen as one of the cornerstone movements in the gym.

Its ability to develop pushing strength for the chest, triceps, and shoulders earns it a place in our workout plan for muscle gain.

Equipment Requirements

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plate
  • Bench Press

How To Perform Barbell Bench Press

  • Lying on a bench, position yourself so that the bar is at eye level.
  • Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Gently push the bar up and take the weight off the rack.
  • With arms straight, position the bar so it is directly over the middle of your chest.
  • Unhinge elbows and gradually lower the bar down toward your chest.
  • Lower until the barbell makes contact with your chest and then push it up until it reaches the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • Great for building mass and strength

Pro Tips

  • Perform the bench press with a spotter, as holding the weight over your body can be dangerous.
  • Before each rep, ensure that your feet are firmly planted and your core is engaged. This will help you lift from a stable position.

4. Hack Squat

The hack squat machine is an excellent movement to increase mass for the lower body.

The carriage rail system is great for guiding you through the movement, which means you won’t need to worry about stabilizing and can focus on pushing the weight.

Equipment Requirements

  • Hack squat machine
  • Weight plates 

How To Perform Hack Squat

  • Step into the hack squat, placing your feet midway up the platform.
  • Position your back against the carriage and shoulders under the pads.
  • Gently engage the legs, take the carriage’s weight, and unhook safety bars.
  • Lower yourself into the squat until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push up with your legs until you reach the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Build lower body mass
  • Hack squat machine is safe and requires little stability

Pro Tips

  • Position your feet in the middle of the platform. This will help you get the correct depth, and allow you to create the force necessary to push up.
  • For beginners, start with a lighter weight as the carriage system while safe can feel unfamiliar at first.

5. 45-Degree Leg Press

The 45-degree leg press has long been seen as one of the best muscle-building machines.

Like the hack squat, we make good use of the carriage system. You can take your legs through their full range of motion without struggling to stabilize.

Equipment Requirements

  • Hack squat machine
  • Weight plates 

How To Perform 45-Degree Leg Press

  • Take a seat in the leg press and position feet on the middle of the platform with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Gently push the legs up, take the carriage’s weight, and unlock the safety mechanism.
  • Bend your knees and slowly lower the carriage down towards your body.
  • Lower until your knees are bent at 90 degrees. 
  • Once you reach the bottom, push up with your legs until they reach the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Build lower body mass
  • Leg press carriage requires little stability

Pro Tips

  • For beginners, start with a lower weight to familiarize yourself with the movement. Each leg press is different, with each type presenting a slightly different carriage path that may need getting used to.
  • Control your repetitions throughout the entire movement and focus on the contraction of your quadricep muscles. This will help ensure you are accurately contracting your target muscles. 

6. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise for reducing knee pressure, targeting the lower body, and building unilateral leg strength.

Equipment Requirements

  • Bench
  • Dumbbells/Barbell

How To Perform Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Stand with your back facing away from a bench.
  • Position one of your feet behind you.
  • With the body upright and chest up, gradually lower back the knee directly down to the floor.
  • Lower until your front knee is bent at 90 degrees.
  • Once you reach the bottom, push up with your legs until you reach the upright position.
  • Repeat for the entire set, and then switch legs.

Benefits

  • Reduces pressure on knees
  • Builds unilateral leg strength

Pro Tips

  • When positioning feet on the bench, place the top of the foot on the bench. This can be more comfortable and allow better range of motion at the ankle.
  • Inhale on the way down and exhale when you push back up to the upright position. 

7. Lat Pulldown

When it comes to developing the shape and size of our upper body, the lat pulldown is one of the best exercises for getting that V-taper back.

Equipment Requirements

  • Lat Pulldown

How To Perform Lat Pulldown

  • Sit down on the lat pulldown and place your legs under the kneepads.
  • Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Begin the movement by gently engaging your shoulder blades back and down.
  • Pull the bar down toward your body until it reaches the collarbone.
  • Pause for a movement and then release back to the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds upper back and biceps
  • Great for building shape

Pro Tips

  • Before each repetition, pull your shoulder blades back and down before pulling with arms. This will draw focus to your back muscles and improve contraction.
  • When pulling, focus on pulling back with elbows. This will also improve contraction. 

8. Cable Row

The cable row is a fantastic exercise for packing on size and sculpting your back. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Lat Pulldown

How To Perform Cable Row

  • Sit down on the machine and position your feet on the platform in front of you.
  • Lean forward and grab the V-bar. Pull back so that you’re in the upright position.
  • To begin, gently pull back the shoulder blades and then pull the cable toward you.
  • Pull the handle toward the body until it makes contact with your belly button.
  • Pause for a moment and then release back to the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds upper back and biceps
  • Sculpts upper back

Pro Tips

  • Before each rep, pull shoulder blades together. This will help you target muscles of the upper back.
  • When performing the cable row, keep the chest up. This will help you contract your back muscles.

9. Dumbbell Incline Press

The dumbbell incline targets the muscle of the upper chest. This helps to give your chest a fuller look.

Equipment Requirements

  • Incline bench
  • Dumbbells

How To Perform Dumbbell Incline Press

  • Lie on an incline bench with a pair of dumbbells.
  • Push dumbbells up into the air so that they are directly above shoulders.
  • Dumbbells should meet at the midline of the body but not touch.
  • Begin by lowering the dumbbells away from one another. 
  • Lower them out toward the side until the elbows bend 90 degrees.
  • From here, push up dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds upper chest, shoulders, and triceps

Pro Tips

  • Control your movement through the entire press. Do not let dumbbells knock together at the top of the movement.
  • When lifting, ensure your feet are firmly planted on the floor and your core is engaged. This will help you lift from a solid foundation.

10. Cable Chest Fly

The versatility of cable machines is great for building muscle.

The cable fly is the perfect exercise that allows you to focus on contracting the chest.

Equipment Requirements

  • Dual Cable Machine

How To Perform Cable Chest Fly

  • Adjust cables to just above shoulder height.
  • Standing in the middle of the machine, grab a handle with each hand with an overhand grip.
  • Take a step forward and assume a split stance with 2/3rds of your body weight resting on your front foot.
  • Pull cables down and hold them angled down, meeting at the midline of the body with arms straight.
  • To begin, gradually release the cables, allowing elbows to slightly bend as your arms are pulled back.
  • Release until your elbows reach 90 degrees.
  • From here, pull the cables back down to the midline of your body. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds upper chest and shoulders
  • Can focus on contracting chest

Pro Tips

  • When performing the chest fly, focus on pulling with your elbows. This will draw attention away from your hands and allow you to focus on contracting your chest.
  • Focus on breathing with each rep. Exhale when flying cables to the midline of the body, and inhale when releasing.

11. Dumbbell Bicep Curls

When people think about strong and impressive physiques, they think of strong arms. Few movements create a great set of arms like a biceps curl. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Dumbbells

How To Perform Dumbbell Biceps Curls

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Position the dumbbells so that the thumbs are facing forward.
  • Exhale, tense core, and with elbows locked to your side, curl the dumbbells up toward your shoulders.
  • Once they reach the top, gradually lower until they reach the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds biceps
  • Performed correctly can improve core stability and strength 

Pro Tips

  • When performing the bicep curl, avoid swinging movements. While you may be taking the dumbbell through its full range of motion, you will not be getting the same contraction. 
  • Focus on engaging the core and exhale when you lift. This will create a solid foundation for your body to lift from. 

12. Tricep Pushdown

The tricep pushdown is a quick and simple way to sculpt and build your arms. 

Training the triceps is an excellent way to create a cut separate look through the rear shoulder, giving you that muscular look.

Equipment Requirements

  • Cable Machine

How To Perform Tricep Pushdown

  • Using a single cable, position it at the highest point.
  • Stand directly in front of the machine, with the cable in line with the middle of your body.
  • Grab the bar with both hands, pull down, and fix your elbows to your sides.
  • With elbows tucked to the sides, push the bar down toward the floor until the elbows are straight.
  • Once you reach this position, gradually release it until the bar reaches the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits

  • Builds triceps
  • Creates definition of the triceps and rear shoulder

Pro Tips

  • Maintain elbows tucked through the entire movement. This will help to isolate the triceps.
  • Focus on breathing, exhaling when you push down, and inhaling as you release back to the starting position. This will create a stable base to lift from and increase core activation.

The Best 4-Week Muscle Gain Workout Plan

Related: Chest And Shoulder Workout

muscle gain workout plan pdf

Below is a 4-week muscle-building workout plan for both beginners and advanced lifters.

Each is built around split programming, with the addition of pyramids and increased volume for more advanced lifters.

Programs will remain largely the same for the four weeks, with the request that you record your lifts progressively with each session.  

Beginner Program Schedule 

MonTueWedThursFridaySat Sun
PushPullLegsRestPushPullRest

Push (Duration 45 – 50 mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Back Squat38-1045 – 60 secs
Bulgarian Split Squat31045 – 60 secs
Leg Press31260 secs
Barbell Chest Press31045 secs
Cable Fly21045 secs
Tricep Pushdown31045 secs

Pull (Duration 35 mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Deadlift38-1045 – 60 secs
Lat Pulldown38-1245 – 60 secs
Cable Row31260 secs
Dumbbell Bicep Curl31045 secs

Legs (Duration 25 – 30 Mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Back Squat4845 – 60 secs
Hack Squat48-1045 – 60 secs
Bulgarian Split Squat3860 secs

Advanced Program Schedule

MonTueWedThursFridaySat Sun
PushPullLegsRestPushPullRest

Push (Duration 45 – 50 mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Back Squat4845 – 60 secs
Bulgarian Split Squat31045 – 60 secs
Hack Squat38-1260 secs
Barbell Chest Press4845 secs
DB Incline Press38-1245 secs
Cable Fly31045 secs
Tricep Pushdown31245 secs

Pull (Duration 35 – 40 mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Deadlift4845 – 60 secs
Lat Pulldown Reverse Pyramid38, 12, 1560 -120 secs
Cable Row4845 secs
Dumbbell Bicep Curl41245 secs

Legs (Duration 35 – 40 Mins)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Back Squat4845 – 60 secs
Hack Squat48-1045 – 60 secs
Bulgarian Split Squat4860 secs
45 Degree Leg Press Reverse Pyramid38, 12, 1560 -120 secs

The Best 4 Week Muscle Gain Workout Plan PDF

Tips for Training Your Body to Gain Muscle and Achieve Your Goals 

best exercises to gain muscle

Here is a list of ways you can modify your training to increase muscle hypertrophy and maximize your muscle-building workout plan.

Planning

Chasing goals and playing the long game is never easy for anyone. When we set out to achieve anything, we must have a plan in place.

And building muscle is no different.

Going to the gym can be such a casual thing, where we go to meet friends and go through the motions.

However, if we want real results, we should create a plan and be consistent with our training.

That is why planning ahead with your training routine, nutrition, and marking down your program is essential.

Planning can also be an incredible motivating factor. It allows you to look back on your progress, both your increase in resistance with lifts and your physical results.

Progressive Overload

Whether it’s training for strength or endurance it is important to increase our weight as we progress.

By programming incremental increases in weight for your lifts with each session, you can aim to stimulate the muscle and promote muscle growth.

Training Intensity

Science has indicated that increasing intensity during resistance training can improve strength and increase muscle hypertrophy.

Often when we lift we can fall into the trap of going through the motions.

And while we can still promote muscle hypertrophy from lifting this way, increasing intensity, focusing on correct form, and pushing yourself can further improve your results.

Pyramid Training 

Pyramid training is an excellent method that increases exercise volume while taking you through a variety of rep ranges.

A common example is set one, 12 reps, set two, six reps, and the third and final set of four reps.

The system adopted the idea that increased volume increases hypertrophy. 

You’re training your muscles in specific rep ranges for strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. 

Reverse Pyramid Training

Reverse pyramids can be another great addition to your training.

Similar to the pyramid, reverse pyramids require you to perform the heaviest set first, followed by moderate and light sets.

This also is a great way to increase volume and train across the repetition spectrum, while getting the heaviest lift out of the way.

This helps you push for more repetitions with a lighter weight when you’re fatigued.

If you’d like to know more about reverse pyramid training check out The Best Reverse Pyramid Training Guide 

Which workout routine is best for muscle gain?

best workout plan for muscle gain

The best workout routine for building muscle requires a variety of compound and isolation lifts and progressive overload.

The muscle-building workout plan itself should be selected based on your goals.

Split programs offer various exercises to target different muscle groups while allowing for recovery.

This allows you to target muscle groups multiple times per week. Plus, the increased volume is essential to promoting muscle growth.

Can you gain muscle in 30 days?

Related: Bro Split Vs PPL

Muscle mass can be gained in 30 days, however, this can depend on a variety of reasons, including training load, volume, and programming.

The research I shared earlier shows that increases in mass for the initial phases of the training program are due to muscle damage-induced cell swelling.

Meanwhile, significant increases in hypertrophy and strength happen following the six-week mark of training.

How many times a week should I work out for muscle gain?

To maximize muscle growth, you should aim to train four to five times per week.

Do this as a part of a split training program, which alternates muscle groups and functions, and appropriate rest days.

Training muscle groups multiple times per week means increasing training volume and stimulus.

This is the key to promoting muscle hypertrophy.

Final Thoughts

Building muscle is a slow process. It can take years to truly solidify your results.

However, this does not mean that we won’t see results in the meantime.

The key to packing on serious size is to plan ahead, follow your program, and aim for consistency with your training and nutrition.

These will help you build that strong foundation in the first four weeks. Additionally, it gives you an excellent platform to launch from for continuous growth.

So, how is your muscle-building journey going? 

Are you just starting out, or well on your way to seeing the result?

Let us know in the comments below, and share this article with someone who might like to partner up and build muscle with you.