The trick to building muscle over the long haul—for years, not just weeks or months—is checking your ego.

Make gradual but steady increases, working with weights that are challenging but not so heavy that they make your eyes bug out. That's what this workout is all about.

How it works

We call it the "one-half plus one" method. It's a practical, systematic approach that will yield big strength gains on the four best muscle-building exercises—the bench press, deadlift, shoulder press, and squat. Write your max lifts down today, and be prepared for jaw-dropping results within two months (and every month, year, and even decade thereafter).

Directions

Perform the paired exercises (marked A and B) in sequence. So you'll do one set of the first exercise, rest, and then one set of the next exercise, and rest again before repeating. Continue for all the prescribed sets. Perform the last exercise of each workout as straight sets.

Frequency: Do Workouts 1, 2, and 3 in the same week, resting at least a day between sessions. The next week, begin with Workout 4, and repeat the cycle.

Follow this plan for the first lift of each workout:

Week 1: Find your 12-rep max (the most weight you can lift 12 times). Perform 4 sets of 7 reps.

Week 2: Add 6% to the load you used in Week 1 (this is your 10-rep max, roughly). Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

Week 3: Add 6% to the load you used in Week 2 (8-rep max). Do 4 sets of 5.

Week 4: Add 6% to the load you used in Week 3 (6-rep max). Do 4 sets of 4.

Week 5: Repeat, beginning at Week 1, but add weight to your 12-rep max (5lbs for the bench and shoulder press, and 10 for the deadlift and squat).

Rest about 2 minutes between sets. On the fourth set, attempt to do more reps than the prescribed number, but don't go to failure.