Like most guys you’re probably looking to pack on some solid muscle. But between juggling a career, family and social life, there’s no time—or energy—to make weight training a full-time job. Whether you’re just getting started or are a few months into a new weight-training regimen (but not seeing enough results), ACE certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in New York City Scott Bender shares his tips for maximizing your workouts to get greater gains in a shorter amount of time.
Everyone wants results yesterday, but know that you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym six times a week. “When you’re working 14-16 hours a day, the body is stressed enough. A 30-minute, full-body workout 2-3 times per week at the right intensity can get you incredible results in about four to six weeks,” says Bender.
To see gains, Bender recommends varying the exercises performed on each day. “An example for leg exercises would be that Monday is a squat, Wednesday maybe a Romanian deadlift for the hamstrings and a leg press on Friday. That way you’ll be hitting the muscle from multiple directions a couple times a week.”
And be sure to work in the 8-12 rep range. “A big misconception is when you see guys cranking out 12 reps as fast they can. But you want to make sure you’re tearing down the muscle properly, which would be a 4-second negative, pause then a 2-second explosive movement. That way you’re going to build your power plus tear down that muscle to build it back up.”
For the guy that works out but wants to take it to the next level Bendert recommends starting with 5-10 minutes of bodyweight exercise to get the muscles firing followed by a plate-loaded workout of mainly barbell and dumbbell exercises. His suggested typical routine for one day: a barbell squat, barbell bench press, barbell curl, bent over row or pull-up, tricep close-grip bench press and Romanian deadlift or good morning for hamstrings.
For greater gains, avoid machines and start with the lower body. “Sitting on a machine isn’t going to engage the whole body. A barbell curl, standing, engaging the core, making sure the elbows are back, shoulders are back, is going to work the whole arm more than doing any kind of curl sitting.”
Why legs first? “I would always start with legs. Most guys go to the gym and work the upper body, but the faster you develop your lower body and the harder you work your lower body, the faster everything else is going to develop,” Bender says. “Squatting at a high intensity is kind of like a natural steroid.”
Sounds easy enough, but the main problem is that it can be difficult to determine the appropriate weight—one that allows you to work in a high intensity zone while keeping proper form. "The best way to determine weight is to find your 10-rep max and work with weight at about 70-80 percent of that,” Bender says. So if you have a 100-pound max, typically you’ll want to be working out with 75 pounds for the 8-12 reps. “Lifting at the right intensity can get you fast results in as little as four weeks; greater gains past that depends on nutrition and rest.”
“When you’re working out you’re tearing down the muscle. Rest and nutrition is how you’re going to build it up. When you’re sleeping your body is releasing a lot of hormones for that recovery. Rest is the one thing we all tend to forget [in terms of seeing gains],” Bender says.
To amp muscle growth, be sure to allow for recovery—catch some shut eye at least 6-7 hours per night. Thor actor Chris Hemsworth even attributes the extra zzz’s to helping him pack on about an extra 20 pounds of muscle