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working out at the gym bodybuilding

by Jason Stallworth

September 19, 2019

There are 2 core reasons why you go to the gym and pound the weights.

  1. You want to gain mass
  2. You want to get stronger

Makes sense, right? But the problem is that you’ve been told you have to focus on one or the other.

You can’t be concerned with building muscle size if your goal is to max your squat at 600 lbs. And you can’t worry about your deadlift numbers going down if you want to build shredded muscle mass. But is that really true?

I’m going to give you a different type of workout that will help you build both muscle mass and make strength gains.

This 5-day a week routine will force your muscles to grow while getting stronger on those big lifts.  Are you ready to make some gains?

**DISCLAIMER: If you’re bodybuilding or powerlifting at a professional level and going for a competition, you should stick to your specific routine for your goal!

This is for the majoriy of us who just love the gym and want to get bigger and stronger…

Is it Really Possible to Build Mass and Strength?

upper chest workout incline bench press

In theory, lifting weights builds both muscle mass and strength

But there’s a reason why bodybuilders focus on bodybuilding workouts, and powerlifters focus on powerlifting workouts. 

That said, here are the problems we run into below…

How to Build Muscle Mass

  • Building size requires an extremely muscle-focused approach. And when I say size, I mean quality muscle size – not getting big and fat, or just looking good in a tight t-shirt making the excuse that you’re ‘bulking.’ 
  • To build muscle mass you must specifically target the muscle when you’re training. This means all of your focus and concentration needs to be on forcing the muscle to do the work – not just moving heavyweight from point A to B. 
  • Because of this, you will be doing a variety of exercises that isolate the muscle. With that, you’ll be doing more reps, and using techniques to pump more blood into the muscle as this is how you pack on size. 

All of these conflicts with building maximum strength, and you’ll read why below…

How to Build Strength

  • If your ultimate goal is to get stronger, you shouldn’t be worried about gaining muscle size. In fact, bigger muscles can actually hinder your performance for some heavy lifts. 
  • Building strength requires you to do mainly compound, multi-joint movements. These include exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, and bench press.
  • Your goal is to lift the maximum amount of weight from start to finish. So this also means you’re not concentrating on any particular muscle. Instead, you’re recruiting several muscles for maximum power.
  • And you won’t be doing many isolation exercises. In fact, any exercise you perform that’s not a core lift will be solely to support those core lifts. 

Solution: Rules of Gaining Both Mass and Strength

deadlifts 405

Now you see there are some conflicts between gaining muscle mass and gaining strength. But I’m going to give you the type of workout where you can do both!

You’re going to learn how to integrate bodybuilding and strength training techniques in the same workout. This is going to give you the size and shape you need to look like a bodybuilder.

But you’re not going to be all show-no go! Because these workouts will also have you moving some, in the words of Ronnie Coleman, heavy ass weights!

The Rules

  • Start each workout with a compound lift, going heavy
  • After your main lift, you’ll start increasing reps throughout the rest of your workout
  • On every exercise after your first lift, focus on muscle contractions and making the muscle work each and every rep
  • Incorporate techniques on your last set of the last 1-2 exercises to exhaust your muscles like drop sets, rest-pause sets, or supersets

**I mentioned some special techniques; this is an excellent way to gain muscle and strength as it helps you push your body to that next level and beyond.

You can read more about these types of techniques in my post: 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity

Mass and Strength Workout

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises

Now it’s time to put it all together and create a workout plan that helps you build muscle mass and gain strength. This is going to be a 5-day workout routine. 

  • Day 1: Back and Light Quads
  • Day 2: Chest and Traps
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Shoulders and Light Back
  • Day 5: Hamstrings and Arms
  • Days 6-7: Rest

At a glance, this may look like a typical bodybuilding workout. But when you get into the actual workouts below, you’ll see that you’re going to be doing compound exercises with heavyweights.

You’ll also notice a few body parts being trained multiple times within that week. There’s a good reason for that, and I’ll explain more after the workouts. 

Workouts Tips

  • Warm-ups are not listed below so make sure you do a couple of warm-up sets before your working sets
  • Eat a good meal about an hour before your workouts consisting of protein and complex carbs (this will give you the energy you need)
  • Drink BCAAs like Scivation Xtend during your workout
  • Stretch the muscles you trained after each workout
  • Mentally prepare for each workout with positive thoughts and listen to something motivational. That may sound cliche but it’s crucial for you to have the right mindset before hitting the gym.

**Scivation Xtend is a BCAA + Glutamine formula, and it’s something I take religiously, every workout. Here’s a tip: Get the 90 servings on Amazon – you’ll save big time as opposed to get the 30 serving container. 

Workout 1: Back and Light Quads

After a couple of warm-up sets, you’ll do your first working set of rows for 8 reps. Bump up the weight and do 6. Then go heavy and do 3 sets of 3 reps (you’ll do the same for bench press, squats, and deadlifts)

When you get to dumbbell rows, squeeze your lats as you pull the dumbbell. And release back to the floor slowly, taking 3-4 seconds. This will blast your lats into hyper-growth, especially with this particular exercise!

Keep this same concept in mind throughout the rest of your workout. I can’t stress enough how important it is to squeeze/contract your back muscles at the peak of the rep.

You may find it odd that you’re doing leg extensions after back. But I’ve found this method of doing some extra leg work does wonders for building size.

You’re just going for a pump in your quads here, and on those last few reps, slow down and flex your quads at the peak of each rep. 

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Dumbbell Rows4 x 6
Lat Pulldowns4 x 10
Seated Rows3 x 10
Cable Pullovers3 x 12
Single-Leg Extensions5 x 15

Workout 2: Chest and Traps

The concepts for back day also apply to your chest workout. You’ll hit a little traps at the end (kind of like you hit a little quads after back). 

For bench press, focus on explosive power. Remember, this first exercise is the strength-building part of your workout. And make sure you have a trusted spotter for this exercise.

From there, you’ll focus your attention more on contracting your chest muscles throughout each rep. Especially on the cable crossovers and pec dec flyes. You can really get that deep burn on these exercises. Annihilate your chest with these!

When you do dumbbell shrugs, hold the weight at the peak of the rep for 2-3 seconds and release slow and controlled. This will make people say ‘Hey, who’s your two friends?’

ExercisesSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Incline Bench Press4 x 6
Cable Crossovers4 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press3 x 10
Pec Dec or Machine Flyes3 x 12
Dumbbell Shrugs4 x 12

Workout 3: Legs

It’s leg day. Some people hate leg day. But not you. You embrace the pain of training legs. 

Before you squat, I suggest doing 2-3 light sets of leg extensions with continuous motion and quick reps. Or you can ride the recumbent bike for 5-10 minutes. Nothing too strenuous, just get the blood flowing in your quads. 

When you squat, make sure you’re at least going parallel. Those super heavy sets will sometimes make you think you’re going lower than what you really are. If you’re uncertain of your depth, have an honest gym buddy watch your form.

You’ll then go from heavy squats to pumping out high reps on leg press. I’m personally not a fan of heavy leg press. Think about it…most people leg-press massive weights have skinny legs. So what does that tell you?

Go for volume instead. And you’ll continue that trend of higher reps throughout the rest of your leg workout. Remember to contract your leg muscles and force the muscle to do the work. 

You can read more about why more volume works best for legs in my post: High Reps for Bigger Legs

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Leg Press5 x 20
Single Lying Leg Curls4 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 12
Seated Leg Curls4 x 12
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15

Workout 4: Shoulders and Light Back

Today is what’s called a push-pull day. You’re pushing with shoulders, and ending by pulling with some light back work. 

Because your shoulders are recruited when training back and chest, I don’t have you doing a super heavy lift for them. Instead, you’ll start with some extremely controlled reps doing seated dumbbell press.

The goal with this shoulder workout, or actually the entire workout, is to get that pump and feel the burn. You’ll gradually increase your reps for the rest of the workout. And you’ll do even higher reps for back.

You may ask ‘Why am I training back twice in one week?’

I’m a huge (no pun intended!) advocate for training back twice a week because it’s your largest and most complex upper body muscle. So it makes sense to hit it a second time. You’ll thank me later when your shirts no longer fit. 

ExercisesSets x Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Lateral Raises4 x 10
Bent-Over Raises4 x 12
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows4 x 15
Lat Pulldowns4 x 15

Workout 5: Deadlifts and Arms

You may find this to be the most interesting workout of the week. And it may quickly become your favorite workout of the week.

Many of the typical bodybuilding workouts will dedicate an entire workout to just arms. But I almost feel like that’s a wasted workout. So why not start with some deadlifts?

Deadlifts are a huge mass and strength building exercise (like squats). And you’re going to be doing 5 heavy sets of deads. After that, you’ll hit a little calves.

When you start your arm workout, you may be surprised at how great you feel and excited you are to train arms. And your entire body will be primed for it. So go all out! 

ExercisesSets x Reps
Deadlifts5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15
Rope Pressdowns4 x 10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls4 x 10
Seated Overhead Extensions4 x 12
Preacher Curls4 x 12

Why This Workout Routine Works

I want to breakdown this workout routine and show you why it’s perfect for building muscle mass and making strength gains. You may have already figured this out after reading through each workout, but let’s go over these…

  • You’re starting most workouts with a compound exercise, leading to strength gains
  • In this compound exercise, you’re going heavy with lower reps
  • You gradually increase the reps with each exercise thereafter
  • You also incorporate isolation exercises with more reps, igniting muscle growth
  • You’re using bodybuilding techniques that pump more blood into the muscle, thus increasing muscle size

You’re really getting the best of both worlds with this workout!

Make Faster Gains…

There are no shortcuts to building muscle. But there are some things you can do that will ensure you’re getting the most out of your workouts, performance, and recovery. 

I’ve been cycling TestoFuel for years now and it’s one of the few test boosters you’ll see actual results from. Read more about TestoFuel here.

What About Cardio for Muscle and Strength Gains?

I’m a big believer in doing some sort of cardio 4-5 times a week. It doesn’t matter if you do this workout program, a bodybuilder program, or a powerlifting program. 

And no, doing cardio will not make you lose muscle unless you’re under-eating. You meathead! lol! 

Here are a few reasons why you need cardio…

  • For starters, cardio will help break up the lactic acid from your workouts, helping you recover faster.
  • Cardio keeps your body fat down
  • And of course, there are heart-health benefits to doing cardio

I personally walk either outside, or on the treadmill on an inline for 25-30 minutes. You can also use the recumbent bike or elliptical. 

The best times to do cardio is either after your weight training workouts or at a different time that day. I just don’t recommend doing cardio before weight training; you’ll need all of your energy for that. 

Best Diet for Mass and Strength Gains

Vegetarian meal goat cheese with berries

I love food. And chances are, being that you want to gain both muscle mass and strength, so do you. If you want results from this workout routine, you need to eat big

Now I’m not recommending that you eat junk food 8 times a week. But this isn’t the time to go some a calorie-restricted diet. Save that for when you want to cut up.

Here’s a guide you can use to build your own mass and strength building meal plan to support these types of workouts.

Just pick one item from each side (of course there are many more food choices but this is just an example):

PROTEINSCARBS
SteakRice
Chicken breastRed potatoes or sweet potatoes
FishWhole wheat pasta
EggsOatmeal
TurkeyGreen vegetables
Protein powderFruits

**These are just a few foods you can choose from. For full meal plans, check out my meal plan posts (choose the one that caters to your goals):

Meal Plans for Mass Gains
Meal Plans for Getting Shredded

Making Mass and Strength Gains

Now you have an awesome workout routine to build muscle size and make strength gains. I want you to stick to this workout routine for at least 6 weeks.

Consistency will be your friend, so don’t skip any of the workouts either. Block out a solid hour to train these 5 days. 

You can make adjustments to the workouts and exercises. But don’t completely change the entire program. In fact, I challenge you to do everything as close as possible to how the routine is written. 

I hope you enjoy this mass and strength workout routine, and I want to see you make some huge gains

**If you’re ready to start an intense 12-week program, check out my premium programs below:

Hardcore Muscle Building Program
Lean Muscle Building Program

Train with Passion,

Jason