bodybuilding mass workout for hypertrophy

by Jason Stallworth

November 10, 2020

There’s nothing more exciting or rewarding than gaining mass. But the problem many people face is they end up getting puffy, bloated, and, well, let’s just call it what it is…

they end up gaining too much fat during the process!

Yes, you want bigger muscles but you also want those muscles to be defined. And the way to get that look and shape is by training for hypertrophy (I’ll get more into hypertrophy below).

In this post, you’re going to be what could be considered the perfect bodybuilding workout routine for hypertrophy, which in essence means you’ll pack on quality size.

As you go through each workout, I’m also going to show you how to make each workout more effective for hypertrophy. You’ll also get detailed tips for each exercise.

What is Hypertrophy?

Before we get into your new mass-building routine, let’s talk about hypertrophy and what that means in regards to gaining muscle mass.

In layman’s terms, as it relates to bodybuilding, hypertrophy is simply increasing the size of your muscles.

Hypertrophy is reached by overloading the muscles (breaking it down) and getting adequate protein so that the muscle can recover and grow larger.

hypertrophy

So your goal during your workouts is to put your muscles under a certain amount of stress for a certain amount of time (time under tension) to reach that point. And then, of course, feed your muscles so that they can recover and grow.

This is why you see the typical bodybuilding workout rep range being 8-12 reps. This gives you enough weight to overload the muscle and doing that many reps increase your time under tension.

Here are some additional ways to overload your muscles to reach hypertrophy:

  • Doing higher volume workouts by increasing the number of sets
  • Drop sets
  • Rest-pause sets
  • Focusing on slowing down the eccentric part of the rep
  • Increasing the intensity of your training

*You can read more about these and other methods in this post: 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity

Another great way to reach hypertrophy and gain more muscle mass is by following the below bodybuilding workout formula:

  • Starting with heavier compound movements will overload the muscle by putting it under more stress, helping you gain dense muscle mass
  • Doing 3-4 sets for each exercise will give you adequate volume
  • Increasing the reps as you go through your workout will pump more blood into your muscles
  • Ending your workout with an isolation exercise at the higher end of the rep range will help you further shape your muscles and add more volume

How to Build Muscle Mass Like a Bodybuilder

Now, let’s dive into some basic concepts of gaining muscle mass. This is important because many will confuse training for muscle mass with training for strength.

Here’s the difference:

  • Training for strength: Your goal is to lift the maximum weight with explosive movement.
  • Training for muscle size: Your goal is to force your muscles to work harder.

Some will get caught up in training so heavy throughout their entire workout that they don’t do enough total reps. Although heavy compound exercises are essential to packing on size and there is indeed a place for lower reps, you can’t just end there.

*You can read more about rep ranges in this post: High Reps vs Low Reps

Another problem when I see people training heavy is that they don’t focus on the actual movement. For muscle growth, you need to force your muscles to work harder throughout the movement, not just move a bunch of weight from point A to B.

Remember this as you’re going through the workout routine below. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

You may find that you get better results by making 100 lbs. feel like 200 lbs. by doing more controlled reps rather than lifting that 200 lbs. for just a few reps (and with questionable form).

Bodybuilding Mass and Hypertrophy Workout Routine

flexing biceps between sets

I’m going to take you through a 4-day a week bodybuilding workout routine. You’ll be training each muscle once a week.

And you’ll also get a detailed description of each workout and how to make each exercise more effective for hypertrophy.

Let’s start with your training split…

Training Splits

The ideal training split for this workout routine is:

  • 2 days on,
  • 1 day off,
  • 2 days on,
  • 2 days off

This fits the typical Monday through Friday schedule (you would be taking Wednesdays, and weekends off in this case). 

Example 1 is the recommended training split because it gives your muscles adequate rest between workouts, which is needed for muscle growth.

However, everyone a different so that’s why I’m also giving you another possible training split below…

Example 2 has you training for 3 days in a row followed by one rest day. With this split, you won’t be working the same muscle on the same day the following week (you’ll see how this works below). You can throw in an extra rest day as needed. Some prefer this type of split.

As with everything, you need to experiment to find out what works best for you. Take notes and document your progress.

Training Split – Example 1 (Preferred)

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Training Split – Example 2

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Workout 3
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday: Workout 1
  • Sunday: Workout 2

Workouts

Now let’s get into your workouts. You’ll see each exercise listed for each workout with the number of sets and reps. And below each workout will be more tips and details to help you make bigger gains.

Workout 1: Back & Traps

wide grip seated rows - back exercises
ExercisesSets x Reps
Seated Rows3 x 12
Barbell Rows4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Rows4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Lat Pulldowns3 x 12, 10, 8
Deadlifts3 x 10
Dumbbell Shrugs3 x 12, 10, 8

There are 5 exercises for back. You’ll be starting out with seated rows. This will serve as both a warm-up to get the blood flowing and also to help pre-exhaust your back muscles before diving into the heavy work. 

On all exercises that suggest a range of reps, you can move up about 10-20% in weight each set. It will help to have a spotter on those exercises so that you can pump out that last rep. The idea for the final set of each exercise is to reach complete muscle failure. 

Back Exercises

  • Seated Rows – On the seated row machine, pull the cable towards your stomach as far back as you can. Do not round your back. 
  • Barbell Rows – With the loaded bar placed on a rack, grip the bar about shoulder-width and pick it up. Slowly get into a bent-over position (do not round your lower back). Looking straight ahead, pull the bar into your stomach area.  
  • Dumbbell Rows – Place one knee on a bench and grip the dumbbell with the opposing hand. Pull the dumbbell up towards your side (the front of the dumbbell should touch your chest).  
  • Lat Pulldowns – Grip the bar on the lat pulldown machine and pull the bar down towards your chest. You can lean back a little but do not swing or jerk the bar down (aka no cheating). 
  • Deadlifts – You’ll start with the loaded barbell on the floor and grip the bar about shoulder width. Pull the weight up using your leg muscles and allow your back muscles to support the lift. Look straight ahead throughout the lift, keeping your shoulders back, and DO NOT round your lower back. 

You will notice I mentioned do not round your back on several exercises. You should NEVER round your back on any exercise. I placed emphasis on those specific exercises as you may be more prone to round your back on those.

Rather, you should have a slight arch and let the muscles do the work, not your lower back. 

*In addition, I have another post specific to deadlifting with back pain here: Deadlifting with Lower Back Pain

Traps Exercises

  • Dumbbell Shrugs – Grab both dumbbells. Holding them by your side, raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Keep your arms straight throughout the movement (a slight bend is ok). 

Workout 2: Chest & Biceps

Incline Barbell Press chest
ExercisesSets x Reps
Bench Press2 x 15, 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Incline Bench Press4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Press3 x 12
Incline Dumbbell Flyes3 x 12
Standing EZ Bar Curls3 x 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 12

The key to building a massive chest is keeping the tension on the muscle throughout the rep. Heavy weights are important but only use a weight that will allow you to perform the exercise with good form.

Focusing on the negative portion of the rep is important as well. Control the weight throughout the rep. With the isolation exercises, make sure you’re contracting the muscle at the peak of the movement.  

For biceps, it’s important to not sway or swing the weight up. Not only is this annoying to watch when people try to curl too much weight, but you’ll be getting very little out of your biceps workout using crappy form. Perform each rep with a full range of motion and flex your biceps at the peak

Chest Exercises

  • Bench Press – Lie on the bench and plant your heels firmly on the floor. Lower the weight towards your chest with control and explode while pressing the weight up. Keep your rear on the bench and don’t arch your back too much (a slight arch is ok).
  • Incline Bench Press – Similar to bench press but you’re lying on an incline bench instead of a flat bench. Make sure you’re focused on using your chest muscles, not your shoulders. 
  • Dumbbell Press – Same concept with the bench press, only you’re using dumbbells and you’re on a standalone bench. Some like to bring the dumbbells together at the top of the movement to get a better contraction. 
  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes – Lie on a standalone incline bench. Rather than pressing the weight, you’ll be lowering the weight away from your body with your palms facing each other. Think of this exercise as hugging a tree. 

Biceps Exercises

  • Standing EZ Bar Curls – Standing straight up using the EZ bar (or cambered bar), curl the bar up towards your chest without swaying the weight. If you sway or cheat, it means you need to reduce the amount of weight. 
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls – Holding the dumbbells by your side, curl them up in front of you one arm at a time. The hammer movement means to keep your palms facing your body.

For more effective workouts and to pump out more sets and reps, be sure to check out my recommended pre-workout in this post: Jason’s Recommended Pre-Workout

Workout 3: Legs

Squats - too low
ExercisesSets x Reps
Leg Extensions3 x 20
Squats4 x 12
Leg Press5 x 12
Single-Leg Extensions4 x 15
Lying Leg Curls4 x 12
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts4 x 12
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15

Leg Training Tips

The best tip I can provide for training quads is don’t go so heavy that you can’t perform full reps. Half reps will equate to half-developed legs if even that.

This means dropping just a little below parallel on your squats and leg presses. In other words, don’t be one of those people that loads up the leg press and only goes down a couple of inches. 

Hamstrings are often forgotten, or at best, they tend to take a back seat. It’s true that you are training your hams with exercises like squats and leg press but it’s also good to perform exercises that target them directly.

For hams, make sure you get that squeeze at the peak of each rep. Think of training hamstrings like training your biceps (they’re sort of the biceps of your legs).  Full range of motion is key here as well. 

It’s been said that you’re either genetically gifted with calves or you’re not. While there may be some truth to that, this doesn’t give us a free pass to neglect them. One thing is for certain: if you don’t train them, they will not grow.

Quads Exercises

  • Leg Extensions – Seated on the leg extension machine, push the weight up using your quads, and flex your quads at the peak of the movement. 
  • Squats – With the barbell sitting across your lower traps, slowly and with total control squat towards the floor going just a little below parallel. You can use explosive power back to the starting-standing point. * Do not round your back.
  • Leg Press – Seated in the leg press machine, lower the weight towards your body slowly and controlled. Press the weight back up to the starting point (use your heels to press; this will help put the pressure on your quads and will also save your knees). 
  • Single-Leg Extensions – See leg extensions above. The difference here is you’re performing the exercise one leg at a time.  

Hamstrings Exercises

  • Lying Leg Curls – On the lying leg curl machine, use your hamstrings to pull the weight towards your rear. Flex those muscles once you get to the peak of the movement and control the weight on the descent. 
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlifts – Similar to deadlifts, but you will be lowering the weight towards the floor without bending your knees. Force your hamstrings to do the work when bringing the weight back to the starting point.
    *Do not round your back.

Calves Exercises

  • Standing Cave Raises – You can use a standing calve machine, Smith Machine, or free weights for this (for Smith or free, you’ll need a board to stand on). Make your reps strict. 

In this program, you’re training legs once a week. But I do recommend that you consider adding another training day to iht legs a 2nd time.

You can read more about how this will help you pack on more muscle in this post: Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Get Bigger Legs

Workout 4: Shoulders & Triceps

seated dumbbell press
ExercisesSets x Reps
Seated Barbell Press2 x 15, 3 x 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell Press3 x 10-12
Lateral Raises3 x 12
Bent-Over Dumbbell Raises3 x 12
Weighted Dips4 x 12, 10, 8, 20+
Cable Pressdowns4 x 12

Shoulders and Triceps Training Tips

Presses and lateral movements are the exercises that will grant you massive shoulders. The key here is controlling the weight on all shoulder exercises.

This means focusing on the descent of each rep, or what we call the negative portion of the rep.  

Full range of motion and muscle contractions are the elements required for building big triceps. You definitely do not want to cheat yourself with half-reps here.

Make sure you get a good squeeze and you need to walk away knowing that you’ve completely exhausted those muscles.  

Shoulder Exercises

  • Seated Barbell Press – Seated at the rack, I prefer to start from the bottom rather than from over/behind your head. You’ll want to use explosive power to push the weight above your head and control the weight on the decent. If you find yourself performing more of an incline bench exercise rather than a shoulder press, you’ll need to reduce the weight. This is a shoulder workout, not a chest workout (be honest with yourself here!).  
  • Dumbbell Press – Use the same concept as with the barbell press. * You can also do Arnold Presses here. This is where you start with the dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing your chest and rotate your wrists out as you press the weight above your head.   
  • Lateral Raises – Holding dumbbells by your side, bring your arms up with a slight, yet secure bend in your elbows. Do not sway or jerk the weight up.  
  • Bent-Over Raises – Similar to lateral raises but you do these bent over with your knees slightly bent and a slight arch in your back (do not round). This allows you to target your rear delts.  

Triceps Exercises

  • Weighted Dips – Use a belt with a chain to loop through the plates. Don’t go so heavy that you cant’ perform full reps. The final set will be done with only your body weight for as many reps as you can perform.  
  • Cable Pressdowns – You can use a straight bar, cambered bar, or even the ropes for this exercise. Standing straight facing the weight stack with your arms close to your side, push the bar down towards the ground. Do not let your elbows flare out and keep your form strict. 

Cardio

I typically recommend cardio to everyone regardless of what type of training program you’re on. This is something that’s often overlooked when training for mass. Just remember, your goal is hypertrophy, not just size.

If you’re on the heavy side, or if you’re older (let’s say over 30), you should certainly be doing some form of cardio exercise a few times a week. This will help keep the fat off so that you can see the muscle you’re gaining. If you’re a hardgainer, then you certainly want to keep it at a minimum. 

Cardio doesn’t mean you have to run marathons or anything crazy. In my own experience, something as simple as walking works wonders. And you certainly don’t want to overdo it while training for mass. A little, consistently, will go a long way.

How often you choose to perform cardio depends on where you are in regards to your weight, physique and overall health. I always recommend doing some sort of cardiovascular training at least three times a week. I listed two types of cardio below you can do (you can alternate these workouts as well). 

Cardio Workout 1

ExerciseIntensityTime
TreadmillModerate30 Minutes

Cardio Workout 2

ExerciseIntensityTime
Stationary BikeModerate30 Minutes

Taking a natural testosterone booster can also help you make gains while keeping body fat down.

You can read about my recommended test booster here: Jason’s Recommended Test Booster

Abdominal Training

Abs - Knee Raises on bench

Before we talk about ab training, the first thing you must realize is that a visible six-pack is determined by your body fat percentage. And that is dependent on how many calories you’re consuming versus how many you’re burning.

None the less, it’s still a good idea to do some direct ab workouts. Just don’t overthink this part of your workout. And I’m going to show you how to avoid that and keep it simple below.

Keep in mind that you will be training your core muscles with the weight training workouts in this plan. However, you can choose to train abs a couple of times a week if you wish.

Here’s a simple ab workout below:

Ab Workout Example

ExercisesSets x Reps
ExercisesSets x Reps
Leg Raises3 x 12
Machine Crunches3 x 12

You see, all I did here was picked two abdominal exercises and did 3 sets of 12 for each. You can do 4 sets if you want. And you can even bump up the reps.

You can also choose different exercises each time you train abs. In fact, I recommend that you do that. One key is to always do one exercise for lower abs.

What’s Next?

After you go through this program for 4-6 weeks, you’ll be ready for the next level of training. And you can either go on a different type of mass-building program, or you may decide you’d like to get more ripped and cut.

I have programs for both of those goals…

  1. Mass Program: Hardcore Muscle Building Program
  2. Lean Program: Lean Muscle Building Program

So grab one of those programs and get started! I hope you enjoyed this post as well and learned more about training for hypertrophy. Keep pushing and never give up on your journey to building muscle!

Training with Passion,

Jason