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How to Build Muscle With a Gym Workout

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How to Build Muscle With a Gym Workout
A trainer can help you put together a plan that works for your body type. Photo Credit: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

You know that building muscle improves your appearance and daily function. A stronger, leaner body enhances your athletic performance, potentially helps you prevent injury, improves bone density and boosts your self-confidence. There's no downside to building muscle, except for the work required. You must do a total-body strength workout at least three times per week to build lean muscle. Head to the gym with a plan, though; winging it usually doesn't bring about great results.

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Step 1

Designate three non-consecutive days for your strength-training days. Allow at least 48 hours between sessions. Treat these sessions as your highest priority; do not miss or reschedule workouts unless you have no other option.

Step 2

Plan a full-body routine for every session. Training your entire body three times per week means you hit each muscle group multiple times and you stimulate the release of more muscle-inducing hormones at each workout, which can result in faster muscle growth.

Step 3

Opt for compound exercises over isolation exercises. Compound exercises use multiple joints and muscles with each lift, which means you get more out of every move. Plus, you get to work the same muscle group multiple times during your session without having to spend hours at the gym. For example, the chest press primarily targets the pectoralis major and secondarily uses the triceps and anterior deltoids. Add triceps dips to that workout and you'll use the triceps again as the primary mover and the chest and anterior delts as secondary muscles. You won't have to do three to four exercises for each body part -- which saves time and energy so you can put more into your entire workout.

Step 4

Perform three to six sets of eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise for every major muscle group. For example, do presses for the chest, rows for the back, squats and deadlifts for the hips and legs, lateral raises for the shoulders, weighted dips for the triceps and curls for the biceps. Use weights equal to between 80 and 85 percent of your one-repetition maximum -- the greatest amount of weight you can lift one time. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

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