Gain 10 Pounds of Muscle in 4 Weeks – Is It Possible?
“Increase your strength by 20 percent in two weeks!” “Get huge AND ripped in a month!” “Lose your stubborn belly fat tomorrow!”
Do these headlines sound familiar? If you’ve been around the fitness industry for any length of time, they probably do! For better or worse (I’d say worse), empty promises and false hopes sell a whole lot better than hard work, dedication and time. We live in an instant gratification culture, and everyone wants everything in record time with little effort and zero sacrifice.
The truth is, though, any big change to your physique takes time and effort – no two ways around it. If building muscle and losing fat were easy, everyone guy would be big and ripped, and every woman would look like a bikini competitor!
That said, there ARE times when you can make huge gains in a short time, gaining upwards of 10 pounds in a month. It’s not the norm, and you can’t repeat the process over and over, but if you get everything right – training, diet, sleep and the set-up BEFORE you dive in – you can achieve lasting gains in record time. Here’s how.
These Results not Typical
First things first – Understand that a 10-pound gain in 4 weeks is NOT something you can repeat over and over until you reach your desired size. If that were the case, you’d see guys going from skinny weaklings to pro-caliber bodybuilders in under a year. It doesn’t happen!
What this kind of program IS good for is busting through a plateau. If you haven’t made any progress in a while – despite an HONEST effort to do everything right in and out of the gym – you may need to make a major, albeit temporary change. Your body loves homeostasis, and sometimes it takes a few weeks of crazy training (and eating) to get things moving again.
The Right Scenario
If you really want to make major progress in a short time, you’ll need to set yourself up for success beforehand. Unless you’ve taken a long layoff from the gym, and you’re just trying to re-gain muscle you already had, you can’t dive right into a program like this. If that was your situation, simply returning to normal training would get you back to where you were.
To gain a SOLID ten pounds – not fat, but lean mass – you actually need to prime your body by dieting! Any competitive bodybuilder will tell you they make their best gains right after a competition, after they’ve spent months depleting and depriving their bodies. You don’t need to go on a crash diet, but spend at least one month eating at a moderate calorie deficit.
Likewise, there needs to be a major difference between the training you do during this program and before. While you’re dieting, train just enough to retain your strength and muscle mass. Moderate volumes, heavy weights and 3-4 short sessions per week should be the name of the game.
Commit to ONE Goal
“Should I bulk or cut?” If you’re asking this question, this program is NOT for you! It’s hard enough to build muscle at a normal pace. It will be impossible to make rapid gains during a diet. The best thing you can do now is to commit to the singular goal of gaining lean mass – even if that means putting on a pound or two of fat. Remember, you’re going to diet for a month before this program starts. If that mini-diet isn’t enough to remove any worry of “getting fat,” then you need to focus on getting leaner for a few months before you switch gears to gaining.
Clear Your Schedule
You’ve only got a month to achieve a solid 10-pound gain. You can’t afford to miss a workout! Am I telling you to re-prioritize your whole life to accommodate training? No – but I am telling you that this program will only work if you make the time. If you’re already dealing with school, work, a relationship and other commitments, it’s probably better to wait until you have a solid month of downtime.
Don’t think you can cram more into your schedule and skip out on sleep, either. In the short-term, a lack of sleep will sap your strength and make it impossible to train as intensely as you need for fast progress. In the longer-term, poor sleep will rob you of your gains, no matter how hard you were able to work in the gym. Sleep is when you grow and recover, and you’re going to need at least eight hours per night.
Your (Temporary) Diet
The exact structure and composition of your diet is a topic for another article. If you’re ready to take on this program (you’re NOT new to training), you should already know the basics. Eat protein every 3-4 hours, use carbs to fuel your training, and eat more fats to get in enough calories to grow. Don’t eat junk on the regular, but don’t deprive yourself of a few treats when you’re trying to gain weight, anyway. Simple stuff.
When it comes to this program, though, a calorie SURPLUS is the name of the game! I’m not talking the usual +500 calories, either. Food, not training, is what will make you gain weight, and you’ll need to AT LEAST 1,000 calories over your maintenance – more for guys who struggle to gain weight.
What’s more, most of those extra calories will need to come from carbs. I’m not saying you need to stress over some extra fat, but only carbohydrates will give you the glycogen you need to drive your bodyweight up and get you through multiple high-volume sessions per week. White rice, pasta, bread and other easy-to-eat carbs are your friends here.
How Will You Train?
We’ll get into the specifics later on in the article, but simply put, you’re going to take your training volume to a new level. Low-volume, ultra-high intensity programs are fine at certain times, but that’s not the kind of training that will help you gain weight in a hurry. Instead, you’ll be performing an ever-increasing number of tough sets – but not grinding reps and leaving yourself on the floor after your first set.
Keeping Your Gains
Gaining ten pounds in four weeks is one thing – keeping that new muscle is another matter entirely. If you want to hold on to your new strength and size for the long haul, DO NOT attempt to diet down right after. You’ll lower your training volume, of course, since you can’t keep up the insanity forever. You will need to consistently hit heavy weights in the gym, however, and you should keep eating at maintenance levels to avoid losing that new muscle. After a month or so of maintaining your gains, you can either shift into diet mode or get into a moderate calorie surplus for normal mass gaining.
The basics of this training program won’t be much different from what you’re used to. You’ll do plenty of basic, heavy, compound movements, supplemented with machines and isolation exercises. The biggest differences from your usual routine will be the volume and frequency. You’ll be hitting each muscle group twice per week, and your volume (the number of sets per session) will progress to a point you’ve probably never been. You should still strive to up the weight on the bar, and with all you’ll be eating, you should certainly be able to! But ultimately, the biggest factor in how much muscle you gain will be the number of sets you can do with moderate weight and great technique.
You’ll be training 6 days per week on this program, and the workouts won’t be short. For most people with normal schedules, that’s not sustainable – but sustainability isn’t the point of this program! You can see now why I recommend waiting until you have a month with plenty of downtime. You can take your off day whenever you like, but the rotation needs to remain the same.
Monday: Legs 1
Tuesday: Back, Biceps 1
Wednesday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps 1
Thursday: Legs 2
Friday: Back, Biceps 2
Saturday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps 2
- All prescriptions are listed as sets x reps (not reps x sets).
- Only working sets count towards your set numbers – not warm-ups.
- All working sets should be done with the same weight if possible.
- You should finish most sets with one or two reps in the tank – no grinding reps!
- Squat: 3 x 8-10
- Stiff-leg Deadlift: 3 x 10-12
- Leg Press: 3 x 12-15
- Weighted Sit-ups: 3 x 10-12
- Standing Calf Raises: 3 x 15-20
Back, Biceps 1
- Wide-grip Pull-ups: 3 x 8-10 (add weight if you can)
- Barbell Row: 3 x 10-12 (use straps)
- Seated Cable Rows: 3 x 15-20
- Dumbbell Curls: 3 x 12-15
- Hammer Curls: 3 x 12-15
Chest, Shoulders, Triceps 1
- Bench Press: 3 x 6-8
- Seated Overhead Barbell Press: 3 x 6-8
- Dips: 3 x 10-12 (add weight if you can)
- Dumbbell Side Raises: 3 x 12-15
- Reverse Pec Dec: 3 x 15-20
- EZ bar skull crushers: 3 x 12-15
- Rope Push-downs: 3 x 15-20
- Deadlift: 3 x 6-8
- Front Squat: 3 x 8-10
- Leg Press: 3 x 15-20
- Hanging Leg Raises: 3 x 15-20
- Seated Calf Raises: 3 x 15-20
Back, Biceps 2
- Underhand Pull-ups: 3 x 8-10 (add weight if you can)
- One-arm Dumbbell Row: 3 x 12-15 (use straps)
- Neutral Grip Pull-downs: 3 x 12-15
- EZ bar curls: 3 x 12-15
- Machine preacher curls: 3 x 12-15
Chest, Shoulders, Triceps 2
- Incline Bench Press: 3 x 6-8
- Flat Dumbbell Bench: 3 x 8-10
- Overhead Machine Press: 3 x 10-12
- Seated Dumbbell Side Raises: 3 x 12-15
- Bent-over Rear Dumbbell Raises: 3 x 15-20
- Incline EZ bar skull crushers: 3 x 12-15
- V-bar Push-downs: 3 x 15-20
By far the most important progression in this routine is increasing the number of sets. In the workouts listed, you’re only doing 3 sets per exercise – but that only applies for the first week. Every week, add 1 working set to the first exercise in the routine. The first movement of each workout is the most important, and adding volume there will produce the biggest gains. For example, you first exercise on Leg Day 1 is squats. You’re doing 3 sets the first week, but when you come around to the same workout the next week, you’re going to do 4 sets. 3 sets may sound easy, but by the time you’re at week 4 of the program, you’ll be doing 6 working sets for the first exercise on each day. You’ll also keep doing 3 sets of all of the subsequent exercises, week after week. That’s a ton of volume, and that volume is what will drive new growth!
If you’re eating enough to gain 10 pounds in these 4 weeks, then you should also be able to add some weight to the bar every session. Big jumps aren’t necessary, though, nor will you be able to complete all of your sets, reps and training sessions if you add weight to the bar too quickly. 5-10 pounds per week is plenty. In the long run, the mass you gain during this training cycle is what will allow you to get MUCH stronger when you actually focus on strength later on.
Technique and Rep Quality
Last but not least, great technique is absolutely essential on this program. It’s always important, of course, but it becomes even more critical when you’re doing so many sets and reps. Even small slip-ups and errors become magnified when you perform them over and over again, which can lead to injury and much bigger problems in the long term. Use the techniques that work well with your leverages and limb lengths to protect your knees, hips, back and shoulders. Also, always use a full range of motion! There is ZERO benefit to doing half-reps with a weight you’re not really ready to handle. It won’t give you any greater gains, but it will eventually lead to injury.
In the same vein, you need to keep your rep quality high, even when you’re getting fatigued in the middle of a workout. Above all, this means NO grinding reps! If you’re blowing a gasket on a 5-second rep at the end of a set, the weight is too high. Slow, painful-looking reps won’t help you build any more muscle, but they will build up so much fatigue that you can’t make it to the end of this program.