If you’ve got a deadline, don’t despair. With the right exercise, diet and supplementation you can achieve noticeable change in just four weeks.
Working with a sense of urgency can sometimes be the best route to success. When put under a tight timeline, it becomes vitally important to focus on making every small detail count. So if you have just four weeks to pack on as much muscle mass as possible, these are the six crucial things you need to do on a consistent basis.
Elevate Muscle Protein Synthesis
Stimulating the mTOR pathway to trigger muscle protein synthesis is essential if you’re looking to gain muscle tissue. Factors such as precise technique, time under tension, and utilizing a full range of motion ensure the muscles are adequately stressed during training, which activates muscle protein synthesis. However, approximately 48 hours after training, protein synthesis levels are shown to return to baseline. Knowing this, it makes sense to re-stimulate a stubborn muscle group approximately four days after its initial training session. Four days will allow the surrounding connective tissues to recover from the first training session so it’s ready to work again. By re-elevating muscle protein synthesis, more anabolic activity occurs within the muscle you’re trying to grow.
Please note that this is not a strategy I’d use for every muscle, only ones which are clearly lagging behind in growth, and only for a short timeframe. It isn’t necessary to complete a full workout on the same muscle group four days later, instead complete 6 to 8 sets with sixty second rest intervals following another muscle group’s training session. Consuming a protein-rich meal abundant in leucine every three hours will also support muscle protein synthesis. For this reason, I encourage high meal frequency when trying to build muscle, especially in a short timeframe.
Acute Strength Gains
There is no escaping the fact that muscle needs to be forced to grow, and there is no better way to achieve this than by using a progressive overload training approach. With this, frequent exposure to an increasingly heavier weight yields the stress needed to evoke growth. For example, if you do five sets with a weight where you fail at ten repetitions in week one, in week two your aim would be to do eleven repetitions with the same weight, or to go heavier for ten reps. This trend must continue into the third and fourth week. It’s worth noting that you must perform enough working sets and repetitions each workout, as accumulative volume is an essential component to growth. It’s advised to stay away from one rep max sets as they will not contribute enough hypertrophic stress to add mass.
For the sake of simplicity, select an exercise for each muscle group and follow the structure I outlined above in relation to sets and repetitions. Over the four-week period, start each workout with the compound exercise you’ve selected and track your numbers. Writing down the weight you used and reps you completed is the best way to monitor continued progress over the four-week timespan. Ensure your exercise selection, technique, rep tempo, and rest periods all remain the same, so the training conditions are comparable.
Time Under Tension
Improving the mind-to-muscle connection is a highly effective strategy to induce more growth. This is why I’d strongly recommend using an isolation exercise to target upper body muscle groups, with a four second negative on every repetition. To introduce even more time under tension, you can implement isometric pauses on every rep, forcing the muscle to work even harder at peak contraction. More time under tension induces a higher rate of central nervous system activity, which is imperative to overall muscle-fiber stimulation.
Increase Overall Training Volume
Sometimes doing more work for a short period of time is a great way to bypass a plateau or reach a goal faster. If you’re accustomed to training four days per week, it could be worth increasing this to six sessions per week, just to shock the body with extra volume. Increasing volume adds extra stress to the system, forcing it to grow in order to adapt to the stress. Provided the correct nutrients and supplements are consumed, the body will be able to recover and have what it needs to support growth.
Consume Additional Muscle Building Calories
A guide to gaining muscle mass in four weeks would be incomplete without mention of diet. Net calorie intake is an essential part of building size rapidly, but you shouldn’t gorge on any food in the name of bulking. High-quality, complex carbohydrates provide the energy to perform while having a protein sparing effect, thus buffering catabolism. Healthy fats play an important role in testosterone production when used by the Leydig cells. As mentioned, protein sources abundant in leucine should be consumed regularly throughout the day. Post-workout, opt for a fast-digesting protein shake with added fermented glutamine, betaine anhydrous, and patented Creatine HCl to support recovery. Aim to keep yourself within a 10-15% calorie surplus, consuming more on days that you train bigger muscle groups, such as legs, when there’s an extra demand for fuel.