Build Muscle With Total-Body Workouts

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Looking to pack on some muscle this summer? Ditch body-part split routines in favor of total-body workouts.

Total-body workouts build muscle by engaging several muscle groups. Challenging more than one muscle helps you increase strength throughout the body. But the true advantage lies in the fact that working multiple muscles stimulates the release of natural human growth hormone, which is essential for muscle growth and recovery.

When switching your program to incorporate total-body workouts, observe the following guidelines and you'll be on the road to success.

Compounds Lifts

Since compound lifts like the Squat and Bench Press engage more than one muscle group, they place a far greater stimulus on your muscles than single-joint exercises. Start your workouts with heavier, compound lifts. If you want to perform single-joint lifts, do them toward the end of your program.

Lift Heavy

After a warm-up set, perform three to five sets of four to six repetitions. This rep range will build strength while also building size. Reserve higher rep ranges (10 to 12 reps) for single-joint exercises, or as finishers at the end of your workouts. Heavy lifting will maximize the release of muscle-building hormones.

Use Closed-Chain Movements

In a closed-chain exercise, the body moves around a fixed point—usually the feet or hands. In an open-chain exercise, the anchor point moves, as in the Leg Press. Closed-chain exercises should dominate your program as they typically involve heavier loads and engage small stabilizer muscles to keep you balanced.

Eccentric Focus

Most athletes focus on the concentric phase, like pushing the bar up during the Bench or driving up out of a Squat. The eccentric phase occurs during the downward phase, when the muscle is lengthening under tension. Many athletes ignore this phase, but research has shown that lowering in a slow, controlled manner causes an increased breakdown of muscle, stimulating strength, power and size gains.

Full Range of Motion

Perform exercises through their full range of motion, even if you have to lift a lighter weight. This develops strength in all positions, increases mobility and further challenges your muscles.

Time Yourself

Take a stopwatch to the gym and time your sets and rest periods. Keep your working sets to around 20 to 30 seconds and your rest periods under 90 seconds to maximize your time in the gym and keep the intensity high. Give your muscles enough rest to perform your next set with quality reps.

Choose Heavy Core Exercises

Finishing a heavy strength workout with sets of 20 Crunches is counterproductive. Train your core the same way you train the rest of your body. Perform heavier core variations like Single-Arm Farmer's Walks and Turkish Get-Ups. They will complement your routine and help build a stronger midsection to support your main lifts.

Don't forget that diet and sleep play huge roles in putting on muscle. Focus on taking in the right amount of calories (around 3,000 per day, plus or minus 500 calories, depending on your goals and weight) from healthy foods; get at least eight hours of restful sleep per night; and rest at least one day between workouts.


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