With the winter months on the way, many of you are going to be thinking about performing a muscle-building cycle to reshape your physique. However, unless you have a plan, you’re not going to have anything to show for all your hard work come spring.
Before jumping right into an intense weight-lifting workout, it’s a good idea to take three weeks to prepare your body for what’s to come. Keep in mind your goal when you prep your body for winter muscle building is not to get leaner and add definition, but to build a foundation from which you will work off of. You will start to notice more muscularity toward the very end of these three weeks and then, to a larger extent, once you move onto your full-fledged muscle-building program.
Here are the steps to take to prep your body for winter muscle building.
Take three full days off
If you have been going to the gym recently, you should immediately take three days off before beginning. Once you get into an intense muscle-building workout program, the stress load on the muscles will be incredibly high, so it’s important that you start with a clean slate.
During these three days off, do your best to avoid cardio training as well to really give both the muscles and central nervous system a complete rest.
If you haven’t been working out previously, you can use this time to get into the gym and do some light cardio activity, which will help get the body used to the vigorous movement again.
Assess your current food intake and your muscle building diet intake
During your three days off from the gym, you should do some research of the various calorie contents of the foods you’ve been eating and figure out exactly what your diet looks like.
If you’ve been maintaining your weight, this will give you a fairly accurate indication of how many calories your body burns each day and how many more you will need to start adding lean muscle mass on top of that.
If you’ve been on a fat-loss diet, over the next three days your goal is to bring your calories back up to maintenance intake. If you don’t know what this is, use the general guideline of 15 calories per pound of body weight. Keep in mind that factors such as height and age influence this, so you should also use a reference more tailored to you specifically such as the one found at CalorieKing.com.
It’s important to have this maintenance phase in there before you move on to a muscle-building stage because, in some cases, going from a lower calorie intake to a much higher calorie intake can promote fat gain. Maintenance is a good middle ground that allows your body to adjust.
Once you’ve determined this, you want to add about 250 to 500 additional calories to your maintenance to promote muscle building. Your protein requirements, regardless of what most people think, will not go up dramatically from maintenance, so ideally you want to place most of these additional calories in the form of carbs immediately after your workout to promote the leanest muscle building.
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Perform three full-body workouts using compound exercises only
After your three days have passed, it’s time to move back into weight-lifting workouts. For the first week, you should aim for three workouts, performing the main compound lifts of bench press, squat, deadlift, rows, and shoulder press. Be sure to plan a day of rest between each workout.
Complete three sets of each exercise using a rep range of 8 to 10 with moderately heavy weight. Double-check that you’re utilizing correct form, since this will set you off on the right track from the start.
Lower the rep ranges during your workout
After one week of that, you are going to lower the rep ranges down to the 5 to 8 rep range, using heavier weights. This will kick-start the muscle building process using exercises that will target all the muscles in the body.
At this point, you should also start the muscle-building diet you created for yourself to provide the body with the raw materials to synthesize new body mass.
Design your new workout split
After the last week and a half of the lower rep lifting is complete, you can choose to either stick with the program if you're enjoying it or come up with your preferred muscle-building workout split. Many men gravitate to upper/lower body splits since it allows for the addition of a few more exercises for each body part compared with the full-body workout, while still providing ample time for recovery.
Winter weight… the good kind
By using this three-week cycle, you can go into winter ready to see good muscle development. When spring starts to show its timid head, you can start shedding some of your fat and be ready to show off your results come summer.