If you're willing to sweat, you can pump up your physique in less time than you might think. With the right moves, you can work toward power pecs and better biceps in just two workouts a week. If you're over 40 and not active now, check in with your doctor before starting a fitness program.
Bigger Arms: Hammer Curl
For biceps you can show off in short sleeves, start with a hammer curl. Hold dumbbells so they face your outer thighs. Exhale and bend the elbows. Keeping your elbows at your side, raise the dumbbells until their tips nearly reach your shoulders. Inhale and lower slowly.
Bigger Arms: Preacher Curl
This twist on the biceps curl also works your deltoids. Those are the muscles that give shoulders a chiseled look. Rest the back of your arm on a support pad while holding a dumbbell, palm facing up. Slowly raise the dumbbell, then lower it to the starting position. If any move feels wrong, check with a trainer so you do it right.
Bigger Arms: Triceps Pushdown
Grasp the handle with palms facing down and hands 6 inches apart. Keep your upper arms near the sides of your chest. Start with your forearms parallel to the floor. Push the cable down by making your arms straight. Do this until your elbows are fully extended, but not locked. Pause and slowly return to the starting position.
Bigger Chest: Bench Press
This classic move hits all your chest muscles at once. Grab the bar with a closed grip and slowly lower until it lightly touches your chest. Exhale and press back to starting position. A trainer can recommend the best load for you. Half of body weight (including the weight of the barbell) is a common starting point. This flat version works the entire chest, so there's no need to add incline versions.
Buff vs. Mr. Universe
What's the right weight for you and the right number of reps? Those depend on your goals and fitness level now. If you're a beginner, start with 3 sets of 12-20 reps for each exercise. When you're ready, step up the weight and shoot for 8-12 reps to build size. The last few reps should be tough.
Strong Shoulders: Front Raise
Do this move standing or seated on a bench or exercise ball. Hold weights at your sides. Raise one straight arm to the front, up to shoulder level, while turning your palm towards the floor. Slowly lower back down. Keep good posture and your wrists in line with your arms. Working one arm at a time makes it easier to keep your back straight.
Strong Shoulders: Lateral Raise
This classic move targets the deltoids. Start with the weights by your sides. Contract your abs to support your back. Then sweep both arms up to shoulder level to form a "T." Keep your arms relaxed and elbows unlocked. Rotate elbows slightly outward to focus on the shoulder muscles. Slowly lower to the starting spot.
Tapered Torso: Wide-Grip Pulldown
Wide-grip pulldowns develop the latissimus dorsi muscle or "lats." This back exercise also makes your waist look narrower. Sit on the pulldown machine and grasp the bar wider than shoulder width. Lean back slightly and contract your abs. Now bring the bar down to your upper chest. Control the movement. Pause and slowly return the bar to starting position.
Abs: Kettlebell Twist
The kettlebell twist can help lean abs really pop, especially once you've lost any extra belly fat. Sit on the floor, knees bent, heels down. Lean back, back straight, and engage your abs. Place the kettlebell on the floor, switching from one side to the other. For faster results, hold your feet off the floor, but only if you can still control the movement with good form.
Quicker Results: Super Sets
To build stronger muscles in less time, try super sets. This means doing sets of two different exercises with little or no rest in between. At first do super sets that work opposing muscle groups. Example: a set of biceps curls and a set of triceps pushdowns.
Quicker Results: Compound Sets
After you've been lifting weights for a few months, you can try compound sets. This means doing two different exercises for the same muscle group without resting in between. A chest-building example: A set of dumbbell bench presses followed by a set of pec flys. This exhausts the muscle quickly and thoroughly, setting the stage for muscle growth.
Lower Body: Leg Press
Every gym's got a guy shaped like a light bulb. He's the one who neglects his lower body. If you don't want to be that guy, work major leg muscles on the leg press machine. Place your feet on the plate with knees bent at 90 degrees. (Don't bend your knees any further to avoid injury). Grasp the handles and slowly push the plate out until your knees are straight but not locked. Pause and slowly return to the starting spot.
Lower Body: Squat
Squats target both the inner and outer thighs. Use a barbell heavy enough to challenge the muscles but that still lets you control your form. Hold it behind your head with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your spine straight. Now, squat down until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor. As you come back up, raise the hips and chest together. For safety, keep your knees behind your toes, shoulders behind your knees.
Lower Body: Dead Lift
The dead lift shows off your upper body and is one of the best workouts for your hamstrings. Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, holding the bar in front of you. Lower the bar to just below your knees. You can hold it further if you can keep a flat back and stable spine. Slowly return to the starting position. Keep the bar close to your body to protect your lower back.
Lower Body: Calf Raise
Stand on one foot with the arch of the foot and heel hanging off of the edge of a step or platform. Hold on to something if you need to for balance. If you can balance without holding on, you will work your core muscles. You'll also build more stable joints in the standing leg. Drop the heel all the way down below the step and then raise all the way up on the toes. Hold dumbbells to make it harder.
Keep Your Muscles Guessing
If you reach a plateau after several weeks of working out, it's time to mix things up. You need to challenge or "confuse" your muscles often to keep them growing. You can do this by putting a twist on your basic moves. For example, do a biceps curl with a reverse grip. Or find a bench for the step-up move shown here. For best results, change up your workout at least every 4 to 6 weeks.
When you train hard, you won't just burn calories during your workout. You will burn them even after the session. Exactly how long and how many calories you'll burn after your workout depends in part on how intensely you exercised. But over time, the effect can really add up.
Eat Right: Before You Lift
Give your muscles the right fuel. If you really want to get ripped, eat protein at every meal and snack. Good sources are lean meats, eggs, cheese, and milk. Add whole-grain carbs like oatmeal for lasting energy. Research suggests men who eat a snack of protein and carbs right before and after working out build more muscle and burn more fat.
Eat Right: After You Lift
After lifting, take in some protein as soon as possible to help your muscles recover. Include a wholesome carb, such as fruit. One quick option is a smoothie made with protein powder or yogurt and frozen berries.
Muscles are about 75% water, so give them what they need by drinking enough fluids. Getting dehydrated could affect your workout, your focus, and how well you can fight germs. The best choice is simple, calorie-free water.
Though some supplements, including creatine, are popular among athletes and body builders, they don't replace a good training plan. If you're thinking about trying supplements, talk to your doctor first, so they can check on any possible side effects.
The Truth About Steroids
It's this simple: Never take steroids to build muscle. It's illegal and can cause many health problems, including:
Breast growth in men
How fast you bulk up depends in part on your genes. Your parents gave you your basic body shape and the ease you have in getting big. Even so, every man can improve their muscle mass and strength with a good weight-training program.
(1-18) Steve Pomberg / WebMD
(20) Steve Pomberg / WebMD
(21) Denkou Images / Cultura
(22) Crystal Cartier Photography
(23) Peter Dazeley / Photographer’s Choice
American Council on Exercise: "Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curl," "Dumbbell Preacher Curl," "Triceps Push-Down," "Barbell Bench Press," "Seated Leg Press," "Barbell High Back Squat," "Supplement Specifics."
David Baldovin, master trainer, Forum Athletic Club.
Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, sports dietitian.
Men's Health: "Supersets for Super Gains," "The Best New Exercises for Every Part of a Man's Body,""The Rules of the Ripped," "Diet Strategies: Muscle-Building Meal Plan."
National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Anabolic Steroids."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.