The Fast Way to Big Muscle

By: Chad Waterbury 


Building brawn starts in your head. That's because your brain is the command center for every movement your body makes. How, exactly, does your mind control your muscles? It's complicated. But we've broken the process down into four steps, using your biceps as an example.

Step 1 When you're ready to lift a weight, your brain identifies which and how many muscle fibers are needed. It then sends an electrical impulse down your spinal cord through a bundle of neurons, or nerve cells. (Find out how much weight you should be lift with these 10 standards to determine your fitness level.)

Step 2 This impulse exits your spinal cord at your lower neck, through a group of nerves known as the brachial plexus. (Search: What does the brachial plexus do?)

Step 3 To reach your biceps, the impulse then branches off to the musculocutaneous nerve. (If your spinal cord is a highway, think of this nerve as a side road.)

Step 4 When the impulse reaches the nerve ending, a neurotransmitter—in this case, acetylcholine—is released. This sets off a chain of biochemical reactions that cause your muscle fibers to contract.

Related: Learn how to care for every muscle in your body by snagging a copy of the only exercise book you'll ever need!

Your 4-Week Muscle Plan: Blast Every Single Muscle Fiber in 30 Minutes!
Thieves used to target banks because, they reasoned, that's where the money was. (This was before they discovered subprime mortgages.) In the gym, you want to target your biggest muscle fibers because those are the ones with the most growth potential. Work them and you make all your muscles bigger, stronger, faster, and more explosive. This high-growth, no-risk program gives you three ways to hit those high-powered fibers. In 4 weeks, you can have a body that's right on the money. (For the science behind this workout plan, read Hotwire Your Muscles.)

Directions
Do this workout twice a week with at least 2 days between workouts (Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday). Perform the exercises in the order shown, and do all sets of each exercise before moving on to the next.

Exercises 1, 4, and 7 are static. Hold one position, even though your arms or legs might be shaking.

Exercises 2, 5, and 8 are ballistic. Do every repetition as explosively as you can with good form.

Exercises 3, 6, and 9 are traditional strength training. Use the heaviest weight you can handle for 3 reps.

Video: The best moves to rip your core


Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Suspended Inverted Row Hold with Feet on Bosu


Step 1

Step 2

Attach a pair of training straps (such as TRX) to a chinup bar so the handles are about 4 feet off the floor. Grab the straps, set your heels on a Bosu balance trainer, and pull yourself up a few inches so your elbows are bent. Hold for 15 seconds, keeping your body as straight as possible from neck to ankles. For more exercises you can perform with a TRX, read A New Way to Build a Perfect Body.

Do three 15-second holds. Rest 30 seconds between holds.

This move works:
Total Body
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Lying Supported Dumbbell Row


Step 1

Step 2

Lie chest down on a bench set to a low incline. Hold a pair of dumbbells with your arms hanging straight down, palms facing each other. (Use dumbbells you think you could lift about 10 times, even though you'll do just 4 reps in each set.) Pull the weights straight up to the sides of your torso and then lower them, working as quickly as possible while maintaining good form.

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Upper Back
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Pullup


Step 1

Step 2

Using an overhand, shoulder-width grip, hang at arm's length from a chinup bar with your shoulder blades pulled together and down. Pull your chest to the bar. Pause and lower yourself, keeping your shoulder blades together, until your arms are straight. If you can do more than three pullups with your body weight, then do them using a dipping belt with a weight plate or a dumbbell attached. On the other hand, if you can’t perform this exercise, follow our steps to master the pullup.

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Biceps, Core, Upper Back
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Suspended Pushup Hold


Step 1

Step 2

Attach a pair of straps to a chinup bar so the handles are about a foot or two off the floor. Grab the handles and assume a pushup position, keeping your body straight from head to ankles. Now lower yourself a few inches so your elbows are out to your sides and bent slightly. Hold for 15 seconds.

Do three 15-second holds. Rest 30 seconds between holds.


This move works:
Chest
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Explosive Pushup with Clap


Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Assume a pushup position. Lower your body to the floor, and push back up hard enough for your hands to leave the floor. Clap your hands and immediately return them to the floor while lowering your body for the next pushup. If 4 reps is too easy, wrap powerlifting chains around your upper body or use a weighted vest.

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Chest
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Dip


Step 1

Step 2

Grab the bars of a dip station and lift yourself so your arms are straight. Bend your knees and cross your feet behind you; this is the starting position. Shift your torso forward, bend your elbows, and lower yourself as far as you can without discomfort. Push back up to the starting position. If you can perform more than three body-weight dips, add weight by using a dipping belt.

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Chest
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Single-Leg Balance


Step 1

Step 2

Grab a Bosu balance trainer, Airex pad, or even a sofa cushion—anything that will stay in place while providing an unstable surface. Stand on the Bosu on one foot (barefoot is best) and raise the other leg. Now push your hips back a few inches—just enough to bend the knee of your supporting leg. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat with your other leg.

Do three 15-second holds with each leg. Rest 30 seconds after holding with both legs.

This move works:
Core
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Split Jump


Step 1

Step 2

Stand in a staggered stance, with the toes of your right foot 2 to 3 feet behind the heel of your left. Cross your arms over your chest. Squat down about 6 inches, and then leap and switch legs in midair so you land with your right foot in front of your left. Immediately lower yourself for the next split jump.

Do 3 sets of 4 reps with each leg (8 total reps in a set). Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Glutes, Hamstrings
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

Barbell Front Squat


Step 1

Step 2

Hold a barbell using an overhand grip, your hands just outside your shoulders, and raise your upper arms until they're parallel to the floor. Allow the bar to roll back to the tips of your fingers until it rests securely on your front shoulders. Push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the starting position. Click here to learn how to master the front squat.

Rest 60 seconds between sets.

This move works:
Calves, Quadriceps
Photo Credit: Beth Bischoff

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