It only takes a few weeks to build a body that looks cut out of granite.

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Stop training legs. Normally we’d never make this suggestion, as it can lead to an embarrassing imbalance between the upper and lower body. But for a short time, it’s the best way to promote rapid gains in the muscles that’ll be on display most as the summer season comes to a close. This program is all about polishing the so-called “trophy” muscles that garner the most attention—chest, back, shoulders, and arms—so you can carve out a sculpted-from-stone-looking body. In three weeks, you can peak your upper body and have your friends wondering why you bother to wear a shirt at all. 

How it Works

By laying off leg work, you’ll greatly enhance your ability to recover from workouts. Squats and deadlifts are tremendous total-body muscle builders, but they take a toll on everything from your joints to your nervous system, making it harder to train intensely again without taking several days to recover. You don’t have that kind of time if you want to get ripped before Labor Day, so we’re telling you to give up heavy leg work altogether for the next three weeks. This will allow you to train your upper body more frequently and with greater intensity, making for the fastest possible gains. However, if you insist on training legs, do one workout per week of light lower-body exercises, such as leg extensions and leg curls—but no barbell training.

SEE ALSO: 8 Upper-Body Kettlebell Moves

In fact, we’re banning the conventional barbell completely during this period. Instead, you’ll use dumbbell and body-weight exercises that stimulate muscle without unnecessary nervous system and joint stress. By training with so-called “easier” exercises, you’ll be able to handle progressively more volume, pushing your muscles further and further (albeit safely) over a three-week period, forcing them to grow to keep pace.

However, more volume doesn’t mean doing 15 sets for chest in one day. By hitting each target muscle— chest, back, shoulders, bi’s and tri’s—each workout, you’ll train them two or three times as often as you do now. It doesn’t matter that you’re doing only three or so sets for one area per session—they’ll add up over the course of the week. Furthermore, you’ll train them in a fresh or near-fresh condition every time, so they can handle maximum poundage and therefore give your muscles maximum stimulation. 

Workout Directions

Perform workouts A, B, and C in sequence, resting a day between each, for four total sessions per week. That means after you complete C, restart the cycle with A again within the same week. See the train- ing schedule on the bottom of the page for a calendar of all your training days.

Every workout includes training for the chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps. Each time you repeat a workout, add three total sets to it. Spread them out among the body parts. For instance, you can add one set to the dumbbell bench press if you feel your chest needs more work, but then you must also add a set to the high-cable rope row, and possibly the EZ-bar curl. Keep muscle balance in mind and be honest with yourself about your weak points. Do not add all three sets to one exercise. Each time you repeat the work- out, add at least one of the three sets to a different exercise. On the days in between, you may perform the cardio of your choice (but no more than two days per week of high-intensity interval training). Go to muscleandfitness.com/foodpyramid for a guide to setting up a diet. 

Week 1

Week 2

  • Day 8 Off or Cardio Start
  • Day 9 Workout B Start
  • Day 10 Off or Cardio Start
  • Day 11 Workout C Start
  • Day 12 Off or Cardio Start
  • Day 13 Workout A Start
  • Day 14 Off or Cardio Start

Week 3

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