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The 4-week ‘New Year, New Muscle’ Workout Plan

Make your best gains ever in 2019 with this straightforward, month-long strength-training routine.

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The 4-Week 'New Year, New Muscle' Workout Plan
NKS_Imagery / Getty
The 4-Week 'New Year, New Muscle' Workout Plan
NKS_Imagery / Getty

Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate looking to take your training to the next level, or a grizzled iron veteran with the scars to prove it, once you’ve learned the truth about strength training you’ll make faster, easier progress without any more pain or wasted time and effort. That’s the goal of the New Year, New Muscle workout plan that follows.

What’s the truth about strength training? Simply that most of what you’ve been led to believe is necessary to build muscle and burn fat isn’t important at all. It’s hype to confuse you and make you buy things you don’t need and do things you don’t like. Here’s a short list of stuff you don’t need to worry about anymore if you want to get big, strong, and lean: intermittent fasting, circuit training, high-intensity interval training, low-carb diets, and body-part splits.

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I go into detail about what isn’t important and why in my book, but for now I’ll tell you what you do need to make 2019 the year you achieve your goals: a simple plan to get stronger, a diet you can live with, and a workout regimen that lets you avoid injury while packing on muscle long-term. New Year, New Muscle helps you do that by building your numbers on the squat, bench press, and deadlift—the most effective strength exercises around and the ones from which the greatest muscle gains come. It also offers joint-friendly training that allows you to train hard regardless of age or injuries and helps prevent aches and pains from starting. Combine that with a sustainable, well-rounded diet (very similar to the one Arnold and other Golden Age bodybuilders followed), and you’ll reach your potential without having to waste another year experimenting with all the other inferior methods out there.

Follow the routine here for four weeks, and go to truthaboutstrengthtraining.com for a complete 12-week program.

This routine is based on my e-book, The Truth About Strength Training—a 12-week program that condenses everything I’ve learned (mostly the hard way) from all my years in the iron game. Get it here

Workout directions

Perform each workout (Days 1-4) once per week. You can perform Days 1 and 2 back-to-back if you like, and 3 and 4 back-to-back, or rest a day between each session. Allow at least two full days between lower-body workouts (Days 1 and 3).

For example: Perform Day 1 on Monday, Day 2 on Wednesday, Day 3 on Friday, and Day 4 on Sunday.

Or, you could do Day 1 on Monday, Day 2 on Tuesday, Day 3 on Thursday, and Day 4 on Friday.

Exercises that are paired (marked A and B) are done in alternating fashion. Perform a set of A, rest as prescribed, then a set of B, rest, and repeat until all the sets are completed. Note that exercises with no rest mean to go immediately to the next exercise.

Exercises that don’t have a letter attached (are not paired) are done as straight sets. Complete one set, rest as prescribed, and repeat until all sets are complete.

Choose loads that are challenging but allow you to complete one or two more reps than are prescribed on each set (unless otherwise noted).

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How to do the main lifts

On the squat, bench press, and deadlift, you will need to “work up” to the heaviest load you can handle for the given number of reps—your rep max. However, even though we’re calling it a “max” it shouldn’t be a load that pushes you to the absolute limit. Be conservative.

Start with the empty bar and do 10 reps just to get warm. Then add some weight and do a set of 8. From there, go up in weight gradually and keep your reps low. This is very important. Do not rush through this and quickly attempt a max set. These work-up sets make you stronger. And safer. Also, none of these sets should be difficult. You should be many, many reps away from failure on all of them. They’re just serving to prepare your nervous system, joints, and muscles.

Here’s an example of how you could work up to a 275-lb squat for 3 reps:

Bar x 10
95 x 8
135 x 5
175 x 5
215 x 3
245 x 3
275 x 3

Aim for 5 to 8 work-up sets before your rep-max set.

There are also a few different options for the main lifts. You can do the conventional squat, bench press, and deadlift every week throughout the plan. Or, if you want, you can vary it up. You can do the front squat one week or the floor press in place of the bench press. But if making progress on the conventional lifts is important to you, you should stick with them more often than not.

For example, you could squat onto a box the first week, then front squat the next week, and then do a regular squat after that.

You’ll work up to a 7-rep max the first week, 5-rep max the second, and 3-rep max during the third, no matter what exercises you choose. The weight you use will vary depending on the lift.

After your main set of 7, 5, or 3 reps, you’ll do one more set with a lighter weight. Reduce the load by 10% and perform the same number of reps. So, if you squatted 275 for 3 reps, you’ll finish the exercise by doing a set of 250 for 3 reps (10% of 275, subtracted from 275, and rounded off).

In Week 4, you will deload. Perform three sets of 5 reps using 60% of the heaviest load you worked up to in Week 3. Do this for the main lifts only.

Routine

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Day 1: Full Body

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 24

Glute-Ham Raise

Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Alternative Exercises: Leg Curl or Sliding Curl
Exercise 2 of 24

Barbell Front Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
1
Reps
7
Rest
60 sec
Work up to a heavy 7, back off at 90% x 7. Alternative Exercises: Squat to Box or Squat
Exercise 3 of 24

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
5
Rest
120-180 sec
Exercise 4 of 24

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
--
Exercise 5 of 24

Bodysaw

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10-15
Rest
60 sec

Day 2: Upper Body

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 6 of 24

Twist Press

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Exercise 7 of 24

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
2
Reps
7
Rest
--
Work up to a heavy 7, back off at 90% x 7 (in Weeks 2 and 3, work up to a heavy 5, a heavy 3). Alternative Exercises: Incline Bench Press or Floor Press
Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
10-25
Rest
60-90 sec
Rep cycle: 10-12, 8-10, 5-8, 20-25 (each side)
Exercise 9 of 24

Inverted Row

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
3
Reps
10-20
Rest
60-90 sec
Exercise 10 of 24

High-Cable Rope Row

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10-15
Rest
60 sec
Exercise 11 of 24

EZ-Bar Curl

Equipment
EZ-Bar
Sets
4
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec

Day 3: Back and Core

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 12 of 24

Sliding Leg Curl

Equipment
Sliding Discs
Sets
4
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Just like Day 1, but pick a different lift if possible.
Exercise 13 of 24

Barbell Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
2
Reps
7
Rest
--
Work up to a heavy 7, back off at 90% x 7 (in Weeks 2 and 3, work up to a heavy 5, a heavy 3)
Exercise 14 of 24

Single-Leg Hip Raise

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Exercise 15 of 24

Band Pull-Apart

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
60 sec
Exercise 16 of 24

Reverse Back Extension

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
60 sec
Equipment
Box
Sets
--
Reps
90 sec (each side)
Rest
60 sec
As many sets as necessary.

Day 4: Upper Body

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 18 of 24

General Pushup

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
10-15
Rest
60-90 sec
Exercise 19 of 24

Pec Minor Dip

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
None
Exercise 20 of 24

Shoulder Band Dislocation

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
60 sec
Exercise 21 of 24

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
5
Rest
90-120 sec
Do 5 reps, hold at the top 5 sec, then 4 reps, hold 4 sec, and so on down to 1.
Exercise 22 of 24

Reverse Flye on Rings

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10-12
Rest
60-90 sec
Exercise 23 of 24

Angled-Bar Pushdown

Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
12-15
Rest
45-60 sec
Exercise 24 of 24

Dumbbell Rolling Triceps Extension

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
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