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What can you do with four minutes? If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish quite a bit. You could read several paragraphs of this article or run a mile if you’re world class. But if you want to put on some mass and get stronger, our Four-Minute Muscle program will put your time management skills to the ultimate test.
The concept behind Four-Minute Muscle is simple yet brutal in its execution. For each exercise in your workout, we want you to crank out as many reps as you can in four minutes. Then you move to another exercise for the same body part and do the same thing. This will fry your muscles in ways you’ve never experienced before while stimulating growth, burning fat and getting you in the best shape of your life.
Performing as many reps as you can in a certain period is an optimal way to train for muscular strength endurance. This is the ability to perform a task—in this case, moving fairly heavy loads in the gym—repeatedly for long durations with a minimal decrease in muscular efficiency. After following this program for six weeks, your failure threshold, the point at which you simply can’t get another rep, will be significantly higher for each exercise.
Training this way improves your strength endurance because working your muscles to failure repeatedly puts them under a great deal of metabolic stress. This creates waste byproducts like lactic acid, which produces that “trapped in quicksand” feeling when you’re about to reach failure. By intentionally training to create these waste products, you teach your body to better handle and dispose of them. That disposal process is how your strength endurance capacity increases. The better your body can do this, the longer you can perform a given movement. And the longer you can go, the more benefits you’ll get from your workouts.
Strength endurance training, however, isn’t designed solely to help you perform more reps. It also helps you pack on size by creating mechanical stress and causing muscle damage, both of which lead to rapid gains in muscular cross-section. This routine also instigates the release of anabolic hormones, the ones that repair your muscles and help them grow. The program entails dramatically increasing both your training volume and the intensity with which you attack your workouts. Simply put, you’ll train a lot harder than usual. As a result, you’ll burn significantly more calories in each session and continue to burn them once you’re finished. Combined with a sound nutritional program, this will strip fat from your body in record time. And since this is likely a drastic change from your typical training regimen, you’ll experience the added benefit of shocking your muscles into growth. This is the Weider Principle of muscle confusion, and it works.
To get started, find weights with which you can perform 15–19 reps per exercise listed in the routines below. Follow the workouts in order, taking one preparatory week to establish and record the weights you’ll use. Be accurate and stay within the 15–19-rep range because these are the weights you’ll work with for the six-week period. Your ultimate goal at the end of six weeks is to perform 60 reps per exercise in four minutes. The idea is to put in four minutes of total work on each move, taking a short rest period after reaching failure and then starting again. Weight selection is important because if you can’t get at least 15 reps with a given weight, you won’t even come close to 60 in six weeks, so it bears repeating that you must be precise here.
There are two main ways to perform a Four-Minute Muscle exercise. The first way is how most people would intuitively try for 60 reps: by training to failure, resting and then going to failure again, repeating this haphazard process until four minutes have elapsed. The primary drawback is that there are no systematic steps leading to an increase in the number of reps you can grind out. You’re simply hoping your strength endurance will improve each time.
A far more intelligent strategy uses uniform rest periods between sets. For example, for the first two weeks of this program, rest for 20 seconds each time you hit failure. For the next two weeks, rest 15 seconds. For the last two weeks, take 10 seconds between sets. With rest periods that short, you’ll have an excellent chance of hitting 60 total reps. If you don’t achieve this on every exercise, don’t sweat it. We think you’ll still be pleased with your results: bigger muscles, a drastic reduction in bodyfat and the ability to perform significantly more reps with your usual weights on every move in the gym.