How to Design an A+ College Muscle-Building Workout

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

College is a great time of life. You’re laying the foundation for your future, growing into adulthood, meeting a ton of new people and having a lot of new experiences. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to let your health and fitness goals fall by the wayside while you are at college.  Between classes, studying, working, sleeping and having fun, it can be really easy to blow off your workout and your diet. But if you have a plan, exercise some discipline and take advantage of everything your campus has to offer, your college years can be your healthiest and fittest yet.

I will be giving you a great framework for your college workout program but rather than telling you step by step exactly what to do in each workout, I’m going to show you how to create your own individualized college workout and then give you some of my best tips for ensuring your success.

The Keys to a Great College Workout

Working out and staying healthy in college comes with a few challenges and a few advantages. One of the biggest challenges is that you a re going to be very busy with classes, studying and maybe even working. That’s not counting athletics, social activities and anything else you may get involved in.

In order to build and keep a great body in college, you’re going to have to be committed and disciplined, but you’re also going to have to get creative with the type of program you’re doing and with scheduling your workouts. These two things will probably change at least every semester, but they always need to be flexible and work with your schedule and your body clock. This is one of the main reasons I’m going to give you the architecture for a great college workout, but let you handle the details.

One of the advantages of the college environment is that you probably have more free time than you will have again for a good long while. That sounds contradictory to what I’ve just said, but while you will be very busy in college you’re only going to be busier after you graduate.

Another advantage is that everything you need is right on campus. There’s walking and running trails, a well-equipped gym or two, a pool, various athletic facilities and anything else you can possibly need for your workouts, all without having to get in your car.

The key to making your workout work is to take steps to work around the disadvantages and work with the advantages. Make the most of your time and the facilities and you will come out a winner. I will give you some great tips to help you do that in just a bit, but first let’s get into the framework of the college workout that I’ve designed for you.

Your College Workout – Why It Works

Man at Dumbbell training in gymThe college workout that I’ve created is going to allow you to work on strength and size simultaneously. A lot of guys believe that you have to work on size for a certain number of weeks and then strength for a certain number of weeks and back again. For the most part, I think this is because it seems simpler, although some guys may believe that you can only work on size or strength in different phases. This isn’t true. You can do both by splitting up your week.

Aside from enabling you to work on both size and strength at the same time, the structure of this workout allows you to get your workout done in very little time, something that is essential to your success on a busy college schedule. If you’re working a job after classes, you may only have a little time before classes or between one class and the next in which to work out. This workout program is quick enough that you can get to the gym, work out, shower and change and get to your next class, your job or wherever within an hour.

Your College Workout – How it Works

You’re going to be doing two days of strength and three days of size on this program, with a rest day in between. I strongly suggest you do the strength days first and that you have at least one workout on the weekends to keep you focused on your goals and less likely to blow it on Saturday and Sunday. So here’s how that shapes up:

  • Monday and Tuesday – Strength Training
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday – Size training
  • Sunday – Rest

When you first look at this, you might think that we’re breaking the rules about training the same body parts on consecutive days, but you’re going to be doing a split program.

For strength, you will do either upper body or lower body. Which one you do Monday and which one you do Tuesday is up to you. For size, you also do a split. A potential split could be Back, Triceps, Shoulders on one day and Legs on another day, Chest, Biceps, shoulders the final day. You’ll do abs on three of those five workouts throughout the week. Breaking up your workouts in this way and working on both size and strength in the same week ensures that you’re stimulating all of the muscle fibers, both fast and slow twitch. This is key to seeing serious progress in short time.

If five days a week doing both strength and size sounds like it’s going to take a ton of time, it isn’t. Here’s why:

On your two strength days, you’ll be doing only two major compound moves for the lower body and two major compound moves for the upper body. But, you will be doing low reps, such as 5×5 or 6×4 or 7×3, with the heaviest weights you can do with control and proper form and longer rest periods, such as 2-3 minutes, between sets.  This type of training isn’t just training your muscles; it’s training your entire central nervous system to increase strength for the next workout. You will see impressive progress on strength in this way and doing your strength days in the first part of the week will make you stronger for your size workouts later in the week.

On your size days, you will still do only three different exercises per body part (whether that’s back, biceps, legs, or what have you) and you are going to be doing giant sets. An example of a chest giant set could be Incline dumbbell presses right into flat bench presses right into cable flyes. After all three exercises you will rest until repeating the same giant set.  Giant sets get maximum fatigue in the shortest possible time, which is essential with a busy schedule. So you will want to do moderate to high reps such as 8-16 reps, with shorter rest periods such 1-2 minutes. Focus 100% on maxing out your time under tension. Time under tension is what’s going to make this workout so explosive, so each movement needs to be as slow as you can make it and still maintain control.

So here’s how your workout might shape up: (You can switch the body parts around to suit you)

Monday – Strength – Upper Body….2 major compound moves, heaviest weight possible, 5×5 or 6×4 or 7×3 with long rest periods.

Tuesday – Strength – Lower Body…2 major compound moves, heaviest weight possible, 5×5 or 6×4 or 7×3 with long rest periods.

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Size – Chest, Biceps and Shoulders…2-4 giant sets, 8-16 reps per exercise shorter rest periods, focus on time under tension.

Friday – Size – Legs and Calves…2-4 giant sets, 8-16 reps per exercise shorter rest periods, focus on time under tension.

Saturday – Size – Back, Triceps and Shoulders…2-4 giant sets, 8-16 reps per exercise shorter rest periods, focus on time under tension.

*** Don’t forget to include abs at least twice per week, I would recommend you add them in at the end of your Thursday and Saturday workout.

Tips for Making Your Workout Work For You

Once you have your plan, you need to do everything possible to make it easy to stick to that plan.  Here are some tips to help you do that:

1. Work out first thing in the morning.

It’s a lot easier to blow off your workout than it is to blow off your classes. So get your workout done first thing and you won’t get a chance to skate later. Working out first thing also has a psychological advantage: If you spent your morning willing yourself to do that seemingly impossible last rep, you’ll find it easier to conquer other challenges throughout the rest of your day.

2. Work with your body clock.

Having said that, if mornings are your best study time because you are mentally focused and able to retain information better, then by all means work out later in the day. Work with your body clock rather than against it if at all possible. Otherwise, you may be fighting yourself every day to get to the gym.

3. Have your gym bag locked and loaded every night.

You’ve got very little time and your friends are always going to be tempting you with offers to go to lunch/play a game of pool/etc. during the day. By packing your gym bag each night with your clothes, your protein powder or BCAAs in your bottle and a healthy snack, you’ll be more prepared for tomorrow and more likely to work out. This works whether you’re working out first thing in the morning or after your classes. Being ready to go is half the battle.

College is a great opportunity to focus on your fitness and nutrition and to take advantage of all the facilities available to you on campus. Make the most of your time and resources, stay focused and work your plan. The results will be incredible.

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Comments

One thought on “How to Design an A+ College Muscle-Building Workout

  1. When you are in the college , you have to also remember to find the partners for training or meet bunch of guys who like gym as well.
    Its much easier if you have someone to train with and socialize.

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