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Three Phases of Fitness

Building a muscular physique


Three Phases of Fitness

If your goal is to build lean muscle mass, improve your strength, and define your body, then you have to train smarter, not harder. You can build a muscular physique naturally by following a phase-based approach: Foundation phase, Hypertrophy phase, and Firming phase.

Do you want to build a muscular physique and don’t know where to start? If your goal is to build lean muscle mass, improve your strength, and define your body, then you have to train smarter, not harder.

Balance what you like to do with what your body requires to grow and what it needs to recover from your workouts. If your goal is to improve your muscle mass, plan to progressively challenge the body by using three distinct phases of training: Foundation phase, Hypertrophy phase, and Firming phase.

Ready: Before You Start

Each workout should last about 45 minutes to one hour, including a proper warm-up and cool-down. If you are new to using weights, begin with a full-body routine, three days a week. Each phase can last two to four weeks. Start at the lower end of the repetition range and slowly work to the higher end. Begin with a variety of exercises such as squats, chest presses, dumbbell rows, dumbbell shoulder presses, and exercises for the core and arms.

Set: What to Eat

Eating for muscle size is no different than eating for health; you just need more of everything. Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and at least 1.0 to 1.5 grams of
protein/kg of body weight. A whey protein supplement can be used in a shake or sprinkled on cereal to ease the task of ingesting your protein needs.

Go: Phase 1: Build the Foundation

The first phase of any resistance training program should build the foundation of strength, endurance, and the integrity of joints and other structures. Phase one focuses on circuit training, providing both a muscular and aerobic training benefit. As you finish the first set of exercise one, move immediately to the next exercise, and so forth until all exercises are complete. Rest 60 seconds and repeat circuit for remaining sets. Use a moderate weight that you can lift with little discomfort.

Phase 2: Hypertrophy

Once you build the foundation, you can challenge the muscles to grow. Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in the size of a muscle. This is the phase that people quickly turn to when wanting to improve their physique. Many studies have shown that the eight- to 12-repetition range helps build the greatest amount of muscle mass along with producing the highest levels of growth hormone, a hormone that keeps the body young, vibrant, and healthy and fosters lean muscle growth. Use a challenging weight that makes every last repetition difficult. Unlike the foundation phase, you complete all sets of the first exercise before moving on to the second exercise, and so on.

Phase 3: Firming

You have built a solid foundation, increased the size of your muscles; now it is time to firm and tone your body. Lifting heavier weights is the next natural progression to firming up the muscles. Choose a weight that challenges the final repetition. This phase is designed in a vertical format, with all exercises listed one beneath the other. Work your way down the list and complete the first set of all exercises, resting 60 to 120 seconds between sets before starting again from the top of the list and completing the remaining sets.

You can build a muscular physique naturally by following a phase-based approach. Adding
cardiovascular training two to three times per week, for 20 to 30 minutes at a moderate pace, will also help burn fat and improve muscle definition.


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Brain Storm

Brain Storm

Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNMMichelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM