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Add Strength And Size With This Full-Body Workout Plan From Shaun Stafford

Whatever fitness goals you have in mind, it’s important to recognise that it takes both time and commitment to achieve them. That’s true of losing weight, becoming a better runner or building muscle. This plan from trainer and fitness model Shaun Stafford requires you to commit to four workouts a week for six to eight weeks, which is no small thing, but the rewards you gain from that effort come in the form of increased strength and size all over your body.

You also get peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing in the gym, because the plan hits your whole body but works different muscle groups in a sequence that allows for the necessary recovery time to see results. Each workout contains two compound moves, followed by a tri-set and then a bonus set of one last exercise. All the info on sets, reps and recovery is provided to make it as clear as possible, although that’s not going to make actually doing the exercise any easier – this is one that’s best suited to more experienced gym-goers on the lookout for a new routine, rather than first-timers.

Before we dive into the details of the plan, here’s Stafford’s advice on how to follow it to get the results you’re looking for.

Who is this programme for and how much weight should you use?

“This programme will be effective for anyone who’s looking to increase size and strength,” says Stafford.

“In terms of weight selection, it’s trial and error at first. Always go lighter than you think you need to and build up over the first week. If you can complete the sets and reps with near perfect form, don’t be afraid to crank it up.”

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How long should you follow the programme for?

“This programme should be performed for six to eight weeks for optimal results,” says Stafford. “You can add in some active recovery work to keep your cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. Lower-intensity cardio and yoga are great additional sessions if you feel up to it.”

Each workout has a “bonus” set. Are these optional or key to the session?

“The bonus sets are crucial to the workout – they often contain moves that target the little muscles that support and maintain joint health and function,” says Stafford. “Just because they are at the end does not mean you can skip them if you are tired! Finish the workout for optimal results.”

What To Eat During This Training Plan

Even if you nail every workout on this plan for eight weeks you’re not going to see the maximum benefit unless you show a similar level of commitment to your nutrition. Primarily you need to make sure your protein intake is high enough to help support your muscles as they repair and rebuild after workouts, which you should do by focusing on high-protein meals. You can use supplements like protein powders and bars in a pinch but don’t rely on them.

Outside of protein, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, and carbohydrates are needed as your main energy source for intense workouts. Wholegrain varieties are generally better to bump up your fibre intake.

There’s a lot to consider, and if you’d rather outsource most of the work to someone else then a healthy meal delivery company can help. Some of these will deliver a load of meals at once for you to store and eat when you want, while others will deliver daily, covering all your meals and snacks for that day. This convenience comes at a cost, but at least you save the time planning and preparing your meals.

Workout Structure

Steel yourself: this is a long and tough workout plan – but the results will be worth it if you stick to the prescribed structure. You’ll be doing each of the four workouts below every week for six to eight weeks in total. You should stick to the order given for the workouts, because they target different areas of the body and have been designed to let some muscle groups rest and recover while you focus on others.

Each workout is broken down into three sections. In the first you do two compound moves, targeting multiple muscle groups at once. The second section is a challenging tri-set where you’ll power through three sets of three exercises and rest only at the end of each round. Each workout then finishes off with one last exercise, just to hammer your muscles a final time before you hit the shower.

How To Warm Up

It’s important to make sure you warm up properly before each and every workout you tackle on this training plan. Not only will doing so ensure you’re primed to perform in the workout, preparing your body will also make it less likely that you’ll succumb to injuries during the training plan, because your muscles aren’t going into heavy lifts cold.

To warm up properly you need to activate the muscles you’re actually going to use in the workout, which is why spending five minutes on a cardio machine isn’t the best idea ahead of a weights session.

Instead, use this warm-up routine created by Yasmin Saadi from The Fitting Rooms gym. It starts with a series of seven stretches that mobilise the entire body. After that you should go through some workout-specific warm-ups. The easiest way to do this is to do the exercises you have lined up for your workout but with very little or no weight, because that way you’ll be using the muscles you expect to test during the session, but you can also do more stretches that target the relevant muscles.

When you’re short on time it’s always tempting to skip the warm-up in favour of spending time on the workout, but it’s better to shorten the workout itself and ensure you’re doing it properly than go in cold and knock out sloppy sets while your muscles warm up.

Workout One: Chest And Shoulders

Bench press

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Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Brace your core and press your feet into the ground, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

Dumbbell overhead press

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Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Stand tall holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Keeping your chest up, press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start.

3A Lateral raise

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Stand with dumbbells by your sides and palms facing each other. Lean forward slightly, then raise the weights to the sides, leading with your elbows. Slowly lower them back to the start under control.

3B Front raise

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your body with straight arms. Keeping your chest up and arms straight, raise the weights in front of you to shoulder hit. Lower back to the start.

3C Reverse flye

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Bend forwards from the hips with a light dumbbell in each hand, palms facing. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.

4 External cable rotation

Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Set the cable at a low height and, using a split stance, retract your shoulder blades. Hold your arm so that your elbow is level with your shoulder and your forearm is parallel to the ground. Pull the cable so that your elbow stays still but your forearm ends in a vertical position.

Workout Two: Legs

Front squat

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Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Stand tall holding a bar across the front of your shoulders with elbows up. Keeping your core braced, squat as low as you can. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

Glute-hamstring raise

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Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Adjust the glute-ham developer (GHD) so when your feet are secured, your quads are resting on the middle of the GHD and you can lower your torso over the end. Position your body above your knees at right angles to your lower legs, with your arms folded across your chest. Brace your core and slowly lower your torso over the edge of the GHD, until your body forms a right angle at your hips. Return to the start position explosively by contracting your hamstrings.

3A Prone hamstring curl

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie face down on the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. With the pad against the back of your lower calves, raise it by contracting your hamstrings. Return slowly to the start.

3B Hack squat

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie on the machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. Lower until your thighs are at right angles to your calves, then press back up.

3C Dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

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Standing straight, hold dumbbells just in front of your thighs. Brace your core and slightly bend your knees to activate your glutes. Hinge from your hips without rounding your back until you reach the limit of the range of your hamstrings. Hold briefly, then return to the start position.

Seated leg extension

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Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Sit in the leg extension machine, following its instructions to position yourself correctly and safely. With the pad on your shins, use your quads to lift the weight. Return slowly to the start.

Workout Three: Back And Biceps

Bent-over row

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Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Hold a barbell using a shoulder-width overhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly, then bend forwards, hingeing from the hips and keeping your shoulder blades back. Pull the bar up towards your sternum, leading with your elbows, then lower it back to the start.

2 Neutral-grip pull-up

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Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Hang from a pull-up bar or handles with palms facing each other. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your lower chest touches the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

3A Preacher curl

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Sit at a preacher bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand grip. Curl the bar up to the top, pause and squeeze, then lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully straight.

3B Dumbbell spider curl

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Bend down and rest your elbows on your thighs, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight. Curl the weights up, squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower back to the start under control.

3C Narrow-grip EZ-bar curl

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold an EZ-bar using a narrow, underhand grip with your arms extended. Curl the bar up towards your chest, keeping your elbows in to your sides.

Cable face pull

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a double-rope attachment on the high pulley with straight arms. Pull the handles to either side of your head, then return to the start under control.

Workout Four: Triceps And Abs

Triceps dip

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Sets 7 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

Hanging leg raise

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Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 90sec

Start in a dead hang, holding a pull-up bar with your legs straight and your knees and ankles touching. Keep them together as your use your lower abs to raise them, then lower back to the start under control.

3A V-sit

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie on your back with your shoulders and legs raised off the floor. Keeping your arms straight, raise your torso so that your chest meets your knees at the top of the move. Lower under control.

3B Reverse crunch

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 0sec

Lie with your head and shoulders flat on a mat, your thighs vertical, knees bent at 90° and arms by your sides for support. Curl your knees towards your chest and hold. Contract your abs to lift your hips off the mat. Lower slowly to the start.

3C Russian twist

Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec

Start at the top of the crunch movement but with your feet off the ground. Keeping your abs braced, rotate to one side then the other to complete one rep.

Diamond press-up

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Sets 2 Reps To failure Rest 60sec

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond. Keeping your hips up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Push down through your hands to return to the start.

Shaun Stafford is a fitness ambassador for Optimum Nutrition (opens in new tab)

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