- Main GoalBuild Muscle
- Workout TypeFull Body
- Training LevelIntermediate
- Program Duration10 weeks
- Days Per Week3
- Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
- Equipment RequiredBarbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar
- Target Gender Male & Female
- Workout PDF Download Workout
- What is MFT and how can it improve results?
- Learn how to improve your mind muscle connection (MMC)
- An efficient 3x/week, full body MFT workout routine
Building muscle has been grossly over-complicated in the fitness industry for a long time.
Many guys are putting in tremendous effort with little to show for it. And it’s not because they aren’t dedicated; it’s because they aren’t focusing on the right things, at the right time.
A lot of things work for a while. Focusing on the compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, and bench is a great way to build a strong base. High volume workouts can help build muscle quickly.
But after a while, these things stop working as well, and you reach a point of stagnation.
When you reach a point where you start to feel lost and you’ve tried everything but nothing is working like you hoped, you need to go back to the basics and focus on the foundational aspects of muscle growth.
This is where Muscular Focus Training (MFT) comes in.
MFT is a type of training that focuses on the one non-negotiable aspect of building muscle that may be overlooked when you get too caught up in all the other “noise.”
Most of us have become so engrossed in the fitness game that we are unsure what is truly important for building muscle. But, when you focus on the big rocks of training, you can build more muscle in less time.
Going Rogue: Breaking The Popular Rules of Building Muscle
About two years ago I made a drastic change to the way I work out.
I had hit a plateau, and even though I was pretty damn strong, I lacked the hard, dense look that I wanted.
Everywhere I looked, I saw the same thing, like the cryptic code of some rebel alliance (that’s a Star Wars reference, feel free to call me a nerd):
- "You gotta do 'X' amount of sets and reps, bro."
- "Keep adding weight to the bar and you'll get jacked!"
- "Focus on the compound lifts - that's the answer!"
If you’re like me, you’ve heard this stuff over and over again on countless websites. You’ve read it in books, magazines, and heard it spewed from the mouths of the jacked, yet suspiciously angry and pimple-infested guys at your local gym.
And yet here’s the straight-up, no-holds-barred truth: for a lot of guys that stuff ain’t workin’.
Most guys (maybe you?) are grinding away, day after day, while remaining frustrated and confused. You look in the mirror and you don’t see the muscular body you want. You go to the gym and see other guys who seem to be doing something right but you don’t know what it is.
The answer isn’t doing more of what you’ve always been told, hoping things will somehow turn in your favor. No, the answer lies in going rogue - in ruthlessly breaking the traditional rules of building muscle.
Stop Obsessing over Reps and do this Instead
If you’ve hit a plateau or you’re quite strong but still lack the kind of muscular development you want, you need to stop obsessing over sets, reps, and all that other stuff and just focus on one thing: quality muscle contractions.
What does it mean to focus on quality muscle contractions? This simply means that, above all else, your focus on each rep is maximizing tension in the target muscle.
When quality muscle contractions are the goal, muscular tension is placed above some of the other elements traditionally held as most important, like the amount of reps you perform.
It may sound crazy to stop focusing on reps and instead start giving your attention to the quality of the muscular contractions. But it’s not just some made-up, attention-grabbing ploy; it’s the most basic, foundational aspect of building muscle.
When you think of the most basic, non-negotiable aspect of building muscle is, what comes to mind? Activation of the the target muscle?
If not, you’re missing the point (and missing out on a lot of gains in the gym).
Before other things like sets, reps, and exercise selection start to really matter, you have to actually be able to activate and work the muscles you want to grow. That’s not some crazy scientific extrapolation or theoretical speculation - that’s fact.
And here’s the truth: most guys suck at maximally working the muscles they want to grow.
When we talk about “maximally activating muscles,” we’re talking about your mind muscle connection (MMC).
MMC is something that often gets overly complicated or relegated strictly to bro-training or competitive bodybuilding. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s important for everyone who wants to build muscle.
MMC comes down to how well can you activate and create tension in various muscles.
Can you feel your biceps working - in the belly of the muscle - when you do curls? Or do you feel it more in your joints than the actual muscle?
If you can’t really feel the muscle working, or if you feel it more in your joints, then your MMC is lacking and your muscle gains are suffering as a result. And this isn’t something isolated to the biceps, this same concept applies to every muscle you work in the gym.
Instead of trying to do more work or looking for a better program, you may just need to go back to the basics and work on improving your MMC.
How To Improve MMC
Stop worrying about reps and start focusing on the muscle. You don’t have to change the structure of your workout program to accomplish this (although I’ll show you how to set up your workouts optimally for muscular activation in the rest of this article).
Let’s say you are doing incline dumbbell bench press. Your workout says to do “3 sets of 10-12 reps.” Here’s how you improve MMC and get better muscular activation:
- Decrease the amount of weight you would typically use for this by 10 pounds.
- Slow down (lower and lift the weight under control, pause at the top and bottom of the movement).
- Stop focusing so much on reps and instead focus on creating and keeping maximum tension in the muscle - in this case, the chest.
- Stop the set when you are no longer able to feel the muscle working (or when you can no longer perform the exercise with good form).
Repeat this same process for all exercises, or for the muscles that you specifically have trouble creating tension in.
This is what I call Muscular Focus Training (MFT), and this is the type of training I suggest to anyone who:
- Struggles to feel their muscles while working
- Lacks that hard, dense look even though they've been working out for a while
Increase Strength by 54% and Get Jacked
At this point, you may be thinking that MFT is all about looks. All show and no go. In reality, though, nothing could be further from the truth.
When done right, MFT produces what I like to call “high performance muscle,” which is really just a fancy way of saying you’ll have a badass body that’s both aesthetic and athletic.
The strong and athletic part comes in with bodyweight isometrics.
One European study found that bodyweight isometrics can increase strength by up to as much as 54%.1
Bodyweight isometrics are a key component in the programs of gymnastics athletes, and are the reason gymnasts have some of the best muscular development in the world.
When you perform bodyweight isometrics, you maximize the tension in the muscles being used. This is one of the best ways to get quality muscle contractions.
When you routinely use bodyweight isometrics within your workouts, you get muscles that are really good at creating maximum tension. That helps you in two very important ways:
- You get freaky strong
- You get jacked
The better your muscles are at creating tension, the more strength-potential that muscle will have. I’ve heard of gymnasts - who have never lifted weights before - deadlifting more than 315 pounds the first time they workout.
How is that possible? Because while they may not be weight training in the traditional sense, they use bodyweight isometrics and are really good at maximizing muscular tension, which is the key to strength.
The other great thing about maximizing muscular tension is that it increases myogenic muscle tone, or the way your muscles look at rest. When you increase myogenic tone, your muscles look harder or more flexed, even when you don’t have a pump.
The MFT Workout: More Muscle in Less Time
Do you want to improve MMC, maximize muscular tension, gain strength, and become an all-around badass - in half the time you currently spend at the gym?
You can if you combine traditional strength work, bodyweight isometrics, and bodybuilding style pump work that hits all facets of muscular stimulation to ensure consistent increases in strength and size.
If you follow this routine, you will notice not only visual changes in all of your muscles, but also exceptional improvements in any stubborn or lagging body parts. I know it sounds like I’m feeding you a bunch of b.s., but I’m not over-hyping this, it really works.
Here’s what an MFT workout that I design typically looks like:
|1a. Static Handstand Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|1b. Chin Up Bar Hang||3-4||Max Time|
|1c. 1-Leg Glute Bridge Iso Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|2a. Trap Bar (or regular) Deadlift||2-3||4-6|
|2b. Single Arm Dumbbell Push Press||2-3||4-6|
|2c. Lat Pulldown (or Pull Up)||2-3||4-6|
|3a. Dumbbell Curl||3-4||10-15|
|3b. Lying Dumbbell Extension||3-4||10-15|
|1a. Static Handstand Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|1b. Chin Up bar Hang||3-4||Max Time|
|1c. 1-Leg Gute Bridge Iso Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|2a. Goblet Squat||3-4||8-10|
|2b. Dumbbell Incline Press||3-4||8-10|
|2c. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row||3-4||8-10|
|3a. Cable Face Pull||2-3||10-15|
|3b. Farmer Walk||2-3||30-45 sec|
|1a. Static Handstand Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|1b. Chin Up Bar Hang||3-4||Max Time|
|1c. 1-Leg Glute Bridge Iso Hold||3-4||Max Time|
|2a. Single Leg Deadlift||3-4||10-12 (per leg)|
|2b. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press||3-4||10-12|
|2c. Seated Cable Row||3-4||10-12|
|3a. Close Grip Push Ups||2-3||10-15|
|3b. EZ Bar Curls||2-3||10-15|
Remember: The rep ranges are guidelines. The most important thing is that you get somewhere close to the given rep ranges while focusing on muscle activation.
For the bodyweight isometric exercises (handstand, chin up hang, glute bridge iso hold), focus on squeezing the targeted muscles with as much tension as possible for the entire set.
For static handstands, walk yourself up a wall so that you are in an inverted handstand position and hold that for as long as possible (stopping before you fall on your face, of course). Pretend like you are pushing your body away from the floor and maintain tension in shoulders and triceps.
For chin up bar hangs, get in the top position of a chin up and hold that for as long as possible. Focus on tension in your lats and biceps.
For glute bridge iso holds, hold the top position of a glute bridge and focus on maximum contraction of glutes.
While I didn’t specifically outline this in the routine, you should be doing a dynamic warm up prior to the exercises above to prevent injury and prepare your muscles for more strenuous work.
For conditioning, you could add sprints or low intensity cardio (hiking, swimming, elliptical, etc) on off days or at the end of workouts. Or just go play a sport or do something active outside.
Final Thoughts on MFT
Let me be clear about something: the premise of MFT training isn’t anything new. I didn’t invent the idea that quality muscular contractions should come first and foremost when training for muscle growth.
I’m simply bringing attention back to one of the most basic elements of building muscle.
This isn’t some new, unheard of training method - this is something that all guys with great muscular definition focus on, whether they consciously recognize it or not.
Now, you may have noticed that I only outlined 3 workouts per week in the above template and thought, “What is this guy thinking? Don’t I need 5-6 workouts per week to build muscle?”
I get the sentiment, but that’s the beauty of training MFT style. When you focus on maximizing muscular contraction and tension, you don’t need to be working out 5-6 days per week.
Hitting 3 full body workouts, as shown here, is plenty to stimulate muscle growth.
I guarantee that if you take the challenge and try my MFT routine for just three weeks, you’ll experience the best muscle and strength gains of your life. Even on (or especially on) lagging body parts.
You might be tempted to stack more work on top of the workouts in this routine. Don’t - doing so will compromise the power of MFT training. When you build your body with a lower volume, yet high frequency (in terms of how often each muscle is worked) approach, some amazing things happen.
You’ll get stronger with much more ease than you’re accustomed to. Your muscles will look dense and hard even when you aren’t in the gym (probably the best “side-effect” of MFT training).
Finally, you’ll make more progress than you’re accustomed to with less time spent in the gym.
These benefits will be even more evident if you’ve been following a higher volume, bodybuilding type workout for a while.
I believe that fitness should enhance your life, not control it. With MFT training, you get in the gym, do what you need to do, and then get out so you can go enjoy life.
During MFT training what is my diet plan.
Length 5.11" wight 73.
Hey Oni - your exact diet plan is going to be heavily influenced by your specific goals (i.e. building muscle, losing fat, etc). A great place to start is our BMR calculator. This will give you a general idea of how many calories you need each day. From there, you can adjust based on your goals.
Find our BMR calculator here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator
My goal is building muscle.
Please suggest me a exact diet plan
Hey Oni - I can't suggest an exact diet plan, but I can point you in a direction for you to figure out your diet. Start with our BMR calculator (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator). Then review this article (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/body-types-ectomorph-mesomorp...). Once you do that, you can take a look at our different diet plan types here (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/diet-plans).
You mentioned weak points. If my weak area is abs and functional strength what can I do on the 4 the day ?
Hey Eric, the workout looks amazing and i'm looking forward to seeing results.Is it okay to perform the reps in an explosive manner for athletes, or is it kind of the whole idea to do the reps slowly?
Give this one a go: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/phul-workout
Hey Eric, this is something new, which most of the population must not have tried. I have no doubts on the plan but i just wanted to understand how this works? Because i have seen that you gain when you do rigorous workouts and continue the hypertropy for 5 days.
I have tried many workouts but they gave meagre results.
I am looking forward for this workout. Please enlighten me with its effectiveness.
I just found this program and I'm excited to give it a try. You mention a 4th day to sure up weak points. For me its core and conditioning. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.
I don't see a lot of leg exercises. Why do you not have squats on here? I know you have a goblet squat, but I am not sure that a significant amount of weight can be held in order to perform this exercise with the same results as a regular squat.
I didn't include barbell squats because most guys can't perform them without pain and with good form due to lack of mobility. But, if you're someone who can (or for anyone who can), feel free to sub in squats for trap bar deads on Day 1 and then change the goblet squats on Day 2 to a single leg exercise - like rear foot elevated split squats or lunges.
As an aside, despite what you might hear from most "hardcore" websites and magazines, you can get plenty jacked without squats. Are they helpful? Sure. Can you build alotta muscle without them? You bet.
Cool - Yeah I really like full range squats as I snowboard and play a lot of tennis. I find these add to my performance. Good call on the single leg Bulgarian Squats to replace the Goblets. I may add in single leg dead lifts as I like how they balance out and weaknesses between the sides. Thanks for the quick reply and input. I will try this program beginning next week.
Hi eric have been following your outlined routine for a few weeks. I like it alot and have seen a definite mark in my strength increases. Recently my wife has been working out with me but is finding it difficult to preform the iso exercises . She can do the iso bridge, but cant do the handstands or chin holds. Can you recommend possibly 2 easier moves she can do in place of thanks
Glad things are going well with the program, man. For your wife...
1. She could start in the plank position for the handstand holds (top position of a push-up with arms straight). Then, slowly walk her feet up the wall a few inches and hold there and continue progressing that way until able to be fully inverted in a handstand (which, depending on where she's starting, could be a while - so keep encouraging her!)
2. For the chin holds - again it depends on where she's at now - if she's able to use a bench or something to jump up to the bar and lower herself slowly, she could do that a few times in place of the holds. If you have access to exercise bands, you could also loop a heavy band around the chin-bar and use that to assist her in performing the holds. Or, if all of this fails/sounds too complicated, just haver her to Lat Pulldown iso holds for same sets/reps as the chin holds are prescribed.
Thanks for the great article and workout routine! I look forward to trying it!
Question : since the rep ranges are not set in stone and a lot of the workouts include body isometrics, what would you suggest to be the best way for checking progression? when should I add weight/add rep/slow the reps on an exercise?
Thanks a lot in advance!
For rep ranges, add weight anytime you are able to complete all sets for the top-end reps of the range. So, if the workout says 3 sets of 10-12 reps, you'll add weight when you can complete 3 sets of 12 reps with a given weight. So, to begin, try to pick a weight that allows you to get the low-end of the rep range (in the example above - 10 reps), and stick with that weight until you are able to complete all sets for the high-end of the rep range (in our example - 12 reps).
For isometrics, you can extend the amount of time under tension eventually, but for those, the main focus is proficiency of the movement and creating maximum tension in entire body - which will take some time and practice if these movements and style of training are new to you. The isometrics used at the start of the workouts are also used to fire up the CNS and better prepare your body for the upcoming work, so you're not looking at them in the exact same way you view typical worksets following.
Thanks for the great workout idea! I've been looking to transition onto something different.
Question: Can I incorporate barbell back squats into this? Maybe replace the goblet squats?
Yeah, man, you could definitely toss in back squats in place of goblet squats if you've got the mobility/flexibility to do those properly and not feel beat up afterwards.
You said that we could add a Day 4 workout to work on our weak points. If my weak points are core and legs could you suggest a possible workout of this style to hit these hard for a Day 4 workout?
So for a day 4 that hits legs and core, you could do something like this:
1a) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat 3-4 x 8-12
-rest 30 seconds-
1b) Barbell Hip Thrust 3-4 x 8-12
-rest 30 seconds
1c) 1-arm Farmers Walk 3-4 x 30 seconds (per side)
Perform 1a-1c back-to-back-to-back in superset fashion, resting 30 seconds between exercises.
2a) Decline Crunch 3 x 10-15
2b) Hanging Leg Raise* 3 x 6-10
2c) Plank 3 x Max time
*Modify to bent knee if necessary
Perform 2a-2c back-to-back-to-back in superset fashion, resting 30 seconds between exercises.
So just to clairfy all exercises are to be perfomed as supersets and not just the isometric exercises
Yes-- all exercises are performed as a superset. So there are three separate supersets per workout (1a-1c, 2a-2c, 3a-3b). Make sense?
What about core? Or does the first superset already cover core?
Hey Gil, good question.
Yes - the first superset with the Handstand holds and the chin up hangs will hit the core pretty hard. The Farmer's Walks on Workout B will also work your core. If you wanted to add more, throw in some planks (use variations based on your level) or some L-Sits on rings or parallel dip bars at the end of workouts.
Doing 2-3 sets of one or both of those exercises at the end of workouts combined with the other stuff already included should be plenty for the core.
Are you supose to perform A, B, and C each day or one each day?
You'll do one workout each day. So workout A Monday, Workout B Wednesday, Workout C Friday -- or whatever days you workout).
If you have extra time for another workout, I'd suggest having a day 4 that focuses on weak/lagging muscle groups and/or muscles you want to emphasize. So if you wanted to workout 4 days per week and wanted to bring up your arms and upper back, you could do something like:
1a. Handstand Hold 3-4 x Max Time
1b. Chin up Bar Hang 3-4 x Max Time
1c. 1-Leg Glute Bridge Iso Hold 3-4 x Max Time
2a. EZ Bar Curls 3-4 x 10-15
2b. Lying Triceps Extension w/ EZ Bar 3-4 x 10-15
2c. Dumbbell Shrug 3-4 x 10-15
Maybe finish that off with some sprints.
Looks great and injury 'friendly' ,so will definitely give it a try. Can you confirm what sort or rest period works best and are exercises a,d & c performed as a superset? Cheers.
1. For rest periods, you want to keep it pretty short: 45-60 seconds. Most exercises are performed as supersets with antagonistic pairings, so muscular fatigue shouldn't hold you back, performance wise. If you're not used to short rest periods with full body workout, it may take some time to adjust (your strength may initially drop), but after a few weeks you should see that bounce back and then some
2. Yes -- exercises a, b, and c are performed as supersets.
Hope this helps, thanks for your comments.
It looks real great! Will definitely give this a try.
Thanks man, let me know how it works out for you.