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If you’re planning to strut that hot physique this summer, there’s no time like early spring to start laying the plans. Building muscle requires hard work and sacrifice. But it can be a fun and rewarding process if you set your body and mind to the task. Here are some tips to help you build muscle, expedite recovery, and eliminate injuries.

You’ve got to eat more protein if you want to build bigger muscles. According to The International Sports Sciences Association, most fitness enthusiasts should aim for .8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day. Other bodybuilding sources say that more hardcore lifters should opt for 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. As far as workout nutrition goes, a high-protein and -carbohydrate meal one hour beforehand will optimize your time in the gym. A protein- shake about 20 minutes after you’ve racked the weights is your best option for post workout nutrition. The reasoning for this is that protein in shake- form is more quickly assimilated by the body which craves protein right after a monster workout.

Lower rep ranges and shorter workouts are best for increasing muscle mass. Yes, it’s true! Shorter, but more intense workouts are best for increasing testosterone (a good thing!) and avoiding cortisol build-up (a bad thing!) in the body. Keep your workouts to 45 minutes, up your intensity by lifting heavier weights, take less rest between sets, perform 3-4 exercises per muscle group, go for 2-3 sets of six to eight reps.

Mix up your routine to avoid plateaus, over-training, and boredom. If you train regularly, sooner or later you’re bound to reach a plateau and your gains will slow. That’s why you need to charge up your routine every 6 weeks or so. Try different things, whether it’s varying your number of reps, trying new exercises, or taking your cardio outside for a run in the park or a swim in the ocean. It’s also recommended to keep a training journal to chart progress and discuss what works and what doesn’t.

Make sure to incorporate certain key exercises into your routine. Full body moves like the barbell bench press, squat, military shoulder press, and dead-lift are sure to pack on muscle mass. These deep, multi-joint movements involve many muscle groups, and the more muscles you work, either in one exercise or training session, the greater the hormone release (human growth hormone and testosterone) you’ll get from training!

Don’t underestimate the importance of putting a good night’s sleep and a couple of rest days into your training regime. Your best gains don’t come when you’re pounding those muscles in the gym, but instead you’ve got to give them proper rest and nutrition once you’re done with the hard work! Instead of vegging on the sofa, go out for a swim or a bike ride, or anything that’ll get you out into our great Florida springtime weather!