4 Exercise Tips to Build Lean Muscle: Men & Women!


It’s the goal we all want to achieve: get fit and look lean while still retaining muscle. Most women fear the word bulking and blokes, well, they run (how ironic!) at the thought of cardio training

The truth is, if your aim is to strip body fat and carve out a leaner physique without looking like a muscle-less scarecrow, you need to embrace strength and stop fearing cardio. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done. So many of us are stuck in our own fitness rut. We have either been given a program by our PT or we’ve gotten into that comfort routine doing the same three exercises for the same amount of reps at the same weight. 

The first step to becoming a mean, lean-muscle building machine is to get out of the rut and mix things up with our Top 4 Lean Muscle Building Exercise Tips below. 

1. Engage in Weight Bearing Exercises

Weight training is no longer just for the big boys. Do not resist resistance! Resistance or strength training is crucial for building lean muscle and enjoying the additional benefits of stronger bones and an overall longer lifespan. 

How many times per week? 2 – 3 times a week is enough to see results. Resting between your heavy lift days will also help you achieve your fitness goals faster as muscle actually builds when we rest as the tiny tears to the muscle fibres repair themselves – growing larger in the process. 

The best weight bearing exercises to build lean muscle? Anything really! The key is to be consistent and keep your strength training varied. Use the weight machines at the gym, do a free weights routine  once a week, try TRX bands for a challenge or really test yourself with an EF60 class

2. Equal Parts Cardio & Strength 

To promote an increase in lean muscle without becoming a beefcake, make sure you engage in the right balance of cardio and strength training. 

Good cardio-focused exercises include: Stationary Air-Bike, Treadmill Sprints, Rowing Machine and high-energy conditioning training classes like EF30

What is so great about some of these aerobic workouts like the rower, is that you’re naturally combining cardio and strength moves by engaging your core, building your arm muscles, powering through your quads and getting your heart-rate up. 

3. Combine Isotonic & Isometric Exercises

Like getting a balance of cardio and strength training, when building lean muscle, it is equally as important to combine isotonic and isometric exercises. 

Lifting weights is an isotonic exercise as the muscles you are contracting shorten against a constant load. Your muscles are maintaining the same tension throughout isotonic exercises including squats, curls and push-ups. 

When working out whether you’re doing an isotonic movement just ask yourself: am I moving my muscles through a range? If not, then you are doing an isometric exercise instead. 

When you are contracting muscles without movement of the specific body part involved, then that is an example of isometric exercise. Your muscles are stable during isometric movements – think plank holds, side bridges and those dreaded wall sits. 

Most isotonic moves require nothing more than your own body weight and many you would do throughout your daily routine without even realising it, like walking up stairs. 

Isotonic exercises as a whole are less targeted, while isometric training is often undertaken with a set goal like working out a particular group of muscles. 

One of the best isometric – or static strength training – exercises to build lean muscle is yoga. It takes lots of strength to hold yoga moves like a chair or tree pose. There really is strength in stillness! 

4. Do Compound Moves

The best lean muscle building exercises are compound moves that work more than one muscle group in a single movement. Compound exercises quickly increase your body’s anabolic response to training and that’s exactly what you want to boost your lean muscle tissue. 

Make things interesting by building on traditional moves. For example, once you’ve mastered a plank hold, turn it into an alligator plank that will help sculpt your abdominals, back, shoulders and triceps all in one. 

Compound movements do not have to be complicated, many of your go-to exercises already have you working out more than one muscle at once. A push up works your core, arms and chest. In fact, most movements involve switching on your core. 

Adding load to your compound movements will also see you building lean muscle quicker and burning fat as you get an aerobic hit as well. One of the easiest ways to do this is to engage in a kettlebell workout

The great thing about doing compound movements to build lean muscle is that most are very simple and the focus can be on using your biggest muscles to lift the heaviest load possible. 

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