Lean Body Mass Workouts

Young beautiful woman lifting weights in a gym
Progressively increase your poundages in the gym to build muscle. (Image: nd3000/iStock/Getty Images)

Building mass takes time, especially if you want lean mass. Anyone can add a ton of calories into their diet, hit the weights and bulk up, but a large proportion of that new weight will be fat. Staying lean while getting bigger and stronger takes dedication and patience. You need to control your diet by adding calories gradually to support muscle growth, but you also need the right type of workout to pack on mass while staying trim.

Step 1

Split your body into different sections to work on each time you're in the gym. If you can only make it to the gym twice each week, opt for two full-body workouts or one upper-body and one lower-body workout. For three times a week, perform a push workout for your chest, shoulders and triceps, a pull workout for your back and biceps and a third session for your legs. If you can get to the gym four times, either perform two upper and two lower sessions, or split your sessions up even more into a legs session, a chest and triceps session, a back session, and a shoulders, biceps and abs session.

Step 2

Start every workout with three compound exercises. These are moves that work more than one muscle. As they hit more muscle fibers, they're better for building mass than single-joint moves. When working your legs start with squats, lunges, deadlifts or leg presses. Upper-body examples of compounds include dumbbell or bench presses, dumbbell and barbell rows, pull-ups, parallel bar dips, pushups and lat pull-downs.

Step 3

Complete four sets of six to eight repetitions on all your compound moves. According to strength coach Marc Perry of Built Lean, lower-reps are best for strength, high-reps for endurance and a middle range for muscle growth. Six to eight falls at the lower range of the muscle growth boundaries so you'll build strength and muscle with this.

Step 4

Add three isolation moves after the compounds. Isolations focus on one specific muscle. When it comes to isolation leg training, you're looking at leg extensions and curls and different types of calf raise. For your upper-body, flyes and cable crossovers work your chest, lateral raises hit your shoulders, straight-arm pull-downs and reverse flyes hit your back and curls and cable push-downs work your biceps and triceps respectively.

Step 5

Keep to a higher rep range for these isolations. As you're only using one muscle for isolations, they can be more stressful on your joints, so you shouldn't go as heavy. Anything up to 15 reps per set is fine for muscle growth, notes Perry, so perform each isolation for two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Step 6

Avoid resting too much between exercises. By keeping rest periods short you increase your calorie expenditure, which will keep you from gaining too much fat. The Muscle and Fitness magazine website advises putting your assistance, or isolation exercises between sets of your compound moves.

Step 7

Increase your weights or reps every session. This is progressive overload and is vital for building muscle. Aim for small improvements each workout, advises trainer Shawn LeBrun of Critical Bench. You won't be able to add 50 lbs. to your bench press in a week, or go from sets of five on squats to sets of 10 with the same weight within a few workouts, but if you add a few pounds here, an extra rep or two there, this will lead to big gains over time.

Tip

Gradually increase your calorie intake. You need an excess of calories to build muscle, but too many calories won't lead to any extra muscle gain, just more fat. Weigh yourself every week and if you've gained less than a half pound, add around an extra 50 calories to your daily intake.

Warning

Check with your health care provider before beginning the program and have a session or two with a trainer if you're not sure of any exercise techniques.

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