Lean Muscle Chest Workout

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A lean, defined chest comes from both exercise and diet. (Image: FS-Stock/iStock/Getty Images)

Building a great physique isn't all about piling on muscle. You can be strong and have a lot of mass — but if you aren't lean, it'll stay eclipsed by a padding of extra fat.

Design your chest workout to develop muscle, but include other strategies to lean you out. Incorporate targeted chest exercises in a comprehensive resistance workout that's complemented by just the right type and amount of cardio, as well as an optimal diet, to get the body you desire.

Chest Methods

Your goal is to show off a lean chest, so it makes sense that your chest workout should be priority number one. Do three to five exercises for this muscle group.

Comprehensive Strength

To maximize fat burning, you'll need to train the major muscles all over your body, not just in your chest. You have two options: Split your workout up or train your total body at each session.

Fat-Burning Cardio

To get lean, you must drop body fat. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is the way to turn on fat-burning mechanisms in your body so that you burn calories, lose fat and gain stamina, all in a short amount of time. A review published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Obesity showed that HIIT is an effective option when your goal is fat loss.

Plan for about three 30-minute HIIT cardio sessions per week. Use any piece of cardio equipment to perform the following:

  • Warm up 5 to 10 minutes at an easy pace;
  • Alternate an acceleration of 1 minute (go at a pace that feels barely sustainable for that time) and a recovery at an easy pace of 2 minutes;
  • Repeat 8 times;
  • Cool down 3 to 5 minutes at an easy pace.

After a few weeks, change up the length of the intervals — go 2 minutes hard and recover 2 minutes, for example. The idea is to keep the workout short but intense.

Another workout or two per week, perform a steady-state 20- to 30-minute cardio session. This involves just jogging, cycling or rowing — whatever mode you prefer — at an easy pace to keep your heart healthy and burn a few extra calories.

Fresh tortilla wraps with chicken and fresh vegetables on plate
What you eat matters. (Image: Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images)

Eating for a Lean Chest

Don't cancel out all this time in the gym with a poor eating plan. Stick mostly to whole, unprocessed foods, such as fresh produce, lean proteins and moderate amounts of whole grains.

Keep protein front and center in your diet, aiming for about 0.75 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight, spread out over meals throughout the day, suggests a position paper by the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2007.

Good sources of protein include white-meat chicken, flank steak, white fish and whey protein powder. Have a serving (about 20 grams) right after your strength-training session to benefit from the muscle-building amino acids in the protein.

To lose fat, trim your calorie intake by 250 to 500 calories below your daily burn rate. This will enable you to lose 0.5 to 1 pound of fat per week. Lose more quickly, and you'll likely lose the lean mass you're working hard to show off.


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