The No BS Guide to Building Lean Muscle (2023)

The No BS Guide to Building Lean Muscle (1)

Regardless of whether you call it strength, resistance, or weight training, any body can benefit from gaining muscle. A strong core and limbs can help you avoid falling or make lugging groceries up the stairs easier.

Then there’s the added bonus of a leaner composition and weight loss, if that’s your goal.

Strength boost benefits:

  • improves balance
  • enhances posture
  • increases coordination
  • prevents injury
  • protects bone health
  • eases pain
  • reduces fat
  • prevents weight gain
  • slows age-related muscle loss

“Weight training truly is the fountain of youth when it comes to keeping your body healthy,” explains Allison Jackson, a certified personal trainer.

“As we age, we generally lose muscle,” she explains, adding that, in addition to building muscle, weight-bearing exercises are key to building stronger bones.

If you’re worried about muscles changing the body you already love, keep reading. We’ve got the science-backed info on why muscle matters and how to build strength training into your workouts to fit your goals.

You already own one of the best pieces of equipment for building muscle: your beautiful body. And you don’t have to follow a rigid routine to glean the lean-inducing returns. You can choose the types of movements or fitness styles you enjoy and incorporate strength training into your lifestyle.

Aim for two or three strength training workouts per week, whether that’s:

  • lifting
  • taking a power yoga class
  • busting through a high intensity interval training (HIIT) circuit
  • doing bodyweight exercises

1. Pumping iron isn’t the only way to get buff

Sure, you can head to the gym, but if you’re tight on funds or prefer the privacy of your own pad, you can get lean just by using your bodyweight.

A recent study shows that training with lighter loads and more repetitions is just as effective at building muscle as training with heavy weights and fewer reps. Just do the exercise until your muscles demand a break.

That means you can squat with no added weights and get a similar result as doing weighted squats — simply go until you couldn’t possibly do one more.

Strive for three sets, adding to your number of reps as you get stronger.

2. Toss out rules about reps

If you prefer holding lunges in a yoga class rather than doing walking lunges around your apartment, you’ll still reap the strength benefits.

Repeating a movement to fatigue is a great way to gain strength, but muscle contraction of any kind will produce powerful results, says one small study.

ISOTONIC

  • pushups
  • squats
  • crunches
  • donkey kicks
  • triceps dips
(Video) The No BS Guide to Building Lean Muscle.ارشادات تساعدك فى بناء العضلات الهزيلة.

Aim for a mix of isotonic and isometric exercises in your fitness regimen. If you’ve got achy joints, aim for more isometric exercises. Hold for 30 seconds to start with and work your way up to more time.

ISOMETRIC

  • plank
  • Warrior Pose(s)
  • wall sit
  • boat pose
  • glute bridge

For both types of exercises, try for 3 sets.

3. Bust the moves that give you the most bang

Whether doing reps or holding a static pose, compound exercises, which target multiple muscles or muscle groups, will make your efforts the most efficient.

Think burpees, side-plank rotations, and mountain climbers. These exercises often get your heart rate going and give a dose of cardio, especially if you do them as part of a HIIT circuit.

4. Modify movements to suit your needs

Altering an exercise is all about meeting your body where it’s at right now. If your wrists aren’t pleased, drop to your forearms.

Or if you aren’t ready for standard pushups, use a wall or a bench so you can do them at an incline. Over time, you may be able to work your way to the floor.

Most exercises have several modifications. Or you can try a “sister move” that produces similar results. Step ups can sub in for box jumps, for example, if you don’t have a box, are worried about banging your shins, or just want to go easier on your pelvic floor.

ExerciseModification or “sister move”
Box jumpsStep ups
PushupsIncline pushup (wall or bench)
SquatsChair squats
CrunchesStanding bicycle crunches

Before getting started, consider doing your own research or schedule a session with a personal trainer who can teach you moves that make sense for you.

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If you’re striving to sculpt a leaner physique or you want to lose fat, gaining muscle can help you do both. Muscle also protects your body from injury and can ease pain by addressing posture or body imbalances.

1. Look leaner

If you compare a pound of muscle to a pound of fat, you’ll see that muscle takes up less space than fat. This concept leads to confusion because of the myth that muscle weighs more than fat. But a pound weighs a pound, regardless of what it contains.

Ultimately, adding muscle can give you a more svelte look in your skinny jeans, even when the number on the scale doesn’t change.

And regardless of your gender, you’re not going to get a “bulked-up” bodybuilder look without a serious fitness and diet program specialized for that purpose. So ditch that myth if it’s holding you back.

2. Burn more energy than fat can

Although the difference isn’t huge, muscle tissue torches more calories than fat tissue does, both during physical activity and at rest. If you’re trying to increase your calorie burn, increase your muscle mass.

3. Amp up the afterburn

The process of the body attempting to recover or return to its resting state after a workout produces an extra calorie burn that can last for several hours to more than a full day.

This afterburn effect is known in scientific lingo as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). The higher the intensity of your workout, the longer EPOC will last.

Research shows that strength training can enhance and extend EPOC, especially when it’s done as part of a HIIT workout.

4. Change how you eat

Although more research needs to be done on this topic, research suggests that increasing your muscle mass may make you less hungry, which could help with weight loss and decrease the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

If weight loss is your goal, gaining muscle can help you look leaner, burn more energy both during and after exercise, and even potentially change your eating habits.

5. Prevent accidents

Many of our daily movements involve our transverse abdominis, located behind the “six pack.” It acts like a girdle wrapping around the spine.

When it’s strong, we can protect ourselves from falls or other mishaps, and enhance our form and ability to do the activities we love.

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6. Better posture

Our muscles hold us up, whether we’re standing in line at the coffee shop or sitting at our desks. If we have weak muscles and slump because of fatigue, we might experience achiness or stiffness.

If we strengthen our muscles, however, we can hold good posture for longer and stave off pain, according to a study.

Strength training can also correct imbalances in the body like lordosis or uneven shoulders that could lead to discomfort.

7. Ward off issues as we get older

After age 30, we say goodbye to approximately 3 to 8 percent of our muscle mass per decade, with even more significant losses later in life. This muscle loss may account for more fatigue, weight gain, and increased risk for fracture.

We can ward off age-related muscle loss, termed sarcopenia, with exercise that includes a combo of cardio and strength training.

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You can craft your own muscle-making routine, but if you’re looking for some guidance, ideas, or just a jumpstart, you can follow a program that fits your preferences, lifestyle, and budget.

  • DailyOM gives you a list of 3-week courses to choose from, each with instructor-led video workouts that show up in your inbox. Courses are “pay what you want,” and once you’ve made the purchase, you can access your courses repeatedly. DailyOM caters to yogis and people in need of joint-friendly HIIT-based workouts.
  • Freeletics offers take-anywhere, no-equipment sessions based on your goals, current fitness level, and age. The subscription-based app teaches you to use your own bodyweight to get results via customized, guided plans. Workout recommendations will change based on your feedback.
  • BodyBoss sends you a 12-week progressive HIIT program. Their one-time payment is more economical than a recurring gym membership and it includes a bonus pre-training section to prepare you for the main action. Share your progress, enjoy camaraderie, learn helpful modifications, and glean motivation from the online Facebook community. The program and community are geared towards women, but all genders can benefit from the movements.
  • Bodyweight Training provides more than 200 exercises you can do using your body weight and everyday items. Tackle any of the 10-week programs that fit your fitness level or goals. Pay $5 for the app download and then choose which in-app purchases you want.

Realize your power

The benefits of muscle-building transcend giving you an athletic or lean physique. Adding brawn can boost your confidence to do new activities, improve your health, and amp up your life enjoyment as well as keep you feeling agile and able throughout the years. That’s reason enough to hold that plank.

Jennifer Chesak is a Nashville-based freelance book editor and writing instructor. She’s also an adventure travel, fitness, and health writer for several national publications. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill and is working on her first fiction novel, set in her native state of North Dakota.

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FAQs

How can I get lean without a BS? ›

If you want to be lean and mean, the calories you consume must be less than the calories you burn. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, you need to burn 2,300–2,500 calories a day. The goal is to burn fat and retain muscle. If you burn an extra 500 calories a day you will lose about a pound of fat every week.

How can I gain lean muscle fast? ›

How to Build Muscle (Fast)
  1. Increase Your Training Volume. ...
  2. Focus on the Eccentric Phase. ...
  3. Decrease Between-Set Rest Intervals. ...
  4. To Grow Muscle, Eat More Protein. ...
  5. Focus on Calorie Surpluses, Not Deficits. ...
  6. Snack on Casein Before Bed. ...
  7. Get More Sleep. ...
  8. Try Supplementing With Creatine ...
23 Sept 2019

Can I get lean while building muscle? ›

Takeaway. If you can sustain a lifting program and eat a caloric deficit, your body will be able to pull from its fat stores to both fuel itself and potentially build muscle mass. Prioritizing foods rich in protein is a key component to both losing body fat and building muscle at the same time.

What should I eat to gain lean muscle? ›

Incorporating these nutrient-dense or protein-packed foods in your diet will help you build strong, lean muscles.
  1. Beef. ...
  2. Salmon & Tuna. ...
  3. Eggs. ...
  4. Greek Yogurt & Cheese. ...
  5. Shrimp. ...
  6. Leafy Greens. ...
  7. Avocados. ...
  8. Nuts & Peanut Butter.
14 Jan 2019

How can I get lean in 3 months? ›

  1. Increase cardio. I know that you'll read magazines and hear from bodybuilders that building muscle is the best way to lose fat. ...
  2. Do triathlon training. ...
  3. Lift heavy. ...
  4. Eat adequate protein. ...
  5. Focus on bodyfat, not weight. ...
  6. Be accountable. ...
  7. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. ...
  8. Get into calorie deficit.

What muscle grows fastest? ›

Is there no one group of muscles that always grows the fastest? Speaking very generally, the largest muscle groups in the body tend to respond the quickest to training in terms of their development. This makes sense because they're the easiest muscles to overload with heavy weights.

How do I gain 20 pounds of lean muscle? ›

Strength train four to six days per week using weights to break down your muscle fibers, which leads to muscle growth. Train a variety of muscle groups each week to equally distribute your 20-pound weight gain. Complete four sets of 10 repetitions for each strength-training exercise you perform.

How do I gain 10lbs of lean muscle? ›

What (and How) to Eat to Gain Muscle Fast
  1. Eat More Than You Think. According to Ryan, the first step to building muscle and strength is being in a caloric surplus. ...
  2. Load up on Protein. ...
  3. Increase Your Meal Frequency. ...
  4. Carb Up After Your Workouts. ...
  5. Drink Your Calories if Necessary.
3 Dec 2021

How are bodybuilders so lean? ›

Preparation for bodybuilding competition involves drastic reductions in body fat while maintaining muscle mass. This is typically achieved through a decreased caloric intake, intense strength training, and increased cardiovascular exercise.

Should I bulk or cut first? ›

It's pretty simple. If you're lean enough to bulk (10-15% body fat or less for a man, or 18-23% or less for a woman), you should probably bulk first. If you're above these ranges, you should cut first. And if you're a beginner who's somewhere in the middle, you should recomp.

How do I lose fat but keep muscle? ›

Exercise plans
  1. Do cardio. To lose fat and gain or maintain muscle mass, do moderate- to high-intensity cardio for at least 150 minutes per week. ...
  2. Increase intensity. Increase the intensity of your workouts to challenge yourself and burn calories. ...
  3. Continue to strength train. ...
  4. Take a rest.

Do I need cardio to get lean? ›

No, you don't need to do cardio to lose fat. Weight loss, including fat reduction, is typically caused by a calorie deficit: slashing your calorie intake, increasing the number of calories burned, or both. That said, cardio will help you burn calories more quickly, increasing your fat loss potential.

How can I get lean in 2 weeks? ›

Secret Exercise Tricks for a Lean Body in 2 Weeks, Say Experts
  1. Do at Least an Hour of Steady-State Cardio Per Day.
  2. If You Can, Embrace the Sprint.
  3. Consider Moving Your Exercise to Before Breakfast.
  4. Stay Active All Day.
  5. Try Something New.
  6. Consider Cardio in the Morning, Strength Training in the Early Evening.
10 Jun 2021

How long does it take to get lean? ›

You may be surprised to learn that it takes six to twelve months to get lean and ripped. More realistically, it takes two to three years to lose a significant amount of body fat. Nevertheless, six to twelve months is a reasonable timeframe to achieve a ripped body.

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