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How to Structure Lean Muscle Workouts

lean muscle workouts

Almost everyone at the gym has the same goal: minimizing fat and building strong muscles. 

Most muscle-building techniques require you to gain weight or “bulk up” before getting lean or “cutting” to reveal new muscle. While this technique effectively builds muscle, not everyone is comfortable wearing extra body weight for months. 

Is it possible to build muscle without bulking up? Can you really build muscle and burn fat at the same time?

Check out these lean muscle workouts and lifestyle tips before hitting the gym. 

What Is Lean Muscle?

Before diving into a new diet or workout routine, it’s important to set your sights on your goals. Different people strive for different athletic builds, whether for aesthetics or their functional purpose. 

Powerlifters often strive for large, “bulky” muscles. Bulky muscle refers to muscle that appears soft and smooth at the edges. A layer of fat conceals the muscle, but its shape can still be seen on the body. 

Lean muscle is what we often consider athletic or “toned” muscle. The edges of each muscle group are clearly defined, giving the body a more rigid, firm appearance. Building lean muscle also builds our cardiac muscles and smooth, internal muscles. 

How to Get Lean Muscle

As mentioned, building muscle will often require you to consume more calories and put on some overall body weight. Some people, especially women, don’t like the idea of bulking up temporarily and trimming fat later. Luckily, it is possible to grow lean muscle mass with the right exercise techniques and lifestyle. 

To build lean mass while still burning fat, you’ll need to balance cardio, weightlifting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and active rest periods. Prioritize resistance training and keep your body guessing by frequently switching up your routine. 

You will also need to eat at a slight caloric excess. Don’t skip any meals. Muscles require a lot of calories to grow and maintain, so make sure you meet your minimum calorie needs every day. 

What matters more than calories, however, is the nutritional makeup of your meals. Seek high-protein meals with plenty of vitamins and minerals to encourage muscle growth. Don’t over-avoid carbs; complex carbs are great for keeping your energy up in the gym!

The Best Lean Muscle Workouts

The goal of lean muscle workouts is to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously. You will most quickly see the effects of lean muscle building if you start at a relatively healthy weight. Healthy weight maintenance should be your priority before starting this routine if you are overweight or underweight.

Building lean muscle while burning fat requires extensive training, so it’s important to be kind to your body, know your limits, and avoid injury during these exercises. 

1. Cardio Warm-Ups

You may have heard that cardio is the nemesis of muscle-building. While excessive amounts of cardio can cause muscle loss, short bursts of cardio are helpful and essential for heart health. 

Limit your cardio to 10-minute warm-ups and cool-downs during your workouts. Rather than jogging for ten minutes, sprint one out of every three minutes. Sprinting activates your body’s muscle repair system, burns fat, and raises your heart rate.

2. Heavy Lifting

Aim to perform between eight and twelve reps per weightlifting exercise. If you can easily perform twelve or more, it’s time for heavier weights. If you can barely perform six, lower your weights. 

The goal is to feel intense burning by your weight reps. You want to work your muscles to their point of failure and progressively overload them over time. 

3. HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training aims to raise your heart rate and exhaust your muscles in a short amount of time, usually 30 minutes. In HIIT training, you’ll perform sequences of high-energy exercises, like plank-jacks, followed by periods of low-energy exercises, like marching in place. These intervals will keep your body guessing!

4. Compound Exercises

If you want to build lean muscle mass, you’ll need to include as many muscles as possible in your workout routines. Instead of repeating isolated exercises like bicep curls, try exercises that involve whole muscle groups. Great compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench presses, and push-ups. 

5. Isometric and Isotonic Exercises

Isometric exercises are those where you hold a position or pose for a specific amount of time. Examples of these exercises include the plank, warrior pose, V-sit, and more. In isometric exercises, the muscles are held in a contracted position. 

Isotonic exercises, on the other hand, require you to repeatedly lengthen and contract your muscles. Pull-ups, push-ups, and leg presses are examples of isotonic exercises. 

To quickly burn fat and build muscle, you’ll need to mix both exercise types into your routine. Isometric and Isotonic exercises strain the muscles differently, encouraging the body to build more muscle. 

Tips for Building Lean Muscle

Building lean muscle is about more than just looking good. It’s about feeling your best and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As you’re killing it at the gym, remember to follow these tips: 

  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Eat before your workouts
  • Avoid sugar and alcohol
  • Limit workout supplements
  • Go to sleep extra early
  • Split the week into different muscle groups
  • Respect your rest days

As you’re committing to the lean muscle transformation, don’t be surprised if your weight changes slightly or stagnates. Muscle takes up less mass per pound than fat. The number on the scale may go up while your waistline is shrinking!

Remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your own body. Your workouts won’t happen unless you push the gas, and your body will go where your mind steers it. When you stick to your workouts, you’re teaching your body, “Hey, this motion is important! Send more muscle here!” 

Lean, Mean, Muscle Machine

If you, like many people, want to grow muscle while losing fat, the road ahead won’t be easy. However, anything is possible with the right mindset and lean muscle workouts! Above all, remember to take care of yourself and your body, and good things will follow. 

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level and start seeing those hard-earned results? Fitness CF is here to help you succeed! Join today to take advantage of our gym amenities, group fitness classes, personal training, and more!


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