Muscle growth requires a different approach than increasing strength or shedding fat. You need to focus your training to increase your odds of success so we’ve rounded up some top tips to help you get that lean body you’re after. Keeping in mind that the amount of muscle you can expect to add also depends on several factors outside of your control including gender, age and genetics.
1. Don’t change your workouts, vary them.
Perhaps you’ve heard of “muscle confusion,” or that you need to continually switch up your exercise routine to really see results. But it’s not the best approach when you want to build lean muscle.
Instead try “progressive overload”, a training method that has you doing the same program for 4–6 weeks, while changing up your reps and sets, weight, workout frequency and intensity.
2. Do plan your training.
To build muscle exercise is only half the equation; the other half is rest and recovery (and of course excellent nutrition ). When you exercise your muscles break down and it’s during recovery that the growth happens. If you never take a day off, your muscles will continue to break down without ever repairing, which only slows your training progress and increases your risk of injury.
Aim to train 2–3 days per week if you’re doing full-body workouts or 3–4 days per week if you’re following an upper/lower body split routine. How ever you choose to do it you should aim to work every muscle group twice per week, giving worked muscles at least one full day to recover before hitting them again.
3. Don’t hurt yourself.
You might think muscle gains are dependent on you pushing every last rep possible out of your set, but lifting to absolute failure only increases your risk of injury. Rather aim for technical failure, that’s the point at which your form starts to break down. Always try to end your sets with a few reps in reserve.
4. Do focus on your protein.
Protein is always your friend; you can’t build muscle without it. Aim for 1.2–1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Just keep in mind that if you’re also trying to lose fat, you may want to increase your protein intake so you don’t lose any hard-earned muscle as well.
5. Don’t limit your reps.
Conventional muscle-building law dictates that you need to lift a moderate weight for 6–12 reps to make gains. However, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology reveals your target rep range is wider than you might think. Researchers had 49 trained men perform a total-body strength training program. One group lifted weight equivalent to 30–50% of their one-rep maximum for 20–25 reps, while the other lifted 75–90% of their one-rep max for 8–12 reps. By the end of 12 weeks, both groups had packed on equal amounts of muscle.
By training at every rep range, you’ll increase strength at lower rep ranges and boost endurance at higher rep ranges, all while adding muscle.
6. Do give your workout the focus it deserves.
While focusing on your music, podcast or the goings on in the gym may help pass the time, especially during higher-rep sets, it’s probably not helping you build muscle. A study in the European Journal of Sport Science suggests that you may be able to score more muscle by focusing on your muscles as they’re being worked. By simply making a mind-muscle connection during sets of arm curls for eight weeks, a group of untrained college-aged men saw nearly twice the biceps growth as their unmindful peers (12.4% growth versus 6.9%).
So, now you’re on track to start building that lean muscle, what’s next? Why not kit yourself out with a Lean meal plan to start you off strong.