At its core, strength training is about feeling great: endurance, heart health, sleep quality, positive emotions and healthy living. At the same time, there’s an aesthetic side to muscle building. Are you interested in a strong, supple and toned appearance, or do you want a bulky “barbarian” look? A lean muscle workout is designed to build your strength while keeping your body sleek.
What Are the Benefits of a Lean Muscle Workout?
Visually, focusing on lean muscle means you get a healthy appearance but lower overall muscle mass. Instead of looking like an Olympic weightlifter, you look like a professional climber, basketball player, runner or swimmer.
In terms of health, strength training offers a range of benefits that go beyond just staying active, including:
- Better posture and balance
- Stronger and denser bones
- Healthier joints
- Greater hand and arm strength
- Improved resistance to injuries
People of any age can benefit from building lean muscle, from busy moms interested in losing weight to seniors who want to stop age-related muscle loss.
How Does a Lean Muscle Workout Differ From Muscle Mass Exercises?
Besides helping you build muscle, lean muscle workouts boost your fat-burning. That’s the “lean” part.
The typical routine usually involves exercises that combine strength training and aerobics, such as:
- High-intensity interval training
- Bodyweight exercises
- Whole-body workouts
- Free weight exercises that target multiple muscle groups (e.g., battle ropes)
- Burst movements (sprinting, jumping jacks, jump ropes, etc.)
On the other hand, muscle mass revolves primarily around lifting weights. Think dumbbell curls, leg machines and deadlifts.
Which Exercises Are Best for a Lean Muscle Workout Plan?
You have a lot of flexibility to put together a workout that fits your physical needs, supports your weight-loss goals and delivers excellent results for muscle growth. The key is to push your muscles to their limits with short but intense sessions. The following list gives you a jumping-off point.
Bodyweight exercises are an excellent choice for lean muscle workouts. They’re easy to learn and you can do them at home or the gym. Pushups are a staple for fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.
Pushup Pro Tips
Here are a few tips for the perfect pushup:
- Place your hands the same distance apart as when you lift weights
- Tense your glutes and core muscles on the way down, not just your arms
- Go at a steady pace — not too fast and not too slow
- Don’t push your elbows out to the sides
Pushups are excellent for building your triceps, shoulder muscles, core muscles and chest muscles. Aim for two or three sets with 10-12 reps.
If you want to put your muscles to the test, there are countless pushup variations to try, including:
- Close-grip pushups: This narrow hand placement in front of your body does wonders for the triceps.
- Raised pushups: Performing pushups with your arms on a bench or table strengthens the lower back and core muscles.
- Lowered pushups: Add this intense upper-chest activity to your lean muscle workout by placing your feet on a bench.
- Staggered pushups: You can boost your balance and control while giving your upper body a wider workout by placing one hand several inches behind the other.
- Deficit pushups: This popular variation involves gripping two dumbbells parallel on the floor and pushing upwards.
Make sure your body feels comfortable before attempting advanced variants.
It’s no surprise that squats are amazing for lower-body strength training, but adding some weight helps you make the best use of your time. You can use smaller free weights, larger dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls or tension bands to increase the burn for your muscles.
Goblet squats are a hidden gem for lean muscle workouts. They require you to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your body instead of two weights at the sides. This turns the activity into a full-body exercise that works on your arms and legs simultaneously.
With isometric bodyweight exercises, like planks, you don’t need to move your body to give your muscles a deep workout. This type of exercise involves holding specific positions as long as you can, which engages your muscles and makes you feel the burn. You can build significant endurance and muscle tone this way.
Instructions for Basic Straight-Arm Planks
This common plank looks similar to a pushup, but you hold the raised position. Here’s how to get started:
- Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat.
- Tense your arms by pushing against the floor.
- Straighten one leg at a time until your body is fully taut.
- Keep your legs straight behind you about a hip’s width apart.
- Hold the position for about 30-45 seconds, then repeat.
As you build your upper- and lower-body strength, you may be able to hold planks for a minute or more.
Like pushups, planks have many lean muscle workout variations that target different parts of your body. For example, instead of using your hands to support you, you can use your entire forearm. Holding a forearm plank and lifting your legs into the air is amazing for your core.
Other standout variants to practice include:
- Side-lift planks for your hip and torso muscles
- Sideways walking planks for your glutes, hamstrings and quads
- Knee-to-elbow planks for your lower body and abs
- Seated reverse planks for your shoulders, tris, abs and hamstrings
Once you’re experienced, you can even toss in dumbbell rows or jumping jacks while you're in a plank position for even more strength training benefits (and bragging rights).
If you have access to a gym, circuit training is fantastic for lean muscle. The wide range of equipment makes it easy to target different muscle groups and get some cardio in, too. Some of the best options for lean muscles include rowing machines, pull-down cable machines and bench press equipment.
How Can You Push Yourself Correctly With a Lean Muscle Workout?
It’s important to stay consistent when you’re trying to burn fat and build muscle. Shorter but more frequent sessions are better than once-a-week marathons.The ZOZOFIT app tracks your workout progress quickly and reliably. You can see which muscles are growing and how much, making it easier to adapt your lean muscle workout on the fly. Take advantage of ZOZOFIT's cutting-edge exercise technology to hit the right level of intensity and get the results you're looking for.