4 steps to building lean muscle

a person lifting weights

Not everybody wants to look super buff when they’re building muscle. For some, the more important thing is that they look lean, healthy, and strong. And, the fact is, you’re unlikely to get extremely big unless you’re really putting in a lot of effort to do so. If your aim is to be stronger and leaner, you don’t have to lift weights every day or start lifting hundreds of pounds at once. But you can use a few techniques to get the lean and muscled look that you want. Here are some of the things that you should do to build lean muscle.

Eat the Right Foods

Your diet can help you to reach your lean muscle goals. The right diet helps you to manage your weight and can make it easier to build muscle too. Getting plenty of protein is an ideal way to build muscle mass, and there are lots of healthy options that are also low in fat or contain healthy fats. Some of the foods you might want to include in your diet include eggs, chicken, salmon, and Greek yogurt. A balanced diet will help you to be healthier and give your body the fuel it needs to grow muscle. Sports and exercise nutrition can be complex because there are so many more variants to consider.

For instance, are you getting enough protein? What about calories? Did you drink enough water? Did you obtain your nitrates? What about pre and post-workout nutrition? All these things are intertwined, and without adequate nutrition – you may struggle to build lean muscle. Make sure to take a look at our guide to healthy eating for healthy recipes and more information on how to calculate your calories and macronutrients.

Take Supplements

Some supplements have been backed by science, and taking certain dietary supplements can give you the things that might be missing from your diet. As men get older, their natural levels of testosterone go down, which can make it harder to build and maintain muscle. A supplement like Alpha-AF can help to boost testosterone levels and increase the impact of workouts. Supplements can be useful to help support your goals or to fill the gaps of what might be lacking in your diet, whether due to dietary choices or because you find it hard to enjoy a balanced diet.

You can take a look at evidence-based information on supplements here.

Create a Diverse Workout Routine

Strength training two to three times a week can help you to achieve your lean muscle goals. There’s no need to train every day, especially if you’re doing other exercises in between. Aim to target different muscle groups so that you can build muscle all over your body, instead of just in one area. One thing to keep in mind is that lifting weights isn’t the only way to build lean muscle. You can also do exercises without any weights or equipment or you can use lighter weights and still get great results.

To build lean muscle, you also need to take advantage of progressive overloading. By progressively overload, you’ll be able to make progress every week by strengthening your muscles faster.

Modify Exercises to Suit You

Everyone should create workouts that work for their own needs. As long as you are doing an exercise safely, you can modify it so that it works for where you currently are and what you want to do. If you can’t do something just yet, you can make it a little easier until you’re able to do the exercise on a higher difficulty setting. Or you can just choose to continue what feels more comfortable for you. One of the best ways to encourage improvements and faster results is by using different weight training sets. Some great options are listed below:

Straight sets

This is the most common way of training where you perform an exercise for the same number of reps for each set. No variations.

Drop sets

These sets are perfect for burning out at the end of the workout. All you do is drop weight significantly and perform the exercise until exhaustion. Then, you can drop weights again and perform the exercise again to exhaustion. You can continue until you can no longer lift for any more reps.


Supersets are great if you’re wanting to do different exercises for the same muscle group or train two different muscle groups at once. With these sets, you simply perform two different exercises (whether for the same muscle group or not) back to back (with no rest).

Compound Set

A compound set is exactly the same as super sets but you perform two or more exercises using the same muscle groups.

Pyramid Set

Pyramid sets are great for building your strength which will help you lift heavier weights and drive results faster. With these, you increase the intensity of your workout by raising the weights and decreasing the reps. For example, if you initially performed 3 sets of 12 reps using 30 KG, you can increase the intensity by doing 2 sets of 8 reps using 40 KG.

Rest-pause Set

Rest-pause sets are very fatiguing so it’s best to perform these closer to the end of your workout. To perform these sets, all you do is break down your reps into smaller reps. For instance, let’s taka look at bicep curls using a barbell. You could break down that exercise by:

  • Performing the bicep curl only half way (to 90-degree angle), then without a rest;
  • Perform the bice curl from half way up (from 90-degree angle to the end of the curl), then without a rest;
  • Perform the full bicep curl

With rest-pause training, you’re essentially breaking your set down into a number of small sets, allowing you to push past your regular point of failure.

Time Under Tension

Time under tension is a great exhaustive technique where you place the muscle under tension for longer. To do these, you just need to slow down on your reps so the muscles have to work harder for longer. Some people take this to the extreme and place a band above the muscle they are working out on to cut the circulation, but this is not necessary.

A Tri-set

A tri-set is great for burning out your muscles. These consist of three different exercises for the same muscle group, and are performed back to back with no rest in between the sets.

You can build lean muscle your way. Mix things up to meet your needs and reach your goals.


By implements the 4 steps above, you’ll be able to drive results in no time. Make sure to stay committed, dedicated and trust the process. Your dream body is just around the corner. If you’d like to stay up to date on fitness trends, be sure to check out TF Clark Fitness and Health magazine.

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