We’ve all seen athletes, dancers, and other fitness buffs who seem to have it all together when it comes to sculpting the ideal body. So what is their secret? What does it take to achieve that toned, fit, and undeniably perfect look? It all comes down to building lean muscle and is much easier than you might think.
What is Lean Muscle?
Lean muscle is a non-fatty muscle tissue that is included in our body’s total lean body mass, which also includes bones, organs, and other non-fatty tissues.
Why is it Important to Build Lean Muscle?
a. Lean Muscle Building Will Boost Metabolism: Simply put, muscle burns more calories than fat does. This means that aside from calories burned during exercise, more calories will be burned with lean muscle tissue just sitting on the couch, at your work desk, or even while you are sleeping giving a boost to your metabolism.
b. Building Lean Muscle Mass Protects Bones, Joints, and Good Posture: Heaven knows that as we age, things slow down a bit. Muscles ache more, joints seem to be a little less lubricated, and our posture wanes for various reasons. However, by focusing attention on lean muscle gain we not only uphold our strength with age which prevents falls and other injuries, but also maintain bone density, promote joint lubrication that comes with consistent exercise, as well as maintain muscle balance that promotes good posture.
c. Lean Muscles Create a Nice, Tone, Look: And, of course, the obvious one, any way you look at it, lean muscle tissue is what creates that much sought after toned, firm, and slim yet built look.
How to Build Lean Muscle Mass:
1. Strength Training: One of the key ways to build lean muscle mass is through strength/weight training. This is best done through exercises that use large muscle groups as opposed to exercises that single out one isolated muscle. One example of a whole body strength training exercise is walking lunges. Not only do walking lunges work all components of the leg and buttocks muscles in varying degrees, but they also require the core (trunk and abdominals) to work at stabilization throughout the exercise.
You can build lean muscle fast by engaging in a consistent strength training program 3-4 days of the week, performing 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. For best results, it is ideal to take a day off between each session to allow for muscle rebuilding, or work different areas of the body on differing days if necessary.
There are myths out there leading many, especially women, to believe that weight training will not just make you tone, but will make you look bulky and big. This is just not true. How to build lean muscle for women and how to build lean muscle for men is largely the same. Men may gain a little more size to their lean muscle tissue than women simply because they usually lift heavier weights, and more importantly, they produce much more of the hormone testosterone, which is known to increase muscle growth. However, to get super big, like a body-builder, drastic measures must be taken beyond normal strength training conditions where training regimen and caloric intake is concerned and is just not a likely result from even a moderate to intense strength training program. According to Mike Roussell, author and nutritional consultant, “Bulk isn’t muscle. It is muscle covered by fat. So if you feel that you are too bulky, then it is important to fine-tune your diet to lose the excess fat-not give up weight training.”
2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Another option for how to gain lean muscle mass is through high intensity interval training (HIIT) as part of the cardio portion of your training plan. High Intensity interval training is performing short, quick bursts of speed, followed by a recovery phase in repeated intervals throughout your workout. This type of training is proven to build more lean muscle tissue than just regular slow-go cardio workouts. Not only will you gain lean muscle mass, but HIIT also creates an afterburn (calories burned even after workout is over), allowing for more fat burning capability and caloric expenditure to take place from your workout.
3. Eating Smart: Gaining lean muscle has as much to do with our diet as it does to do with our workouts. In learning how to build lean muscle, it important to understand the role that diet plays in our goals. Food is very important and is pivotal in making gains in our lean mass, but also must be monitored closely to control body fat levels. Timing of meals plays a key role in helping fuel growing muscles. There are two main times during the day that muscles are craving calories and nutrients-at breakfast as your muscles have gone the entire night without and are largely depleted of energy stores, and second,post –workout, or immediately after a workout, as the muscles are stressed and in great need to be replenished of energy stores. By taking great care to feed the muscles at these crucial times you can facilitate optimal growth during the muscle recovery phase and keep body fat levels down at the same time.
It is also important to be sure that your other meals and snacks throughout the day are low-fat, nutrient rich foods that will provide you all the energy you need to maintain good health, prevent injuries, and support your training efforts.
Summing it Up
Learning how to get lean muscle for women and for men is an important concept to understand when it comes to optimizing your fitness level. Applying these principles will not only give you confidence in the way you look, but will also give you a higher quality of life and more energy to do the things you love to do.