3 Ways to Build Lean Muscle

Men want more muscle; women typically don’t. When a guy sees a mixed martial arts fighter such as Georges St. Pierre, or a model on the cover of Men’s Health, he knows he needs to gain muscle. However, when a woman sees a body like Jennifer Garner had in Elektra, she typically thinks, “I’d like to tone up and look like that.” In reality, Jennifer had to gain muscle to get that lean, sexy look. Toning up is nothing more than losing fat and building a little muscle.

Whether you want to look like St. Pierre or Jennifer Garner in Elektra, your goal should be to gain muscle and lose fat – build lean muscle, in other words. Since women have a fraction of the testosterone men have, they don’t need to worry about packing on extra muscle.

There are two primary benefits to gaining muscle. First, you’ll look harder and more defined when you lose fat. Second, you’ll boost your metabolism. Even just a few pounds of additional muscle can have a significant impact on supercharging your metabolism at rest (the jury’s still out on how much a pound of muscle actually boosts your metabolism, but regardless, it helps).

First and foremost, your diet must be in order to lose fat. With that in mind, here are three changes you can immediately make to your current workout program to make it more effective for building lean muscle.

1. Use enough weight: focus on lifting weights that don’t allow more than 12 reps per set. As a general rule, start with a weight you can lift 6-12 times for the first set. Shoot for 25 total reps per exercise with heavier weights (6RM) and 50 total reps with lighter weights.

2. Keep your rest periods short: one of the biggest mistake people typically make is that they rest too long between sets. Your heart rate should remain elevated throughout the entire workout. At some point during the workout you should be questioning whether you’re resting long enough. No rest is best between exercises – just enough time to transition between exercises. 30 seconds is the most you should ever rest when fat loss is the goal. As a general rule, 10-20 seconds between exercises works well.

3. Do Full-body workouts: every time you train you should perform upper and lower body exercises. This drastically increases the metabolic demand of the workout and keeps your metabolism elevated long after you leave the gym. Choose one upper body pull, one upper body push, and a squat or deadlift variation as a bare minimum to meet the full-body requirement. And be sure to put in full-body cardio strength exercises (eg, squat thrust with overhead press with dumbbells) at the end of your workouts to really crank up your metabolism.

And speaking of Jennifer Garner, I just did a cool video interview with her trainer, Valerie Waters. You can check it out here.

Stay focused,

9 thoughts on “3 Ways to Build Lean Muscle

  1. Hey, great post. You are spot on with the information here. So many women don’t understand what toning really means and you described it very nicely in layman’s terms. Thanks. I think I’ll be using that one.

  2. So, 25 reps with 6 RM and 50 reps with 12 RM ?

    It’s a little more weight than the huge in a hurry workout, no ?

  3. HIAH is for pure muscle mass. This info is for burning fat, too, that’s why the volume is a little higher.

  4. I just did Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast and gained 2.5 inches, thats incredible!. I’m going to start ABBH and i just wondered why you decided to do an upper-lower body split when you typically recommend full body for mass gains as well as losing fat. I’m also worried about shoulder health when 10×3 benching!

  5. Just bought BOF – any suggestions for a tweaky knee? The 1st two workouts are really messing with it and it looks like it just gets harder from here.

    Thanks – Jen

    PS: I’m a Valerie Waters \"girl\" so I\’m not new to circuits, yours are just a little more intense :-). Look forward to meeting you at the Summit in September.

  6. Hey Chad,
    I’m about to start phase 2 of BOF, I have a set of Fat Grips, would you recommend using them on some of the pulling exercises or would that be trying to add in too much to the work out?

  7. Chad, do you think there would be any difference, in regard to fat loss, between the following workouts:

    Workout A

    Total Reps: 120 at 12RM

    Workout B

    Total Reps: 120 at 12RM

  8. Discostew, there’s no difference. Your diet is what really matters for fat loss. Many programs can get you lean if you eat right.

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