Gaining lean muscle can be a challenge, especially if you don’t belong to the ectomorph body type. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but just that it’s a somewhat difficult task. Lean muscle gain requires careful selection of exercises and workout routines. There are some general things you need to understand when trying to gain lean muscle, the first being that anaerobic exercise increases your metabolic rate, while aerobic exercise (cardio) does not. With that in mind, cardio burns a higher ratio of fat than anaerobic exercise, so you’ll definitely want to combine the two to create the best lean muscle workout.
Your workout should contain exercises that require high muscular endurance. When gaining lean muscle, I like to do power exercises like cleans. That’s not to say that other exercises don’t work, but power ones will cause your body to burn more calories than it would otherwise while also promoting muscular growth. Depending on what type of physique you’re looking for, you may also want to consider some isolation exercises since these will create separation in your muscles, giving them a more lean look.
No matter what you choose, you need to do your workouts at a high intensity. This can mean you’re using a lot of weight or that you’re using a high volume. Either will work, but remember that higher reps don’t really mean more “toned” muscle. Toning is done through fat loss and you lose fat from eating fewer calories and burning a ton more. High intensity burns more calories, which means that’s the best way to gain lean muscle.
While anaerobic exercise is probably the most important part of gaining lean muscle, you’ll also want to incorporate some amount of cardio into your workout. I like to run a good half mile before and after my workouts. A lot of people run on their off days also, some doing more than two or three miles. Be careful with running, however, because it can place a ton of stress on your knees and can lead to injury if not done properly. For that reason, bicycling or swimming are both superior exercises for building lean muscle. Swimming, in fact, will increase your shoulder width and strength and is a great overall exercise.
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