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Your Foolproof Guide to Building Lean Muscle

Published July 20, 2019
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

foolproof-guide-to-building-lean-muscle
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@type":"BlogPosting", "headline":"Your Foolproof Guide to Building Lean Muscle", "datePublished":"July 20, 2019", "description":"Cut out all the guesswork with this proven 5-step system for building lean muscle.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/06/foolproof-guide-to-lean-muscle-0204.jpg" }, } ] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Why Build Lean Muscle Mass?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">How Do You Build Lean Muscle? (5-Step Guide)</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Building Lean Muscle—Wrapping Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>There’s a lot of contradicting information on the internet about what you have to do to add lean muscle. Insane workouts, complicated nutrition guides, and unrealistic requirements are just three things that you’ll find with a quick Google search.</p> <p>With this guide, we tried to do the opposite. We quickly break down <i>why</i> you should build lean muscle mass in the first place (you’ll see why that’s important later), then show you our 5-step foolproof guide for adding lean muscle to your body.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"Why Build Lean Muscle Mass?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"Most people agree that a healthy, lean body looks good. That might be your motive for adding lean mass. Let’s just go ahead and say it: wanting to look good is a given.\n\nBut what else does adding lean mass bring to the table? Are there other benefits?\n\nThere are indeed. Turns out, lean muscle mass is insanely beneficial for your health and body."}}]}</script> <h2>Why Build Lean Muscle Mass?</h2> <p>Most people agree that a healthy, lean body looks good. That might be your motive for adding lean mass. Let’s just go ahead and say it: <i>wanting to look good is a given</i>.</p> <p>But what else does adding lean mass bring to the table? Are there other benefits?</p> <p>There are indeed. Turns out, lean muscle mass is <i>insanely</i> beneficial for your health and body. Here’s how.</p> <h3>Benefit #1: Increased Bone Health</h3> <p>Strength training is a key to adding lean muscle, and strength training is wonderful for your bones. </p> <p>Resistance workouts not only increase bone density, but also ward off diseases like osteoporosis <sup>1</sup>.</p> <h3>Benefit #2: Helps You Lose Weight Faster</h3> <p>Adding lean muscle increases your ‘<i>BMR</i>,’ or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/will-i-lose-weight-on-keto/" rel="noreferrer">basal metabolic rate</a>. This means you burn more calories when you’re at work, exercising, or brushing your teeth. You’ll even burn more calories when you sleep.</p> <p><b>Here’s a fun fact</b>: there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. Say you add enough lean muscle to boost your basal metabolic rate just 50 calories per day (this is easily possible after only a few months of working out).</p> <p>Adding that small amount of lean muscle equates to an additional <i>18,250 calories per year</i>—or 5.2 pounds of body-fat!</p> <p>(Who said math can’t be fun?)</p> <h3>Benefit #3: Better Quality of Life</h3> <p>Lean muscle keeps your joints strong and helps your body function optimally (see step #5 for “bullet-proofing” your body). </p> <p>More muscle mass allows you to perform daily activities without pain and decreases your risk of injury <sup>1</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"How Do You Build Lean Muscle? (5-Step Guide)","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"Hopefully you’re sold on the benefits of adding muscle mass. Now, here’s our five-step, fool-proof guide to building muscle mass through exercise and following the right nutrition approach. 1. Get Your Mind Right, 2. Strength Train (3 Days Per Week), 3. Modify and Progress Exercises, 4. Eat with Your Goals in Mind, 5. “Bulletproof” Your Body."}}]}</script> <h2>How Do You Build Lean Muscle? (5-Step Guide)</h2> <p>Hopefully you’re sold on the benefits of adding muscle mass. Now, here’s our five-step, fool-proof guide to building muscle mass through exercise and following the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">right nutrition</a> approach.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/get-your-mind-right-woman-0204.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/get-your-mind-right-woman-0204.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/get-your-mind-right-woman-0204.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/get-your-mind-right-woman-LR-0204.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="get-your-mind-right-woman"> </picture> <h3>1. Get Your Mind Right</h3> <p>Steps 2 through 5 of this guide focuses on the <i>physical side</i> of building lean muscle. But perhaps the most important part about building muscle mass—and something you absolutely don’t want to gloss over—is the mental side. </p> <p>Having the right mindset and doing mental prepwork on the front-end will you serve you now and in the future. Here are some actionable things you can do to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/introduction/warrior-made-tribe/" rel="noreferrer">create the lean body</a> you want. <h4>A) Set Fitness Goals</h4> <p>Adding muscle mass, adding strength, or losing fat happens faster if you are intentional about it. And the best way to be intentional is to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-set-realistic-fitness-goals-you-can-achieve" rel="noreferrer">set effective fitness goals</a>. </p> <p>Goals are like a GPS for your car. When you set them before you leave the house, you get to your destination the fastest (and without any detours or driving around in circles).</p> <p>In our opinion, ‘SMART’ fitness goals are the way to go. SMART stands for <i>specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-sensitive</i>. This model for goal-setting helps you clarify where, how, why, and by when you’ll have a lean, muscular body.</p> <h4>B) Surround Yourself with the Right People</h4> <p>Whether it’s an <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/accountability-partner-key-to-weight-loss" rel="noreferrer">accountability partner</a> or a supportive <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/introduction/warrior-made-tribe/" rel="noreferrer">online community</a>, having like-minded people in your life will pay off big later on. You can share your favorite workouts and tips for strength training, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-simple-tips-for-workout-motivation" rel="noreferrer">motivate</a> one another.</p> <p>Embarking on this journey alone will only slow you down. The <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/introduction/warrior-made-tribe/" rel="noreferrer">right community</a> will expedite the path to your goals.</p> <h4>C) Find Your ‘Why’</h4> <p><i>Why</i> do you want to add lean muscle mass? <i>Why</i> are you trying to shed body-fat?</p> <p>We’re asking because <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-simple-tips-for-workout-motivation" rel="noreferrer">knowing your ‘why’</a> is essential for transforming your body. </p> <p>Whether your ‘why’ is to be able-bodied enough to enjoy a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise" rel="noreferrer">long walk</a>, being fit enough to play with your grandkids, or simply because you see fitness as a way to become your best self, knowing your ‘why’ helps you push through the challenging parts of your fitness journey.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/man-push-ups-outside-0204.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/man-push-ups-outside-0204.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/man-push-ups-outside-0204.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/man-push-ups-outside-LR-0204.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="man-push-ups-outside"> </picture> <h3>2. Strength Train (3 Days Per Week)</h3> <p>You know strength training is beneficial now—<i>but what kind of strength training is best, and how often should you do it?</i></p> <p>Our recommendation: use <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-full-body-workout-for-weight-loss/" rel="noreferrer">full-body workouts</a> and body-weight exercises, and incorporate them into proven fitness routines like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you" rel="noreferrer">high-intensity interval training</a> (HIIT) or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/circuit-training-for-weight-loss/" rel="noreferrer">circuit workouts</a>. </p> <p>Do these workouts three times a week and get results. </p> <h4>You Don’t Need Weights</h4> <p>You don’t need expensive weights or a membership at a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/why-people-are-choosing-boutique-fitness-studios/" rel="noreferrer">boutique gym</a> to get results. Bodyweight strength training is just as effective, simpler, and in many ways, more beneficial. </p> <p>One benefit is that bodyweight exercises keep your joints flexible. They also develop balance and coordination. And instead of isolating muscle groups with weights and getting bulky, bodyweight exercises give you a lean, toned look.</p> <p>By the way, studies show training with lighter loads and doing more reps is <i>just as effective</i> for muscle gains <sup>2</sup>. So seriously, don’t feel like you’re missing something by not lifting weights.</p> <h4>Full-Body Exercises: The Most “Bang for Your Buck”</h4> <p>Exercises like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/step-by-step-guide-on-how-to-do-perfect-squats" rel="noreferrer">squats</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-perfect-squats-and-pushups" rel="noreferrer">push-ups</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/why-burpees-are-one-of-the-best-exercises" rel="noreferrer">burpees</a>, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/plank-exercises-to-activate-your-core/" rel="noreferrer">planks</a> add lean muscle to several muscle groups at once. For example, here are all the muscles being worked during a squat:</p> <ul> <li>Quads</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/glutes-101-best-exercises-for-your-gluteus-maximus/" rel="noreferrer">Glutes</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">Lower back</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-lower-ab-exercises-you-can-do-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">Abs</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-oblique-exercises-for-core-strength" rel="noreferrer">Obliques</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-5-best-calf-exercises/" rel="noreferrer">Calves</a></li> </ul> <p>You could argue that your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/at-home-exercises-to-strengthen-your-shoulders/" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a> are also working to stabilize you, making it a true full-body workout for adding muscle.</p> <h4>But the Most Important Thing…</h4> <p>Our third point about strength training is so important, it’s step 3 in our guide.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/feet-walking-up-steps-progress-0204.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/feet-walking-up-steps-progress-0204.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/feet-walking-up-steps-progress-0204.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/feet-walking-up-steps-progress-LR-0204.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="feet-walking-up-steps"> </picture> <h3>3. Modify and Progress Exercises</h3> <p>Here’s something important to understand about muscle gains: they don’t happen overnight. Building a lean body takes patience, consistency, and effort over the course of many workouts before you see results.</p> <p>Adding muscle is challenging enough without getting injured or stringing together a series of sub-par workouts. That will only make things harder.</p> <p>But if you pick <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can" rel="noreferrer">good exercise progressions</a>, you’ll set yourself up for success. This is perhaps the most important part about building lean muscle.</p> <p>Effective exercise progressions mean two things: </p> <ul> <li><i>Modifying exercises</i> if they are too difficult. For example, if you can’t do a full squat yet, using a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-squat-variations-that-will-kick-your-butt" rel="noreferrer">beginner squat variation</a> instead.</li> <li><i>Advancing exercises</i> once you get good at them. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can/" rel="noreferrer">For example</a>, progressing from split squats to couch split squats to jumping couch split squats (this happens slowly over time, not in one or two workouts).</li> </ul> <p>Over time, your consistent effort and tiny advancements will be rewarded.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ketogenic-plate-of-food-0204.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ketogenic-plate-of-food-0204.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ketogenic-plate-of-food-0204.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/ketogenic-plate-of-food-LR-0204.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="ketogenic-plate-of-food"> </picture> <h3>4. Eat with Your Goals in Mind</h3> <p>Many fitness pros believe that 80 percent of how you look is based on diet <sup>3</sup>. At least to some extent, it’s true when they say, “you are what you eat.” Diet is important if you want to be lean.</p> <p>You might know (or have heard) that eating protein builds strength and muscle mass. That’s true, but there’s more to it. </p> <p>You might <i>also</i> know we’re huge proponents of the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide/" rel="noreferrer">ketogenic diet</a> for weight loss. But we love it for adding muscle, too. </p> <h4>You Need Enough Protein</h4> <p>Okay, yeah. Protein is probably the most important part of muscle-building nutrition. That’s because protein’s job in the body is to repair and rebuild muscle tissue (fingernails, hair, and skin, too) <sup>4</sup>.</p> <p>On keto, about 25 percent of your daily calories comes from protein. That’s 125 grams of protein per day if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day (more on calories in a second).</p> <p><i>What else does lean muscle protein do?</i> Besides rebuilding muscle, protein has a satiating effect (it, like fat, keeps you feeling full). If you’re trying to lose fat while you build muscle, this is very useful.</p> <h4>You Need Enough (But Not Too Many) Calories</h4> <p>To add lean muscle, you need to eat enough calories—<i>especially</i> if you also want to lose weight. </p> <p>Your body needs enough fuel not only to support activity, but also to <i>add</i> new muscle tissue. If you think about it, it makes sense. Too few calories would be like trying to build a house but not having enough wood.</p> <p>What’s tricky is that eating too many calories can also cause you to gain body-fat, and you don’t want that. </p> <p>No worries—<a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/why-you-should-be-calculating-your-macros" rel="noreferrer">count macros</a>. Along with your BMR—basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn at rest—you’ll know exactly how much protein, fat, and carbs to eat each day on keto.</p> <h4>The Occasional Cheat Day <i>Might</i> Help</h4> <p>Eating lots of fat and protein and limiting carbs is a recipe for weight loss and muscle gains. But the occasional splurge can actually help you put on muscle. </p> <p>That’s why we created the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/keto/14-day-diet-upgrade/" rel="noreferrer">14-Day Diet</a>. Every two weeks you get a day off from counting protein and fat—a full “cheat” day. Then the next day you accelerate your results by <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-use-intermittent-fasting-to-accelerate-your/" rel="noreferrer">intermittent fasting</a> (IF) and getting in a killer workout, capitalizing on your body being full of carbs.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/waking-up-rested-bulletproof-0204.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/waking-up-rested-bulletproof-0204.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/waking-up-rested-bulletproof-0204.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/waking-up-rested-bulletproof-LR-0204.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="waking-up-rested-bulletproof"> </picture> <h3>5. “Bulletproof” Your Body</h3> <p>Finally, step five in your fool-proof guide to adding strength and muscle mass is a callback (in some ways) to the first four steps. But it’s also something actionable you can do to accelerate results.</p> <p><i>“Bulletproofing”</i> your body means doing everything you can to keep yourself healthy and injury free along your fitness journey. </p> <p>It means <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/at-home-exercises-to-strengthen-your-shoulders/" rel="noreferrer">stretching</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise" rel="noreferrer">going for walks</a> to eliminate stress, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/water-fasting-what-it-is-and-how-to-do-it-right/" rel="noreferrer">drinking enough water</a>, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-going-keto-can-improve-your-sleep-quality" rel="noreferrer">getting enough sleep</a>. It also means having <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/accountability-partner-key-to-weight-loss" rel="noreferrer">good relationships</a> and doing everything possible to stay injury-free (<i>hint: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can" rel="noreferrer">good exercise progressions</a></i>).</p> <p>Adding lean muscle <i>is also</i> bulletproofing your body. You’re strengthening and protecting your joints, delaying the aging process, and warding off disease.</p> <p>But the journey to those results requires sincere effort in every area of your life.</p> <p>Be consistent with workouts, committed to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">good nutrition</a>, and dialed into the other areas of your life. Bulletproof yourself so when life throws something at you, you can handle it. And not only handle it, but then show up the next day to do another workout and get one step closer to your goals.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>Building Lean Muscle—Wrapping Up</h2> <p>This five-step guide will help you add muscle, add strength, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-energy-how-the-keto-diet-combats-fatigue" rel="noreferrer">boost energy</a>, and even lose fat if you dial in your nutrition. Use it along with all the free resources on Warrior Made’s <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">nutrition</a> blog to expedite your results.</p> <p>If you want to take the next step towards a full-body transformation, join the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/introduction/warrior-made-tribe/" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made fitness tribe</a> FREE for 14 days. Come see how a community of like-minded people can help you create the lean body you want!</p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/strength-training/art-20046670/in-depth/art-20046670" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/how-to-build-lean-muscle#4-ways-to-build-muscle" rel="nofollow noreferrer">The No BS Guide to Building Lean Muscle</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.verywellfit.com/nutrition-vs-exercise-80-nutrition-wins-3121406" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Is Nutrition More Important Than Exercise?</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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