In order to gain lean muscle you need to train at a controlled high intensity movement pattern with a low number of repetitions. If you are seriously dedicated about developing lean muscle I have found 3 sets of 8 repetitions work well over four sessions a week for 8-10 weeks, then, the 5×5 method for the next 12 weeks. Once you’ve finished the cycle, start again! If you are looking at high-end weight lifting then the principles change, due to the nature of the game.

I have worked as a full time PT for nearly ten years now, and I can add that I have seen individuals gain lean muscle with as little as two sessions a week. The more input you put in the more muscle you will put on.

To note, older people who have never taken part in sustained exercise programmes have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of a similar age, according to new research at the University of Birmingham. More information available here. So, it really doesn’t matter what age you are, we have to support our bodies with the correct muscle keeping injury free.

Selected Lean Muscle Articles

  • Weightlifting is good for your heart and it doesn’t take much. Full article at Science Daily.
  • Older and stronger: Progressive resistance training can build muscle, increase strength as we age. Short article found at American Journal of Medicine.
  • For workout gains, embrace variety. Full article found at Wall Street Journal.
  • Bedtime protein for bigger gains? Science Daily
  • Moderate muscle strength training may lower risk of type 2 diabetes. More information here.
  • Resistance training even as little as once a week benefits older individuals. More information here.

Benefits of Lean Muscle Training

  • Increase in lean body mass.
  • Improvement in metabolic rate.
  • Increase in bone density.
  • Decreased risk of injury if sensible.
  • Building back lost muscle tissue.
  • Enhanced posture.
  • Higher prevention of diseases.
  • Healthier when old.
  • Increases mind-muscle connection. More info here.
  • Helps develop better biomechanics.
  • Helps maintain balance.

Lean Muscle Tips

  • Heavy load resistance training may produce superior improvements in lean muscle and strength compared to lower load resistance training (Hoim, Reitelseder, Pedersen, Doessing, Petersen, et al., 2008).
  • Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain when undertaking resistance training.
  • Recovery between sets is vitally important. For loads less than 90% of 1 rep max, 3-5 minutes rest between sets allows for greter strength. When testing for maximal strength, 1-2 minutes between each set should be sufficient. However, for muscular power, a minimum of 3 minutes should be prescribed between each set (Willardson, Jeffrey M, 2006).
  • There is not enough conclusive evidence yet to prove that pre-sleep protein supplement can aid muscle recovery and gain lean muscle. It’s completely worth a try though as protein synthesis is at it’s lowest when we sleep. Try a weigh or caesin shake before you go to bed with minimal additives as possible, so it doesn’t keep you up at night.

External Links

More information about Weight Lifting at British Weightlifting 

Coach Mag

Strength Shop UK

BBC – How to get into weightlifting

Strength and Resistance Training Exercise at