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 three-four sessions a week for 8-12 weeks, then 4×6 repetitions, followed by the 5×5 method for the next 4-8 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 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 healthy lean muscle. Frequently changing your exercise programme will help you gain results at a quicker rate.

Nutrition is key for executing protein synthesis effectively. If you are struggling with your nutrition then it is wise to speak with a nutritionist before embarking on your journey.

Gain Lean Muscle Tips

  • Heavy load resistance training produces superior improvements in lean muscle and strength compared to lower load 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 greater strength. When testing for maximal strength, 1-2 minutes between each set should suffice. However, for muscular power, a minimum of 3 minutes should be prescribed between each set (Willardson, Jeffrey M, 2006).
  • For workout gains, embrace variety by changing your routine regularly. Changing one variable each week will help you progress at a much quicker rate.
  • There is not enough conclusive evidence yet to prove that pre-sleep protein supplementation 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 whey or casein shake before you go to bed with minimal additives as possible, so it doesn’t keep you awake at night.
  • Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain when undertaking resistance training. However, focus on getting natural foods in first before turning to supplementation. Protein doesn’t need to be consumed immediately after a session to aid growth and recovery. There is no conclusive evidence that post-workout nutrition raises muscle protein synthesis. Freshen up after the gym before enjoying your meal!

External Links

More information about Weight Lifting at:

Benefits of Lean Muscle Training

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

Selected Gain 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
  • Older adults: Build muscle and you’ll live longer. Full article found at Science Daily
  • Lose fat, preserve muscle: Weight training beats cardio for older adults. Full article found at Wake Forest News
  • Activity ‘snacks’ following meals may help maintain muscle mass. Article found at Science Daily
  • Weak handgrip strength may signal serious health issues. Article found at SciTechDaily
  • Weights can be weapons in battles against obesity. Article found at Science Daily
  • How high-intensity interval training can reshape metabolism. Article found at Science Daily