Easy Exercises That Will Build Lean Muscle

Looking to build muscle without adding major bulk? The good news is there are ways to work hard at the gym without becoming an Arnold doppelgänger. Mainly, your routine should focus on combining cardio and weight lifting in equal parts. That way, you’ll simultaneously burn fat and build muscle without getting too beefed up. If you’re still unsure of the best way to balance these two fitness categories, try some of the following moves. Some are cardio focused while others are weight based — but all promote lean muscle.

1. Stationary bike workout

men working out with stationary bikes

The stationary bike is great for getting your blood pumping. | iStock.com

Men’s Health UK recommends doing a four-minute warm-up ride on low resistance. Ride as fast as possible for 40 seconds, then pedal slowly for a 20-second recovery. Repeat 10 times. Ride as fast as possible for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. Repeat six times. Set the bike to a low resistance and ride slowly for three minutes to cool down. The total workout will take about 20 minutes

2. Rowing machine workout

Man on a rowing machine at the gym

The rowing machine is a great mix of cardio and weights that will help you get lean. | iStock.com

This 20-minute exercise, also from Men’s Health UK, will help build arm muscles while simultaneously slimming your gut.

Do a warm-up row on a resistance of about five for three minutes. Elevate the resistance to level 10, then row as hard and as fast as you can for 30 seconds. With the resistance still high, grab the handle with an underhand grip and row for 60 seconds at a moderate pace (so you can still catch your breath). Repeat seven times. Then, alternate between rowing for 15 seconds at a fast pace and 15 seconds at a slow pace. Do this for seven minutes. Cool down at a slow pace for three minutes.

3. Alternating chest punches

A resistance band

Your chest and arms will get lean and strong with this exercise. | iStock.com

All you need is a resistance band to complete this fast-paced, muscle-building workout from Today.

With your feet hip-width apart, stand with one foot forward and the other back. Then, with your resistance band looped around a bar or doorknob behind you, punch right and left. Do this 100 times on each side.

4. Static kettlebell lunge

Man doing squats with a kettlebell

Use a kettlebell for definition in your legs. | iStock.com

In order to build lean muscle specifically in your legs, try this move from Muscle & Fitness.

Start by holding a kettlebell on either side of your body, palms inward. Keep your left foot forward and right foot about 30 inches behind you, placing your weight on the ball of your foot. Keep knees slightly bent with your head facing forward, spine straight. Then, lower your right knee until it’s one inch off the floor. Raise up, pushing off your front leg without locking your knees. Keep feet in place and do two sets of 20 reps on each leg.

5. Alligator plank

Planks at the gym

Planks are excellent for strengthening your core. | iStock.com

Want to build a strong yet lean upper body and core? Self recommends going back to your primal roots with this move called the alligator that sculpts your abs, back, shoulders, and triceps.

Start in a modified plank with your elbows bent tight to your sides. Then shift your weight forward, keeping your abs engaged. Walk your right hand forward three inches, dragging your feet with you. Repeat on the left side. Continue this for 30 seconds.