• Joshua Li

10 Exercises To Build Lean Mass

A guide for choosing best exercises for building lean muscle mass

For different level of fitness level, exercises selection will be different according to goals and ability. On this article we will be focusing on 10 best exercises which can maximise the hypertrophy of lean muscle mass for general population who is injury free.

In general, there are a few factors we can look into to determine how much would an exercise more likely to result in gaining more muscle mass than the others. Firstly, an exercise would provide more hypertrophic result when it allows you to recruit more muscle groups and that is why compound movements are inherently “superior” when it comes to building mass, when more muscle fibres are being recruited across multiple joints.

Secondly, the total distance the weight has to travel for full ROM (range of motion.) For instance, lifting stuff up from the floor will require more energy output than just bending your arms regardless how intense you try to curl.

Lastly, how much the exercises contributes to the big 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy determine the growth it can maximise, which the three being:

Mechanical Tension: which equates to muscular force. The higher intensity you perform, the higher the mechanical tension is.

Metabolic Stress: which equates to “the pump” created by the constant tension being put on the muscle throughout the movement.

Muscle damage: equates to the DOMS (deployed onset muscle soreness) which is the result of muscle cell being torn apart and inflamed for nutrients to go in and rebuild. A good amount will be where your muscle is recovered when you just about to train them again, where the soreness doesn’t impact your performance at the gym for progressive overloading.

There you have probably guessed it already, a hypertrophic oriented workout would put emphasise each mechanism and utilise them at its best for selected exercises.

For mechanical tension

Big compound exercises would be best for creating maximum metabolic stress as they would be the strength indicator lifts, or main lifts in your program which you strike to progressively overload them in higher priority. Mechanical Tension basically mean good ol fashioned heavy lifting where you give a few hard slaps on your thighs before getting on with your set. A good rep range for creating good level of metallic stress would be in between 5-8 rep range.

Chest: Flat/ Decline Barbell Chest Press

Back: Bentover Barbell Row, T-Bar Row

Shoulders: Seated Dumbbell Military Press

Legs: Squat

Arms: Barbell Curls/ EZ bar

For metabolic stress

Constant tension is the key for creating optimal metabolic stress. In order to creating quality constant tension, the whole set should be performed with continuous cadence (0sec rest between reps, tension on targeted muscle group throughout.) Steady constant muscular contractions would able blood ti stay in the veins to result high level of metabolic stress and feel swelling which eventually causes hypertrophy. Taking sets to technical failure where you can still maintain good form in a higher reps fashion with less rest period (less than one minute) in between would be recommended for optimal results.

Chest: Cable/ Dumbbell Flyes

Back: Seated Cable Row, Machine Lats Pull Down

Shoulders: Cable/ Dumbbells Lateral Raise

Legs: Seated Leg Extension, Lying Hamstring Curl

Arms: Preacher Curls, Cable Rope Pushdown

For Muscle Damage

For levels of muscle damage being created in a session, it can be assessed roughly with the soreness you get after the session for 12-48 hours. It is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS.) A training style with slow and controlled eccentric/ negatives part of the lift, extended range of motion with high tension in the stretch position would optimise result of muscle damage.

However, too high level of muscle damage where your muscles are still in crippling pain when you train them again would be counterproductive as your training performance being compromised. Hence, training frequency and intensity should be tailored for individual abilities and level of experience. Training big muscle groups like chest, back , legs at least once a week would be recommended for 12-20sets in total.

Bottom line for hypertrophy is get good at weight selection, program intelligently with factors we discussed above and TRAIN HARD.

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