build and maintain lean muscle exercises

7 Best Exercises to Build and Maintain Lean Muscle

Get stronger and stay leaner with these exercises

Lean muscle is crucial to proper health and well-being in the body. Training your lean muscle goes far beyond just looking shredded and muscular.

There is a link between lean muscle and basal metabolic rate: the number of calories your body burns at rest.

More lean muscle mass means the body burns more calories at rest. 

Maintaining your lean muscle mass also puts your body in a better position to ward off infections.


This is because the body can rely on the protein in your lean muscles to make up for the increased nutritional demands caused by the increased activity of the immune system during illnesses.

But that’s not all.

Developing and maintaining lean muscle mass can lead to stronger bones.

Bones adapt to the pressures on the body. The higher the resistance on muscles when training lean muscle mass, the stronger the bones.

In this post, we will examine some exercises you can do to maintain lean muscle.

Let’s dive in!

1. Back squats

Your workout session is never complete without squats. Squats target lower body strength, primarily working the glutes and the quads.

It helps to burn calories. Squats also improve flexibility and range of motion. 

How to do

  • Put a barbell on your upper back and spread your legs slightly.
  • While keeping your chest upright, push your knees forward and your glutes backward, and squat. 
  • Pause for a moment and then push yourself up while breathing out. This completes a rep.

2. Deadlifts

Okay, deadlifts are quite simple. It’s just lifting something from the ground and putting it back.

But don’t be fooled by its simplicity as it is one of the top lean muscle-building exercises. It majorly targets the muscles in the lower body and the back.


How to do

  • Plant your feet firmly on the ground with a barbell in front of you.
  • Grip the barbell while keeping your head forward and your back straight.
  • Lift the barbell off the ground, generating power from your hips and legs. 
  • Lower the bar to complete a rep.

3. Bench press

The bench press’s main target is the chest muscles, but the shoulder and arm muscles also benefit from it (Related: How to Lose Underarm Fat in 8 Easy Ways).

This exercise is a staple in the workout sessions of bodybuilders and powerlifters, along with the squat and deadlift. However, everyone can benefit from it.

How to do

  • Lie flat on a bench, with your hands stretched perpendicularly to your chest and your upper back tightened.
  • You may need assistance lifting the barbell to keep your upper back tightened, so get a trainer or spotter to help you lift the bar.
  • After settling the weight on your palm, slowly lift off.
  • Gently lower the barbell, allowing it to touch your chest slightly. 
  • Raise the bar back up by pushing yourself to the bench and straightening your elbows. 

4. Barbell row

The barbell row primarily targets the upper back muscles, including the latissimi dorsa, trapezius, and rhomboids.

The back muscles make up over 30% of the total body muscle mass, so training them is critical for proper lean muscle mass training.

This exercise also works muscles in the thighs, legs, and buttocks. It’s one of the most challenging exercises to build and maintain lean muscle.

How to do

  • Stand upright and hold the barbell with a double overhand grip. 
  • Hinge forward until your upper body is almost parallel with the ground.
  • Pull the barbell up till it makes contact with your stomach and gently lower it to complete a rep.

5. Barbell walking lunge

The walking lunge, like the squats, work the glutes and quads.

It provides even greater flexibility and range of motion than the squats. The walking lunge also develops the hamstring


How to do

  • Grip a barbell with both hands and pull it over your head.
  • Move one leg forward and assume a lunge position, with both legs bent and the knee of your back leg very near the ground.
  • Generate strength from the heel of the foot in front and return the leg at the back to the starting position to complete a rep.
  • Repeat for the other leg.

6. Shoulder press

Shoulder press, as the name suggests, targets the muscles in the shoulder.

Aside from building muscle in the deltoids, it can also build and strengthen the triceps. For proper execution, shorten your range of motion and focus solely on the deltoids.

How to do

  • Sit on a bench directly under a barbell.
  • Grip the bar and pull it towards your chest, just beneath your chin.
  • Push the bar back up to complete a rep.

Related: 7 Easy Dumbbell Exercises That Work Your Core

7. Barbell curls

This exercise focuses on the biceps. It helps to activate muscles on bicep heads. You will need strong wrists to pull off this exercise.

This exercise is common in professional weight lifters’ workout routine, but everyone can benefit from it to maintain and build lean muscle mass.


How to do

  • In an upright position with your legs together, hold a barbell with the underhand grip.
  • Without the bar touching your body and keeping your head facing forward, gently curl the barbell up.
  • Lower the bar while squeezing your biceps to complete a rep.


Building and maintaining lean muscle mass is crucial to body health, and these exercises will help you build lean muscle mass.

However, you need to take care when doing these exercises.

Don’t overdo it to avoid injuries and if you’re not sure or comfortable with one, just move to another one.

Related: Fat vs Muscle: The Ultimate Guide to Differences & Role in Weight Loss