Trying to lose body fat while building lean muscle is going to take time and consistency. Most importantly, it's going to take the right style of training. According to Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center, to build muscle, resistance training is a nonnegotiable.
How to Create Your Workout
Going to the gym and doing a few sets of lunges and hip thrusts won't suffice. Instead, you need to have a strategy. First, Rondel said, to build muscle, you should follow a program that focuses on muscle hypertrophy (maximal muscle growth). In this phase, Rondel said, "You need to factor in your rep ranges." To get max results, he said to do three to five sets of 12 to 15 reps per exercise.
The Exercises You Should Be Doing to Build Muscle
"In addition to that, you can also do heavy lifting . . . like compound lifts, [such as] squats and deadlifts, where you can do a little more weight," Rondel said. For these lifts, Rondel said to do eight reps or less lifting a minimum weight of 80 percent of your one-rep max. When you lift weight that's closer to your one-rep max, you get a hormonal boost because your system senses you're under stress and that your skeletal system is under stress from lifting heavy, Rondel explained. This boost is in the form of testosterone, an anabolic hormone that helps your muscles grow. If you aren't sure how to choose the right weight, use this guide.
What Your Weekly Program Should Look Like
If you're wondering what a week's worth of training should look like, Rondel said to do a minimum of two to three days of weightlifting per week. "You can go heavy on a Monday, do more reps on Wednesday, and then heavy on Friday," he said. Another option is to train in the hypertrophy phase for two weeks, followed by two weeks of strength (heavier weight with fewer reps and sets), then returning to the hypertrophy phase for two weeks. "That way, you're just giving your body a different stimulus every time as you get stronger and you develop more muscle tissue," he said. "Both of them (ways of lifting) combined will give you the best results with regard to gaining muscle."
Rondel explained that gaining muscle is tough and strength training alone won't cut it. "You definitely have to factor in the quality of your nutrition and the timing of your nutrition — when you eat," he said. "When developing [muscle] tissue, you always want to be in an anabolic state (your body is building muscle), where you have the necessary energy in your body for your system to build tissue," Rondel explained. This means you shouldn't go long periods of time without eating, as that will make your muscle-gaining capacity decrease.
Start building muscle with the following workouts: