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Lean-Body Secrets from Top Trainers That You Should Try Now

Take it from the pros.

If you're trying to get fit and lean, starting up a new fitness regimen can feel both intimidating and overwhelming. There are endless "experts," influencers, strategies, and tips that claim to hold the key to a stronger physique. It's important, however, not to fall for the fitness flavor of the month.

"Using your friend's fitness program or the latest trendy diet may sound like a good quick fix, but what works for one person isn't always best for another," wrote personal trainer and fitness coach Darla Leal for VeryWellFit. Plus, not all fitfluencers have proper training from a legitimate fitness or sports medicine program, such as the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Council of Exercise, so their workout tips might cause more harm than good.

So, how should you approach reaching your fitness goals? Nutritious eating and regular exercise should be the foundation of any routine. Prioritizing the advice and input of experts always helps, too. We spoke to a number of legitimate fitness pros about some more specific ways to build muscle and tone fat. Read on to learn some legit fitness tips to help you get lean and strong. And to learn more ways to trim down, be sure to check out These Walking Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.

Lift first, then get to cardio

young couple lifting weights
Shutterstock/Syda Productions

Tons of people despise cardio and opt to get it out of the way early in their workouts. But if toning down is your end goal, hitting the weights first then moving onto cardio is a better way to get lean fast. For example, this small study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that men who did cardio after their resistance training (with a short break in between) saw greater fat burning than those who just did cardio.

"You'll build more muscle by lifting weights first since you have more muscle glycogen [aka carbohydrates] stored up to use as energy," explains certified personal trainer Josh Schlottman, CPT, CSCS. "It'll be significantly more difficult to have a great heavy resistance weight lifting workout if you're depleted of glycogen because you did cardio first."

Meanwhile, lifting weights or strength training first uses up those stored carbs for energy, then your body switches over to burning stored fat for energy during cardio, Schlottman says. "This will get you lean fast," he says. "Add on at least 10 minutes but preferably up to 30 to 40 minutes of cardio after you lift weights to maximize your fat burning," he adds. Want to know more about strength training? Read this: What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Lifting Weights.

Maximize your workout


It may not seem like a big deal to check your phone between sets or scroll through playlists for five minutes to set the perfect mood for your workout, but all those wasted moments add up quickly. The average American reportedly checks their phone roughly every 12 minutes, so you're certainly not alone—but the habit may be sabotaging your fitness endeavors.

"Maximize the amount of work being done during the duration of workout. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lean out is spending too much time resting during workouts," says TJ Mentus, CPT, of Garage Gym Reviews. Most people doing a traditional bodybuilding workout need no more than a minute of rest between sets, he adds. Take more if you're feeling particularly winded, but don't go overboard and lose momentum. "Use a timer if needed to keep yourself on track and resist the urge to check the phone every rest."

Spice things up


Variety is the spice of life, but it also may be the key to a lean, toned physique. The human body is quite adept at adapting to a particular routine or exercise if we engage in it too regularly. By changing up your workout, whether by simply adding more reps or going for entirely new exercises, you're essentially telling your body not to become complacent.

Research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports that changing up exercises is a better way to build muscle strength than simply adding on more weight to the same old workouts.

"If you are looking to constantly lose fat and get lean, you should be challenging your body at every level. Instead of doing the same workout over and over again, change things up and make it more difficult. Include drop sets, change the number of reps, increase intensity, or simply change the exercise pattern. The idea is to constantly challenge your body to change, and hitting it from all angles to continue losing fat," comments Rohan Arora, CPT, the founder and CEO of GainingTactics. Looking for some new workout ideas? Don't miss The Best Abs Exercises for People Over 60.

Add some inclines

walking on treadmill

Walking is a great way to get some leisurely physical activity and promote leanness. However, mixing in some incline, or uphill walking, into your routine will be that much more effective. "Walking uphill increases the challenge and allows you to burn more calories," says Jordan Duncan, DC, MDT, of Silverdale Sport and Spine. "Working against gravity makes the body less efficient at its storage and release of energy, creating a much better workout."

If your regular walking route is lacking in hills, hit the treadmill instead. "If you're reducing or wanting to shed body fat but don't want to jeopardize your endurance or growth goals, one of my favorite tactics is to walk on the treadmill at a steep inclination and a slow pace," recommends Tyler Read, CPT, CEO of PTPioneer. "You can also lift weights or walk while bicep curling light dumbbells to amp up the intensity." Speaking of walking, here are the Ways Walking Secretly Extends Your Life.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more about John