Most big life changes aren't made overnight, especially when it comes to hitting fitness goals. Toning and sculpting muscles takes time and effort. But sometimes things come up where you want to set a shorter-term fitness goal, say before a wedding or other kind of formal event. What to do then?
First of all, time to set your expectations a tad. If you only have one month to make some magic, you may not be able to achieve washboard abs. But you can surely make some difference in your muscle tone and fitness with the right approach.
"Getting leaner and dropping body fat is no easy task—no matter your fitness level or age—but there are three things to consider in any program targeted towards shedding pounds and getting a ripped lean look: nutrition, exercises that support your nutrition plan, and consistency," says Lee Jimenez, NASM-CPT, yoga teacher and XPRO for YogaSix GO.
Not sure where to start on the fitness front? Here are the best exercise tips that will help you gain lean muscle mass and slim down in one month. Plus, you'll have the fitness foundations (and good habits) to set you up for longer-term gains.
Try HIIT for a quick calorie burn
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best fat-burning workouts out there. HIIT, which has you alternate between sets of rapid-fire movements followed by brief periods of rest, has been shown to burn more visceral fat (aka the belly fat that's hard to lose) than other types of exercises. "It also involves a lot of resistance training exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, and abs workouts balanced with cardio, which means you're bound to engage your muscles and help them grow while burning plenty of calories simultaneously," Jimenez says.
Include a variety of HIIT training programs to optimize the effects and aim to train at least 3-4 days a week. (If you're older or have joint issues, go for fewer sessions to avoid overtaxing your body.) You can do those with weights for some added resistance or just do bodyweight alone. And for more exercise tips, check out: Want a Lean Body? Do This One Exercise Over All Others, Say Experts.
Add in weight training to define muscles
Strength training is incredibly important when it comes to achieving a lean body since you're specifically targeting muscles through weighted movements in order to sculpt and define and burn fat.
"Besides muscle growth, weight training helps improve your bone density and prevent injury, as the excess weight on your body promotes your bone cells to build up," Jimenez says. This lowers risk of osteoporosis later in life and of fractures, injuries and other accidents like slips and falls.
"Increased strength prevents injury and helps boost your metabolism given that your body needs more calories to sustain your increased muscle mass," he says. And that also boosts your metabolism at rest (since muscle burns more calories than fat), so you burn more calories throughout the day outside of your workout sessions. For a great beginner workout to get started, be sure to read: Try This Simple Bodyweight Workout to Burn Fat and Get Lean.
Maintain an active lifestyle
Adults are supposed to get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, per the American Heart Association, but you don't have to clock all of those minutes at the gym to get healthy and lean. Those calories burned through a leisurely walk or simply standing over sitting will add up.
"Whether it's working at a standing desk, taking a break from sitting down every 30 to 60 minutes, or finding small chores to do around the house, find unique ways to get active," Jimenez says. For example, park farthest away from the grocery store when doing errands. Better yet? If you are only getting a few quick essentials, go the distance by foot.
Combine cardio and weights
Cardio combined with strength training truly is the most effective method for leaning out, says Jimenez, since you're blasting fat and calories through cardio and toning muscles through resistance training.
"Begin with moderate cardio for 20 minutes alongside your weight training program," Jimenez recommends. "Cardio contributes to the increased calorie burn throughout your body and weight training promotes muscle growth and will boost your metabolism, even after you're done exercising," he explains. You should be working out three to four times a week for best results, he says. Looking for some ideas? Check out: These 8-Minute Pre-Breakfast Workouts Will Help You Get Lean, Says Trainer.
Track results in an exercise journal
Sometimes it can be hard to notice progress at first—which can make it super discouraging. Jimenez recommends keeping a journal to track your workouts, as well as energy levels, appetite, mood, and other metrics that can impact performance. You can also take pictures and add them to the journal for a weekly check-in. "This keeps you motivated especially when we experience a plateau in our training," he says. Remind yourself of how far you have come and celebrate that every day. And for more ideas, check out the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.