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Lean-Body Secrets from Top Trainers You Should Try Now 

Want to get leaner, fitter, and stronger? Try these tricks—straight from the top fitness gurus.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

When it comes to building a leaner body at any age, the number one thing that top trainers know, says Todd Schroeder, Ph.D, an Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy at University of Southern California and Director of the USC Clinical Exercise Research Center, is that patience is everything. In all likelihood, it will take weeks—perhaps months—of exercise before you start to notice visible improvements staring back at you in the mirror. "So don't be discouraged if you don't feel like anything is happening the first few weeks after you start a new program," he explained to NBC News.

The second thing that all top trainers know? No matter how un-fit you may feel, if you stick to your regular program, you will see results. This is why it's important to stay positive, think bigger, always stay the course, and remind yourself that you can do it. After all, even if you've only just begun your journey toward a lean, toned physique, take comfort in the fact that you already have six pack abs. All you have to do now is reveal them to the rest of the world. "Everyone has six-pack abs, you just can't see them if you have too much abdominal fat covering those muscles," Schroeder explained.

Want to lean up so you can have a better chance of seeing them? Sure, it will take time, but there are a number of helpful tips, tricks, and secrets you can employ to help you reach your lean-body goals as soon as reasonably possible. Curious to what they are? Read on for some amazing lean-body secrets that top trainers and fitness experts use themselves. And for great fitness advice, don't miss The Secret to Getting a Lean Body for Good, According to Science.

1

Lift weights for your metabolism

Person locking her hands together while doing a single-leg squat with an instructor placing her leg in a strap loop

According to Robert Herbst, a 19-time World Champion powerlifter, increasing your metabolism is key to simultaneously building muscle and burning unneeded fat.

"The higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn," he explains. "The best is weightlifting exercises that involve compound movements such as squats, lunges, bench press, and deadlifts that work the major muscle groups. These exercises keep the metabolism elevated for 48 to 72 hours afterwards as the body repairs muscle that was broken down and builds new muscle. Another good type is high intensity workouts which create an oxygen debt. A combination of these over the week will make you strong, lean, and healthy."

In support of Mr. Herbst's suggestions, this study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that a combination of resistance exercises (like those outlined above) and dieting helped decrease body fat while preserving lean mass. And if you really want a lean body? Make sure you Do This One Exercise Above All Others, Say Experts.

2

Hit your ideal cardio "zone"

3 rowing machine

Besides weight training, cardio is of course another great way to activate the metabolism. Now, fat can't be burned and eliminated without oxygen. With that in mind, it's important to hit the right "sweet spot" in terms of intensity while performing cardio. You want to push your body so that it requires more oxygen than usual, but not to such a degree that it starts burning carbs instead of fat.

"If you are doing cardio with the intention of tapping into fat stores, you want your pace to be fast enough that your body requires more oxygen, hence your breathing rate increases, but not too fast that you exhaust yourself," explains Joy Puleo, M.A., PMA-CPT, Balanced Body Education Program Manager. "When your oxygen needs meet your muscle needs you are in what is often called 'the zone,' and it is a place you can sustain for a period of time. If your muscles are crying out for more and your heart rate rises too high in order to try to meet the demand, your original smart device, your body, will shut down the fat burn and burn readily available fuels, such as carbohydrates. Not the intention at all!"

Ms. Puleo notes that jogging, biking, or hiking for longer periods of time, with some "higher-intensity spikes" thrown in periodically is one way to find your zone. Additionally, HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training) can get the job done, as well, but she cautions it's a good idea to gradually build up to the especially intense or high-paced portions of such workouts. And for more life-changing exercise advice, see here for the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.

3

Do more high-rep training

adding weight to a large dumbbell
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It's going to sound simple, but sometimes the best fitness "secrets" are shrouded in simplicity. James Jackson, PT, of Critical Body says one of the easiest ways to promote leanness is to perform more reps per set.

"If you want to sculpt a lean physique, then make sure that you're doing plenty of high rep training. Performing more repetitions per set increases your calorie expenditure and boosts your metabolism, both of which help you to drop body fat quicker. This underrated training style also induces a state of hypoxia in the muscle, which can make your physique look visibly leaner and more vascular by increasing the lactate concentration in the working muscles," he comments.

Even better, Jackson adds that high-rep training helps promote shorter recovery time due to it being less strenuous for the central nervous system. In theory, that means you'll be able to work out more often and reach your lean body goals faster.

You don't have to be lifting particularly heavy weights either. Per LiveStrong, low-weight, high-rep resistance training regimens help promote decreased body fat and increased strength without the extra muscle "bulk" that's synonymous with weightlifters.

4

Spend time with fitness-minded people

Portrait of young runners enjoying workout on the sea front path along the shoreline. Running club group running along a seaside promenade.

They say birds of a feather flock together, and the same goes for fitness enthusiasts. We all have a few friends who have never seen the inside of a gym, but if you're setting out on a new fitness journey, it may behoove you to make some new exercise-minded social connections.

"The people you spend time with in your social circle have a big impact on your habits and lifestyle choices. Peer pressure is a real thing and can be used positively. A group of fit friends are more likely to organize things to do that are active in nature. They will also talk about more health related topics which will help to expand each other's knowledge of healthy habits and strategies," says TJ Mentus, CPT, of Garage Gym Reviews.

This study, published in Psychology of Sports and Exercise, backs up the connection between friends and fitness, finding that the exercise habits of close friends are indeed associated with one's own fitness routines. Working out with a partner also pushes us to put in some extra effort (since no one wants to be the weak link), as evidenced by this research published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

5

Make fitness a lifestyle, not a chore

Happy elderly couple exercising in a pilates class at the gym with three other younger people toning and strengthening their muscles using gym balls, focus to the senior man and woman

Just because you aren't physically in a gym or engaged in a full workout doesn't mean you have to put your lean-body goals on hold. As long as you're moving, you're burning calories. On days you don't have time for a long exercise session, do your best to fit in some extra motion. For example, Haven Shirley, CPT, of Betr Health Coach, usually takes three short, 10 minute walks each day after eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Similarly, even on rest days she makes an effort to get in 10 pushups every hour.

Beyond pushups and midday strolls, plenty of everyday, mundane chores and tasks represent opportunities to get a leg up on your fitness goals.

"Fire the gardener, do it yourself," comments Cathy Spencer-Browning, VP of Training & Programming at MOSSA, a group fitness provider. "Carry your own shopping bags, park far away from the entrance to the shop and get there in a hurry, take the stairs—every single time, walk around while on the phone, do your house chores the old-fashioned way—getting down on your knees. In any and every way chose movement over sitting. This will build everyday strength and a solid basis to build upon." And for more fitness news you can use, read about the surprising Side Effect of Lifting Weights Just 2 Days Per Week.

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