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Ways To Build Lean Muscle: My Top Ten Exercises!

Ways To Build Lean Muscle

Building lean muscle is a great way to achieve a fit, toned, and youthful body. Aesthetics aside, lean muscles can also help to keep your bones strong and healthy. The idea of “muscle building” can feel a little daunted! But don’t be afraid.

There are many ways to build lean muscle, with or without equipment. I have chosen my top ten favorite exercises to help build lean muscle. You will find a link to an instructional video for each exercise, to help you along the way! Exercises which can be performed at home have “at home” next to them, so you know you can do them without stepping foot into the gym. 

If you have medical concerns, consult your doctor before embarking on your muscle-building journey. If you don’t already have a gym membership, it’s worth heading to your local gym and booking an appointment with a trainer so they can go through the following exercises with you, to ensure your form is safe and effective.  

Top 10 Exercises To Build Lean Muscle 

(Visuals Of The Top Ten Exercises!)

Squats – at home

Squats are a great compound exercise which work the glutes, hamstrings, quads and core. You can start by doing simple bodyweight squats, and then move on to weighed squats with dumbbells or a bar. 


  • Targets the lower body and the core
  • Can be modified according to ability level  
  • Helps to improve balance 
  • Burns calories (especially if you add some weight)!

Burpees – at home 

I had to put burpees on the list! As harrowing and torturous as they can be, they really are a great exercise to add to your muscle-building repertoire. Burpees aren’t going to make you bulky or extremely muscular, but they will absolutely help you shed fat and strengthen many muscle groups. The pure motion of lowering yourself to the ground and immediately shooting back up is enough to get your heart rate rising, as well as blasting your core, glutes, and leg muscles! Remember to concentrate on proper form to ensure your muscles are being sufficiently worked. 

It’s easy to flail around and throw yourself on the ground, but your best to complete each burped with precision, so you engage your muscles correctly and allow them to work hard.


  • Burns calories and helps to target fat 
  • Helps to improve endurance and overall fitness
  • Targets all muscle groups (there’s no hiding from a burpee)
  • No equipment or large spaces required  

Press-Ups or Push-Ups — at home 

The press-up (or push-up) is a classic exercise known for targeting the shoulders, arms, and chest. While it may remind you of army drills, it’s actually for everyone! You can start off by doing a kneeling press-up until your strength builds enough to get onto those toes. Remember to keep your back straight and activate your core! 


  • Helps to build a lean upper body
  • Targets the core (always a welcome benefit)
  • Can be done anywhere
  • No equipment required
  • Can be modified to make easier or harder 

Dumbbell Lateral Raises — at home with small weights 

Dumbbell lateral raises are a beginner-friendly exercise to help build lean muscle in the shoulder region. If you’ve ever heard someone refer to working out their “delts," they are referring to their “deltoids”. The deltoid muscles are located at the top of the arm and shoulder. Lateral raises help to tone and define the deltoids, giving your shoulders a lean and strong appearance.Make sure to use slow and controlled movements, as advised in the video. Stick to lighter weights and perfect form, as heavy weights will only cause you to jar and jolt your muscles in a treacherous way. 


  • Tones and defines the shoulders 
  • Can be done easily and safely by beginners 
  • Encourages proper weight-lifting form 

Romanian Deadlifts — at home with small weights 

It’s a scary-sounding name, but Romanian deadlifts are surprisingly easy when done with careful form. While holding a weight, you simply hinge your body at the hips and lean forward, keeping the back completely flat. Using your glutes and hamstrings you return back to standing position. Romanian deadlifts help to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings, creating lean and lovely muscles! You don’t need to start with a heavy-weighted barbell, you can use a kettlebell or some dumbbells. Start off light and perfect your form first (like with all weighted exercises). 


  • Works the glutes, hamstrings and the lower back 
  • Strengthens the hips 
  • Can be done with different kinds of weights according to strength levels 
  • Helps to promote proper form and control when working with weights 

Russian Twist — at home 

The Russian twist is an exercise you can easily do at home. This seated exercise strengthens and tones the core muscles including the oblique muscles at the sides of the core. The lower back also gets a workout! You can make this exercise harder by holding a heavy object or weight.


  • Targets the core and lower back muscles 
  • Can be done at home 
  • Can be made harder by adding a weighted object 

Leg Press

The leg press is a gym staple. This exercise really burns the glutes, hamstrings and quads, helping to carve out lean and strong muscles. Many people actually prefer to practice the leg press as an alternative to the squat. 


  • Works the glutes, hamstrings, and quads
  • Weight can be adjusted according to strength 
  • Gives your glutes a workout without pressuring your back  

Kettlebell Swings - at home

For those of you who don’t know, kettlebells are bell-shaped weights with a handle at the top (in simple terms). Kettlebells are very versatile and can be used for many different exercises, but one of the most popular is the kettlebell swing. This dynamic exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, core, and shoulders. Lean, strong muscles are a major benefit of adding kettlebell swings to your lean muscle-building routine. 


  • Gets your heart rate going! 
  • Works a wide range of muscles
  • Builds power and endurance 

Planks – at home 

Here is another at-home exercise! The plank is a popular exercise because it really hits the core in a big way. Planks won’t actually pile the muscle onto your frame, but they will certainly help to tone your muscles, promoting a lean and strong figure. There are so many variations of planks, give them all a try to see which suits you best!


  • Works many muscle groups, especially the core
  • Can be done at home
  • Can be modified due to ability level 

Triceps Bench Dips — at home 

If you have a coffee table or solid chair at home, you can tone your triceps with dips! The backs of the arms can be rather difficult to tone for some people (especially women), but you can work your way toward building lean triceps by repeating this simple exercise.  


  • Tones the triceps 
  • Engages and strengthens the core muscles 
  • Can be done at home
  • Can be made harder as you get stronger (move the legs further out)!


Visuals Of The Top Ten Exercises!



Hopefully, I have answered you question, “What are the best exercises to help build lean muscle?” with our top ten favorite exercises. Give the “at home” exercises a try and be sure to follow along with the expert trainers in the videos provided. Remember to take rest days to let your muscles repair and grow back leaner and stronger.