The best exercises to do if you want a leaner body

Whether it’s upper or lower body bulk you want to banish, not all cardio will give you your desired result. Flow Atheltic director Ben shares how best to target each part of your body. 

Everyone has different body goals and body types but for those of you looking to achieve a leaner body there are certain tweaks that you may want to make to your exercise routine.

Many of us will hold bulk in different areas, be it the legs, thighs or the arms, or shoulders. While spot training is not really a productive way to achieve your goals, there are some things you can do to ensure you are training your entire body without bulking those areas.

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In order to reduce bulk, you need to do some cardio but be mindful of the types of cardio you are doing. If you are trying to reduce the bulk on your legs for example, walking or jogging on a flatter surface or swimming are great exercises to be doing in opposed to cycling, stair runs and doing other activities that can bulk up your legs (regardless of that activity being cardio).

If your upper body is the issue for you, you may try to reduce activities that bulk your shoulders such as swimming laps (maybe try kick boarding instead) or burpees. Instead opt for walking, running, cycling and the like.

Resistance training

Resistance training is amazing because it can help you burn fat for up to 38 hours post-workout. When it comes to resistance training, I would recommend as a general guideline to do 3-4 sessions per week.

Again, think of your goals. If you are trying to reduce the bulk in your legs, you may opt to not go as low or heavy into squats and maybe try a scooter/ ballet/ curtsey style lunge instead of the traditional 90 x 90 lunges

If your upper body is what you are trying to lean, you may want to avoid overhead presses and anything that puts too much pressure on your shoulders/ traps.

Generally speaking, you would also aim to lift lighter weights and do more reps in opposed to lifting very heavy weights and doing less reps. The latter is generally how you would train if you are looking to bulk up

Here are some of my favourite exercises to consider for legs

3 rounds x 20 reps each.

  • Lunge with your back leg straight. Using a sliding disc (or piece of paper) under your back foot, lunge into your front leg while pushing your back leg backwards but keeping it straight. Come back to standing for 1 rep. Do 20 per side.
  • Side lunges, with the disc again, lunge into your standing leg pushing your glutes back, and pushing your leg on the disc out to the side. Stand up straight again to complete 1 rep. Do 20 a side.
  • Clams: lying on your side with your legs at 90 degrees, lift your top leg up keeping it parallel to the resting leg and lower.
  • Leg in and out: Still lying on your side, bring your knee in towards your stomach, squeezing your stomach as you do and then straighten in back out again in line with the rest of your body, squeeze your leg and butt and you do this. That is 1 rep.
  • Leg lift and lower while still lying down. Make sure this is controlled so you get something out of it.

For arms

If you are struggling with traps or bulky shoulders always make sure you roll your shoulders back and make sure they don’t feel tense as you are training. I would also recommend trying to minimise over the head work which tends to get into the neck, shoulders and traps.

Exercises like bicep curls, chest press, tricep dips, and rows will all be good for your arms and back. Push-ups are a great full-body exercise, but if you are feeling them in your shoulders, try doing them on your knees and being more controlled with the action

Ben Lucas is the Director of Flow Athletic.

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