1. They Lift Heavy
It's true that throwing out a load of bicep curls with a light weight will give you a great pump, one that will probably be gone by the time you get home. But if you really want to make long term progress then you need to be getting heavy when your lifting. My advice is to make your main aim to get stronger and you'll find the lean muscle will follow. Also prioritise with big moves, squats, deadlifts, bench press etc. should be a staple of your routine. All these exercises combined with lifting heavy have been proven to recruit more muscle fibres meaning more lean muscle growth.
2. They Throw In Some Cardio
First of all I'm not talking about running on a treadmill for 30 minutes. If you want to get lean and ripped without losing muscle mass then HIIT or high intensity training is the way forward. Short bursts of energy at maximum effort. But the great thing is you can get really creative with how you do it. You could do it on a rower and row for 30 seconds on 30 seconds off (where the 'on' period would be near maximal effort) or if you want to make things a bit interesting throw yourself together a HIIT session with some weights or bodyweight exercises. I'm talking jumping squats, push ups, kettle bell swings etc. All these big explosive movements are perfect for chiselling a lean, athletic looking physique. The best part is that HIIT helps retain muscle whilst burning off that excess body fat AND it's also great for your overall fitness.
3. They Have A Plan And Track Progress
Big one here guys! The planning and preparation in your training plan is almost as important as the training itself. First of all decide what your goal is and stick at it. You then need an effective training programme in place that is actually designed to get you to where you want to be. Far to many people get this wrong and train in a style that gets them no where. The programmes my online bootcamp clients follow for example have been specially designed and tried and tested for two different types of goals. Check them out at the bottom of this article. Once you have your plan in place make progress every session and be sure to track your progress. Take an organised approach to your training, that is the difference between getting results and getting no where.
4. They Realise Nutrition NEEDS To Come First
Another really important one. You can not out train a bad diet. You won't reach your goals with bad nutrition, at least no where near as fast. When it comes to building lean muscle i always advise prioritising protein, so plenty of lean meats and fish etc. Carbs are fine and should not be seen as the enemy, your body needs them for energy and they also play a role in muscle growth. For getting lean however I'd recommend keeping simple carbs for post workout and try sticking to complex carbs the rest of the time.
5. They Get Some Rest Days (kind of)
So for me rest days are a bit of a grey area. I don't really believe there is any set rule for them. Some people believe that every other day should be a rest day, some take just one or two a week. Rest and recovery is important as this is when your body builds new muscle. But it come down to how and what you train. I've followed a programme before where I've trained EVERY DAY, but the programme involved a split between upper and lower body, with one day of cardio in the middle. This meant I could train my upper body and then lower body the next day, but my upper body was able to recover. The cardio in the middle meant I got a little break from heavy weights and for me it worked. BUT we are all different. You need to look at your programme and lifestyle and decide what works best for you. I'd never discourage anyone from training every day but I wouldn't encourage it either. Be mindful that you don't want to burn yourself out but if you can follow a routine that allows you to train 5, 6 or 7 times a week then go for it.
6. They CONSTANTLY Train
I don't mean you need to be in the gym lifting weights 24 hours a day. That's just silly. What I'm saying is when you see these really ripped, lean guys in the gym, on magazines or wherever, do you really think they get that shape by stopping and starting over and over again? Do you really think anyone gets ANYWHERE by doing that? Nope. Guys who are really in shape will make training a part of their every day life until it becomes out of the ordinary NOT to train. Of course things happen, we get busy with work, we take holidays etc. BUT those things are all things that can be worked around if you REALLY want to see results, OR they are a small temporary blip on the overall journey that doesn't stop you from reaching your long term goal. By stopping and starting over and over again you don't give your body the time it needs to actual change to how you want it to look. My advice on this one - man up, we ALL have time to do this. If you want to do it you'll find a way, if you don't you'll find an excuse.