What types of exercise will help me build long, lean muscle?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Some exercises that help build long, lean muscles include walking, dancing, and most importantly, resistance training. In this video, I will explain why strength training is essential for building muscle.
Wendy Batts

This is a common question that we often hear as professionals. It can also be heard as “how can I get the long lean dancer’s look?” We can do stretches to improve our posture and have a “longer” appearance in a certain sense because we aren’t bent at the hips or rounded at the shoulders. However, we cannot lengthen our muscles in the sense that this question suggests. Our muscles attach where they attach and we cannot detach them, lengthen them and reattach them.

Often improving posture and losing weight will do a lot to improve your appearance and will probably give you the look that you are hoping for. Losing weight involves burning more calories than you eat which means incorporating a sensible reduced calorie diet and increasing your physical activity.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
A combination of cardio and resistance training will add lean muscle to your body. And not consuming protein right afterwords…protein afterwords increases water in the muscle which makes muscles look bulky but doesn’t strengthen them.  So avoid protein shakes etc for 2 hrs after exercise.  Once you are warm (like after you’re done working out), stretching mayhelp elongate your muscles and make your body more limber.
Any type of resistance training or strenuous physical activity that your body is not accustomed to can lead to building muscle. Whether or not this muscle is "long" depends upon your physical structure. Those with shorter tendonous attachments tend to have longer appearing muscles as compared those that have longer tendonous attachments and shorter muscle bellies. You were born with the instructions for the muscle length you will achieve in adulthood. Now, whether or not you are lean and the muscles appear "toned" depends upon your level of bodyfat. Those with lower bodyfat are leaner and have less fat over the muscle. So, to have long, lean muscle you must have a combination of genetic traits and low bodyfat. Certain types of exercise (such as Pilates and yoga) are often thought to build bodies that are long and lean, when in fact they do not. Often, those that are long and lean seem to already gravitate towards these styles of exercise. Just remember, with exercise you cannot alter your basic physical shape characteristics, but you can make any muscle larger or smaller through activity or neglect. How much fat you have over the muscle will affect how lean you appear.

Continue Learning about Types Of Exercise Programs

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.