bear mode vs lean which physique is better

Bear Mode Vs. Lean: Which Physique Is Better?

Bodybuilding pursuits can take your body composition in a variety of different directions, but two of the most popular body types are “bear mode” and a lean physique. 

“Bear mode” involves slightly higher levels of body fat and muscle mass while a lean physique will have more muscle definition. Neither is objectively superior, it’s a matter of personal preference. 

Here, we will look at both body types in more detail and outline their pros and cons, as well as give some insight into how you can achieve them.

Bear mode

With this body type, the clue is in the name; a bear mode physique is big and powerful with high muscle mass, particularly around areas of the upper body like the shoulders, chest, and arms. Your body fat percentage will be at the higher end of the healthy body fat range, somewhere in the 15-20% body fat range.

Pros of Bear Mode

  • Strength – The bear mode physique focuses on muscle building and with this comes increases in strength. This will help your performance in the gym with various different lifts and also create benefits during everyday life.
  • Size – With muscle growth comes increases in your overall size and, for many people, this is the desired look. The bear mode physique looks particularly good in clothes and will certainly give you a big, powerful look as your traps, deltoids, arms, and chest will be prominent.
  • Satiated – To keep your body fat percentage in the 15-20% body fat range, your calorie intake needs to be at a certain level, and this level is usually quite high. As such, you’ll be eating fairly large amounts of food and so hunger won’t be much of an issue. 

Cons of Bear Mode

  • Less definition – With a higher body fat level, the bear mode physique has less muscle definition than a more athletic body type and so you’ll have a slightly ‘softer’ look when topless. For some, this isn’t an issue but others might prefer to aim for something more like a beach body, which is more toned.
  • More food – While eating more food will reduce cravings and keep you feeling satisfied for longer, there can be issues with having to eat more food than you’re used to. Being in a caloric surplus – where you’re consuming more calories than you’re expending in order to achieve weight gain – comes with challenges. Eating large quantities of food can sometimes cause fatigue and it can also get quite expensive.

How to achieve bear mode


Your body fat level is an important aspect of the bear mode physique, but any weight gain must be controlled and measured. If you’re needing to increase your weight, then aim for a 100-300 calorie surplus each day. This is sustainable and will ensure you’re not adding too much body fat.

Alongside a healthy diet, you should also be lifting weights regularly and focusing on hypertrophy. Your sets should be in the 5-8 rep range and you should aim to be lifting roughly 60% of your one-rep max.

Lean physique

Conversely, a lean physique will have a lower body fat level – usually in the 10-12% body fat range. Your overall body weight will be lower and you will have much more definition and muscle separation, which creates an appealing look when you’re topless.

Pros of a lean physique

  • More definition – As mentioned, your body will be more toned and the contours of your muscles will be more pronounced when you have a lean physique. This is most beneficial when you’re topless and can show off the hard work you’ve been putting in.
  • Athleticism – With lower body weight and higher levels of lean muscle, your body will be more athletic, flexible, and responsive. This can help with sporting performance as well as improve your overall quality of life. 

Cons of a lean physique

  • Decreased strength – By limiting the amount you eat to keep your body fat levels in a certain range, you’ll also cause a decrease in strength potential. If aesthetics, rather than performance, are more of a concern for you then this isn’t much of an issue.
  • Limited calories  – In order to avoid fat gain, you’ll need to keep a very close eye on your diet and daily calories. Most people will also need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight and fat to make their muscles more defined. This is difficult to do, even with tools like a calorie calculator, and is particularly hard to maintain over a long period of time.

How to achieve a lean physique


The ideal approach to achieving a lean physique is to adopt a clean diet with monitored calories as well as a workout routine that involves both resistance and cardio training. If you need to be in a calorie deficit, then aim to consume 200-300 fewer calories per day than your maintenance amount.

Final Thoughts

The main difference between the bear mode physique and a lean body is the level of body fat present. With bear mode, you’ll still be within the healthy range of body fat percentage, but at the higher end of it. For a lean physique, you’ll be closer to 10% body fat. 

Which body type you choose will depend on the type of lifestyle you want to commit to; bear mode allows for more calories but requires heavier lifting, whereas a lean physique is considered more aesthetically attractive to some but demands a strict diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you look more muscular when lean?

When topless, you may actually look more muscular if you have a lean physique as opposed to bear mode because your muscles are much more defined and so look bigger. However, when wearing clothing a bear mode physique looks more muscular.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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