How do I build muscle without getting bulky:
Updated: Feb 27
One of the common comments I hear from my female clients is Please don’t give me any weights work I don’t want any muscles I just want to tone.
The reasons kinda change from client to client but most often they seem to be based on a misunderstanding of what muscle is and how we build it, what it has to do with weight loss or some combination of the above.
There’s a lot of misinformation outside of the fitness world about muscles and what they do so I’d like to explain the realities behind the myths.
WHAT IS MUSCLE?
When I was younger I’d never really thought about what the stuff between my skin and my bones was made of.
I understood that muscles were what bodybuilders had and fat was something that made you fat and that I had some of each.
I think though that I believed that they existed inside some kind of other substance that filled the space between my skin and my bones.
Then in secondary school I learned that in a healthy person most of this magical stuff was just muscle and that aside from my body’s networks of organs, blood vessels nerves, and my skeleton there isn’t really much under my skin except for muscle and fat.
I learned that muscles were an incredible network of fibres that allowed me to move my limbs, to stay sitting or standing upright, to talk, breathe, and pretty much to translate any thought I had into action of some kind.
I learned that if I didn’t use them, muscles would shrink and weaken and if I did they’d grow stronger And I learned that as my muscles grew stronger so did I.
All of this was quite new to me at the time so I can understand the confusion that many of my clients have on why they want to tone without building muscles.
The truth though is that muscle is the only thing under their skin that can be toned and that toning often simply means that muscles become slightly more visible which then makes the whole body look smoother and firmer.
So without enough muscle to start with, there’s nothing there that can be toned.
BULIDING THE RIGHT SIZED MUSCLES
Often the clients I speak to don’t have a problem with the idea of a little muscle.
The problem is that many don’t realise it isn’t an all or nothing thing.
Unfortunately because of the lack of clear information out there in the media the only image they have to associate women with muscle is one of a female bodybuilder at the peak of her competition physique.
Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting type of physique if that’s a client’s aim but for most of the women I speak to the possibility of developing such large defined muscles is really quite scary!
Those kinds of muscles don’t happen quickly or easily.
Really large muscles require long, intense workouts over a period of time and a base level of testosterone a hormone most women don’t have in sufficient quantities without the use of steroids anyway for size to become a problem although there are women with naturally high testosterone levels and many people believe any kind of weights work will automatically increase muscle size.
The truth is that not all training produces size increases.
There are a number of things you can play with in strength training the heaviness of the weight the number of repetitions of the movement and the time you allow yourself to rest between groups of repetitions or sets.
To be honest with you training with a heavy weight and low repetitions in each set will increase strength.
training with a medium to heavy weight and medium repetitions will increase muscle size and training with a lighter weight with high repetitions per set will increase endurance.
In practice it’s not actually quite this simple and there are other factors to consider.
The important point is that not all training will increase muscle size, some muscle is necessary if you want to tone and that working with a good Personal Trainer will help ensure you get only the results that you want from your training.