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How do I tighten and tone without bulking up?

In order for you to “bulk up” your muscles have to be stimulated to undergo hypertrophy. This is accomplished through specific repetition ranges and high volumes of isolated resistance training. If you maintain a repetition range between 12 and 25 per set, the likelihood of “bulking up” is minimized.

The best way to tighten and tone without bulking up is to use high repititions and low weights. Depending on your fitness level you may want to start with 2 sets of 12 reps, go from exercise to exercise in a circuit without rest, take a short break between circuits, then go through again. Do chest, triceps, back, biceps, shoulders, legs, and abs. Another option is to do timed exercises as opposed to counting. Perform each exercise for 1 minute, push yourself and do as many as possible for that minute, then continue on to the next exercise.

Sadie Nardini
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

Have you seen the yoga body? Long, lean, often confused with a dancer's physique. If you want your body, whatever shape it is, to get stronger but longer, yoga is a great choice. It doesn't build contracted muscles like, say, lifting weights, because you're always stretching the muscles you work. Plus, you use your muscle groups holistically (many at once) rather than concentrating a huge amount of weight in one place. You may want to avoid classes that do a lot of boot-camp-like lunges or repetitive push-ups, or styles that encourage super-long holds. Instead, try a more flowing style, like vinyasa, something that makes you work, but doesn't overly fatigue your muscles or leave you terribly sore the next few days. You'll tone, but not bulk when you play this edge, and err on the side of doing less to get more of what you want from your yoga practice.

The science of bulking versus tightening and toning is quite simple.  

To bulk:
You need to increase lean muscle tissue and/or increase body fat without a decrease in the other.  If one or both increase and the other does not decrease you will have an increase in the size of your body.

To lean and tone:
You either have to maintain your lean mass and lose body fat or you have to increase lean muscle and lose body fat at the same time.  One thing to keep in mind is lean muscle takes half the space as fat.  One lb of fat takes up double the space that a lb of lean muscle does.  If you are gaining muscle and losing fat but not necessarily losing weight you can become smaller because you are changing the composition of your body.

Joel Harper - Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

Under 5 pounds and do high reps. What is high reps? Pick a body part and do 100 of them. Yes a hundred, burn those muscles out. If you can't finish a set stop for as many reps in seconds as you have left and then finish until you get to a hundred. It is great for endurance and each time it gets easier and easier. Trust me.

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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.