This Is What It Means to Get Toned And Not Bulky [2021]


This is a hot topic in the health and fitness industry.

Maybe even THE HOTTEST.

It is asked by most beginners to exercise because they have an image in their head they want to achieve.

Not only that but because they aren’t really sure how the body works, how to build muscle, or how to exercise.

They just know they don’t want to look like that girl in the weight room.

I get it, but before we start judging and using words we are unfamiliar with, let’s get an understanding of muscle tissue, exercise and what it means to be toned vs bulky.

What is Strength Training

Strength training, or resistance training, is the performance of exercises that are designed to improve strength and muscle.

This means an exercise with the intention to build strength is..strength training.

Squats, pushups, pull ups, deadlifts are all strength training exercises.

Strength training is important for both men and women because as we age, we start to lose our muscle mass. And we want muscle mass to be able to do daily activities like carry groceries or get up off the floor.

Research has also shown that strength training is one of the best ways to lose weight, burn fat and boost fitness levels.

Yes, you read that right. Cardio is great for heart health and other benefits, but it is not the most ideal for fat loss.

Everyone should be strength training in some capacity, to help with sport (like runners), to build strength (everyone) or to achieve a “toned” look.

How to Build Muscle

If you are looking to change your physique, building muscle is going to be the best way to do that.


Because muscle is denser than fat.

Meaning the more muscle we build, the small we are going to be, while possibly still weighing the same on the scale.

This increase in muscle is going to visibly show and give you definition in the arms, legs and abs (or wherever you want to see definition).

When it comes to building muscle and doing the work, it is very time consuming.

So the most important thing to remember is that consistency is what it takes, along with proper programming and nutrition.

You cannot change your physique and build muscle overnight. It takes months, years, of progressive overload and regular strength training.

On the programming side – the best way to build muscle is to work in the 6-12 rep range. And usually 3-4 sets.

Anything less than that (1-5 reps) is going to be more muscle strength and above that (13-20) is going to be muscle endurance.

But all this to say – you have to also be lifting heavy enough to illicit change in any of these reps schemes.

Hypertrophy, building size, is going to be more of a moderate intensity. So on an RPE scale of 1-10, you want to stick around an 8. This means you have 2-3 more reps left in the tank when you are finished with your set.

You also have to prioritize progressive overload.

This means as you continue through your programming at those reps and intensity, your weights/reps should also be increasing.

For example: let’s say you start doing a shoulder press with 10lbs for 8 reps. Week 2 you then want to try to increase to 9 reps. And maybe by week 5 you are able to increase to 12lb dumbbells for 8 reps.

Does that make sense?

You want to be pushing to get better (although it doesn’t happen every single week) because otherwise doing the same thing over and over again is going to stall results.

We can’t build muscle if the body adapts to the stimulus we are applying to it.

The other side of the situation is nutrition.

If you want to build muscle/size you have to be eating enough food.

This means eating at least your maintenance calories (what you burn in a day is equal to what you eat in a day) and also making sure you are eating 1g of protein per lb of body mass.

This will ensure you are replenishing amino acids in the muscle after workouts to build muscle and not break it down.

How to Not Get Bulky

Getting bulky a fear/worry for many women as they are told about strength training.

They just want to get toned and skinny, and don’t want to get bulky.

Let’s first say, it is very hard to get “bulky” in general, but especially as a woman.

Getting bulky means eating a lot of calories. And I mean A LOT.

It would mean training 5-6 days per week for years. Yes, years.

It would also mean heavy wights, and a lot of volume.

This is not how most people train, so the average women is not going to just get bulky without trying.

So you can push that fear aside, and move forward with the protocol to build muscle!

How to Get Toned

Society tells women we are fragile and to not be like one of the boys, right?

So that usually leads to us walking on the treadmill with ankle weights right after doing 50 donkey kicks per leg, right?

Well if you want muscle definition, don’t be this person.

In order to be toned, you have to have muscle.

Being toned is just having muscle definition. And you cannot have muscle definition without muscle.

So yes, you need to lift weights and build muscle before you start working on uncovering the muscle tone for the desired physique.

Women also tend to think that they need to do cardio to be toned. False.

Cardio has great benefits, but getting toned really isn’t one. If you see someone who does a bunch of cardio and has arms you want, it is likely from genetics and strength training.

So, how to get toned and not get bulky?

• Lift weights at desired rep range.

• Eat enough protein and calories to support muscle growth.

• Use progressive overload during training sessions so progress is made.

• Once muscle has been built, work with nutrition to cut fat and reveal muscle tone.

And remember, you don’t have to worry about becoming bulky because that takes just as much effort. If you aren’t trying to do it, it likely isn’t going to happen for you.


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Haley Rowe November 3, 2021