If you’re interested in building muscular tone but are concerned about bulking up, participate in workouts like lower-volume weight training, which means you do a lower number of sets and use relatively light resistance. Also do kettlebell sessions, high-intensity circuits and Tabata training.These types of workouts build lean muscle while simultaneously burning calories, which in turn can help give you a strong but lean appearance. Begin each workout with a 10-minute warm-up consisting of walking or light jogging and dynamic stretches.
Weight Training for Tone
To tailor your weight-training workouts for building muscular tone, stick with two to three workouts each week. During each session, do two to three sets of 12 to 16 reps of every exercise and use a weight that causes your muscles to feel fatigued at the end of each set. If you can do over 20 reps with the weight you’re using, for example, it’s time to kick it up a notch. Rest 30 seconds or less in between sets. Focus on multi-joint exercises, like squats, pulldowns and chest presses, rather than single-joint exercises, like biceps curls and triceps extensions. If you're lifting weights for the first time or are back after a long break, start with one to two sets of eight to 15 reps and use a lighter weight until you master the movements.
Training Ballistically With Free Weights
Working out ballistically with free weights -- like kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells -- can help you tighten and tone your muscles while also burning calories to help lower body fat. A kettlebell is a weighted implement that looks like an iron ball and has a suitcase handle on one end. With a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell, perform ballistic-type exercises like swings, snatches, cleans, jerks, squat and presses, lunges, rows and step-ups. You can do free-weight ballistic workouts two or three days per week. Select four to five exercises to include in your workout and complete each exercise for at least 15 seconds. Keep your rest intervals to 30 to 60 seconds. Perform each of the five exercises three times.
High-intensity circuits combine both aerobic and resistance-training exercises into a single workout. Because you're using your own body weight as resistance, the circuits won't cause you to bulk up. They can, however, help you increase muscular tone while simultaneously burning calories. In a high-intensity circuit, you bounce from one exercise to the next, resting just briefly between each one. Because of their intensity, don't do circuit workouts more than two days per week. Pick nine to 12 exercises, which could include exercises like jumping jacks, pushups, burpees, squats, jump squats, wall sits, crunches, planks, high knees in place and lunges. Complete 30 seconds of each of the nine to 12 exercises, resting just 15 seconds in between each exercise. As you get in better shape, try for two or three rounds of the exercises.
Tabata workouts are similar to high-intensity circuits except that you alternate between all-out exertion and rest. Most Tabata workouts stick with one type of cardio exercise. For example, you could sprint on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike. However, you can also use a variety of exercises, like pushups, rows, burpees and kettlebell swings. During a Tabata workout, you alternate between exercising at 100 percent of your maximum effort for 20 seconds and recovering for 10 seconds. After an eight minute warm-up that gradually increases in intensity, do a total of eight cycles. According to Jim Gerard of the American Council on Exercise, even though you're performing traditionally cardiovascular types of exercise, because of the session's intensity, it's similar to performing strength training with your own body weight. Since this strength-training type of workout uses your own body weight as resistance, it helps you build tone without providing enough resistance to lead to bulking. Due to the intensity of Tabata workouts, incorporate them into your regular cardio schedule just two days per week.
- ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal: High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, Is It Better To Do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- Mahler's Aggressive Strength: Interval Strength Training For Rapid Fat Loss
- American Council on Exercise: Tabata for Trainers: How to Safely Train Clients Using This High-Intensity Approach
- Mahler’s Aggressive Strength: The Benefits of Kettlebell Training for Fat Loss, Strength Training, Explosive Power, and Muscle Building
- Photo Credit Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images
Tips to Get Lean, Not Bulky, Muscles From Exercise
Exercise science has figured out ways to train the body for specific results, be it maximal strength, hypertrophy (bulky muscles), power, endurance...