Exercise science has figured out ways to train the body for specific results, be it maximal strength, hypertrophy (bulky muscles), power, endurance or lean muscle toning. By following certain guidelines set forth by the principles of exercise science, it is possible to build lean muscles without fear of bulking up.
Repetitions and Sets
The number of times you perform an exercise will affect the results of how your muscles grow. Stick within a range of 10 to 20 repetitions. Muscular endurance will improve with greater numbers of repetitions, so if you wish to keep your muscles as small as possibly, shoot for two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. If you wish to add some noticeable tone without bulk, add in some workouts doing three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps. Stick with lower weights, but remember that your muscles should still be fatigued by the end of each set.
Light to moderate cardio exercise, the kind that you can do every day, will not add bulk. Walking, yoga, swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact aerobics typically do not put enough stress on your muscles to do more than encourage lean building and toning. Consistent cardio increases metabolism and burns fat and calories, which makes muscle more visible. Stick to 20 to 30 minutes of daily cardio exercise.
Some sort of exercise should be done daily to build lean muscles, but strength training is necessary only two to three times a week. Three days a week will help build strong, lean muscles. Twice a week will help maintain what you have built. Once you reach the amount of tone you wish, drop your strength training workouts from three to two days a week. You can do cardio every day without risk of bulk, or only do cardio on days you are not strength training. Muscle needs calories to grow, so if you are doing a lot of cardio and you are not overweight, your body may not have enough calories to build muscle. Give yourself at least one day of rest. Light physical activity such as gardening or walking the dog on your rest day is fine.
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