Toning Up vs. Bulking Up
Tone. Shape. Sculpt. Lengthen.
“If you want to tone your body, develop long, lean muscles and not bulk up.. then only lift light weights for a lot of reps.”
These are the key marketing words and phrases that have dominated magazine covers and blog posts for years.
And as exhausting as this conversation is… after years of explaining this over and over again… there are people who fear lifting heavy weights because they think if they lift big, they’re going to get big.
Sadly, this misconception has been repeated so many times that it’s widely accepted as gospel.
Look – I’m not here to tell you what you should look like or what you should want to look like.
I’m just here to hit you with a few facts and knowledge bombs… and then you can decide what your path is now that you have more information.
#1 – There is no such thing as developing “long, lean” muscle.
I’m sorry to say but pilates, barre or yoga cannot make your muscles longer.
There is nothing wrong with pilates, barre or yoga.. there are plenty of benefits to them and I encourage you to do them if they bring you joy.
But! these movement styles will not make your muscles “longer and leaner.”
Muscles have origin and insertion points (where they attach to your joints by way of tendons) and those don’t change no matter how much stretching you do.
Unless you plan on making your limbs (bones) longer by way of surgery, your muscle will not get longer.
Muscle length changes very little with stretching (even that is temporary).. what is really happening is your nervous system allowing your muscles to relax.
#2 – Your genetics play into how “bubbly” or “bulky” your muscles will become as you get stronger.
Speaking of points of origin and insertion of muscles, the potential for a muscle to get bigger is related to the length of its muscle belly and tendon.. and the ratio of the two.
Everything else being equal, those who have long muscle bellies and short tendons have a greater potential for growing the size of their muscles than those who have short bellies and long tendons.
Taller people with longer limbs have more surface area to cover so it takes even MORE muscle for them to look “bulkier”.
Think about a pregnant woman with a shorter torso and smaller frame versus a taller woman and a larger frame… the woman with a smaller torso doesn’t have much room for that growing baby so her belly will appear wider.
Also, I’m not sure what your definition of “bulky” means… that’s a subjective and broad term.
#3 – Not much of #2 matters unless you’re in the sport of bodybuilding or are reeaalllly focused on growing your muscles as large as possible.
Unless you’re going to be on stage at a bodybuilding or physique competition, you don’t need to worry much about muscle bellies, limb lengths, tendons, etc.
If you’re like most our of members at Elevate who want to look great and feel confident both in and out of their clothes, you just need to have enough muscle mass to support healthy hormones, strong joints and create a lean, defined body.
Adding muscle mass takes a lot of dedicated focus, consistency and time from both your diet and your exercise routine.
Why do you think there is a bajillion dollar supplement industry that is trying to sell magic potions to people that claim to make them bigger, stronger and more muscular?
It’s really hard work and will not happen without intention. But I encourage you to pursue and prioritize getting stronger.
If you’re looking to change the shape of your body, you likely need to both lose fat and develop more muscle mass.
And getting stronger will help you get leaner.
Strength is not something to be feared and I can’t think of any scenario where being strong is a disadvantage.
– Nicole Race, Owner Elevate St. Pete.