Some people want to add size to their muscles, while other people just want to look more defined. Although certain factors related to lean muscle development are beyond your control, you can use resistance training strategies to make your muscles appear larger or just more toned.


Toning actually has more to do with body fat level than the muscle itself. Many women desire to have toned, lean muscles that are normal in size or slightly developed and visible underneath the skin. Because everyone has some lean muscle, anyone can get toned just by losing body fat. People who want to be toned, but not bulky, don’t need to do any specialised type of training (only strength training will do). They also need to keep their caloric intake controlled. Lowering the calorie intake slightly below daily calorie needs to burn the fat covering their muscles.

Bulky muscle refers to the size of the muscle. If you want to picture it, just think of the Incredible Hulk. Generally, lifting heavy weights and sipping on protein shakes during the workouts. Bulking up doesn’t typically involve body fat, it has entirely to do with building muscle mass. Bodybuilders go through a bulking phase in which their main goal is to increase the size of their muscles. In the cutting phase, they lose fat to make their muscles look more defined. Manipulating certain training strategies can determine how much mass you can build.


People come in all shapes and sizes, determined by their genetics. These shapes and sizes are known as body types and predict how much muscle an individual can build and how easily.  Ectomorphs are naturally skinny. They have small frames and small muscles. They also have fast metabolisms and tend to have trouble gaining weight, both fat and muscle. In the gym, they are often referred to as easy for them to looked toned, but very difficult for them to bulk up. Endomorphs are the exact opposite. They have large frames and bigger muscles. But they also have slower metabolisms and can easily put on fat. Bulking is no problem for them, but looking toned is challenging.


Monitor your body weight and body fat percentage regularly. This way, when you’re starting to approach a level where you feel uncomfortable, you can back off rather than feeling surprised when you step on the scale and realise you are heavier than you expected. Continue to use cardio, strategically. 15 to 20 minutes of low-intensity, steady-state cardio can keep your metabolism chugging along and keep you feeling lean even while you’re eating big. Don’t go overboard with the caloric increase. While adding 50 or 100 calories a day might not be enough, adding 1500 might will be too many. Try to find a middle ground.


When your goal is building functional strength without getting a bulky body, it makes sense to not follow the strategies discussed for building muscle. Keep your weekly volume low, performing one to three sets of exercises and resting for one minute or less between sets. Your diet plays a bigger role in looking toned. Cut out sugary, fried and fast foods, and eat more fiber-rich veggies, whole grains and protein from chicken, fish and eggs. These foods will help you control your appetite and calorie intake to lose fat, while also providing the nutrients you need for energy and overall health.