As I have started back on a fitness journey, I have had a lot of people ask me about how to strength train without gaining bulk. Since I am not looking to become a body builder, a few women have asked why I even bother with looking at the weights in the gym. With direction from my doctor, as well as my brother in law who is a triathlete and someone who has lost well over 150 pounds in last few years, I decided it really was beneficial to me. Strength training isn't about bulking up, it is all about gaining strength in your muscles. When your muscles are strong, you burn more fat. Of course you want stronger muscles, more ablity and to burn more fat. Strength is a good thing!
How To Strength Train Without Gaining Bulk
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Face the facts first. There are many misconceptions about getting too bulky from lifting weights. Reality is those who are gaining large muscle mass are not just lifting weights, they are pushing limits. They are in the gym for hours each day lifting heavy and lifting multiple repetitions each time. On top of that, they are typically eating a much stricter diet that includes heavy amounts of protein in their food as well as in supplement form. Before you begin worrying about getting too muscular from lifting weights, realize that it is highly unlikely you will if you stick to a basic work out regimen that includes weights and strength training.
Start light and increase. As you begin a fitness journey, the last thing you want is to injure yourself. If you have no strength training experience, start with light weights (1-5 pounds) to begin. Yes, it may not seem like much, but you have to work your way up and get your body use to it so you don't strain and end up with more problems. For many people hitting the gym includes using various machines that include weights. When you first begin, start at the lowest weight, or even using your own body as resistance. You'll be surprised at how much you can work your body just using it's own weight as resistance. As your body gets stronger, don't be afraid to reach for the 15-20 pound dumbbells and work with them. Using heavier weights is not going to increase bulk. It will however push your body to work harder which results in muscle gain and fat burn.
Make gradual weight increases. Whether you are using free weights (dumbbells) for doing arm, back, chest exercises or using the weighted equipment in the gym, make your weight increases gradual. Go up by 3-5 pound increments. As you feel your body tiring faster with the same repetitions, you'll know you have increased enough. If you can still easily make it through a set of 8-12 repetitions of the movement with ease, then increase more.
Increase repetitions. If you are looking to gain strength, push your muscles harder. Yes, heavier weights will do that, but the best method is to find a weight that does push you but not too far. Then increase repetitions. Start with 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Increase that to 5 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Some people will tell you to go as many as 40-50 repetitions, and while that may work if you are looking for serious muscle gain, for the average person simply wanting to build some muscle and tone their body it isn't necessary.
If you are serious about knowing how to strength train without gaining bulk, the answer is it really isn't going to be a problem for the average man or woman in the gym. To really gain a lot of bulk, you have to put in serious hours and have a very specified diet. As a beginner, start slow and increase gradually as your routine gets easier. When any aerobic or strength training exercise begins to get easy, it is a sign that your body is ready for a challenge.
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