Toning vs. Muscle Mass

  • One of the biggest weight training misconceptions is that lifting weights always results in the development of big, bulging muscles. The fact is that the ultimate shape of your muscles is determined by: The number of repetitions of an exercise you perform. In general, if your goal is to build the largest, strongest muscles you can, you’ll need to perform relatively few repetitions of each exercise, about six to nine or even fewer. If you are seeking to create a more sleek, toned look, aim for 8 to 15 repetitions. No matter what number of repetitions you are doing, choose a weight that is heavy enough to make that last repetition a real challenge.
  • Besides creating muscles with differing abilities and physical appearances, the number of repetitions performed will result in different functional capabilities for that particular muscle. For example, exercises performed for 8 to 15 repetitions create muscular endurance. This comes in handy for everyday tasks such as carrying heavy grocery bags into the house from the car. Exercises performed for six to nine repetitions build muscular strength. Muscular strength is what is required when a heavy box is lifted from your car’s trunk and placed on a cart. Determine whether increased muscular strength or increased muscular endurance will be more appropriate for your lifestyle. The number of sets of an exercise you perform. To gain moderate amounts of strength and a toned effect, one to three sets is probably as much as you’ll need to do. However, if your goal is to become significantly stronger and create muscle mass, you will need to perform a minimum of three sets for each muscle group.
  • As hard as you may be willing to work, keep in mind that it’s virtually impossible to build large, bulky muscles if your genetic coding is not programmed to do so. If you are small boned and lean, weight training cannot make you more big and bulky than what’s normal for you and vice versa. You have to work within your body’s parameters. Also, the hormone testosterone controls the development of muscle bulk and, since women have significantly lower levels than men do, they are highly unlikely to develop bulging muscles.

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