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How to Tone Muscles Without Bulk

author image Erin Zeggert
Erin Zeggert is a writer specializing in fitness and wellness related articles. Her work has appeared on various websites, including, and She holds a Bachelor of Science in management from Siena College, and is a certified wellness coach and certified personal trainer.
How to Tone Muscles Without Bulk
A woman is holding a dumbbell in her hands. Photo Credit: Tatomm/iStock/Getty Images

Many people, particularly women, are worried that if they start weight training they will bulk up and end up bigger than they are now. There is no real definition of toned in the fitness world, but it is commonly accepted that getting toned involves adding muscle to have some muscle definition and losing fat. Muscle is more compact than fat so following a workout routine to gain muscle along with a healthy diet to lose fat will result in a lean, muscular look without the bulk.

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Step 1

Set a strength training schedule. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two resistance training workouts per week on non-consecutive days using free weights, machines, resistance bands or body weight. Each workout should have eight to 10 exercises working each muscle group. Work in the eight- to 12-repetition range to build muscle.

Step 2

Set a cardio training schedule. The ACSM recommendation for cardio is 150 minutes of moderate level activity. Any activity that gets your heart rate into the target zone can be used so choose something you will enjoy and will stick with. Target heart rate is calculated as 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate is calculated as 220 minus your age.

Step 3

Eat a healthy diet. Follow the recommended dietary guidelines set forth by MyPlate. To lose fat total calories consumed must be less than total calories burned. Calculate the number of calories you should be eating as 500 fewer than what you burned to allow for muscle building while shedding fat.

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