How to Reduce Muscle Size

Losing muscle mass, though seemingly unconventional, is sometimes desired by those looking to achieve a particular appearance. Whether for sports performance, or aesthetic bodybuilding competitions, losing physical bulk is a goal that is less often discussed than muscle building.

Reduce your muscle size by changing your workout routine. Credit: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Shifting focus from muscle-building activities to other healthy activities can help limit muscle gain. However, directly attempting to lose muscle mass is not recommended whatsoever for the general population. Instead, focus on not building new muscle, and not giving your body the stimulus needed to maintain its current level of muscle.

Tips

Instead of attempting muscle loss, which can be an unhealthy pursuit, focus on maintaining good health by following US Dietary and Exercise Guidelines. This will prevent further muscle bulk from being added while still meeting recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.

Alter Your Weight-Lifting Routine

Decrease the amount of resistance used while weight lifting to maintain health and strength while limiting muscle hypertrophy. The American Council on Exercise recommends using lighter resistance for 3 to 6 sets of 12 to 16 repetitions of each exercise for muscle endurance instead of muscle hypertrophy.

Perform bodyweight or light weight-bearing activities in place of heavy lifts when focusing on health maintenance. Focusing on muscle endurance exercise over muscle hypertrophy, or strength will allow you to keep fit and support healthy bones and muscles while limiting bulk.

Lifting weights stimulates growth hormones which stimulate the growth of muscle mass. If you would like to limit muscle gain, decrease, but do not eliminate, your strength training exercise while still maintaining the current guidelines for the recommended amount of activity.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous activity per week, or a combination thereof spread throughout the week. You can supplement fun, enjoyable moderate to intense physical activity such as swimming, hiking, biking, softball, soccer, jogging and tennis.

Read More: The Difference Between Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance

Watch Your Diet and Exercise

Building muscle mass requires a surplus of calories above what you need for health maintenance. To avoid creating the ideal conditions for muscular hypertrophy, eat enough calories to fuel your activity and maintain your weight, but not an excess of calories. That said, never reduce your calorie intake below a healthy amount.

It is important to eat a healthy diet of varied fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 per day for adult men.

Read More: How To Lose Muscle Bulk in a Female

Focusing on cardiovascular exercise sessions instead of strength training will shift from building muscle to maintaining health while still keeping up with your fitness activities. Cardiovascular exercise will help you stay active while not directly adding to your muscle mass the way strength training does.

As mentioned, it is still important to perform strength training exercise twice a week, focusing on muscular endurance in place of hypertrophy training.

Read More: What Effect Does Aerobic Exercise Have on Muscles?

Adjusting your diet while still eating healthfully can help you with your goal of not gaining further muscle mass. The protein intake for individuals who wish to gain muscle mass is a recommended range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

However, if you are not looking to gain muscle, but instead focusing on maintaining health, the US Dietary Guidelines suggest 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men, per day, of protein as a minimum for health. As long as you meet these criteria, you do not need additional protein if you are not attempting to gain muscle mass.

Warning

Consult your health care provider before beginning a new exercise program.

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