Building muscle mass and toning are both increases in muscle size, and training is similar for both. The difference comes in the volume of training. Much more work is needed to significantly increase muscle mass.
Walking offers many health benefits, including increased upper and lower body strength when practiced vigorously and regularly. However, although it generally does not cause significant changes in either muscle mass or tone, you can adapt your walking workout to enhance its calorie-burning and lean muscle building effects.
Walking is primarily a cardiovascular exercise that does not normally build muscle. By increasing the level of difficulty, you can burn more calories and create lean muscles without adding bulk.
Building Muscle Mass and Toning
A study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Resources identified the three main components of muscular development to be mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress. Increases in muscle size occur when muscle fibers are overloaded and broken down, which only comes from consistent weight training.
After muscle fibers are broken down, they adapt and heal back at a bigger size. More recently, however, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews published findings that indicate aerobic exercise can contribute to development and growth of skeletal muscle tissue.
Walking to Get Lean
Walking is a cardiovascular activity that people of all fitness levels can participate in. It effectively elevates your heart rate and burns calories, thus promoting cardiovascular health and an appropriate body composition percentage.
Normally, walking does not provide enough of a stimulus to either build or tone muscle because it doesn't overload your muscle fibers. Walking at a brisk pace with vigorous stride and arm movements, as is done in power walking, enhances the aerobic and calorie-burning benefits.
Combine walking with another form of exercise such as running or strength training. Alternating running days with walking days, for example, can aid recovery by increasing circulation in your legs while giving your joints a rest.
Toning vs. Building Muscle
To build muscle mass or tone muscles in your legs, you must participate in consistent strength training. Weight-training exercises, such as squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts and calf raises, target the muscles in your lower body.
To build muscle mass, complete four to six sets of six to 12 repetitions three days per week. To tone your muscles, complete two to three sets of six to 12 repetitions two days per week. Make sure you allow at least 48 hours between strength-training sessions; allow 72 hours between exercise sets that target the same muscle group.
Climb Every Hill
Incorporating steps or hills into your walking routine may provide a temporary overloading stimulus that can cause some minor muscle development. A good way to do this is with an inclined treadmill. But the muscle size increases are likely to plateau rather quickly, because your muscles will adapt to stress after a short time, and thus the walks will no longer provide enough of an overload.
- PubMed.gov: The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training
- American Council on Exercise: The Do’s and Don’ts of Building Muscle
- VeryWellFit: Does Walking Build Big Leg Muscles?
- Runner's World: Walk to Strengthen Muscles
- Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy After Aerobic Exercise Training