Fitness: How Can I Build Muscles Without Getting Bulky?

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Isn’t it everyone’s dream to have muscles in all right places, but with unseen fat just to support life? It is mine too. However, this mentality (build without getting bulky) is an outright oxymoron because in essence, when you are trying to grow muscles you have to want to grow big. In other words, you have to be open to train like a bodybuilder to tone like a Baywatch star. However, often when we say we want to tone without getting bulky, it comes from a place of inhibitions whereby we tend to avoid some exercises so as not to end up looking ripped like The Rock. No pun intended.

That said, let’s look at some of the ways you can build muscles without getting bulky

  1. Skill

According to research, there are 10 recognized physical skills in getting fit. These include;

  • Cardiovascular Endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  • Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store and utilise energy.
  • Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  • Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  • Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  • Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  • Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  • Agility – The ability to minimise transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  • Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies centre of gravity in relation to its support base.
  • Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
Before and after picture of a toned man. Image from

In summary, you are as fit as you are competent in these skills. Hence, the “perfect” training regimen would be one that leverages your ability to build these 10 skills enhancing your endurance and performance.

Find out the do’s and dont’s on your first day at the gym.

List adapted from CrossFitJournal

  1. Exercise

When it comes to gym workouts, there are certain tips you should bear in mind. There’s no perfect regimen to build all the above physical skills at once.

Woman at the gym. Image from

Every regimen has an advantage and disadvantage. For instance, if you concentrate on high reps or HIIT exercises only, you risk not building the strength/power you would have on low reps. If you work at low reps exclusively, you won’t develop the muscular endurance you need for an athletic physique.

So break away from routine and strive for variance. Work to improve strength and performance by blurring the distinctions between cardio and weight training. Blend anaerobic activity with exercises like squats, deadlifts, running, swimming, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups (among others). After you’ve mastered your skills, get creative with it for maximum impact.

  1. Nutrition

You are training to build muscles. Hence, you want a diet that incorporates the nutrients you need for muscle repair. “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” CrossFit Journal.

Keep reading to learn more about protein shakes.

Overall maintain a balanced macronutrient and healthy nutrition which looks more like 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Dr Barry Sears’ Zone Diet.

Suffice it to say this diet may vary depending on personal fitness goals or health conditions. However, whether your concern is longevity, body composition, wellness or athletic performance, have a nutritional intake that will amplify the effect of your training. Importantly, do not forget to rest to allow body recovery and maximum sustainability. Health And Fitness: 5 Nutritional Myths You Need To Stop Believing

It is always advisable to consult your trainer and do your research on what’s fit for your body type and body goals.

Check out top 10 workout mistakes and how to avoid them. 

Featured image via BWS

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I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.