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Tone not build...

This is a very common question, and even a more common fear amongst woman... me being one of them. But I was hoping maybe someone could help ease my mind? I am terrified of gaining muscle mass... this being because I'm rather short (5'3"), and medium in bone structure (I've got a rather large ribcage, broad shoulders, and hips). So I am anything but dainty. I weight about 150, although because of the way i carry my weight, I surprise quite a few people with that number (which is a good thing, because at least I don't LOOK like I weigh that much). I tend to carry most of my excess weight in my hips and thighs, and want to trim down and tone up.

However, my arms are already rather toned... if I flex I get a whopping bicep that appears... and my shoulders are shaped, as well as my back. My legs have also been muscular my whole life, and now that i've started gaining weight, I feel that of course, they are just that much bigger. Ultimately I would like a lean body... not overly developed or defined. The typical "soft" looking female that is obviously trimmed, toned, (flat belly, no six pack) etc. But when I lift weights, I see such a drastic change in my upper body, that I'm terrified of being too cut. What are the best strength training excersizes out there that will prevent this? And about how many lb weights should I be lifting (upper and lower)? thanks :)

Fri. May 13, 5:18pm

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he he

We should all have that problem...

Chances are you are overestimating the difference it makes. If you are really worried about it, skip the weights and go for yoga/pilates.

Friday, May 13, 2005, 11:39 PM

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agree with he hee

First off its pretty hard for women to bulk up, just not in our nature. If you are prone to quick muscle mass then "he he" is right yoga & pilates would be a perfect alternative. If you want to stick with weights cause its easy and/or cheaper then just double up on reps without adding heavier weights.
Many gyms do offer yoga and mat pilates now so hopefully yours does.

good luck!

Sunday, May 15, 2005, 3:55 PM

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Both above posts are correct - lots of repetition w/ low weights.

I have a similar build to you, and I also develop muscle quickly (makes my boyfriend jealous!) Instead of trying to tone more, I try to spend more time doing cardio in hopes of burning off the excess fat, since the muscles themselves are pretty good already. This does a good job, too, of working your leg muscles w/o working your upper body as much. I also make sure to do lots of ab exercises to keep the flat tummy.

Also, b/c muscle adds so much weight, and us shorties w/ lots of muscle tend to weigh more than we look like we would, I like to measure my progress using a tape measure (i.e. did my waist get any smaller this week?) rather than a scale, b/c as I work out and gain muscle, it's unlikely that I'll lose pounds, but I'll look and feel better.

Monday, May 16, 2005, 7:08 AM

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less weight more reps

The general rule on keeping tone rather than bulking up is more repetitions (I do 15-18) at a lighter weight. You should be able to do 3 sets of 15 reps fairly easily (you should struggle a bit at 15, but not too much). For example I would say maybe 75-100 pounds on the leg press is a good weight although I'm sure you could do a lot more. I can do about 180 comfortably on the leg press but I generally do a 100 -- its not insanely easy but it keeps my legs tone and ensures that I don't bulk up -- also I agree that cardio or yoga/pilates are great options for those who tend to build muscle mass a bit quicker than others. In fact, I would probably highly recommend yoga for you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005, 8:15 AM

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toning up

try your local curves. the circuit training will tone you but not bulk you. it will also help you stand more erect. it won't happen overnight but we didn't get this way overnight did we?
i've been exercising 3X/wk for 3 months now and feel much stronger. now if only my golf game would improve!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 9:54 AM

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Can anyone recommend arm exercises that tone the triceps and biceps but don't give me massive shoulders?!
I am seeing more muscle definition in the biceps and the triceps are slowly following, but my shoulders are much more rounded than I prefer...

Thursday, April 06, 2006, 1:38 PM

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Blozzom here....

Sounds like you have the same problem as me - always weigh at least 20 lbs. more than you look!!

I am 5'0", 163 lbs. and size 10P!!!

I am trying the Body For Life program because so many women have had such great results on it. Unlike you, I think I want the 6 pack when I'm done but no worries about a 6 pack showing up until my bodyfat% is low enough. I'm not sure what yours is at currently but no worries usually about a 6 pack showing up until you are less than 20% body fat AT LEAST.....

As far as bulking up - women don't have the testosterone in their system to bulk up and you don't look cut and muscular until you are very low body fat%.

I'm finding that by following the Body For Life program ( I am definately getting leaner and the inches are dropping like crazy but overall I still have the same shape I've always had - pear shape. I don't think that pear shape will go either until I get my body fat% waaaay down because that is just how I tend to store fat so until I have no fat to store I will always be pear shaped.

This site has a lot of good info. about weightlifting and how it affects women with research to back it up - very informative reading....

Also....if you want real-life examples of the bodies women are getting from following the Body For Life program (weight lifting & HIIT cardio) click on the link below!! Lots of profiles to look at there and you can even find women who are starting out with similar stats to yours.....

I hope this helps!! Good luck on your journey!!


Thursday, April 06, 2006, 2:39 PM

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I had read and heard from many people that doing more reps at a lower weight will help you to tone rather than build muscle. However, I have been doing that consistently, and have come to believe that your body structure will determine if you get toned or have big muscles. Personally, I would rather have these huge muscular thighs rather than fatty cellulite-ridden thighs. Those seem to be my only options!

I am also one of the shorter women who looks like I weigh less than I do. I am 5'4", 158 lbs, and wear a size 6.

In conclusion, keep strength training, more muscle boosts your metabolism! Your body is predisposed to carry more bulk in certain areas, and there is not much you can do about that.

Friday, April 07, 2006, 9:16 AM

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too much muscle


I too have the same problem. I am 5 3" and about 132lbs. I wear a size 2-4 petite depending on the brand. Hows that for muscle mass? I hate it. I would like to weigh less. I am a runner. I have run 2 marathons and several half marathons. I have never gotten skinny training for them. My arms are totally cut and my legs are huge. I would like to be toned, light and in shape at the same time without being so muscular. Help.

wants to be lighter

Sunday, February 01, 2009, 10:39 AM

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