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Strength Training/Toning without bulking


Hi Joe,

Thanks for your thoughts. I have recently started exercising at a gym. I need to lose about 10 pounds of flab and tuck everything in, but that's really ALL I want to do. I don't want to see any muscles visibly springing up. Unfortunately, I already see quite a bit of bulk in my arms and shoulders. I'm enjoying the new-found strength, but I don't find the appearance of muscles attractive. I had really wanted to slim down, not become a hulk.

I'm currently doing the Cybex circuit followed by 45 minutes on the treadmill 4 times a week. It has been three weeks. I'm only using 25 lbs to do arms curls, but I wonder if this is still enough to cause bulkiness. I also don't see any flab disappearing yet. What are the best types of exercises to slim down without gaining such harshly defined muscle? There are group classes I could go to as well (Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Ballet-based, Tabata). I feel like the people at the gym are really not understanding that I don't WANT to see muscles, as they encourage me to increase my weights as soon as I feel capable. I'm already doing 2 sets of 12 reps of my full body weight on quads and back.

Hi Jenn, You will always add some muscle with strength training and a lot depends on genetics. Some people just naturally gain more muscle mass than others. As far as your fat loss, this depends almost entirely on maintaining a calorie deficit. So watch your food intake closely. What I use with my clients who want to lose weight and not gain too much mass is an old technique called German Volume Training. Take 5 or 6 upper body exercises (seated bench press, seated row, seated push downs, lat pulls, curls, etc.) and do each exercise consecutively for 10 reps with a weight that you can do 20 times normally. So do all 5 exercises with no rest and then rest 90 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Then pick 5 or 6 lower body exercises and do the same thing. At the end cool down with some core exercises like planks and then some stretching. We do this 3-4 days a week and some type aerobic training 3-4 days a week. Remember this is what I use and you will get a different opinion with every trainer you talk to. This is very strenuous but you utilize a lot of calories and continue to burn more after the workout. Make sure you your are clear with your physician before taking on any tough workout and always have a trainer make sure you are doing exercises correctly. good luck

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Joe Gunn


Master's Degree with majors in Exercise Science and Psychology. Teach college courses in weight training, jogging/fitness, and wellness. Expertise include strength training, long distance running, sprinting, general fitness, weight loss, and nutritional education.


Over 30 years as a personal trainer of athletes as well as average individuals.

Certified strength and Conditioning Specialist with the the National Strength and Conditiong Association. Certified Club coach with the United States Weightlifting Association. Certifed Level II long distance coach with the USA Track & Field.

M.S with majors in exercise science and psychology

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