What is the difference between toning and building bulk?
Two of the most common terms associated with weight lifting are
“toning up” and “bulking up.” Although these terms are often used
interchangeably, they have different meanings and are achieved in
different manners. To tone up means to reduce the appearance of body
fat by tightening up the muscles and giving them shape. Bulking up
means to increase muscle mass and make the muscles bigger.
Toning up the muscles is normally achieved by following a weight
lifting program that involves light to medium weights and higher
repetitions. A typical program would consist of weight lifting
exercises with a weight that can be lifted by a person 12 to 15
times consecutively, usually for one to three sets, depending on the
person’s fitness level and total number of exercises. Two to three
full body weight lifting sessions of six different exercises is a
good way to start.
Following a healthy diet slightly below a person’s caloric
maintenance level will help to achieve a “toned” look. (This means
burning more calories than you consume in a given week.) In
addition, performing multiple bouts of cardio exercise in a person’s
target heart zone will help burn more calories and tone the muscles.
Sessions of 20 minutes performed at least three times per week is a
good initial goal to strive for when attempting to tone up.
Bulking up is accomplished by lifting heavier weights for a lower
amount of repetitions per set. “Overload” must be achieved to bulk
up. This means working the muscles more than they are accustomed to
and increasing the work load (weight, sets or reps) as a person gets
stronger. If increasing muscle mass is the only goal of a person,
than a weight should be used that can only be lifted one to six
times before failure occurs. Fewer repetitions are performed per
set, but more sets of exercise may be performed than if the goal was
to tone. Four to six sets of an exercise or multiple exercises
isolating the same muscle group is commonly done to bulk up. Three
to six weight lifting sessions per week is often performed by people
seeking to bulk up, and split routines are more common. (This means
only working certain muscle groups each day, such as back and biceps
one day and chest and triceps the next day.)
In addition to lifting heavier weights to bulk up, certain
dietary guidelines must be practiced. A higher amount of calories
than a person’s caloric maintenance level must be consumed to
increase a person’s muscle mass. Also, enough protein (the building
blocks of muscle) must be ingested (at least 0.8 grams per kilogram
of body weight).
Positive and negative benefits of cardio exist when a person’s
main goal is increasing muscle mass. Cardio sessions help a person
recover more quickly after a weight workout and rid the body of
lactic acid. Therefore, a person may be able to work out the same
muscle groups sooner and harder than he or she could have without
performing cardio. The negative to cardio is that it can make it
harder to bulk up. More calories must be consumed to account for the
calories burned during the cardio sessions. I believe that the
positive benefits of cardio outweigh the negatives, and three
sessions of 20 minutes each should be done. This is mainly due to
the health benefits of cardio and working out your biggest and most
important muscle, the heart.