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How to Lift Weights Without Bulking Up

Resistance training - including free weights, machines, and body weight exercises - has many health benefits. Lifting weights, along with diet and cardio exercise, can improve your health and fitness and give you a lean, toned appearance. The frequency, duration, and intensity of your training - along with your gender and age - will affect how your body responds to lifting weights. You can make adjustments along the way.

  1. Complete a full-body routine twice per week. Space your workouts with 48 to 72 hours between each session, giving your muscles ample time to recover.

  2. Incorporate one exercise per muscle group such as chest presses, dumbbell rows, squats, shoulder presses, leg curls, dumbbell curls and triceps extensions. These exercises work your chest, back, quadriceps, shoulders, hamstrings, biceps and triceps respectively.

  3. Pair each exercise with an abdominal exercise such as bicycle crunches, weighted crunches, dumbbell side bends and lying leg raises. For example, do one set of chest presses then one set of bicycle crunches. Repeat this duo for two more rounds then move on to the next pair of exercises.

  4. Focus on light to moderate weights in which you complete three sets of 12 to 20 repetitions per exercise, enhancing muscular tone and endurance without added bulk.

  5. Refrain from resting between the sets within a pair of exercise. Rest for 1 minute as you transition from one pair of exercises to the next pair.


    Do cardio three to four days per week to keep your body fat levels down, reducing the appearance of bulk. Eat a sufficient amount of calories to maintain your weight; if you eat more calories and do not incorporate cardio, you will bulk up from fat and muscle. Muscle needs plenty of calories to bulk up when you are lifting weights.


    Begin with one set per exercise for your first week to reduce your risk of extreme muscle soreness.

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About the Author

Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.

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