8 Simple Tips on How to Lift Weights to Tone up and Not Bulk up.

 One of the most common questions I get asked is how to lift weights without actually bulking up. Seems not everyone wants to go beast mode, some people just want a bit of muscle definition, but not too much. You know the look I mean, lean and sculpted, not big and bulky.

Lifting weights is a great way to achieve this goal, there are certain methods you should stick to and others you should avoid. I have my own opinions on what these are, and whilst researching for this blog post I read a lot of conflicting information on what others thought. 

Before I go into what I think are exercises you should do in order to tone up, its important to note that everyone’s body is different and will react to exercise in different ways. Whether its toning up, bulking up, losing weight or gaining strength none of these have a ‘one size fits all’ method. As you get into your training and exercise regime you will be able to figure out what suits you and your body, and once you’re on the path to achieving your goals you can always make tweaks or add to your routine to help you get to where you want to be.

It’s all a learning process Pandas, hopefully I can help you on your way.

Whilst there are a number of different ways you can tone up, lifting weights will help you gain strength, burn calories and tone and shape you in a very focussed way. Without bulking up!

Firstly, just to point out, it does take quite a lot to bulk up. You have to be lifting some seriously heavy weights, and eating serious amounts of protein to be able to gain muscle mass in any kind of meaningful way. Bodybuilders work hard to get their gains, it doesn’t just happen overnight or by accident.

Next disclaimer is that you won’t be able to tone up or lose fat just from lifting weights, you need a well rounded, healthy diet to complement your fitness routine, otherwise all that hard work in the gym will show no results!

If you want to tone up, you’ll need muscles to replace any fat. Not to the extent that you’ll look bulky but you’ll need some muscle there, you won’t get definition without them.


Here I mean 5kg or lighter. Lifting very heavy weights regularly may mean you start to gain more muscle mass than you might want.


Like, 10 or more reps per exercise. The heavy weight, low rep combination is a technique bodybuilders use.


Don’t just focus on one body part in your routine. Mix it up, change it up, give your whole body a workout to replace any fat with muscle. Then you can focus on areas you want to tone up.

Since the point is to do many reps, you don’t want your weights to be too heavy (but not too light either, its still a workout after all). Body pump classes are a great way to start you off, you get to work on all of your major muscle groups. The classes involve many reps and weights can be as heavy or as light as you are comfortable with. You can later switch to a more focussed routine if that’s what you feel you need.



Start by addressing your diet. I can’t stress how important this is. You still need carbs, and fat, in moderation. Be aware of the fact that if you do want to lose fat and gain muscle to tone up, you need to burn more fat in your exercise than you have consumed.


Try and schedule these every other day, not on consecutive days. You can use free weights, machines, resistance bands, and try and stick to the low weight, high reps combo.


Sorry people, you need cardio, at least two hours of moderate exercise to get the heart rate going.


Although this is a great workout, it can lead to you getting bulkier, especially around the leg area so if this is an area you want to avoid getting too bulky, then avoid HIIT.

Another one that could lead to you having bulky calves or thighs so avoid if this is something you do not want.

This can be ok for some body types. If you are naturally thin and find it hard to gain muscle or fat (otherwise known as an ectomorph, see below for an explanation), then Crossfit should be ok for you. All other body types should avoid.

An easy ‘go to’ at the gym, but another one that could cause you to bulk up.


As mentioned above, ectomorphs are naturally very skinny and find it hard to gain weight. This body type can do pretty much any exercise without bulking up.

Mesomorphs on the other hand can gain or lose weight very easily. For this body type the exercises to avoid listed above are particular ones to avoid, as well as heavy weight training, as doing these will mean you’re likely to bulk up.

Endomorphs tend to have shorter arms and legs and be curvy. This body type finds it easier to gain muscle, particularly in the legs, so avoid any workouts that have a particular focus on legs (such as the step machine mentioned above).

Remember, everyones body type is different, some exercises may work better for you than others. Whether you’re a regular gym goer, or a newbie, these tips should help you get to where you want to be when it comes to a sculpted, toned body.