How to tone up without bulking up

Rocco Sorace, Fitness expert
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In the world of fitness there's a great desire to create attractive and strong muscle tone. Over the years the word "toned" has come to define a well-sculpted body.

The opposite or possibly undesired look is "bulk". This word is associated with "big" or can mean "to take up room". So, no wonder "toned" has evolved to be the more desired look. Overtraining with weights or exercising without proper stretching can lead to bulk muscle mass.

Shortened, bulked-up muscle is often overdeveloped and can lead to spinal misalignment, shortened and strained ham strings and back muscles. With proper alignment techniques we can safely build the strength of our bodies without causing injury.

VIEW ARTICLE: Top 7 Pilates moves

So what is the key to toning? Well, Pilates is a great program that helps to create long, strong and toned muscles. The exercises are designed to lengthen and tone rather than shorten and bulk up muscles.

Pilates exercises help create a healthy, toned body that is flexible and strong, lean and long, and fit for athletic endurance. Employ exercises that are used by athletes as well as novices to work toward an overall healthy lifestyle.

Here are five tips to tone up rather than bulk up muscle:

  1. Sculpt muscles. Toned and strong muscles occur through the use of the body as its own resistance versus lifting heavy weights. The key here is more reps with less weight.
  2. Focus on core strength. Keeping the core muscles engaged will provide a base for working other muscle groups. A strong core means a healthy back and a good foundation. Pilates improves posture through alignment of the spine and increases strength of muscles in the back.
  3. Use your breath. Breathing is key to guide your exercise routine, sending breath and relaxation to the muscles creating endurance. Breath can aid in regulating and maintaining your posture leading to increased toning and strength.
  4. Eat and drink well. Proper nutrition and hydration are essential to toning the body. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily and never skip a meal.
  5. Relaxation. Mind and body fitness incorporates the importance of relaxing, stretching and restoring the muscles pre- and post-work-out.

Implementing these five tips will create muscle tone and overall health and fitness. Pilates is a fun and creative way to achieve the desired toned body versus stiff, bulky muscles.

Remember to consult your physician before beginning any new physical exercise program and know that you are on your way to a healthy, toned and happy body.

VIEW ARTICLE: Tools for weight loss success

Rocco Sorace has just released a series of new Fitness DVDs: Fitness Pilates: Intermediate Workout, Fitness Pilates: Advanced Workout and the Mind & Body Boot Camp (each $24.95). All three DVDs are available from all major retailers or online at or

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