Lifting weights can immensely help with your appearance. Not only that, but it can also help you succeed in your weight-loss journey and be your fountain of youth. However, a lot of people are afraid of lifting weights because they fear they might get bulky. Here’s the thing, though: this will only happen if you don’t know the difference between lean vs bulky muscle.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s differentiate lean and bulky muscles first.
To put it simply, lean muscles are muscles that make you look defined and athletic. On the other hand, bulky muscles are those that make you look muscular. Both can be gained through various workouts. But there are other factors that you should look into when building muscle.
In today’s article, we’ll be discussing the main differences between a lean vs bulky body. We’ll also be giving you a few tips and tricks that you can do to reach your fitness goals. If you’re ready to get fit, continue reading.
The Basic Concept of Muscle Building
Believe it or not, muscle building isn’t as simple as you think. The first thing you need to know is that your muscle size grows as you change the intensity or level of your workout. This helps your body adapt to higher levels of resistance. This process is called muscle hypertrophy.
When you do intense workout routines, like resistance training or strength training, you apply “trauma” to your muscle fibers. What muscle hypertrophy does is help your muscle fibers deal with the microtears resulting from the trauma. As a result, these microtears are fused, which enlarges your muscle mass and size.
In addition, resting also contributes to muscle growth. When you rest, your muscles repair themselves, which allows them to get stronger and thicker. The rule of thumb is not to do strength training or resistance training on the same muscle group two days in a row.
Keep in mind that forcing your muscles to work without rest can damage them and decrease their ability to repair. Not only that, but insufficient rest also makes you more vulnerable to injuries. Additionally, lack of sleep also reduces muscle mass. Thus, getting enough sleep and rest is important when it comes to muscle building.
Aside from these, there are also many factors that you have to consider. These include your body type, hormones, and your diet. Of course, consuming healthful and balanced meals is key to staying healthy and fit. And, when it comes to muscle building, proteins play a great role. Some of the protein sources you can eat include:
- Soybeans, beans, lentils
Also, keep in mind that muscle grows at varying rates, depending on body types, which we’ll look into later. Moreover, the hormones in your body also play different roles in muscle building, including:
- Enhancing how your body handles protein;
- Slowing down the breakdown of protein; and
- Boosting the growth of tissues
Lean Muscle vs Bulky Muscle
Now, we’re done looking into the body’s muscle-building processes. With this, it’s time to get a deeper look into the lean vs bulky muscle rivalry. First, we have to differentiate the two.
As mentioned earlier, lean muscles make your body appear more athletic and defined. You can achieve a lean body when you lose fat. On the other hand, you get bulky muscles when your goal is to add muscle and body mass. Bulky muscles also make you look more toned and muscular.
Additionally, you should keep in mind that everyone has a certain amount of lean muscle. Thus, the lifestyle you have to choose will depend on your goal. There are many factors to keep in mind depending on what you want to achieve. Here are some of them.
Exercise — Sets, Reps, and Weights
Like we’ve said, muscle-building varies for everyone depending on many factors. However, muscle is better developed when the body is put to work. Thus, if you want to build muscles, working out is one way to do it. Also, keep in mind that exercise should be consistent, long-term, and challenging if you want to achieve your goal.
- If you want to grow lean muscles, know that your goal should be to lose fat. So, if you want to stay lean, you should aim to lift lighter weights but with more reps. For example, you can do three sets with 12 to 15 reps of a workout you choose.
- If you want to be bulky, four to five sets with five or six reps can help you achieve your goal. You should also lift the heaviest weight you can.
Diet and Calories
As mentioned earlier, your diet plays a huge role when you’re building muscles. While it’s important when you’re trying to stay fit and healthy, it’s even more important when you’re building muscles. This is because the food you eat will have different effects on your body.
Basically, the goal when you’re trying to bulk up is to increase muscle mass. On the other hand, losing body fat will help you build lean muscles. However, keep in mind that the food you eat doesn’t have to change depending on your goal. Generally, what you should change is the amount of food you consume.
Here are some of the foods you should consume when building muscles:
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Dairy and grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans, seeds, nuts
Additionally, you should avoid foods, including alcohol, deep-fried foods, and foods with added sugars.
Like we’ve mentioned, rest is an important component of muscle building. Thus, getting the right amount of rest is essential. Make sure to get enough good sleep (at least 7-9 hours a day) and not do strength training for two consecutive days.
Not getting enough rest tends to reduce the body’s protein synthesis. In addition, it can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass. Aside from these, it hinders your muscles from recovering. With this, you must follow a routine that gives your body enough time to rest and heal.
How To Get Lean and Not Bulky
Now that you know the difference between lean muscle vs bulky muscle, it’s time to know how to build those muscles. If you’re looking to be lean, here are the steps you can take to achieve your goal.
1. Do resistance training
The first and most important thing you have to remember is to do resistance training and not skip it. Also, keep in mind that not all forms of resistance training build bulky muscles.
Additionally, you don’t have to train with heavyweights. If you want lean muscles, lift lighter weights but do more reps. Research suggests that it’s an effective way to build muscles without forcing yourself. Another tip is to plan your workouts so that you can plan your full-rest day within the week.
Contrary to what other people think, you don’t need to go to the gym to do resistance training. There are a ton of equipment you can buy to create your own home gym.
In addition, remember to do at least 8 to 12 reps for each of your muscle groups. Just add more reps as you become stronger.
2. Adjust your diet
Whether you want to lose weight or build muscle, modifying your diet is a must. And while calorie counting helps, you don’t really have to be strict about it. However, be sure to have a rough estimate of your required calorie intake.
Also, don’t forget that healthy foods should be your focus. Thus, adjusting your diet means eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein-rich foods also help immensely. If you’re an avid drinker, try to consume less and less alcohol, as it is full of empty calories.
3. Shed off excess body fat
Another important thing to do when building muscle is to lose body fat. If you’re looking to build lean muscles, losing body fat will greatly help. This is because lean muscles aren’t visible if you have excess body fat.
To shed the excess fat off, consider eating in a calorie deficit. Being in a calorie deficit means that you burn more calories than you consume. If you want to be in a calorie deficit, here’s what you should consider doing:
- Change your diet. Focus on whole and nutrient-rich foods. Consume more fruits, vegetables, proteins, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Also, limit eating foods with added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.
- Exercise! Increasing your level of activity is another component of a calorie deficit. You can start by weightlifting, but there are also other exercises you can do to burn calories. Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all workout. What’s important is that you find routines that you enjoy and could do long-term.
4. Incorporate cardio
Cardio helps you decrease your body fat. As a result, your lean muscles will be more visible. Thus, doing cardio can not only help you lose weight but tone your legs, too! Aside from that, cardio exercises are also good for maintaining a leaner figure.
The rule of thumb is to do cardio three times a week or less. Besides running and power walking, there are also other forms of cardio that you can do, depending on your liking. These include:
- Jumping Rope. If you want a nostalgic form of cardio, you can try skipping rope. It’s regarded as the best cardio exercise, which is simple and convenient. Additionally, it’s also an excellent home workout because you can burn up to 220 calories in as short as 20 minutes.
- Kickboxing. If you’re in it for the challenge, kickboxing is good cardio that you can do. Kickboxing is a mix of boxing and karate that can act as cardio and strength training. You can even burn 100 calories per 10 minutes!
5. Adjust your diet and workouts to fit your body type
Like we’ve said earlier, your body type matters in muscle-building. Aside from doing the tips we’ve mentioned, it’s also important that you know what your body type is. This way, you can modify your diet and your workout routine to fit your body type better.
Additionally, knowing your body type can help you plan your fitness goal better. There are three main body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.
People who are ectomorphs are naturally slim. In addition, they don’t grow muscles fast. If you’re an ectomorph, working out wouldn’t make you bulky.
If you want to be toned and look lean, resistance training is your best option. Ectomorphs do not require much cardio.
Generally, mesomorphs are people with the average body build. They typically gain and lose weight quickly, too. Additionally, mesomorphs are generally athletic, making muscle-building a breeze for them.
If you are a mesomorph, incorporate cardio to drop your excess body fat. You should steer your attention away from heavy lifting because you can get too muscular pretty easily.
The last body type is endomorph, and endomorphs are people with bigger frames. Thus, endomorphs can look bulky pretty quickly, especially with the wrong strength training.
Generally, endomorphs should focus on cardio. If you’re an endomorph, make sure to do cardio as much as you can. Focus more on lifting lighter weights. Alternatively, you can also do more bodyweight workouts as opposed to lifting heavyweights.
Building muscle can be easy if you’re consistent and determined. Now that you know the important things about lean vs bulky muscle, here are some related questions that you might have in mind.
How do I go from bulky to lean muscle?
If you want to go from bulky to lean, you should make lifestyle changes to lose bulky muscle mass. To do this, you must decrease your daily calorie intake and modify your workout routine. For example, eating fewer proteins and carbohydrates can help you go from bulky to lean. Focus on consuming whole foods like fruits and vegetables and avoid cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats.
As mentioned, changing your workout routines can also help. If you’re still weight training, lift lighter weights and do it at most twice a week. Also, focusing on cardiovascular exercises can help you lose excess muscle mass. Some of these exercises include biking, swimming, and jogging.
Does running make you lean or bulky?
Running isn’t exactly popular for making people bulky. However, it’s an exercise you can do to build muscles. Generally, running helps you build muscles in your lower body. But, keep in mind that it will still depend on the intensity and length of your workout.
Doing this exercise helps you accentuate your muscles by helping you lose body fat. Thus, running can help you grow lean muscles. However, keep in mind that too much running can inhibit muscle growth. So, building lean muscles means that you have to aim for high-intensity and short-time runs.
In conclusion, once you’ve learned the difference between lean vs bulky muscle, you must now figure out what your goal is. Then, you can make the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes to achieve that goal.