When you think of lifting weights, you might consider Mr. Universe or some other body building competition that demands bulk and definition in order to achieve success. However, what most people want when lifting weights is just the opposite, they want to gain strength for sure, but not bulk. Thankfully, there are ways to lift weights that serve to lengthen the body, not create excessive bulk. Read on to learn more:
How to Build Strength Without Bulk
Higher Repetition, Lower Weights
If you have ever researched lifting weights, you have likely heard the phrase “go big or go home,” insinuating that lifting heavy is the only kind of lifting that counts. This cannot be further from the truth when your goal is muscular endurance or strength not creating bulk or mass. In fact, the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends you stick to lifting only 40 to 70 percent of your one-rep max, which is the heaviest you can lift at one time, to create muscular endurance or strength. Generally, this means you perform more sets with lower weights. For example, your sets might be over 15 reps with a lighter weight. You still gain strength this way, which is the point, but you don’t create bulk like you would with heavier weights.
Don’t be Afraid to Use Your Own Body Resistance
We will look at some weight lifting workouts that don’t add bulk below. However, you can also simply lift your own body weight to create resistance and build muscular endurance and strength. Using your own body weight for resistance is ideal because the risk of injury due to lifting too heavy isn’t there and you always have your body, no need to tote around weights. Now, onto some specific exercises you can do that use weights but don’t bulk you up…
Building Strength Using Weights, Without Creating Bulk: Easy Exercises
Renegade Rows: Back Strength
- Begin this exercise by getting into a full plank with dumbbells in each hand. Extend your arms and stay on your toes. If you need to, you can opt for the kneeling version of this exercise. Then, engage your abdomen, pulling your belly button into your spine.
- Take your right dumbbell up toward your hip on the same side, keep the weight close to your body. Return it slowly to the floor and then repeat on the other side with your left dumbbell.
Chest Fly: Chest Strength
- Begin by laying on the floor, bench or stability ball with a pair of dumbbells near your chest.
- Carefully raise the dumbbells straight above your chest, with your palms facing each other.
- Lower your arms slowly out to each side, keeping a slight bend at your elbows. Stop when your elbows are at chest level.
- Squeeze your chest and return your hands together at the top.
Lower Body, Glutes and Upper Body: Lunges
- Stand with feet hip-width apart. While holding a dumbbell in your hands, one hand on each side, elbows bent. (you can also hold a dumbbell in each hand or use a kettlebell.)
- Step forward with one foot, keeping the other firmly in place.
- Bend your knees, dropping your back knee to the floor, creating a 90-degree angle in both knees.
- Push off your front foot and return to standing and repeat on each side.
Weights Don’t Have to Mean Bulk
While you might associate lifting weights with bulk in the same way you associate high rise workout leggings, exercise apparel women or fitness yoga pants with looking great while working out. However, lifting weights doesn’t have to create bulk if you’re careful. Follow the tips listed above and suggested exercises listed to create lean, long muscles that are strong but not bulky.