Understanding The Difference Between Bulking Up And Toning Up

Understanding The Difference Between Bulking Up And Toning Up

When it comes time to slim down that body and firm up those muscles people will try just about anything. But for some reason they tend to want to stop just short of bodybuilding. As soon as they hear the term bodybuilding they panic. They don’t want to “bulk up” they say, they just want to “tone up.” What’s the difference between the two and why should we care?

There are many fitness terms that have been clouded with myths and misconceptions and the bulk/tone debate still seems to be unsettled. Note what Fitness Magazine had to say on the subject,

When most women say they want to “tone up”, what they usually mean is that they want to become leaner. Basically, they want to lose fat, and add a little muscle definition – but not so much muscle mass that they look like a bodybuilder.

So, then what is the real difference between the two terms?

Working Out With WeightsWhat Is Toning Up?

Generally, when people say that they want to “tone up”, they’re looking for longer, leaner muscles with less fatty tissue around them. It should have a bit of definition, but the finished look should not look muscular. Toning is one of those vague terms that is used to describe the end result of your program. When you want to tone up you need to combine strength and resistance training alongside exercises that will help you to burn fat.

What Is Bulking Up?

For the most part, most women prefer to tone up rather than bulk up. Men on the other hand prefer to bulk up. This means that they’re goal is to add more depth and dimension to their muscle mass. They will accomplish this by a combination of weight lifting and nutritional supplements in the form of shakes.

Once you know your fitness goals you can choose the program that best suits your goals. For those who are looking to bulk up you will want to try some of the heavy lifting techniques used by bodybuilders.


While both programs require an exercise routine that includes a good nutrition plan, with bodybuilders they will concentrate on more intensive workout programs, a number of dietary supplements and some consistently regular weight lifting routines. Bodybuilders are going to be far more thorough in their routines.

Because of the confusion surrounding these two terms it is apparent that many people are avoiding a good workout simply because they don’t understand exactly what each of these terms means.

The Myth

Unless a woman has openly decided to become a bodybuilder she tends to fear the weights. Weights in and of themselves do not make you bulk up; it is how you use those weights that will give you the look of a bodybuilder. As a matter of fact, because the bulking up generally is a product of the hormone testosterone in the system, it is virtually impossible for a woman to achieve the same muscle density that men will get. They simply don’t have enough testosterone in their system to accomplish that.

The bottom line is that you are in complete control as to how big you’ll get. Notice what Vince Del Monte says about bulking up,

I believe that bulking up is the most effective way to gain mass muscle. Taking the stay lean all year approach might help you build 5 pounds of muscle a year if you’re lucky but taking the bulk up like you mean it will help you skyrocket 20-30 pounds or more.

You may choose to take the slow road and tone up, gaining a little muscle every year or you can get on the fast track and bulk up a lot faster. It all depends on what you want out of your program. Remember, you are the one in control.


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