This is a common question, especially from new trainees and women. There is a widely held belief that lifting heavy weights can lead to getting “bulky” suddenly and unexpectedly.
There is a direct correlation between muscle size and muscle strength. Just like a steel cable, a muscle fiberâ€™s strength is proportional to its cross sectional area. And a muscle can only do one of three things: get smaller, get bigger or stay the same size.
So, irrespective of whether your goal is to â€œtone upâ€ or to â€œbulk upâ€ you are trying to make your muscles bigger. And whether you want â€œmore strengthâ€ or â€œmore sizeâ€ you are trying to make your muscles bigger. You don’t want them smaller, do you? And you aren’t lifting weights so they stay the same size, are you? There is not a set of exercises for â€œgetting rippedâ€ and a different set of exercises for â€œgetting bulky.â€ There are only exercises for making your muscles bigger.
On the subject of being â€œrippedâ€, muscle definition is a function of muscle size and low bodyfat. In many cases people would be satisfied with their current muscle size if they had lower bodyfat that revealed their muscles. Champion Olympic weightlifters have huge muscles, usually pretty well hidden by fat. Champion bodybuilders have weaker muscles but far less fat, yet they appear more muscular than the Olympic lifters.
The key to getting the result you desire is to monitor the development of your physique and determine when you have the level of tone or definition you want, then to switch your training to a maintenance routine where you keep your routine the same. There is zero danger that you will wake up one morning with bulky, unwanted and unexpected muscle. Both muscle gain and fat loss are slow processes that only happen when you pay careful attention to your training data.
You do keep track of your training data, right?