How Can I Get Lean and Decrease My Bulky Muscles?


question-icon-newI’m 33 years old and have been exercising for about 10 years. This might sound strange but I would actually like to change my body composition and reduce the overall size of my muscles. I feel that my upper body is way too big compared to my legs and I would like to decrease some muscle mass for a more symmetrical physique. How do I do this? I am a vegetarian and eat extremely healthy. Should I just decrease the amount of weight I lift or maybe I should stop working out with weights altogether? Please help!

answer-icon-newThe first thing you should consider is actually building up the muscle mass in your legs to match the current size of your upper body. It will take a lot of hard work and discipline but by implementing some key multi-joint mass building exercises like barbell squats and leg presses, you should be able to add a significant amount of lean muscle mass to your lower body. You really need to be honest with yourself and admit if you’ve slacked on training your lower body. Many guys in the gym have impressive upper bodies but they lack any attention and focus for training their legs with the same level of intensity as they do for their chest, shoulders and arms. The end result is having the dreaded syndrome called “chicken legs” which is something you would never be happy with. It’s usually easy to find out if guys have this problem because they will always be wearing long pants in the gym to cover up their underdeveloped legs, yet they will be walking around with a tiny tank top on showing off their massively jacked upper bodies. This is unacceptable!

If you have been getting lazy and missing your leg training days, you might want to invest the time into building a strong foundation in your quadriceps and hamstrings in order to bring your legs up to par with your lower body. The reason why I make this point is because it’s very difficult to rebuild muscle mass in your upper body after you have decreased your overall size, so the last thing you would want is to change your mind a few months down the road and totally regret losing your upper body thickness and size. You will have an extremely hard time trying to regain the mass and size you lost, so you want to make sure this is exactly what you want before going down this road.

Now, with this being noted, if you are happy with the current size of your lower body and you simply want to reduce the size of your chest, arms and shoulders to match your legs, then there are many things you can do in order to achieve this look.

Gaining a lean and toned physique is a goal that is shared by many people who begin on a fitness plan. Lean and vascular muscles can be associated with a more refined physique of a fitness model, swimmer or a track and field athlete. While big and bulky muscles are associated with a more powerful, rugged and burly look of a powerlifter or a bodybuilder. Gaining lean muscle is not hard to achieve if you know how to properly exercise and which foods to eat. Below are some helpful ways to achieve a lean and chiseled look.

Eating healthy and nutritious whole foods is essential if you want to gain lean muscle and lose fat. If you can manage to eat five to six small meals throughout the day, do it. Eating small meals throughout the day will help maintain your blood sugar and energy levels. Ideally, you should consume a wide variety of whole, natural foods to energize your body. In order to gain muscle you must be sure your diet includes an adequate amount of lean protein. Being a vegetarian is a wonderfully eco-conscious decision, but many vegetarians fail to eat enough protein. Aim for at least one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. If you currently weigh 185 pounds, you should focus on eating at least 185 grams of protein every day. There are many vegetarian friendly protein choices to choose from. Great choices include foods like tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy, and dairy products (lacto-ovo vegetarians). Eggs are a perfect choice and they provide the protein your body needs to recover and grow from a strenuous workout.

Exercising is extremely beneficial to your well-being and health, but not every workout is the same in terms of building overall muscle mass. Lifting weights can build either lean and toned muscles or huge and bulky ones. Your results depend on the exercises you are doing and how you do them. If you are into lifting weights there are a few things that you can do to ensure the development of lean muscles. First of all, don’t lift the heaviest weights possible using the most mass building compound exercises like deadlifts, squats and bench press. Instead, opt for lighter weights and choose isolation movements to focus your attention on refining the muscle versus packing size onto it. Do more repetitions and sets of each exercise in a higher range of around 15-20 reps per set. When you go lower than 8 reps per set, your focus will be more on building size, so stick with higher reps in order to avoid adding additional muscle mass to your physique.

You definitely do not want to stop working out altogether, but you should decrease your overall workout sessions if you really want to reduce the current size of your upper body. Try limiting your weight training workouts to only 3 days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Over the course of 2-3 months see how your body responds. If you still have a bulky upper body and it doesn’t look like you’re reducing the overall size of your chest, shoulders and arms then you will probably need to cut back on your workouts even further in order to get the desired results you’re looking for. If cutting back on your weight training to only once per week does the trick and produces the results you like then stick to it. The bottom line is that you need to allow the muscles in your upper body to atrophy (get smaller), so this can be accomplished by either reducing the intensity and overall weight used during your workouts or by totally cutting down on your overall number of workouts being performed.

It is also important to thoroughly stretch after doing a strenuous workout. Stretching allows your muscles to gain more flexibility and more range of motion. You might want to try different workouts such as yoga and pilates. These exercise programs incorporate stretching, holding poses, and working against gravity to provide your muscles with a calming yet effective muscle toning workout.

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  1. Avatar

    I have just the opposite problem, my legs are too bulky for my upper body even though I’m training them with light weight and high reps. Can you help?

    • shapefit

      Alpay – You probably just need to add in some cardio exercises like jogging, biking and elliptical to target your legs in order to reduce the size. If you have excess fat on your legs then doing cardio and cleaning up your diet will help a lot. If you have muscular legs with very little fat then this is most likely your genetics and it may be difficult to reduce the size. If it really bothers you then you might need to take some time off of training your legs since even using light weight and high repetitions could spur growth.

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    Benjamin Cruz on

    You may want to use high volume and low intensity workouts. This means you will decrease the traditional weight of your workout at around 50% to 70% while increasing the volume at around 25-30 repetitions. Please also include cardio exercise, not only will this will be your best friend for getting lean but it will also help you build and improve your legs and calves. Lastly, you might need to focus on reducing and limiting your daily calorie intake. This is essential for reducing your overall body fat percentage. Put some time and effort into researching about nutrient dense diets and how to count calories. Have a great day!

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