Toning vs Bulking: 3 Differences and How to Know Which is for You - Weight Lifting HQ LLC

Toning vs Bulking: 3 Differences and How to Know Which is for You

Are your exercise goals helping you to get tone or bulk up? Do you know the difference between the two and why you would want to tone vs bulk and vice versa? Read on to find out.

What is Toning

What is Toning

Having a “toned body” is a phrase that has been used a lot recently. The idea is mentioned in a lot of articles, online resources, and magazines. Toning refers to lengthening, leaning out and strengthening your muscles all without “bulking.” Toning has to do with slimming down and getting rid of excess body fat so muscle definition is clear.

Examples of toned bodies include swimsuit models, ballet dancers, and lean athlete. A toned body is lean, slim, and strong, with muscles that are defined. Having a toned body will help improve posture, reduce stress, and increase flexibility, strength, and energy.

What is Bulking

What is Bulking

Bulking up is a phase of eating a surplus amount of calories while lifting weights to help you build large muscles. Bulking up is often referred to in the world of bodybuilding because the focus is on getting big.

Bodybuilding revolves around the phases of bulking and cutting. With the first phase, bulking, you will be consuming more food than your body is used to or needs for a set amount of time, usually 4-6 or more months, and lifting weights and exercising to build and strengthen your muscles. These extra calories will fuel your body to build muscles and become stronger and larger.

The next phase is the cutting phase. During the bulking phase, your body will gain some fat, because of how many calories you are consuming. In the cutting phase, you will consume fewer calories than your body needs. You won’t gain muscle in this phase, but you will lose the excess fat while maintaining your muscle mass.

Examples of a bulky body include bodybuilders, weight lifters, and people like Arnold Schwarzenegger or the Rock. Big, strong and muscular bodies that also benefit from the improved balance and stability from growing big muscles.

Differences between the two


  • More common with women
  • Achieved by reducing body fat and tightening muscles
  • Cardio helps build a toned body


  • More common with men
  • Achieved by eating more and increasing muscle mass
  • Weightlifting helps build a bulky body

Toning and bulking are both ways of strengthening your muscles and helping them become more resistant. The main differences lie in the look you want your muscles to have. A lean, toned look, or a bigger bulky look.

While toning is generally more common with women and bulking is generally more common with men, anyone can bulk up or tone up regardless of gender. Men do have more of the hormone, testosterone, which makes bulking up a lot easier.

Both toning, and bulking revolve around nutrition, and a good diet plan. The kitchen makes or breaks a six-pack. With bulking you want to consume more calories, and with toning you want to consume less. Both help strengthen your muscles, it just depends on the look you want.

Tone v.s. Bulk

What kind of look do you want? What are your health goals? If you want to slim down and increase your muscle definition, then toning may be the best for you.

If you want to build your muscle and look bigger, bulking up may be the answer.

It depends on your goals and your body type. Here is a free body type calculator to help you figure out what body type you are and how to best achieve your toning/bulking goals.

There are three body types. Ectomorphs, Endomorphs, and Mesomorphs.


People with an ectomorphic body are naturally skinner, leaner, and usually taller. They don’t have a lot of body fat, or muscle. They have trouble gaining weight easily.


Endomorphs have a lot of body fat and muscle and gain weight easily.


Mesomorphs are kind of an in-between of the other two. They are strong and solid. They can lose and gain weight and muscle easily.

Figuring out your body type is a good step to knowing how to best exercise and eat in a way that will help your body type and work with it. No one body is best, and everyone is different and has a different body.  Some people are a mix of a couple of the above-mentioned body types. Knowing your body type is a great way to know how to achieve your health goals.

How to Get a Toned Body

How to Get a Toned Body

Having a toned body is all about getting rid of excess body fat, so the first step to getting a toned body is eating fewer calories and balancing a healthy diet. Learn how many calories you need every day, and track what you eat at least for the first few days.

Eat plenty of foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, and avoid sugar and processed foods.

Next, focus on your exercise. You want to do exercise like cardio, exercise that will help you burn calories and slim down. Resistance training is also really great for toning up those muscles, but too much weightlifting can leave you looking more bulky, so you will want to be careful if bulky is not the look you’re going for. If you do want to avoid bulkiness, you can do a lower weight, with high reps, or toning workouts like boxing, or pilates.

How to Get a Bulky Body

Bulking up also starts with your diet. You want to consume 10-20 % more than normal to help build muscle mass and bulk up. An easy way to count the extra calories  is by adding 500 calories to your daily allowance.

Focus on carbs to fuel you and give you fast acting energy, healthy fats, and protein. Supplements can provide neccassary nutrients as well.

The form of exercise that will help you bulk up the most is weight lifting. Squats, bands, and other strength training exercises are really good for bulking up. You want to over use your muscles to make them stronger and bulkier.

Cardio can be good, but can also help you lose too much weight to get bulky. If you do cardio, opt for only once of week of it.

If you are worried about the extra weight gain that comes from bulking, a cutting cycle after the bulking cycle is really beneficial.

So, which one is right for you,  toning or bulking up?

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