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Lean and Muscular Body, Not Bulky: Burn Calories, Gain Muscle, Lose Fat

Updated on April 21, 2013


A lot of people make assumptions about exercising and building muscle. One common assumption is that gaining muscle is easy and it does not take very long. Another common assumption is that muscle is bulky. Some women assume gaining some muscle will make them look masculine. Many people assume that doing the same exercise routine over and over again will cause them to continue to build muscle and get rid of fat.

I can safely say that the changes are not permanent. So you can change back. If you have assumptions then test them. Assumptions related to exercise are very easy to test. You do the exercises and see how they change your body. Based on my personal experiences the assumptions I mentioned above or all wrong. It is better to have facts than assumptions. Don't be afraid to test your assumptions or the advice of other people. Personally I gradually gained muscle when I started exercising a lot and as I gained muscle I became leaner but my weight increased a little.

Me doing side planks.
Me doing side planks. | Source
Me doing incline push-ups.
Me doing incline push-ups. | Source

Fat or Lean

The opposite of fat is thin or lean. Muscle is lean. It takes up less space than fat. So a muscular person that weighs 140 pounds would be much leaner than a non muscular person that weighs 140 pounds. Muscles are firm. They hold things in place. For instance strong abs can prevent your stomach from sticking out. They also help you maintain good posture. People with bad posture make themselves look shorter and fatter.

A skinny muscular person is going to weigh more than a skinny fat person. Ten pounds of muscle takes up less space than 10 pounds of fat but it still weighs 10 pounds. Checking your weight on a scale does not tell you how lean you are. It just tells you your bodyweight. If you want to be skinny and light then you want to be skinny fat. Skinny fat means the person is skinny but they still have extra body fat because they have very little muscle.

People that are skinny fat often feel fat and weak. They also still look fat. So I don't think it is something to strive for. Your body needs muscle and fat. You can only get rid of so much of it before you become unhealthy. If you are skinny and you still want to get rid of the fat then try being lean and muscular.

Lean woman riding a bicycle.
Lean woman riding a bicycle. | Source

Burning Calories

If you put on some more muscle you will burn more calories throughout the day while doing ordinary everyday activities. The extra muscle can also allow you to exercise more. As I increased my strength and endurance I was able to do more during my workouts. That made it possible for me to burn over 1,400 calories during a workout. Running 12 miles on my elliptical trainer burns more calories than running 5 miles. Doing 100 push ups burns more calories than doing 20.

Building more muscle helps you burn more calories. Burning more calories than you consume is how you lose fat. If you don't put on some more muscle then you are going to have a hard time burning more calories and getting rid of the extra fat.

Me doing tucked push-ups.
Me doing tucked push-ups. | Source
Woman dong push-ups.
Woman dong push-ups. | Source
Women playing volleyball.
Women playing volleyball. | Source

Gaining Muscle

Gaining muscle is not that difficult. I started going for bike rides and my calf muscles became bigger. I did barbell curls almost everyday for a while and my bicep muscles became bigger. While doing a push-up routine my chest muscles became bigger. By exercising I was able to gain a lot of muscle but it took a long time and a lot of effort. Exercising on a regular basis is not enough. The exercises also need to be difficult. It is easier for men to gain muscle than women. So women are not going to get the same results as men.

The muscles have fat over top of them. So if you lose fat while gaining muscle you may not notice an increase in the size of your muscles. I measured the circumference of my arms. Then I did a weightlifting workout routine for a few weeks. When I checked my progress it looked like my muscles were smaller. I was more muscular but I had less fat. As a result my arms and other parts of my body were thinner. Muscular does not mean bulky. You can gain a lot of muscle without becoming big and the muscle does not stick around if you stop using it.

I don't want to be really bulky but I have never been really bulky before. Even if I did bulk up I could just exercise less to lose some muscle. So there is no reason for me to worry that I might accidentally bulk up. Men do not bulk up easily and it is even harder for women. Your body tries to adapt to your routine. Do exercises that are easier for lean light people and your body will try to become lean. For example running, biking, hiking, swimming, push ups and yoga.


You can gain or lose fat but you don't have very much control over where you gain or lose it. You can not pick a spot and gain or lose fat in that specific area. Muscle is different. You have a lot of control over where you gain or lose muscle. Work out certain muscles enough and those muscles will get bigger. Stop working out certain muscles and those muscles will become smaller.

Since you have a lot of control over the individual muscles you can build the body you want. By exercising you can gain muscle and get rid of fat so you have a lean muscular body. Building muscle makes it much easier to burn calories and keep the fat off. If you don't want to be bulky then switch from gaining muscle to maintaining the muscle you have once your muscles are the size you want them. To go from gaining to maintaining muscle stop increasing the intensity and the duration of the exercise.


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