This is because most complaints I receive are about legs, but also most women don’t seem to bulk up in their upper body like they do with their legs.
But in saying that, all of us are different, and I had a request for this blog post, so I know it happens to some of us.
I have also experienced my upper body bulking up with too much heavy lifting and CrossFit.
My arms themselves didn’t become that much bigger, it was more my back. My back got really broad and my crop tops and shirts became really tight around this area.
So if the same thing has happend to you too, read on to find out how to reduce a muscular upper body.
You’ll learn what exercises to avoid, and what exercises you can do to tone them up without getting bulky.
Reducing any muscle takes time and requires you to not use these muscles, to give them a chance to reduce in size (or “atrophy”).
If you continue with heavy lifting or whatever exercise it is that bulked you up in the first place, you will never reduce this muscle. Stopping this type of exercise is the most important thing.
I know giving up intense exercise and heavy lifting can be difficult at first, but there are lots of other exercises you can do (see below).
But it’s extremely important that you don’t starve your self. That will just slow down your metabolism and it may have serious consequences on your health.
Obviously, you need to stop doing the exercise/s that have contributed to your bulkiness. That is number one.
In my experience, the exercises that make your upper body too muscular include:
Any overhead pushing / pulling motion will make your back broader, which might be an issue for you, as it was for me.
These exercises are used heavily in CrossFit, so if you are doing CrossFit and are getting too muscular for your liking, I would stop.
I would also avoid all heavy lifting and workouts focusing on strength. By this, I mean lifting anywhere in the 3-8 rep range. And also avoid any isolation exercises such as bicep curls.
I would also highly recommend you to find out your body type. This is super important since different body types lose weight and build muscle differently.
I’m a mesomorph body type which means I’m quite athletic and I can gain muscles quite easily. I didn’t know my body type when I started getting into fitness but if I knew, I could’ve saved myself much trouble.
If you are not sure about your body type, you can take my Body Type Quiz. It will help you learn your body type in just 2 minutes and it’s completely free. :)
Doing some form of resistance training is still important and will make your upper body looked toned. Also, resistance training is great for raising your metabolism which means it will be easier for you to lose weight.
So you can’t skip it.
These are some workouts you can try that will help tone up your upper body without getting too muscular. Also, a lot of them are great for your core too!
Boxing is my favourite workout for toning up your arms without adding bulk.
It tones them up really fast, and you only need to do 1-2 classes per week to notice a difference.
If you can’t get to a class, try making up your own little circuit at the gym (if it has boxing gloves and a bag), or doing a Les Mills Body Combat class at home.
Swimming is also really great for toning up your arms without increasing their size.
I know professional swimmers having really broad shoulders, but they do train ridiculously hard, which is why they have this shape. If you just swim 30 minutes 1-2 times per week, this won’t happen to you.
When I was triathlon training, all I did was swim, cycle and run.
My arms were super toned and I wasn’t doing any resistance training for them. I was just swimming 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes. So I know it works :)
You don’t need to avoid resistance training all together. I would just avoid anything heavy as I mentioned and anything low rep (3-8 rep range).
I have posted a free lean arms workout on my blog, so have a look at this to give you an idea on some circuits you can do.
Otherwise, I have posted a few free workouts from my 3 Steps to Lean Legs program.
These are all full body so they will work your arms and core, as well as your legs. And it will give you a good idea on some exercises you can do that will tone up, but won’t cause bulkiness.
HIIT workouts are great for toning up and a lot of women don’t have issues with HIIT bulking up their upper body.
HIIT workouts are usually very leg focused and they can cause your lower body to bulk up.
So I would avoid too many lower body exercises and avoid too many shoulder pressing exercises. Here are a few examples of HIIT workouts that won’t bulk you up.
A lot of core workouts also involve being in the plank position, and this is great for your shoulders and upper body too!
Pilates is a great form of lighter resistance training that will tone up without adding bulk.
You can do regular pilates or reformer pilates – both are great. They use light weights, pilates rings or just body weight only.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me :) I hope you found this helpful! xx