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I want to gain muscle, not lose weight

June 15th, 2009 No Comments


Bethany says:

I have a question regarding exercise. I am 5’4, 130 lbs. I don’t need to lose weight by any means but I would like to gain muscle and be more toned. Are there different exercises I should be doing as a person who wants to gain muscle tone as opposed to a person who wants to lose weight?

Right now, I go to the gym about 3 times a week. I do cardio for 30 minutes and weight machines for 30 minutes. Is this a good routine or should I be focusing more on weights?

I don’t think you should cut out any cardio. Three to four times/week for 30 minutes is pretty much the minimal amount of cardio exercise anyone should be doing. From my experience and knowlede, there aren’t necessarily any special exercises people who are looking to build muscle should be doing that people who are looking to lose weight shouldn’t be (I believe that people who are trying to lose weight should be doing plenty of strength training as well). However, if you can, add more strength training minutes and make sure you’re doing the following:

  • Getting at least 120 minutes of strength training weekly. Ninety minutes is not quite enough. Shoot for at least 120 minutes per week if possible (40 minutes over 3 days/week or 30 minutes over 4 days).
  • Challenging your muscles every single time. The last 2-3 reps of a set should be very difficult to complete. If your sets ever feel easy, you’re not using enough weight!
  • Mixing it up. I never do exactly the same strength training workout twice. Switch up the type and order of exercises, number of sets/reps, and weight you’re lifting as often as possible.
  • Documenting your progress. You should be lifting more and more weight as you get stronger. It helps to log your workouts so you can keep track of everything and add weight when you need to.
  • Eating enough. To prevent weight loss, make sure you’re getting enough calories, especially in the form of protein on days you’re weight training intensely.

I think Nutritionista is dead on here.

There are no specific exercises that build muscle, you have to change the way you are doing them.


If you want to gain muscle you are going to need to eat more and use heavier weights.  Instead of getting 12-15 reps in 3 sets, you should be doing a set using weight that you can barely press out 8.  Then grab lighter weights and repeat the set for 10-15 reps immediately after.  The heavy set builds muscle, the lighter one will tone.


I’ve been doing this (more weight, more protein) for a couple months to build up my booty.  I’ve seen a change in the way my clothes fit, which is pretty much the only gauge I have because I didn’t measure in the beginning.  Not to mention it’s MUCH firmer.