How to not get bulky lifting weights, Part 1

When I first started working out, my goal was to get big. I was a skinny dude all my life and I needed to put some muscle on to help with sports (and girls).

Once I got to a size that I thought was good, I changed my training up so that I could continue to build strength without putting on any more mass.

All the research and training that I did helped me achieve this, and also helped give me a foundation from which to train MMA fighters with.

Mixed-martial artists don’t want to get bigger but they do want to be as strong and powerful at their weight-class as possible.

Unfortunately, you see a lot of guys out there who look like they never considered the concept that being too big makes you look like a gorilla!

I don’t blame them, because most of the training programs you see on the ‘net and in magazines are designed to bulk you up like a bodybuilder.

But if you’re like me and you think being strong and powerful, is a worthy training goal, and you think looking lean and athletic is better than looking like you can’t scratch your back, then over the next 3 e-mails, I’m going to share with you my top 3 tips to achieve this:

Tip #1 – Avoid (minimize) isolation exercises.

If you’re doing a lot of exercises like barbell curls, tricep extensions, and dumbbell side raises, then you’re wasting time that could be better spent doing big bang exercises like squats, bench presses, chinups, and lunges.

Most guys do multiple exercises for their biceps, but they never do 1 set of squats!

This not only contributes to the bulked up bodybuilder look, but it also minimizes the amount of fat burning you’re doing, since you’re spending so much time working such a small muscle group compared to bigger muscle groups like the quads and glutes.

And, if being lean and cut is your goal, when you do these big bang exercises that work your whole body, you’re burning much more fat after your workout compared to doing isolation exercises.

In fact, studies have shown that you can burn fat for up to 48 hours following a weight-training session that includes big bang exercises like squats and bench presses.

Plus, the big bang exercises contribute much more to athletic performance than exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions. So if you not only want to look better but also move better, then stick to big, compound movements for the majority of your training.

Now that you know you’ve gotta focus on big compound movements, you’re ready to learn Tip #2…. which you’ll learn about in a few days.

Train smart,

Eric Wong, BSc, CSCS
MMA Performance Coach

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10 years ago

Your point about cutting out bicep curls is interesting… You said in your key components to an mma workout programme that bicep curls are vital. Can you help me out here Eric my man?

10 years ago
Reply to  Chris

In the article – it says ‘minimize’ isolation exercises.

Bicep curls are a great exercise for specific strength needed in MMA (eg. prevent an armbar for a split second with strength so you can use technique to escape), but you shouldn’t do multiple exercises for them like bar curls, preacher curls and dumbbell curls!