Too Big?

Raise your hand if you've ever seen this:

"I just want to get toned, not too big or anything."


"I'm not looking to be a bodybuilder, I just want to get nice and fit."


"I'm looking more for lean muscle, not the big bulky kind."

or...well, you get the point. And to those of you who actually raised your hands, put them down you dorks.

Perhaps you've seen some variant of this on a messageboard, or maybe you were even the perpetrator at some point. Maybe you still are. Maybe you're reading this very article from being linked to here as a result of it.

You've been a naughty boy, haven't you?

I want you to think about what the stipulation actually means, in your well-meaning attempt to specify your goals. First of all, does it really need clarification? If someone as equally untrained as you did in fact want to ultimately be a gargantuan bodybuilder (or even any lesser derivative of that - "buff", "yoked", etc.), would you expect the prescribed advice to be any different? If your answer is either "yes" or that it's not so obvious, then why is it different from any other example I can come up with?

If two people start learning the piano, do their respective lessons change just because one of them has loftier future goals of being a master concert performer and the other doesn't? Of course not. Both go through the basics and they can each run with that as far as they eventually want to.

I can go on. I bet when you were learning how to drive you didn't set the condition that you're not looking to be a professional track driver. Or when you were in school that you weren't necessarily shooting for being a Nobel laureate.

Then again, a little ambition wouldn't hurt.

Anytime this utterance is given unfortunate birth for the upteenth time the reaction in anyone who's been around a little while will be a proverbial groan at the notion of being worried about being too successful. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here, reluctant Arnolds. You've barely even taken your trousers off and you're already thinking about potentially going too far?

I mean, let's look at that right there. It's not even biologically possible for this problem to eventuate. Do you honestly think the body's reaction to basic drug-free weight training is so powerful that you might realize one day you've accidentally overdone it?

Shit! I was just trying to look like Brad Pitt from Fight Club.

Again, this would never happen with any other skill, profession, hobby, or general endeavor, so it stands to reason that you don't need to concern yourself with it in fitness, either. The anabolic process is an incremental gradient of progress. The most that could happen is that you would decide you're more or less at the limit on how big you would like to be (and again, it's so gradual that you may even need to debate with yourself on whether you're actually there or not yet) and henceforth you'd simply not eat a copious amount of food that would elicit growth. Because that's exactly what it takes to get any degree of big: a concerted, deliberate effort.

Instead of framing your goals in the negative, regarding what you don't want to be (because then you might as well include train conductor, porn star, and giraffe), focus on the positive. It will keep the circumstances realistic, your expectations grounded, and you won't be wandering into unfettered territory about the goals of others being an accident waiting to happen.