Usain Bolt says he 're-tones' to stay in peak condition by stopping his workouts for 2 weeks at a time

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Usain Bolt says he 're-tones' to stay in peak condition by stopping his workouts for 2 weeks at a time
Usain Bolt REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy
  • Usain Bolt won eight Olympic gold medals as a sprinter.
  • He trained to stay in shape, getting stronger without letting his muscles get too big.

Usain Bolt pushed his body to the limits to break records in the Olympics.

But time off from the gym was essential for his performance, too.

Bolt, who won eight gold medals from 2008 to 2016 and became the first man in history to set three world records in Olympic competition, kept a close eye on his body and performance, trying to hit a sweet spot of strength and agility.

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When his muscles got too big, he and his trainer Glen Mills would pause his gym routine for a few weeks, Bolt told Insider.

"If you get too big, then your muscles get too tight. And if your muscles get too tight, there's one of two things that's going to happen. Either you're going to get injured or you're going to slow down," Bolt said in an interview about his new partnership with 3D dental printing technology company, SprintRay, which is providing dental care to underserved communities in his home country of Jamaica.

"We would take two weeks from the gym just to re-tone," he added.

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For Bolt, that time away from the gym ensured his body stayed lean, light, and loose to compete at his generational speed with a reduced risk of injury. But keeping control of muscle mass can be helpful to athletes in other sports, as well as anyone looking to stay toned without getting too bulky.

Too much muscle can slow you down, cause joint damage, and reduce flexibility

Excessive muscle mass can make the cardiovascular system less effective, and leave a person with less endurance than what they had at a lighter weight with lesser muscle mass, according to licensed dietitian Joey Gochnour.

Too much muscle mass, built too quickly, impacts range of motion, too, which could make Bolt slower and less flexible.

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But it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time without bulking up - a process known as body recomposition.

How to build muscle without getting too bulky

One way to achieve a "toned" look is to do heavy weight lifting without eating at a high caloric surplus.

Swapping processed foods for whole foods like seafood, lean grass-fed meat, low-fat dairy, free-range eggs, nuts, and beans - spread evenly across all your meals - will help.

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Workouts like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, and rows will target multiple muscles at a time to prevent any specific muscles from getting disproportionately built up.

Personal trainer Niko Algerli told Insider's Rachel Hosie recommends choosing three or four exercises per muscle group and performing three or four sets of eight to 12 reps per exercise to avoid bulking in certain areas.

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