If you are even remotely into fitness or weight lifting you’ve probably heard the term “muscle definition.” Everybody is talking about toning up and getting more defined. (Read This: 5 Nutritional Habits for Highly Effective Fat Loss)
From an aesthetics point of view, building big muscles is not the only goal. Yes, muscle size is important, but without a decent body fat level, you will may just end up big and fluffy. In my experience, most people would much rather be a little bit smaller and more aesthetic than just getting big.
If that’s you, you are on the right page. Keep on reading and discover how to finally achieve that “toned” and more aesthetically pleasing physique, regardless of your age, gender or genetics. None of that can hold you back from it.
What is Muscle Definition?
In short, muscle definition is achieved when (1) you’ve put on a significant amount of muscle and (2) are relatively lean. The lower your body fat the more defined you’ll appear. Of course, you will need to have a decent amount of muscle to have a good looking physique.
As general guidelines the sweet spot for great muscle definition is:
- Body fat: 8% – 12%
- Minimum muscle gains: At least 25 pounds
Muscle Definition Mistakes
Now the fun stuff.
There’s no doubt everyone wants to have great muscle definition, but if you haven’t got it yet, chances are you are making some of these mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Doing high reps
As mentioned above you will need a decent amount of muscle mass if the goal isn’t to look scrawny and starved.
This is why I recommend that rather than focusing on high reps (something that your personal trainer told you to do), you focus on maintaining your strength.
The better you maintain your strength on a diet, the less likely you are to lose your hard earned muscle mass in the process.
Mistake #2 – Low carb diets
There is a big hype around low carb diets nowadays. The truth is that low carb diets are not superior in any way to other types of diets.
You see, weight loss happens when you eat less calories than your body burns. It doesn’t matter if you are eating “clean”, on low carbs, or following a paleo or ketogenic diet. What matters for us, is to have a diet that supports our workouts so that we can maintain our performance while still achieving the calorie deficit necessary for reducing body fat.
Low carb diets are generally bad for people who lift because they are not optimal for sustaining the workouts. Because carbs are our primary source of energy, it’s critical that we take in as many as our body allows, while still getting sufficient fats and proteins, and maintaining a caloric deficit.
Mistake #3 – Lots of cardio
Cardio is great for burning a lot of calories and helps with weight loss, but it can be a double edged sword.
Doing too much when you are dieting can put you in a severe negative caloric balance. Losing too much weight, too quickly, will make your far more susceptible to muscle loss.
So, if you decide to do cardio, limit it to reasonable amounts and make sure you are not overdoing it. A good method to determine whether you are losing muscle or not is to monitor your strength. If you are getting weaker, you’re likely more work that you’re able to recover from.
Mistake #4 – Eating too much
We’ve already touched a little bit on the topic of nutrition, but it’s extremely important and I think it deserves a little bit more attention. People often confuse “clean eating” with dieting and they assume that if they eat “healthy” foods, the quantity doesn’t matter anymore. So they overeat.
Yes, eating a balanced diet is important for your health, for getting the vitamins and minerals the body needs, but getting leaner has nothing to do with eating clean. It has to do with calories in versus calories out.
What you want to do is to eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods while also keeping an eye on calorie and macronutrient intake.
How to Improve Muscle Definition
Here is a simple step by step guide that will help achieve a more muscular and defined physique.
Start lifting heavy weight and focus on getting stronger. As long as you’re gradually getting stronger, you’re on the right track.
Have a controlled diet and eat slightly more calories that your maintenance level in order to be able to build new muscle.
Eating just 5% more calories than your body needs to maintain its weight is enough to build muscle, while minimizing body fat gains. Eat a high protein, high carb diet.
Once you have built a solid foundation all you need to do is drop your body fat to 8-12% for males and around 20% for females.
Do this by eating around 20-25% less calories. Make sure to include plenty of protein in your diet in order to prevent any muscle loss and keep training heavy. You can supplement your protein intake with a whey protein powder if you can’t get it all from foods. Generally speaking, when you are cutting you will need around 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Improving muscle definition doesn’t have to be a struggle, it doesn’t take top notch genetics or using shady supplements. All it takes is a smart and consistent approach. Put in the effort, have patience , enjoy the ride and you will be amazed by the results.
Brian Ward is the content editor at Kick-Ass Home Gym, a website providing helpful articles that inspire you to stay fit and healthy at home – on your own time, in your own space.
As busy people, we know health is important. A great morning workout can change an entire day for the better, and at the same time getting sick can throw off a whole week. So it’s important to take care of our bodies even if you don’t really have that much time to spare.
Over at Kick-Ass Home Gym you will learn how to stay in shape using a home fitness approach that works. All it takes to stay fit at home is the right tool and the right mindset.
Having a home fitness setup has changed lives. It’s the opposite of “out of sight, out of mind.” We can actually get fit and stay fit because our gym is our home.
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