The Definition of Muscle

Another one of those geniuses I was referring to in my post yesterday..

personal-trainer-meme-generator-you-should-tone-up-light-weight-high-reps-4e87f5

So there seems to be a lot of confusion on the topic of “muscle tone.”  First, what is it?  Second, how do we actually achieve it?  Because I am pretty peculiar about these types of things, I want to clear up a few things.

First and foremost, we need to get our terminology correct.  When people use the phrase “muscle tone” referring to the way their muscles look, they are almost always using the wrong term.  Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension that your muscle is producing at a given time.  More specifically, it is the amount of resistance to a passive stretch or movement.  This serves primarily to help you balance and maintain correct posture while standing or walking.

Now, most people use that term to describe the shape of their muscles or how their muscles look in general.  In reality, the phrase that describes the way your muscles look is “muscle definition.”  This is the phrase that refers to the aesthetics of muscles (size, shape, length, etc), and the one that you should be using instead of muscle “tone.”

So, how do we get there??  How do we reach our desired muscle definition?  Again, it’s something that most people have backwards.

First of all, desired muscle definition is somewhat of a misconception to me because of what society says looks good on someone.  We have, in general, set our standards for ourselves so high that no amount of exercise will let us reach our desired look.  With that said, the formula for improving your muscle definition is simple:  Increased Lean Muscle Tissue + Decreased Body Fat = Improved Muscle Definition.  See my blog from earlier this week if you need visual evidence for this formula.

The way we get there is also very simple:  Lift heavy shit.  The mindset of “low weight and high repetitions” is a flawed one (at best) and should be eliminated from your train of thought.  You don’t get anything out of carrying your purse all day long, so why would you ever lift weights than are lighter than that??  Now I’m not saying you have to grab weights that are so heavy you’re going to throw your back out.  But, if you want to see results, you’re going to have to pick weights that will make you a bit uncomfortable for a little bit.  I tell my clients all the time that you’ve got to become comfortable being uncomfortable.

So how many reps should you be doing?  Like everything else, I think a specific rep range can be overrated.  The simpler the better.  Most people aren’t going to go down low to the 4-6 rep range.  You’re moving into some seriously heavy weights then, and that can lead to some issues for novice individuals.  My recommendation is this:  Grab a weight that you can do 8-12 reps with relative comfort, and then push it to 15-20 reps.  The ONLY way that you will EVER see any difference in your body is if you push it beyond what it is normally accustomed to.  After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome (Hint: Don’t be insane).

So, what did we learn today?  If you’re going to talk about how your muscles look (aesthetics), then start using the term definition instead of tone.  And if you really want to get some of it, as opposed to just talking about it, then pick up some heavy shit and do as many reps with it as you can.

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