Men and women interested in putting on muscle definition should participate in weight-training workouts that are designed to increase tissue size. How much definition you’ll put on depends on your training history, genetics and the volume of weight-lifting workout you participate in. Depending on these factors, it can take up to eight weeks to see notable improvements in definition.
Most lifters who are training to build muscle definition will split their muscle groups into separate workouts. This gives them more time to dedicate to each major muscle. If you’re just beginning a muscle-building program, schedule four workouts per week. Two days, such as on Mondays and Thursdays, will be dedicated to working your chest, shoulders and triceps. The other two days, such as on Tuesdays and Fridays, will be used to develop your back, biceps and legs. If you’ve been training consistently, you can bump up your workout frequency to six days per week. Focus on chest and shoulders on Mondays and Thursdays, your back and legs on Tuesdays and Fridays, and your biceps and triceps on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
In order to stimulate muscle growth, your workouts need to be of high enough volume to leave your muscle tissue overloaded and damaged. This equates to multiple sets of each exercise. Dr. Lee E. Brown, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Arkansas State University, recommends three to five sets of every exercise. He also recommends rep numbers at the higher end of the spectrum, noting that each set should include eight to 20 reps. Select two to five exercises per muscle group you’re working that day.
Compound Over Isolation Exercises
You will be performing isolation exercises that target particular muscles, like biceps curls for the biceps and triceps pushdown for the triceps. The American Council on Exercise, however, recommends primarily using compound weight-training exercises, as they’re more effective for putting on muscle. Compound exercises involve multiple joints and include exercises such as bench press and squats. If you’re working your chest, shoulders and triceps, for example, do compound exercises like bench press, the pushup and shoulder press first, and then finish the workout with a couple isolation exercises like lateral raise and triceps extension.
For muscle definition to be visible, you’ve got to have a healthy amount of body fat. Otherwise, the excess fat tissue that you carry will cover up the muscle you’ve built. If you need to lower your body fat, incorporate regular bouts of high-intensity circuit workouts to increase the number of calories you burn every week, and adjust your nutritional habits to decrease the number of calories you take in. Be sure to eat lean proteins, which will help fuel the muscle-building process.