Increase muscle definition
By Dr. Payton Busker, PT, DPT
Over the last couple of weeks, we have been diving into how to achieve 3 different goals using Evlo:
Goal 1: Feel Better, Get Stronger
Goal 2: Increase Muscle Definition
Goal 3: Cross Training with Evlo
Last week, we explored all things “Feel Better, Get Stronger”. Click here to review that post!
Next up: INCREASE MUSCLE DEFINITION.
If you’ve been an Evlo member for some time now and have noticed a decrease in joint pain and overall stress levels, you might be ready to tackle goal number 2.
We believe that developing significant muscle definition primarily occurs in the absence of significant stress response and pain within the body. This is because building (and maintaining) muscle tissue is metabolically expensive. If your body and brain do not feel safe and protected, they will have a hard time allocating energy for muscle growth and maintenance.
This is one of the reasons we emphasize sticking with goal number 1 and its suggestions for as long as necessary. There is no rush to “progress”!! We also want to note that increasing muscle definition might never be your goal. And that is okay, too!! You can carry on with “Feel Better, Get Stronger” for the entirety of your exercising career!
What does “increasing muscle definition” mean?
Some common words and phrases we hear tossed around in the fitness industry read as follows:
- “Long and Lean”
- “I don’t want to build muscle, I just want to tone!”
However, there is not a form of exercise alone that achieves this “toned” look. These words and phrases can be harmful and lead to overexercising specific areas (like the arms and abs) to achieve a specific aesthetic. Overexercise of a specific muscle group can actually lead to decreased mind-muscle connection due to constant inflammation, making it even harder to activate these muscle groups!
Also, these phrases and “goals” may lead you to exclusively choose forms of exercise like Pilates and Barre that often promise this look. You may find yourself resisting weight lifting for fear of getting bulky. By only doing Pilates or Barre-style classes, you may be missing out on the immense benefits of weightlifting, including achieving the “toned” aesthetic you’re looking for.
What “toned” really means is an increase in muscle definition.
Increased muscle definition occurs with a combination of
- Increased muscle mass (muscle hypertrophy)
- Decreased fat content overall (read: NUTRITION)
Let’s dive into how to work towards this goal using Evlo as your guide!
Muscle hypertrophy occurs with consistent and effective load to the muscles. The goal is to, on average, get about 6 sets of work per muscle group each week. Within each set, it is crucial to get near muscle failure within a 60-90 second interval. Read more about muscle hypertrophy and how to select external resistance in a previous blog post here.
Although muscle hypertrophy can be achieved with each Evlo track (3X, 4X, and 5X per weel), selecting a 5X a week track will ensure that you are getting to your major muscle groups (like glutes and quads) twice in one week. This allows us to get to that 6 set mark for effective muscle hypertrophy!
Do not fret if you have to follow a 3X or 4X per week track. Different seasons of life allow for different commitments to exercise and that is okay!! Show up for yourself with gentle consistency no matter what track you are following and know that you are working towards sustainable muscle growth.
Cardio dosing is key with increasing muscle definition. Too much and you may overstress your system overall. Remember, being in a constant state of stress is not an ideal environment for building muscle mass.
Here at Evlo we recommend incorporating two different forms of cardio in specific dosages:
- High intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Low-moderate intensity steady state cardio
Let’s talk HIIT.
We recommend incorporating 1-2 (max 3) HIIT sessions into your weekly routine. Research shows that the benefits of HIIT are achieved when you are able to sustain your max, all-out effort during your session. It is recommended that these sessions be no more than 20 minutes at most!
There are a few different ways to incorporate this into your Evlo routine within the 5X per week schedule:
- Wednesday class. Take either a or b:
- Burn + HIIT
- Burn and Cardio Burst
- Thursday class
- Flow + Strengthen
- Friday class
Each of these classes includes <15 minutes of short, all-out intervals of cardio. You can include 1, 2, or all 3 of these classes into your usual Evlo routine! If you are just beginning to add HIIT into your routine, we recommend choosing one of these classes to include and progress from these.
Check out this previous blog on tracking your recovery to make sure you aren’t overdosing your HIIT sessions.
What about low intensity cardio?
We recommend incorporating 10-30 minutes of gentle and fun movement into your daily routine! If you have an active job, you are probably already reaching this goal!
Try not to stress about this one. Think about what you enjoy doing and how you can make it a part of your lifestyle! For us, this usually looks like walking. Walking around the grocery store? That counts! Walking around the neighborhood with friends or to go grab a coffee? Count it!! The more we can make this movement less about “exercise” and more about enjoyment, the easier it will be to stay consistent!
Following this movement schedule with Evlo will set you up for success with increasing your muscle definition. However, in order to achieve part two of increasing muscle definition (decreasing overall fat content) we need to look to nutrition.
Creating a Macro Plan
In our post on “Feel Better, Get Stronger”, we highlight the importance of laying a nutrition foundation. This is done through Functional Registered Dietitian Katherine Andrew’s first module: Fueling your Fitness. It is crucial to watch these videos prior to progressing to module 2: Creating a Macro Plan.
Within creating a macro plan, Katherine dives deeper into the specifics of building a nutrition plan that works for YOUR body. She gives two different options for tracking macronutrients- with and without numbers. In these videos, she explains why awareness of macronutrient proportions affects processes like fat loss and muscle growth.
Following these movement suggestions and developing an individualized nutrition plan with Katherine’s guidance will put you on the path towards efficient and sustainable muscle definition.
A quick note about genetics
It is important to note that genetics plays a significant role in our ability to build muscle and the shape/look of our muscles. Try not to compare yourself to a friend, coworker, instructor, etc. when it comes to your individualized journey!! Read more about the role of genetics in a previous blog post here.
It is great to have goals. But remember: you are enough exactly as you are today!
Check back next week for our final goal: CROSS TRAINING WITH EVLO.