Building muscle and improving definition is not an easy task. If it were, we would all be physique models.
However, there are some specific questions that I get asked all the time and I figured rather than directing people to different articles, I’d address as many of them as possible in one place.
In this post, I’ll answer some of the most common questions I get with regard to building muscle and improving muscle definition.
Do I Need To Lift Heavy To Build Muscle?
Really, it depends.
While lifting heavy is optimal for building muscle and strength, using lighter weights for many reps may also build muscle. According to recent research though, in order to build an appreciable amount of muscle with low reps, you need to take those sets to failure. Otherwise, you won’t stimulate growth (1,2).
It’s suggested that you have a healthy mixture of both heavy weight with low reps and light weights with high rep work in your routine for a well-rounded physique.
How Can I Tone My Muscles?
“Toning” is a catchall term that essentially involves reducing body fat and increasing muscle size and definition.
While most people workout in the hope of getting toned up, really the best route is to first attempt to lose some body fat and then attempt to build some muscle. The combination of reducing body fat and increasing muscle size will give the perception of a well-defined, “toned” physique.
Can I Use Machines To Build Muscle?
Absolutely. Just keep in mind that free weight exercises also provide additional benefit including coordination and functional strength.
Technically, any movement you do that progressively overloads the targeted muscle will allow that muscle to grow. Just remember that machines and free weights have distinct benefits, which, when used together, can be mutually beneficial.
Will Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?
Technically, lifting weights can make you bulky, since that’s what you would do if your goal were to increase muscle mass.
However, keep in mind that simply working out isn’t enough to build a large amount of muscle. Doing so takes years of consistency in the gym and the kitchen while spending this time specifically training and eating for muscle.
If you’re a female, it’s even more difficult to put on appreciable amounts of muscle mass due to a number of different variables – not to mention, lifting weights can also improve bone mineral density, which is of the utmost importance to ageing females.
While lifting weights does hold the possibility of making you bulky, it’s unlikely to happen unless that’s your specific goal.
Will Exercises Like The Squat And Deadlift Give Me A Six Pack?
People often consider the abs to be separate from the rest of the body. However, for the most part, your ab muscles follow the same principles of growth as other muscle groups, including the need to specifically train that muscle group.
While movements like the squat and deadlift will certainly stimulate the abdominal musculature, if you want a well defined six-pack, you should eat for a low body fat percentage, and work the abs directly, using resistance.
Unless you are gifted genetically, you should work your abdominals directly in addition to other compound movements.
How Can I Make My Muscles Long And Slender?
Unfortunately the length of your muscle can‘t really be changed, as it’s reliant on the structure of your skeleton. Muscles are attached to the skeleton, which, when contracted, pull on the bone to initiate movement.
In order to make the muscle longer, you would literally need to change where the muscle is attached to the bone, which is impossible, apart from via surgery.
However, you can certainly exercise and diet to improve muscle definition, which, depending on your physique, may create the appearance of a longer, slimmer muscle group.
Should I Use Compound Or Isolation Movements?
Just as you should use machines and free weights, you should also use a healthy combination of compound and isolation movements.
For example, the back squat (compound) is a fantastic strength and leg muscle builder, in addition to working the upper back and core. However, a movement like the leg extensions is adept at specifically building the quadriceps.
While compound movements activate a large amount of muscle at the same time engaging multiple joints, isolation movements are great for specifically targeting and overloading individual muscle groups.
I suggest having a healthy combination of both during every workout.
Do I Need To Eat A Lot To Build Muscle?
Really, it depends on your metabolism as well as how quickly you want to put on mass.
If you have a fast metabolism and are considered a “hard gainer” you may need to significantly increase the amount of food you eat. Additionally, if you want to increase mass quickly, you’ll also need to eat quite a lot.
However, if you have time and don’t care to build body fat too, I suggest eating around your normal amount of calories or just slightly above, ensuring that your protein intake is fairly high, around 1 gram of protein per lb. of bodyweight.
Doing so will ensure you’re eating enough for growth, but not so much that you accidentally put on body fat too.
Can I Build A Great Booty By Flexing My Glutes?
Keep in mind that you don’t need to lift heavy to build muscle, but if you’re using lightweight, in order to actually build muscle, you’ll need to take sets close to failure.
If you aren’t using resistance, it can be very difficult to provide your body with the sufficient stimulus it needs to grow. Think about it for a second: if you wanted defined biceps, would you just flex your arm endlessly with no weight?
If you’re interested in building a great set of glutes, I suggest avoiding bodyweight flexing in favor of using exercises with varying ranges of intensity and weight.
Ask Rudy: Muscle Building Edition
While these aren’t the only muscle building frequently asked questions, they are some of the most common that I get. Next time I’ll address even more so that you can get answers to some of the most commonly asked health and fitness questions.
Do you have questions you want answered about fitness and nutrition? Sound off in the comments below and let me know your questions. I just might answer them in the next segment of frequently asked questions with Rudy.
- Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Vigotsky, A. D., & Peterson, M. (2016). Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. Journal of sports science & medicine, 15(4), 715.