Muscle definition is a term used to describe the defined appearance of your muscles and where the lines of your six-pack are clearly visible. It’s achieved by having both a good amount of muscle mass coupled with having a low body fat percentage. It’s perhaps most relevant in bodybuilding or fitness modelling where competitions can be won or lost on an athletes muscle definition, however more recently in sports such as MMA and boxing, good muscle definition is also seen as a sign that an athlete is close to their fighting weight.
If say an MMA fighter or boxer had bad muscle definition, this would be an indication that they could lose some body fat and perhaps move down a weight category or that they’re going to have to deplete muscle glycogen and water to make weight (instead of losing body fat) which could then detrimentally affect their performance since they could be dehydrated, lose key electrolytes or just not be able to replenish muscle glycogen levels in time for that fight.
Training for Muscle Definition
There are many different types of training methods that can be used when trying to improve muscle definition such as drop sets, supersets and weight training circuits. But whilst most of these have proved effective and are certainly good if you’ve reached a training plateau, most experts will recommend you continue to train for muscle hypertrophy by lifting heavy weights within a range of 75%-85% of your 1 repetition maximum and instead paying closer attention to your nutrition. The reason for this is because many strength and conditioning coaches believe continuing to use heavy weights ensures your body continues to release, muscle building substances within the body and also ensures your metabolism still remains high even after training therefore ensuring you continue burning calories and fat even at rest.
Too often people will use lighter weights and perform more repetitions thinking that this will enhance muscle definition but it’s argued that this type of training doesn’t bring about the same positive hormonal response as heavy training does. Also it’s very important to also implement some form of cardio training to further help the body lose fat, whether this is High Intensity Interval Training or steady, low intensity training. This is because weight training alone isn’t considered enough of a stimulus to lower your body fat percentage and you also have to do some form of cardio that’s specifically aimed at this.
Nutrition for Muscle Definition
Most experts state that muscle definition is achieved through a well-designed nutrition plan coupled with additional cardio training and a heavy weight training routine that continues to build muscle. But it’s your nutrition that plays a major role in muscle definition, since it’s absolutely key to building and maintaining muscle whilst at the same time losing body fat.
Whilst it’s quite a complicated topic and it does vary from person to person, there are certain key points to remember such as keeping your protein intake high to maintain muscle mass, getting your carbohydrates from low glycaemic index sources like oats to ensure you’ve enough energy to fuel your workouts but at the same time your body doesn’t produce too much insulin which reduces lipolysis (the burning of body fat) and increases lipogensis (the storing of fat), avoiding trans fatty acids and fructose that are found in junk foods which could effect insulin sensitivity and in turn affect the delivery of nutrients to the muscles and also add body fat.
Other Factors to Consider
Another important factor to consider when looking to improve muscle definition is the use of diuretics. Diuretics are herb extracts or medicines that help reduce the amount of water in the body and they are used by bodybuilders especially to reduce water retention, which in turn can produce more visible lines and definition in the muscles and also make the skin appear ‘paper thin.’ Popular natural diuretics used in bodybuilding include dandelion root, green tea, vitamin c, coffee, and apple cider vinegar whilst other examples diuretics, all of which were developed for medical purposes, are Diucardin (hydroflumethiazide), Hydromox (quinethazone), Naturetin (bendroflumethiazide), Aldactone (spironolactone), Dyrenium (triamterene), and Midamor (amiloride). It’s important to note that the extra muscle definition achieved through the use of diuretics are only temporary and will be lost as soon as you drink water to get rehydrated again.
Another way in which competitors will gain extra definition is the use of tanning products since tanning is shown to increase the defined appearance of the muscles. This is again why so many white bodybuilders will use a very dark, almost bronze like, tanning product when competing on stage but equally how a slight tan during the summer can also help the appearance of your abdominal muscles and six-pack.
Lastly another important point to note is the use of Photoshop and other editing materials that are used to enhance muscle definition in photographs since often the pictures you see in the fitness magazines have been altered and so that type of definition is very hard (or in some cases) impossible to achieve.