One of the most sought after bodybuilding goals is definition, where body fat is shed so that muscles appear far more visibly impressive, yet exactly how is such a goal achieved while maintaining precious muscle mass? This question has left many bodybuilders confused and extremely frustrated as they experience significant muscle loss when attempting to enhance definition. While some may understand that improving muscle definition is contingent upon modifying specific diet variables for significant fat loss, others feel as if a change in weight training techniques is the primary fuel for improving muscle definition. When adopting such a principle, one of the most popular bodybuilding techniques is to enhance rep range, where lighter weight is used to allow for a higher than normal amount of reps per set, and some believe that this weight training method will bring muscle definition to new heights, therefore some adopt an exclusive lower weight and higher rep approach to weight lifting during a fat loss period.
I cannot vouch for exactly where this bodybuilding theory originated, but speculate that because lactic acid buildup in muscles occurs when performing high rep bodybuilding workouts, and therefore causes a muscle “burn” that is not present when using heavier weights, some became convinced that this was targeting the muscle in a more direct way, and thus must bring definition to levels far beyond what is possible with lower rep ranges. It’s also possible that cardiovascular fatigue accompanying higher rep weight lifting workout sessions causes some to feel that they are burning more fat, and therefore they pursue such techniques when muscle definition is the primary goal. The problem with these theories is that a weight lifting component of a workout session is not designed to burn fat or increase definition, but rather to enhance muscle size and strength, and therefore must be utilized with this specific goal in mind.
By increasing rep range to address definition, the bodybuilder in effect will reduce the overload he or she provides to muscle tissue, and will inevitably begin to burn away a portion of muscle mass that was built with higher weight and lower reps. Instead of enhancing definition, this specific weight training technique will work against this very goal by harming muscle, as higher reps have no more of a positive impact on muscle definition than low reps, but they do offer a lower level of overload and fatigue, limiting muscle gains, and risking muscle mass when following a lower calorie diet for fat loss.
Therefore, a bodybuilder should continue to train with a proper combination of high and low reps in order to preserve muscle mass while working towards definition, and focus on modifying diet variables to encourage fat loss, which is the key behind improving definition in all muscle groups. But is there a workout modification or addition that will accelerate the fat loss process? Yes, and the technique does not involve any modifications to the weight lifting workout, but does stimulate the cardiovascular system to enhance metabolism and overall fat burning; aerobic activity is the key to boosting the speed of fat loss, and is often ignored by bodybuilders to the detriment of their physique. Even when pursuing muscle gains, aerobics assists in controlling body fat levels, so in addition to a disciplined weight lifting routine comprised of high and low rep ranges, aerobics is a very important concept in producing maximum muscle definition, and should become a standard aspect of any bodybuilding workout routine.
If you are seeking muscle definition, and find results to be disappointing, do not adopt a high rep range for your weight lifting workouts, but rather first analyze your diet, which is the primary factor behind body fat gain or loss, and then aim for consistent aerobic activity, preferably five days per week if your schedule allows, and once these variables are intact, you will begin to experience body fat reduction and definition improvements that will bring all of your muscle gains to the skin’s surface. If you are currently performing regular aerobic activity, make sure intensity is sufficient, as a walking pace is not sufficiently challenging to the body for any significant metabolism boost, and remember that no workout variable, whether it be weight training or aerobic activity, can substitute for a properly designed fat loss diet, so focus on how you eat for the most dramatic improvements in muscle definition.