Many people have a multifunctional bench for home fitness; however, while protocols to increase hypertrophy or mass are well known, there is less collective mastery of training for muscle definition.
In practice: “How many sets, how many repetitions and how many weights should get more definition and build muscle?
Luckily you don’t have to go to the gym to get good muscle definition, but you can stay comfortably at home and follow our advice on home training to build muscle.
Muscle definition is a characteristic got by combining a reduced percentage of subcutaneous fat with a sufficiently developed hypertrophic mass. In the absence of muscle volumes, it would be impossible to highlight muscle details such as streaks, insertions and separations. A marathon runner, no matter how lean, appears less defined than a bodybuilder with 5% more fat.
Besides the percentage of body fat, the factors that can affect the definition are: skin thickness, hydration state, shape of the muscle itself, insertions and the level of hypertrophy.
Right Level Of Muscle Definition
In the common imagination, when you think of a defined physique, the first thing you refer to is the abdomen (six-pack or eight pack). The famous “cubes”, so much coveted (especially by men), are the most appreciated feature in a defined physique. A sculpted abdomen is not necessarily associated with a low percentage of total body fat. Suffice it to think of the gynoid distribution of fat, typical female, which can determine hips, thighs and buttocks that are anything but thin, even in the presence of a remarkable abdominal turtle.
However, not all people have the same predispositions; either for behavioral reasons, or for metabolic and physiological characteristics, some subjects have very high muscle volumes and others a percentage of body fat already quite reduced.
A skinny person has no difficulty in highlighting the abdominal muscles, even if this condition is often associated with a certain thinness of the abdomen (lack of thickness); he will have to do much more to increase hypertrophy.
A person who tends to be large, on the other hand, has less difficulty in gaining muscle mass but usually has to work harder to decrease the percentage of body fat.
Both types of subjects must train to achieve a well-defined physique but, as you can imagine, training protocol and dietary plan could be very different from each other.
In addition, the perception of “sculpted” or “pulled” may not be fully aligned with the collective imagination. In this case, achieving the desired muscle definition may prove to be an extremely difficult or accessible goal.
Home Training To Build Muscle
The most important aspect to achieve a good definition is undoubtedly the diet. However, it must also be structured according to the training chosen; for this reason, before choosing calorie intake, distribution of macronutrients and a number of meals, it is undoubtedly necessary to determine how and how much to train.
Even without changing the training system, thus maintaining the same table used for hypertrophy, but reducing the calories of the diet, it is possible to obtain the muscle definition. However, performance is reduced and workout tolerability decreases – if, during hypertrophy, the workout is as hard as it should be. That’s why many people prefer to change the card, sometimes changing exercises or training method, increasing the number of series and repetitions, reducing recoveries, or just by inserting low-intensity aerobic activity. All this can be done in the gym as much as in home fitness; indeed, in some cases training for home definition is even easier.
Many people believe that a good workout can only be done in the gym. This is not so, especially when the goal is the definition. Obviously, a higher availability of tools and machines can only benefit the planning and programming; on the other hand, all this availability is often misleading. We could say with certainty that it is not the equipment that makes the physical, but the commitment and dedication that you put in pursuing your goals. It is enough to have a good multifunction bench, dumbbells, barbells and discs. For aerobic activity, if you do not have a fitness machine, you can do the same job jumping rope, biking and running outdoors.
It would be slightly different if we were talking about training for hypertrophy, and even more for pure strength, because – especially those who need to work with high loads – it is rarely possible to set up a real fitness center inside a home. Just think about the conditions that could perform a 5×5 of breaks, or to set up a large “cable”.
Training for definition is, all in all, quite promiscuous; a sort of compromise. In fact, it would be necessary to model the table by taking away series of hypertrophy exercises to insert other different ones, or real stations of purely aerobic activity. In this regard, we remind you that it is not strictly necessary to have available professional treadmills, spin bikes, steppers and elliptical. You can get the same results by jumping rope, doing aerobic gymnastics, running or cycling.
The training strategies for the definition are endless. Let’s say that there are two fundamental aspects above all:
- Establish a negative calorie balance but not too much – see next paragraph
- Do not abandon weight training, supplement it with short endurance exercises or aerobic activity, but always in a considered manner.
Number of exercises and/or series of the hypertrophy program should be decreased in proportion to what should be added. Remember that the training load cannot increase significantly, rather it should remain constant or decrease slightly – don’t forget that you are on a low-calorie diet. The load is composed of volume, density and intensity. The volume, if on the one hand we remove and on the other hand we integrate, remains more or less unchanged. It is different if you choose to dedicate entire days to aerobic activity; in that case, the volume would increase. The density of the workouts, especially if you choose to engage in circuit training, increases and not just a little – because the recoveries are eliminated or cut drastically.
As a direct consequence, however, except for the time devoted to maintaining hypertrophy, the intensity should be decreased. It is not possible to run the series at failure, as doing so would prevent you from continuing training for the time and number of workouts required.
- Chest, triceps and front deltoids: flat bench rocker arm extensions, flat bench dumbbell extensions, dumbbell crosses, pullovers, french press ez rocker arm, push over dumbbells, back dip on bench, front dumbbell lifts
- High back, biceps, trapezoid, rear deltoids: pull down with prone grip, pull down with supine grip – alternatively pull down to the bar with the same grips – rowing with barbell with supine grip, curl barbell ez, curl handlebars,
- rowing with barbell with prone grip, rowing single sided handlebars, T-bar pull down, 90° handlebars lift,
- Central and trapezoid deltoids: handlebars lateral lifts, pulled at least, single sided lateral lifts on bench
- Thighs and calves: squats (all types), jumps, lunges and inverse lunges, insole inflections on step (calf); we leave out the isolation exercises for adductors, abductors and buttocks.
- Abdominals (all): crunch, sit up, reverse, plank, side bridge, vacuum
- Lumbar and buttocks: bust extensions lying and standing, good morning
- Let’s now take a brief example of how a table for hypertrophy can progress into a home fitness muscle definition board.
- Let’s suppose to have a table for the mass composed of 4 weekly workouts, with about 2-3 muscle groups each, to which correspond 3-4 exercises, structured by 4 series for 8-12 repetitions. The recoveries would be about 1’30”-2’00”.
- The first transition table would require you to reduce by a series for each exercise and enter 20′ of cardio activity at the end of the workout.
- The second one, instead, needs to insert 20 more but at the beginning; this could require to slightly lower the recoveries from 2’00” to 1’30” or from 1’30” to 1’00” and then to moderate slightly the weights
- Let us now move on to a real metamorphosis. Training for hypertrophy is reduced to 3 weekly, with 3-4 muscle groups, a maximum of 3 exercises of 3 series each for the same repetitions; there is no aerobic activity. On the
- other hand, 2-3 entire days will be dedicated to cardio activity, which could last from 40 to 60 minutes without interruption and at moderate intensity.
- Alternatively, some prefer to further reduce to 2 the sessions of hypertrophy, with at least 4 muscle groups, maintaining the same criteria mentioned in the above point, and establish 2-3 other circuit training workouts.
Let’s start by specifying that training for the definition has as a second fundamental chrism – after the thinning of adipose tissue – do not lose what you have earned during the bulking (or hypertrophy) period.
Usually those who train to get a defined physique neglect the use of overloads, instead considered useful only to increase mass. This is because many people think it is useless to train as a bodybuilder when the goal evolves in cutting, because the reduction of body fat is more effective through high volume and low or medium intensity protocols, such as prolonged aerobic activity.
This is conceptually wrong because, especially for those who are not aiming for a simple slimming but for an overall optimal fitness, maintaining a sufficient level of tropism is crucial.
For the same principle, sometimes the switch from the hypertrophy tables to the definition tables is too marked. Training boards with low loads and many repetitions, in the absence of a mass maintenance program, can damage the results previously obtained for growth. Compared to the previous case, in which the error is clear and evident, a distinction must be made here. If the protocol provides for a well thought-out distribution of stimuli (for example, 50% hypertrophy training and other training to increase calorie expenditure 50%), it may prove to be a winning choice – although often performing workouts such as circuit training after running out of muscles with the hypertrophy card in the previous days can be very hard indeed. On the contrary, totally abandoning the hypertrophy target, for the reasons we were saying above, would be like giving up most of the sacrifices made during the hypertrophy period.
Compared to what we said, it is deductible that a training chart for the definition cannot exclude a small protocol – even basic – for the maintenance of muscle volumes. This will be less demanding than the mass phase, more focused on deficient districts, and will leave room for parallel activities such as aerobic training or circuit training – necessary to increase the overall calorie expenditure.
Let’s talk now about the diet. The definition is made, as we said, especially at the table. It is not the objective of this article to enter into the merits of the dietary scheme for the definition, but when we talk about “common mistakes”, the major ones are nutritional. The diet for cutting must be not too restrictive but effective. If an overweight person who wants to lose weight can afford to drop as much as 700-800 or even one kilogram per week without incurring in muscle catabolism, those who define themselves and already have a moderate percentage of fat (for example 10-12%) will be content to decrease no more than 200-250 g every 7 days; otherwise, a reduction in hypertrophy.
Therefore, the low-calorie slimming diet must provide not less than 90% of the energy compared to a person who takes an ordinary amount of calories
Speaking of the distribution of energy macronutrients:
- Any extreme strategy is to be considered wrong
- Carbohydrates are necessary and cannot be excluded
- Fats are necessary and cannot be excluded (25-30% of total calories).
- Proteins, more precisely the amino acids that compose them – among which, we remind you that there are the essential ones – are even more important than the mass phase; it is possible to reach an intake of 1.5, 1.6 and even 1.8 g / kg of body weight.
- The importance of essential fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water should not be overlooked.
- The use of food supplements is not to be considered of basic importance. There are no products that concretely facilitate the definition, although some can help to optimize the protocol – even if only by providing valuable support for the supply of the most deficient nutrients in the diet.