Tips for toning up – using your muscle

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The focus of this tip is to help you become more efficient i.e. get better results for the effort that you’re putting in and, to give you some advice about which exercises to do and how ‘hard’ to do them.

You may already go to the gym, or do weights exercises at home, however, you may not have worked at these exercises in the way that I’m about to tell you.  Before you read on, answer these questions:

 

• If you go to the gym, or perform any muscle exercises at home how many repetitions do you do before stopping? ______

• How many sets do you do (how many times do you do the same exercise, separated by a break) ______

• How long do you rest in-between each set?? ______

 

I bet many of you answered somewhere in-between ‘12-20’ on the repetitions question.  Here’s a further question:

Why do you stop at that particular number of repetitions?

Is it because that’s what you’ve been told to, or is it that you physically can’t do any more?  Here’s the shock:

In order to optimally achieve muscle definition (and muscle ‘tone’) you should be performing somewhere between 8-10 repetitions, or even as low as 6, and you should be working to failure.

 

What does working to failure mean?  It means that you’re working really hard but for a very short time and when you have to stop it’s not because you get bored, or the burning sensation in the muscle is too much to bear, it’ll be because you’re lacking the strength to lift the weight.  You physically can’t lift the weight anymore with the proper technique!  It’s a very different feeling if you’re not used to it.

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The reason for this is that the type of muscle fibres that will give you the tone and visible definition respond to and adapt to high loads, but they tire very quickly.  In case you’re interested, they are called fast-twitch fibres. So you see, by being selective and clever with our weight training we can optimise the results for the time we put in.

 

It’s really important that you do put a lot of effort into each repetition; the weight may feel heavier than you’re used to.  A very simple and effective way to regulate which weight to pick, or how hard to work is to work to a ‘Repetition Maximum’ (RM) rule.

By defining that in your weights routine you’ll be working 8RM you’ll, through trial and error initially, pick a weight that you can lift 8 times, but not 9.  As you get stronger you’ll naturally increase the weight, or difficulty of the exercise to keep to 8RM, so progression is automatically built-into your programme.

 

As with any weight training exercise, preparation and technique are important:

• Keep a tight torso and a stable body position – tense your abdominals and gluteals (bum) to help achieve this.

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• Breathe in a brace yourself to lift the weight.

• Exhale (and ‘explode with maximal effort’) on the lift phase, and inhale (and control lowering of weight) on the lowering phase.

• Don’t perform the exercises if you’re injured and it hurts.

(also, if you’ve never lifted weights before, give yourself at least a week or two to get used to the exercises before you go all-out)

 

Rest is also important.  Because the muscle fibres that you’re targeting tire very quickly, you need to rest them for approximately 2 minutes before doing another set of the same, or similar exercise.  If you’re stuck for time, you can train another part of your body during your rest period, for examples perform an exercise  for triceps followed immediately by an exercise for legs.  However, make sure that you’re not using the same muscles in each exercise.

These principles apply to all skeletal muscles and if adopted for all your routine, you’ll feel the difference rapidly and start to see changes in your shape.

 

So, to recap:

Perform approximately 8 repetitions maximum

Work to failure

Rest approx. 2minutes between sets

Super-set exercises with those for different body parts to save time

 

Happy training!

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