10 Tips to Increase Muscle Tone

One of my goals after losing the right amount of fat that I was aiming to lose was to increase my muscle tone but I it was much more challenging than I thought it would be.  I was told that by reducing the weight I was lifting and increasing reps, I would be able to tone quickly but I found that that was not the case.  There was much more to the equation and I found that these tips below were really helpful for me.

Building muscle and tone takes hard work, planning, and an awareness of what stimulates muscle growth.

The following 10 muscle building tips will help you take your fitness program to the next level.

1. Eat Your Protein

If you want to maintain a positive nitrogen balance and increase protein synthesis, you must get in enough protein. The FDA only recommends 0.8 grams/kg for protein intake, yet study after study shows the benefits and lack of side effects from an intake of 1 gram/lb of body weight.

Given the importance of protein in everything from building muscle, to neurotransmitter production, to being a structural component to every cell in your body, it only makes sense to ensure you aren’t too low on this essential macronutrient. The problem for most is the price. Here’s 10 cheap sources of protein for the budget conscious.

2. Use Compound Movements

Doing curls can build you some biceps, but heavy rowing movements like barbell rows and pullups/chinups will really make your arms pop. If you want a better butt and legs, you could go station to station doing hip abductor, leg extensions, leg curls, and other butt isolation exercises, or you could get under the bar and squat and watch your lower body transform itself. If the exercise you’re doing only moves one joint, you are limiting your muscle building potential. Stick to compound exercises.

3. Emphasize Your Post-Workout Meal

No other meal will have as big of an impact on your muscle building than your post-workout meal. At no other time are your cells more receptive to receiving glucose. This is a very anabolic time, and a meal containing carbohydrates and protein will ensure maximum protein and glycogen synthesis. Many people aren’t hungry right after an intense workout. While the “window of opportunity” is a real phenomena, it’s taken to the extreme when you see people slamming down shakes immediately following their last set. Try to get your post-workout meal in within 2 hours after your workout for improved protein synthesis.

4. Prioritize Your Goal

What is your goal? Are you trying to add muscle, lose weight, and improve your agility all while training for a marathon? We would all love to be the most well rounded athlete, being the strongest, leanest, and fastest person in the world. However, that’s just not going to happen. Certain goals need specific training and nutrition. Muscle building is no exception. If you’re trying to lose weight and add muscle at the same time, it’s certainly doable, but it’s going to be much more difficult than if you were to focus on one goal at a time. It is much easier to add muscle when at maintenance calories or above, than it is to do so in a calorie deficit.

5. Don’t Negate the Eccentric Phase

When we work out, we typical perform two different movements – the concentric and eccentric phase. The concentric phase is when your muscles shorten when generating force. This phase is usually what most people think about when lifting weights. It’s when you press the bar up, or the “up” portion of a squat. On the other hand, the eccentric phase is when the muscle gets longer under loads. Most people think of this phase as the lowering of the weight before you press it back up. Most people only focus on the concentric phase; however, the eccentric phase has been shown to provide the most hypertrophy. Try lowering the bar in a more controlled fashion at a tempo of 3-0-1 (seconds to lower weight, pause at bottom, and perform concentric phase).

6. Get the Workout Frequency Right

There are all kinds of training philosophies out there, and all of them hold merit. They do all have something in common though – they leave enough time between working the same muscle groups to ensure proper recovery. Intense exercise can take 48 hours or longer to recover from. If you’re hitting the same muscle consistently on back to back days, you could be working against yourself. Try backing off on the frequency and increasing the intensity of the workouts you do complete. Quality over quantity.

7. Eat Enough Calories

Nothing will inhibit muscle growth more than a lack of calories. Building muscle is a highly energy intensive task. For many people, they undergo the goal of building muscle at the same time as they are trying to lose weight. If you are trying to accomplish these two goals at one time, you might want to consider cycling your calories so that you are eating more food on training days, and less on others. Doing so will ensure you’re getting the extra energy intake when it matters most for muscle growth.

8. Optimize Your Sleep

You stimulate muscle growth when you work out, but you build your muscle when you rest. A good night’s sleep provides a favorable metabolic and hormonal profile that is conducive towards building muscle. Growth hormone is released throughout the night. This powerful hormone is anabolic to muscle tissue and catabolic to adipose tissue. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night at about the same time will ensure proper glucose regulation, cortisol control, and hormone production [8] [9].

9. Have Some Patience

Putting on muscle is not as easy as it seems. Women in particular are fearful of weights because they’re afraid of bulking up. Here’s the thing though, you would be lucky to add even 1 pound of muscle in a week’s time, and that is if everything is perfect and you’re eating a surplus of calories to support muscle growth. Building muscle is hard work. The fears of bulking up are more a result of your diet than lifting weights. If you put on muscle but don’t change your body fat, then yes – you might start looking a little “bulky”. This has nothing to do with weight training though, and has everything to do with what you’re eating. Building muscle takes time. Expect a year’s worth of weight training to really start seeing dramatic changes in your physique.

10. Focus on Getting Stronger

Can you get stronger without getting bigger? Yes. Can you get bigger without getting stronger? That is much less likely to happen. Strength gains are mostly made through motor neuron adaptations. This is basically the idea of teaching your muscles to work together to perform a particular exercise. Your muscles learn the movement, and in return, they are stimulated up and beyond prior loads – resulting in muscle hypertrophy. As long as you place an emphasis on continually getting stronger, and you have the caloric environment to support muscle growth, new muscle will be synthesized.

(adapted from coachcalorie)