Most people work hard to build bigger, stronger, and better defined muscles. If you combine stronger, well-defined muscles with low body fat, your muscles will look even more protruding or harder. Unfortunately, there is no specific way to increase muscle strength and definition. It requires the right diet, lifestyle and exercise routine. However, with time and patience, you will develop stronger, more defined muscles.
Method 1 of 4: Increase muscle strength
Step 1. Start with cardio exercises
While a good deal of muscle strength and definition is acquired through weight training and resistance exercise, if you want to improve your muscle definition or want them to be stronger, you will need to do regular cardio exercises.
- Cardio exercises are great for a number of reasons. They put you in a good mood, improve sleep patterns, reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, and even improve blood circulation.
- In addition to the health benefits, regular cardio exercise helps your body burn calories and reduce excess fat that builds up on and under your muscles. The less fat in your body or the lower your body fat percentage, the harder and more defined your muscles will look.
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise each week. It could be running, paddling, dancing, elliptical, or aerobics.
Step 2. Do strengthening exercises
Do strengthening exercises for each muscle group. To get the most out of your exercises and for optimal results, you should do more than one type of exercise for each muscle group.
- There are many ways that you can strengthen and define your muscles in different exercises. Each exercise uses different parts of the muscle group or engages different smaller muscles, allowing you to improve their definition.
- For example, don't just do thigh curls to tone your legs. Do a combination of machine thigh curls, lunges, calf extensions, leg lifts, and ischio-legs. Each exercise uses different muscles.
Step 3. Do a combination of exercises
Your exercises should consist of a high number of repetitions with low loads and few reps with heavy loads. Exercises that combine different types of repetitions engage your muscles in several ways. Practice them to get the most out of your exercises.
- A large number of repetitions with a light load results in bigger muscles. They will be more visible, better defined and will look harder. You need to take this into account if your goal is to build muscle.
- However, a large number of reps with low loads does not necessarily build strength. This technique essentially produces muscle.
- A low number of repetitions with high loads builds strength. The reduced number of repetitions associated with the heavy loads works the muscles differently and makes them stronger and more powerful.
Step 4. Take 1 to 2 days off
Rest days are almost as important as training days. Studies show that the increase in strength and muscle size occurs during rest, not during exercise.
- It is advisable to take at least 1 to 2 days of rest per week. However, these must be “active rest days”. This means that instead of lying around on the couch all day, you need to do low-intensity exercises (like walking or yoga) or stretching.
- In addition to active rest days, consider resting between each muscle group. For example, if you are focusing on the muscles in the lower part of your body on Monday, work those in the upper part on Tuesday.
Method 2 of 4: Do basic exercises to draw muscles
Step 1. Do thigh curls
Do thigh curls with loads. Thigh curls are an effective basic exercise that builds defined and toned muscles. This exercise uses different muscle groups and helps build firm legs and buttocks.
- Choose a suitable weight dumbbell. Carefully lift it up and gently place it on your shoulders, just below your neck. Squeeze your shoulder blades so that the dumbbell is resting on your muscles, not your spine.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hip width and toes pointing forward. Start flexing your thighs as if you were going to sit on a chair. Descend until they are almost parallel to the ground.
- Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds, then slowly climb back up to your starting position. Push off with your heels and squeeze the buttocks. You just did a rehearsal. Do as many reps as you want.
- Start with a fairly heavy load and do a low number of reps (6 to 8). This exercise will seem very intense to you.
Step 2. Make lunges
Lunges are another great exercise that works different muscles in the legs. It strengthens in particular the hips, thighs and buttocks.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips or the back of your neck.
- Take a step forward with the right leg and bring your left knee to the floor while bending the other knee. Lower your body until the left knee almost touches the floor. Make sure the right knee stays above your ankle and not in front.
- Lean on your right leg to straighten yourself up. The muscles used are mainly in this leg and in your buttocks.
- Take another step forward with the other leg. Continue so that you do 8-10 repetitions per leg.
Step 3. Try the Spiderman board
Any variation of the plank exercise will build muscle throughout your abdomen. This is one of the exercises that not only engages all muscle groups in the abdomen, but also the upper and lower part of the body.
- Start with the classic plank position by lying on the floor, face down. Support your body weight with your forearms and toes. Keep your body perfectly straight by contracting your abdomen and tucking your hips.
- Start by bringing your left knee towards your left elbow and place your toes (of the left foot) on the ground. Then return to your initial position.
- Do the same on the right side. Do 10 reps per set on each side.
Step 4. Try the bicycle crunch
The bicycle crunch is another perfect exercise that targets the abdomen and specifically the front of the abdominal muscles and the obliques (the sides of your abs).
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Place your hands behind your head and lift your knees into the air so that they form a 90-degree angle.
- Start by bringing your right knee towards your right elbow. Lift your shoulders and head off the mat to reach your ankle.
- Alternate sides, also working your left leg and left arm.
- Practice this exercise for at least 60 seconds.
Step 5. Try the overhead press
Try the overhead press with one arm. This exercise is perfect for working the many muscles in the arms, back and shoulders. It targets the entire upper body.
- Start by choosing a dumbbell or kettlebell of the correct weight. Hold it in one hand at shoulder height with the palm facing forward.
- Lift the load until your arm is completely straight (without locking the elbow). Take a break.
- Slowly lower your hand to shoulder height. Start by doing 2 repetitions per arm then 3 repetitions and end with 5 repetitions per arm.
Step 6. Try the bench press
Try the bench press on an inclined surface. This exercise builds mass and strength in the chest and shoulders.
- Lie down on a bench inclined at 30 or 45 degrees. Place your feet flat on the floor.
- Lift a suitable barbell with a shoulder-width apart grip. Start with the bar in the air and your arms fully extended and locked.
- Slowly lower it until it's just a few inches from your chin or collarbone bone. Take a break and then push the bar up.
- To build mass and strength with this exercise, choose a load heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue after 4 or 6 repetitions.
Method 3 of 4: Modify Diet to Increase Strength and Muscle Definition
Step 1. Watch your calorie intake
Even if you are not trying to lose weight, it is best to keep track of your daily calorie intake.
- Know how many calories you are consuming in a day. If you train to gain or lose weight, you will have a starting number.
- You can record your calorie consumption in a food diary or in a dedicated app. Plus, most apps have a food journal included.
- Use an online calculator to find out how many calories you need to eat each day to keep your weight down with exercise.
Step 2. Eat a low-carbohydrate diet
For well-shaped or hard and toned muscles, it is essential to lose the excess fat stored above or below these muscles. Low-carb diets have been shown to reduce body fat.
- In addition to reducing body fat, low-carb diets can help you lose weight faster than other types of diets (such as low-calorie diets).
- Carbohydrates are found in many food groups. Limit your intake of grains, high-starch vegetables, or high-sugar fruits. Most of the nutrients found in these foods can be found in other food groups.
- Continue to eat certain foods that are high in carbohydrates like dairy products and fruits that are low in sugar. They contain other nutrients essential for your well-being.
- Eat 1 cup of low fat dairy product every day. Dairy products are rich in protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- Low-sugar fruits contain carbohydrates, but also a lot of fiber and antioxidants. Eat ½ cup of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries.
Step 3. Load up on protein
Protein is essential for your health, but it also plays an important role in your diet when you are training and trying to build and tone muscle mass.
- Aim to eat 1 to 2 servings of lean protein with each meal. Take 85-100g to reach your recommended daily goal.
- To know the exact amount of protein you need to eat each day, follow this simple equation: your weight in kg x 0.8 to 1 g of protein. The harder you exercise or the longer you are active, the more protein you need. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, you should take 70 x 0.8 to 1 = 55 to 70 g of protein per day.
- Most people don't need a lot of protein per day. Only athletes and bodybuilders should eat a lot of it. In addition, a huge amount of protein over an extended period of time can damage the kidneys.
- Choose lean protein sources like eggs, poultry, low-fat dairy products, seafood, lean meats, pork, and tofu.
Step 4. Eat fruits that are low in sugar
Half of your plate should consist of low-sugar fruit or non-floury (low-starch) vegetables. For more balanced meals, it is important that you eat more than protein foods. Opt for a large amount of low-sugar fruits and non-floury vegetables to balance your meals.
- Health professionals recommend 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables per day. If you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, choose non-floury vegetables.
- Incorporate 1 to 2 non-floury vegetables or leafy greens in most of your meals. Typically, this is 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens.
- Stick to a few low-sugar fruits and keep portions at half a cup.
Step 5. Know how to eat well
Know how to eat well and recover. When it comes to building muscle mass and building or defining muscles, you need to eat in a way that gives your body energy and helps recovery after exercise.
- If you don't eat properly or recover properly, you may feel more tired and find it difficult to carry out your daily tasks.
- Eat a snack before your workouts to give your body the energy it needs to work out. They should be simple, nutritious carbohydrates that can be digested easily and quickly recharge your batteries.
- Some examples of snacks you can have before your workout include: a piece of fruit, a whole grain waffle with peanut butter, or a bowl of oatmeal.
- Snacks after exercise should contain a lot of protein, but also carbohydrates. You need to replace the energy lost during your workout and eat protein to repair muscle tissue.
- Some examples of snacks you can have after your workout include: a protein shake, a mixture of dried fruits and nuts, chocolate milk, or your next meal (if you eat it within an hour).
Method 4 of 4: Take supplements
Step 1. Drink protein shakes
Consider including protein shakes in your daily mealtime routine. According to studies, 100% of these drinks help you lose weight and build muscle mass and strength more easily.
- Whey protein is derived from milk. It contains all the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. Since this is a complete protein, this is the type of premium protein you should go for.
- You can have a protein shake as a snack or use it to recover or regain strength after exercise. Remember: don't take more than your recommended daily intake of protein. More doesn't always mean better.
- Alternatives to protein shakes are egg white protein, pea protein, and hemp seed protein. It is possible to find protein powders specially designed for women or people on restrictive diets, such as vegans.
Step 2. Try creatine
Creatine is a relatively common supplement used by many athletes and people who want to improve their physical performance. Studies show that creatine is effective in increasing muscle strength and performance.
- Creatine is naturally made by the liver. It is carried in the blood to provide energy to cells. However, much of it is used and stored by skeletal muscles.
- Creatine helps build strength and muscle because it gives you the extra energy you need to do more reps and carry heavier loads.
- Always seek the advice of your doctor before taking any supplement (as supplements are not permitted by some food regulatory bodies). Ask if they are safe and suitable for your needs.
- Stop taking it if you experience any of the following symptoms: nausea, cramps, diarrhea, or upset stomach.
Step 3. Drink coffee in moderate amounts
Drinking a cup of coffee before exercise is another natural way to improve your physical performance.
- Studies show that when you drink coffee before exercise, you can workout longer and lift heavier loads. Also, if you do cardio exercises, you can finish faster.
- In general, it is advisable to drink a cup of coffee (175-250 ml) before exercise. That works out to 80 to 100 mg of caffeine, which is all you need before you hit the gym. Do not take caffeine tablets or supplements as they can cause unwanted effects.