I don’t believe in damaging a muscle when you are going for tone. If you want to build muscle mass (which I don’t), then you want to do enough volume of lifts to induce a bit of damage…then you want to allow the muscles enough time to recover to rebuild themselves a bit bigger than they were before. If you are going for tone…you want to do less sets and volume so you don’t damage the muscles…since you are not damaging the muscles you can work those same muscles out more often.
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How Many Sets for Muscle Tone?
Remember, your goal for muscle tone is to avoid damaging the muscles. If you get sore the following day, back off a bit the next time that you work those same muscles. I like to do 3-4 sets of anywhere between 3-10 reps for muscle tone. I chose 2-3 exercises per body part.
How Many Reps Per Set?
I am one of the few people who believes that strength training done properly, can actually give you amazing muscle definition. I address this in one of the first posts I made on this blog: High Reps for Muscle Tone? Bad Advice!…I think that you can get alright definition with medium to high reps, but you just won’t reach your highest potential unless you include periods of time when you are lifting in the lower rep range. There are times when I do 3 sets of 8 reps per exercise…and other times when I do 4 sets of 3 reps per exercise.
Why Work The Muscles Frequently When Going For Tone?
This is one of the big keys to muscle tone, that I never hear personal trainers talk about. Muscle tone is basically the partial contraction of a muscle in a relaxed state…so your muscles are contacting a bit on their own even when you are completely relaxed. The way to increase this is to contract you muscles hard (workout) on a frequent basis. Their are two reasons you want to avoid damaging your muscles. The first is that if you are sore, you will overtrain if you work that muscle again too soon. The second is that you will be unable to get a hard contraction on a damaged muscle.
Avoid Going to Failure or Using Forced Reps When Toning Your Muscles
Going to the point of failure will increase the likelihood that muscle damage will occur. The bad thing about going to failure is that it teaches your muscles to fail! Your body will react by not contracting that muscle quite as hard for the next set…it will also result in less muscle tone outside of the gym. Going to failure and forcing reps is great for muscle mass, but terrible for muscle tone!
A Typical Split Routine for Muscle Mass
A popular mass building routine is the “3 day split”. This is where you work the entire body over a period of 3 days. Day one could be Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps…Day 2 could be Back and Biceps…Day 3 could be Legs and Abs. The benefit here is that since the muscles are getting damaged, they need more recovery time. Also since you are only focused on a couple of body parts, you could really do a high volume of intense lifts for each body part. Cardio would be limited to maybe twice a week for 30 minutes.
The 2 Day Split Muscle Tone Workout Routine
Since you want to work each muscle group more often when going for tone, you should try to split you workout over two days instead of three. The great thing here is that you don’t need much recovery time when you don’t damage the muscles. Here is the routine I’ve followed for the past 5 years. Day One is Chest and Back…Day Two is Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps. The lifting part of my workouts only take 30 minute max and then I hit cardio for 30-45 minutes. I do abs at night before bed. I don’t do any direct leg training whatsoever.
How Many Days a Week for Each Muscle Routine?
For muscle tone…I would recommend 4 times a week for maximum effectiveness…3 days a week to maintain (or when life gets really busy)…and maybe 5-6 days per week the month before a tropical vacation! For muscle mass, I would recommend 5 days a week to keep those muscle growing…too much time away from the gym and they will begin to get smaller again…you could maintain that mass with 4 times a week.
Note: I’m just barely scratching the surface here when it comes to setting up a good workout routine. The main goal for muscle tone is that you just need to remember that muscle damage and sore muscles are not your friend. Lift just enough to generate strong contractions…and spend the rest of the time burning off body fat with intense cardio…also don’t be afraid to lift heavy as long as you do not reach failure. I’ll dig much deeper into the details of what makes a great workout routine in the near future.