Jon-Erik Kawamoto, Personal Trainer
So earlier in the week, I was quoted on Women’s Health (my first appearance) with Lee Boyce (a colleague of mine and fellow fitness writer/trainer from Toronto) in a short article on how long it takes to see muscle definition.

Link here: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/muscle-definition

I was asked several questions about the topic and the author took my quotes, along with Lee’s, to write the article.

There has been an outrage that the article missed one very important piece of the “seeing muscle definition” puzzle: your body composition!!

I was even asked about fat levels and how it contributes to seeing muscles but he did not included my answer. So just to clear things up, here are a few of his questions about seeing defined muscles along with my answers:

Q: When should you start to see more muscle definition when you’re strength training? Could you give a rough ballpark?

JK: This is a tough question to answer as the timeframe can be influenced by several variables. If the trainee is a beginner in the gym, the initial improvements in strength are mostly neurological, meaning better movement and neuromuscular coordination. This usually takes 4-8 weeks depending on the frequency and consistency of training, exercises performed and the sets, reps and weights used for each exercise. Following this time period, muscle development and muscle definition become the prominent adaptation from weight lifting. Genetics, exercise technique, training intensity and nutritional support are additional factors that can play a role in how fast trainees can start seeing defined muscles in the mirror. If the trainee has past the beginner stage of training and is a novice or advanced lifter, muscle development can happen in a shorter time period.

Q: What things factor in when it comes to growing muscles and showing off muscle definition? Like body fat levels.

JK: You are totally right. Seeing defined muscles and even muscle striations requires a decrease in body fat percentage or in other words, better body composition. This can be achieved by modifying one’s diet and by expending many calories in the gym, from both weight lifting and cardiovascular workouts. To develop muscle, for the most part, weights lifted should be above 60% of your maximum weight lifted. For example, if you can bench press 100 lbs, you will need to lift over 60 lbs for various sets and reps to develop muscle. Science has also shown us recently that muscle damage caused by lifting weight, the intramuscular or mechanical tension placed on a muscle during exercise and metabolic stress resulting from energy production and substrate metabolism within muscle fibers, are three primary factors responsible for triggering the muscle growth response. For more information, you can refer to Brad Schoenfeld’s article The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and their Application to Resistance Training in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (pubmed link here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847704).

Q: What about your diet? I know this will definitely play a role. What foods should you eat to help bulk up and show off your muscles?

JK: Diet plays a very influential role in determining how much muscle you can grow, how well you recover between workouts and how much lean and fat mass you have. The building blocks for muscles are proteins, so eating a diet that meets daily protein requirements is a must for developing muscles. Striving to eat 1.6 grams or protein/kg of body weight daily is a good goal to shoot for. So, for someone who weighs 60 kg should consume ~96 grams of protein throughout the day. Leans meats, beans, yogurt, cheese, and protein powders (e.g. whey, rice, pea, hemp, etc.) are good food choices that are high in protein.

So, there you have it. Seeing defined muscles requires an improvement in body composition: an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fat mass. This applies to both females and males. What most refer to as toned, defined muscles (and when you see them) are influenced by several factors and requires work both in and out of the gym.

photo credit: Joint Base Lewis McChord via photopin cc

I started at JKC in January of 2014 and I’m 67 years old. When I had my Initial Assessment, I knew – almost immediately – that Jon knew what he was doing and what he was talking about. I was overweight, out of shape, and in serious need of someone, like Jon, who could get me back on a fitness/conditioning routine that suited me, my age, my less than acceptable physical condition, my sometimes intermittent RA, and my need for a structured, consistent and yet flexible training and conditioning program that would work for me.

Fundamentally, if I made a choice at all with respect to JKC – it was to continue to come back each week. I have not been in a lot of gyms. To be honest, they used to intimidate me. What makes JKC different is their approach to each and every one of their clients. Jon and Thomas – and now Craig – tailor each training regime to the particular needs of each client. That ensures that the training regime will suit each client upon the start of training and changes as the client improves. It adjusts for any physical setbacks such as injuries and it adjusts for success. It is just that simple.

It is also the consistent encouragement that comes from Jon, Thomas and Craig. That voice that comes to you while you are in the middle of a particularly difficult set – rear-foot elevated split squats comes to mind immediately – that says “good job” or “keep it up” or “just a couple more reps.” To know, in that moment, that you are not alone and the trainer is paying attention to what you are doing. That is priceless for me.

I chose JKC originally to help prevent rowing injuries. I’m a rower and we won the St. John’s Regatta in 2019 but I rowed through a rib stress fracture and missed significant time in the boat during the racing season. Training at JKC consistently since the pandemic helped me stay injury free this year and made me the strongest I’ve ever felt, which helped me help my team win the 2021 St. John’s Regatta! Jon adds variety and mixes the exercises up well so that the workout goes by quickly and strength is gained. The gym is very personable and I like the eclectic mix of people that are there. JKC is much more intimate and personal than other gyms.

I had virtually no real experience using weights and felt intimidated going gyms. I avoided gym-goers using free weights, especially when hearing that loud crash, as they would drop weights to the floor. I thought this was to show everyone around them that they owned that area and that I shouldn’t go anywhere near! So I guess I just wanted to learn how to lift weights safely in a gym environment.

I spent over 18 years in the British Military, so I got to use some nice gyms. 99% of my time and experiences in those gyms was spent doing cardiovascular workouts, because I could just jump on a treadmill, plug in my head phones and do my own thing! JKC is different, because they have given me the confidence to use free weights and equipment that I had feared for years. Their demonstrations and knowledge is impeccable and I thank them for their continuous belief and support they show me at every session.

A few years ago, I pinched a nerve in my neck which led me to be stationary as any form of movement would cause extreme pain. During this time, my fiancé (Sean) started at JKC and loved it!! Once I overcame the nerve issue, Sean spent a long time trying to convince me that JKC is exactly what I needed to safely start working out again (I’m slightly stubborn and was super scared of re-pinching the nerve). Long story short, Sean was right… as much as I hate to admit it!

I never had luck at gyms, if it started to hurt I would call it a day. At JKC that is not an option, as Jon & Thomas will push you to finish the workout, whether you want to or not! Working out in a group setting is also a big benefit of working out at JKC, if you’re not feeling motivated you can simply feed off of someone else’s energetic vibes.

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