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

trap bar deadlift

A few of my wonderful friends and colleagues recommended JKC. I was told by one colleague that “It’ll be the best thing you ever do for yourself” and she was right! To be honest, I didn’t have much experience in any gym setting. And NO prior weight training experience. It was always so overwhelming! But from the first day, nothing was intimidating about JKC. Each workout is set up just for me, and with my specific skills and goals in mind. There are no stupid questions, you learn as you go, and what I really love, I always feel included and important, regardless of my skills/experience.

I have never previously seen the passion and level of care that Jon and Thomas bring to everyone who works out at JKC. Their knowledge, insight and skills are extraordinary, and they work with everyone individually to ensure the best possible results. The attention to detail and to every person’s specific requirements and goals, and the incredible, constant encouragement they provide, is, in my opinion, what truly distinguishes JKC from any other program in which I’ve participated. I am extremely pleased with the progress I’ve achieved thus far, and it’s largely attributable to Jon and Thomas and the approach they take to training and working with people.

My original reason for joining JKC was to get some sage advice to help with my running. I had been looking for awhile, came across Jon, met for an assessment, and was quite happy with how that all went. Apart from the running specific strengthening and conditioning approaches, JKC is different from other gyms as I am a fan of the small group sessions where everyone has their own goals and individualized programs. As well, the run coaching is super. All the coaches go the extra mile to make sure you get the best out each training session. They are fantastic motivators! My favourite memory is deadlifting 330lbs. Making a lot of great friends and meeting some really cool people is pretty high up on that list, too.

I started at JKC because my colleagues that go to JKC all look and felt fit and healthy thanks to Jon and Thomas – if JKC helped them, I knew they could do the same for me! I think JKC stands out from other gyms because of their personal touch! They listen to you and help motivate and support. They always believe in my ability progress and learn new exercises. I’ve been training at JKC since January of 2019 and recommend them to anyone looking to learn how to lift weight properly, feel stronger, and improve their health.

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