The Two Types of Muscle Tone and How to Really Tone
For years, women have been told that losing weight through diet and cardio was the way to look great in a bathing suit. The result was a lot of women who were thin but flabby and without the shape, definition and curves they were hoping would magically appear through fat loss alone.
Now, women, and the media that informs them, are finally beginning to understand that weight-training is the real answer to a sleek, strong, sexy body. Yet there are still so many misconceptions and so much misinformation about how to use weight training to get that body.
You Have to Know What You’re Working with before You Can Work It!
The last thing you want to do is to walk into the gym without a thorough understanding of the two types of muscle, how they’re stimulated and shaped and what each of them does for your appearance. Wandering from machine to machine, trying a little of this and a few of those is not going to get you the body you desire. However, that body is more attainable than you probably think. Once you understand the composition of your muscles and how to reshape them, you’ll be able to go into the gym (or even into your home workout space) and actually redesign your body very quickly.
The Two Types of Muscle Tone – Myogenic and Neurogenic
There are two types of muscle tone in your body and they determine how your muscles look at rest and how your muscles look when they’re being flexed or worked. Here’s a really simple visual illustration: Your arm hanging loose as you prepare to lift a weight = myogenic muscle tone. Your arm as your curl a dumbbell toward your body = neurogenic muscle tone.
Myogenic tone determines how your muscles look when they are at rest. Basically, it’s the residual tension in your muscles and is based on the density of your muscles. It’s a permanent change in your muscles that is there even while you’re lying still on a beach towel or curled up reading a book. The density of your muscles is affected by stimulating the contractile proteins actin and myosin, with moderately heavy weights and relatively low reps, between 8-15 reps to be more specific.
Neurogenic muscle tone determines how your muscles look when they are working. By “working”, I mean anything from reaching for your child to running up a flight of stairs. Neurogenic muscle tone determines how hard and defined your muscles look during movement. You change your neurogenic muscle tone with heavy weight/low rep exercises. (By low reps, I mean between 3-7 reps per exercise.)
This type of program works by improving the efficiency of your CNS or central nervous system. Specifically, it increases the sensitivity of the gamma and alpha motor neurons.
Why Working with Heavy Weights is the Way to Real Muscle Toning
In other words, that waist to hip ratio that gives you a sexy, hourglass shape and that full, round tight butt are the result of myogenic muscle toning and those defined arms and diamond-shaped calves you want to see when you’re lifting something or walking are the result of neurogenic muscle toning. As you can see, you want both.
Working with heavy weights actually improves both myogenic and neurogenic muscle tone. It increases the density of your muscles (which is what gives your body its actual shape) through hypertrophy (growth) and increases the sensitivity of the gamma and alpha motor neurons to give your individual muscles that hard, defined tone you’re looking for.
You’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to deadlift 200 pounds to do this, nor do you have to spend a lot more time in the gym. Working out with heavier weights and lower reps achieves so much more than endless low-weight/high-rep routines and in much less time.
Burn Fat While You’re Building Muscle and Redesign Your Body
Now, some of you are probably thinking that you need to work on losing body fat first, before you can think about building muscle. Let me explain why that thinking is a little bit backwards.
Adding lean muscle to your body actually helps you to lose fat faster and it does this in a few ways. First, it boosts your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories throughout the day. Second, it helps regulate certain fat-burning and fat-storing hormones in your body so that you
can lose stored body fat. Third, weight training to the point of muscle fatigue with heavier weights will actually cause your metabolism to burn even more calories for as many as 48 hours after you work out.
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Building Muscle Increases Your Calorie Deficit
You’ve probably heard that your base metabolic rate is based on how much you weigh, but that’s only partly true. It’s also based on your body’s composition, which is the ratio of muscle to fat. A woman who weighs 120 pounds with 22% body fat does not burn calories at the same rate as a woman who weighs 120 pounds but has only 18% body fat. Muscle tissue burns calories; fat tissue does not. The more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you need each day. This makes it much easier to lose stored fat through a calorie deficit, without having to cut your intake so low that you’re starving and fatigued.
Building Muscle Regulates the Hormones that Burn or Store Fat
Adding lean muscle to your body also helps to regulate and balance several hormones that either store or burn the fat you now have. In particular, increasing lean muscle tissue helps to regulate insulin secretion by making your body’s cells more sensitive to that insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It’s next to impossible to lose stored body fat if you are insulin resistant, because the presence of insulin in your bloodstream actually stimulates fat storage. This is true even if you’re eating a strict diet.
One of insulin’s main jobs is to transport glycogen through the phospholipid layer of your muscle cells’ membranes so that it can be burned as energy. The less sensitive to insulin that those cells are, the less glycogen they can absorb. That leftover glycogen is then turned back into glucose and stored as fat, particularly around your tummy. This is why metabolic syndrome (insulin insensitivity) is marked by excess belly fat.
The more muscle you have and the more you work that muscle, the more glycogen your body can absorb and burn and the less fat you store. Not only that, but as your sensitivity to insulin increases, the amount of insulin you need to transport glycogen decreases. Less insulin in your bloodstream will then actually stimulate your body to start burning off that stubborn fat you already have stored. In essence, building muscle turns your body into a fat-burning factory.
Training to Fatigue Burns Calories Long After Your Workout
The old school of thought on weight training for women was to work out for long periods with low weights and high res. This method may burn more calories during your workout than a much shorter, heavy weight/low rep routine, but one you’re done working out, you’re also done burning calories. This is because it demands very little of your muscles and doesn’t result in muscle fatigue.
Training with heavy weights and low reps doesn’t burn as many calories because it takes a much shorter time to complete your workout. However, it does get your muscles to the point of fatigue, which results not only in muscle growth (hypertrophy) but also increased oxygen uptake after your workout. This means that your body is burning calories at a higher rate throughout the rest of the day and for as long as 48 hours after you leave the gym. In other words, you burn far more calories in the long term, even while you’re relaxing or sleeping.
The Real Way to a Lean, Sexy Body
If you really want to transform your body in the shortest period of time and with the most dramatic results, you need to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously. You also need to stop focusing on how much you weigh. It’s not how much you weigh that determines how you look; it’s how much fat and muscle make up that weight. In fact, you could end up gaining weight when all is said and done, but look a thousand times better. This is because muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, but takes up much less space because of its density. Let me give you an illustration.
Imagine filling a plastic bag with one pound of rocks and then twisting it tightly shut. That plastic bag will fit easily into the palm of your hand. Now imagine filling a plastic bag with one pound of Styrofoam packing peanuts. You might not be able to wrap your arms around it! This is why a woman who stands 5’4 and weighs 115 pounds with 16% body fat is rocking those skinny jeans while another woman of the same height and weight but 26% body fat is hiding her body in sweatpants. A pound is not a pound, ladies.
If you focus on burning fat through interval cardio and building lean muscle tissue (both myogenic and neurogenic) through heavy weight/low rep training, you’ll get that lean, curvy, sexy body you’re looking for, without starving yourself and without working out for hours on end every day.
Eat more, work less; look incredible. How great a deal is that?
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