Optimize Your Muscle Tone
Many trainers and fitness coaches continue to focus on high repetition exercises to produce the appealing curves many men and women want their bodies to look like. However, current science has shown that lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions is more effective at increasing strength and enhancing metabolism.
A 2002 study compared the metabolic profile of women lifting 85% of their maximum ability for 8 reps, versus 45% for 15 reps. The test subjects who were lifting the heavier load for fewer reps burned more energy and had a significantly larger metabolic boost after exercise (1).
Another study looked at 2 groups of women over a 6 year period who performed squats and military presses at different intensity levels. The women who worked at 70-80% of their maximal for 8 reps had greater weight and body fat loss than crossover group (2).
Training with Heavier Loads:
Training with heavier loads increases an individual’s “myogenic tone.” Heavy lifting forces the body to adapt to the increased demands and build more contractile proteins within the muscle. This process increases muscle density, enhances body image and provides sustainable muscle tone (3).
Training with heavier loads also increases an individual’s “neurogenic tone.” A critical response the body makes to increased loads is to enhance the amount of muscle fibers the nervous system will recruit at a given time (4).
As a result, there is an increased sensitivity of the muscle spindle receptors and the alpha and gamma motor neurons. This adaptation increases the efficiency of movement for both complicated and simple tasks. It also gives the muscle a more ripped appearance.
High Reps with Lighter Weight:
This form of exercise utilizes the aerobic system and stimulates an increase in blood flow to the muscle groups at work. This creates a “sarcoplasmic tone” that is based on fluid around the muscle. This sort of tone is considered “soft,” and is not sustainable.
As little as 30 minutes after finishing the exercise the fluid returns to the circulatory system. Training like this over time results in an increase in capillary density and improved blood & oxygen supply to the muscle group (5).
It does not, however, maximally stimulate muscle fibers to produce new contractile proteins. In addition, the nervous system is not challenged at a high intensity with this form of exercise. Therefore, it doesn’t improve myogenic and neurogenic tone and sustainable muscle tone is generally not gained.
Fitness For Best Results:
- Perform multi-joint, compound exercises like squats, dead-lifts, bent-over rows, pull-ups, over-head press, and push-ups to drive up your metabolism and muscle building potential
- Utilize a resistance that is 70-90% of your maximum and perform to max for 3-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
- Use short-rest between sets (10-30 secs max) to keep your oxygen debt high as this will increase post-exercise fat burning potential.
Sources For This Article Include:
- Thornton MK, Potteiger JA. Effects of resistance exercise bouts of different intensities but equal work on EPOC. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Apr;34(4):715-22. PMID: 11932584
- Bea JW, Cussler EC, Going SB, Blew RM, Metcalfe LL, Lohman TG. Resistance Training Predicts Six-Year Body Composition Change in Postmenopausal Women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2010;42(7):1286-1295.
- Johansson B. Myogenic tone and reactivity: definitions based on muscle physiology. J Hypertens Suppl. 1989 Sep;7(4):S5-8; discussion S9. PMID: 2681596
- Central Nervous System Contribution to the Neurogenic Tone of Smooth Muscle. Link Here
- Lundberg TR, Fernandez-Gonzalo R, Gustafsson T, Tesch PA. Aerobic exercise alters skeletal muscle molecular responses to resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Sep;44(9):1680-8. PMID: 22460475