This week, Meghan Deagan, LifeFit wellness specialist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, talks about weight training and what it takes to build -- and maintain -- muscles.
Question. I've started getting back in the gym, and I'm wondering how long it typically takes to see muscle definition. Can I get good muscle definition just by weight training, or is there something else I should be doing? If I fell off the wagon again or skipped a few workouts, how quickly would I lose any muscle definition I've gained?
Answer. Welcome back to the gym.
Seeing muscle definition is very individual and depends a lot on body type and what type of exercise you're doing and how often. Sometimes you can see changes in as little as two weeks depending on the frequency, duration and intensity of the exercises.
Even if you don't see the changes, that's all the time it takes to start reaping the benefits.
If you're overweight, make sure you're doing cardiovascular exercise; otherwise you'll build all that muscle under the fat. Keep mixing up your workout so you don't plateau or burnout in boredom. There are a lot of options out there to keep your workout fresh.
There are a ton of variables that come into play with lost muscle definition and how quickly that happens. For example, how long have you been exercising regularly? What is your current fitness level? How many workouts have you been skipping?
As soon as you stop exercising, you'll stop building muscle. You can lose more than half the gains you made in as little as two weeks if you're new to exercise. If you're fit and have been training for years, it could be closer to a month to notice those losses. As soon as you start training again, your body will adapt and get into the swing of things much quicker than it did when you first started.
If an injury is to blame for your skipped workouts, try changing exercise modes. For example, try out a pool workout or get off the treadmill and onto a bicycle, depending on the injury. Make sure, however, to get your doctor's clearance before beginning an exercise program again to make sure you don't injure yourself further.
No matter what situation you're in, try to maintain consistency in the frequency of your workouts. Our bodies get used to our routines so when we take a day or two off, our muscles recognize that the strength demand is not there. So, in order to maintain strength and definition, you need to get into a routine and stay in it.
The well-known fitness quote remains true: "If you don't use it, you lose it."