The heat and humidity are rising, and let’s be honest: wearing anything with sleeves is just pointless and annoying. #sunsoutgunsout So, how should you best utilize the gym to prepare you for your dream beach bod? Well, good thing you have a strength and conditioning expert (Jeff) at your disposal writing the monthly focus blogs!
The concept of muscle aesthetics is simple. In fact, it is actually more straight forward than muscular hypertrophy (strength gains). Before you get too excited, this is unfortunately a double-edged sword. If you think back to some of Jeff's old school Humble Beginnings lectures, you may recall one particular saying about “toning.” It was a common rant of his because toning is typically used incorrectly. Too often, the fitness industry tries to convince you that toned muscle is strong muscle, and that is not entirely true. In a perfect world, you could tone muscle into being stronger. In reality, there are three main phases of muscular programming:
1. Hypertrophy (Strength)
In relation to density, not necessarily size. We refrain from using the word “size” because not everyone genetically “grows” muscle the same way/rate, so it isn’t completely true that stronger muscle will yield a “larger” size, but rather and often times, denser.
2. Muscular Endurance
How long can your muscle perform sub-maximal (less than its potential max) quality or physical output? To understand this, think in terms of your back squat. What is your 1RM (hypertrophy), and how long can you endure a percentage of that 1RM? The lower in percentage you go, the more endurance you will have, thus the higher your 1RM.
3. Toning Phase
This phase is typically avoided because as it’s self-titled name implies, it is purely aesthetic. Do you remember the Deion Sanders quote exemplifying the importance of the visual psyche? That although good looking muscle may serve no strength function, it does make us feel good inside. Therefore, serving as psychological function. Since there is arguable function, it is justifiable to grant you access to this use.
How do we manipulate and apply these three phases? Here is the key to live by:
Hypertrophy = *5-8 reps
Endurance = *12-15 reps
Toning = *18+ reps
*The rep range should be done so that the last 2-3 reps of that range are very difficult. This should coincide with heavier weight for the hypertrophy and lighter weights for toning. As always, ask the coaches for help with this!
You should choose your reps based on your personal wants. We specifically use the word “want” rather than “need" because too often wants and needs do not align. This is pretty much concrete, and the rules (phases) do not change. If you notice, Humble Beast CrossFit programming operates off an eccentric>concentric>power>MAX cycle. Meaning, we also generally spend time hitting each phase for about 4 weeks. If your wants and availability meet the timeline of the gym, GREAT! If not, refer to this post and track your results. As far as the actual “MAX month” goes, the coaches will easily be able to direct you in terms of what to do if you’re not shooting for an absolute max for the month.
Bonus: Here's a flow chart for your reference!