Exercises: A Terrible Myth”
– CUTTING EXERCISES: DISPELLING A MYTH
of the most common goals of fitness enthusiasts is to have
low levels of body fat covering their hard-earned muscles.
Whether the individual is an athlete that wants to look
good in and out of uniform or a fitness instructor that
wants to have “toned” arms, everyone is looking for the
most effective exercises to reach their goals.
is certainly no shortage of opinions when it comes to training
programs and exercises that trainers and magazines seem
to promote to reach these goals, so it is understandable
that many bodybuilders and gym-goers can be overwhelmed
by information. But what really confuses me is the claim
made by gym employees and fitness authors that certain resistance
training exercises are for definition and “cutting up”.
it or not, but no strength coach or exercise physiologist
has been able to prove that one exercise rather than others
can promote more “definition” or “toning”! Can someone explain
how leg extensions are a better exercise for muscle definition
than squats? This article will dispel these myths and will
reveal the best exercises for meeting the goals of increased
muscle definition, which is the correct term for “toning”,
“cutting up” or “getting ripped”. In fact, let’s just eliminate
“toning” from our vocabulary all together.
a little background for those without a long history of
weight training experience. Bodybuilders (that includes
any man or woman that is seeking to improve their body’s
appearance!) traditionally perform a number of exercises
for a body part during a single resistance training session.
For example, in a chest workout one might start with bench
presses, move to incline dumbbell press, and finish with
dumbbell flyes or the pec-deck.
according to many personal trainers and fitness magazines,
the rationale behind this type of program is that the pressing
exercises are best for strength and mass development and
the pec-deck would provide for definition. Also, people
believe that these “definition” exercises should be emphasized
in order to develop a “ripped” body (that is, low levels
of body fat). Unfortunately, it seems bodybuilders and fitness
buffs alike have been led astray, and the end result is
a poorly planned program that does not lead to the desired
we need a brief, yet simplistic, review of human anatomy
and physiology to reason why these “cutting” exercises (i.e.
pec-deck) do not do the job. For our purposes there are
2 components determining body composition, muscle and fat.
For most people it is the amount of fat that is the limiting
factor for them in the development of muscular definition
and not the “quality” of their muscle. If an overweight
individual were to be stripped of all their fat, they too
would have muscle definition.
the other hand, a skinny individual can increase their muscle
definition by lifting weights and increasing muscle hypertrophy
(growth). The body cannot tell the difference between exercises!
It responds according to the demands applied to the body.
If you lift weights the muscle will grow so that
it is stronger and can lift the weight easier the next time.
If you eat too much and do not exercise, the energy is deposited
as fat and your muscle definition will be lost. It is a
very simple equation!
pec-deck can still be incorporated into workout designs,
but it is not the best exercise for promoting a better body
composition. In fact, this isolation exercise recruits only
the chest muscles and ignores the triceps and deltoids,
unlike the previously mentioned presses. And remember that
more muscles result in greater energy expenditure and a
greater overall training stimulus.
myth that seems to propagate is that sets performed for
a very high number of repetitions are most effective for
“cutting up”. Refer back to the basic anatomical principle
that the body’s appearance is determined by the amounts
of both muscle and fat, and most importantly that low levels
of body fat are necessary for muscle definition. Using a
lightweight to do a huge number of repetitions might not
“show off” your muscles better than using a moderate weight
and performing a moderate number of repetitions.
not? Because there would likely be no difference in the
amount of total calories burned between the two workouts
provided each performed a similar exercise volume in the
workout. The greater number of repetitions in the one workout
would be offset by the greater intensity (weight) used in
the other workout. However, a heavier weight will stimulate
more muscle growth. More muscle results in a faster metabolism
and theoretically greater energy expenditure at rest. So
over the long haul the more intense (heavier lifting) workout
may be the optimal choice for reducing body fat. In addition,
larger muscles are easier to see!
so what is going to bring you the results (i.e. definition)
that you want? Keep the exercises basic and intense (i.e.
moderate to heavy weight). Most bodybuilders are better
off to do 4-5 sets of bench and incline presses (for a total
of 8-10 sets) rather than including 3 sets of pec-deck in
the traditional manner. The volume of exercise will be the
same but the difficulty of exercise will be harder and the
cumulative effects will greater.
exercise is not essential for low levels of body fat but
can certainly promote greater cardiovascular fitness and
help prevent excessive weight gain. And finally, make the
proper dietary changes to promote muscle gains and body
fat reductions. In the end you will be healthier and will
achieve superior muscle definition!