How Long Does it Take to Get Muscle Definition?

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We can’t deny that one of the reasons we go to the gym is to gain self-confidence. This self-confidence can be achieved if we can achieve our goals and those goals are different for everyone.

Some people train to lose weight, others train to get strong or big and some people just want to feel and look good. Looking and feeling good often means having good muscle definition but how long does it take to get muscle definition?

It depends on your body-fat, diet, and training routine but a good goal for the average person is 2 to 6 weeks to start showing muscle definition. A good routine would involve doing supersets and monster sets with slightly lighter weights than what you can lift. Cardio should be done before moving on to weights and your diet should involve little carbs and a good amount of protein.

Depending on your goals, you can train for years and be huge but not have muscle definition. For muscle definition to show, you first need to build some muscle and then cut down on body fat.

In this article, I am going to walk you through the process and hopefully help you train smarter and better. For everything that you need to know about the best way to get muscle definition, keep reading.

Gaining muscle

This section is for three different types of people: People who want to start going to the gym, those who just started, and finally, people who have struggled to gain muscle while going to the gym.

Because we all come in different shapes and sizes, I cannot account for that but these steps apply to everyone, short, tall, slim, and thick.

Fitness

Start by working on your fitness, this is done by doing cardio like running, walking, and/or cycling. Feel free to mix it up to keep things interesting. Fitness will help your muscles with the recovery process and it will make lifting weights less tiring.

Remember to not overdo it regarding fitness. You are just doing it to help. Your main focus should be lifting weights. I recommend not doing more than 20 minutes of mild intensity cardio while trying to build muscle.

Lift Weights

This is the fun part and also, in my opinion, the easy part of the process. You want to develop a routine of which muscle group you train each day. Stick to the routine and place emphasis on which muscle you want to be the most important. For a lot of people, it is either arms or chest.

It is best to group your muscles together, for example, One day you do arms and chest together, the next you do shoulders and back together. Don’t forget about legs, some people devote one or two days a week for this but you could do legs and lats together.

A routine is very personal to you. There are a lot of articles that say you have to do certain muscle groups together but is that true? While some are accurate, a lot of it is personal and I think it is best if you find what works best for you.

3-day table of what muscles to train together

This is a very basic 3-day table. As you become more advanced, you can break down the muscle groups more specifically.

DayMuscle groups
Day 1Arms + chest + abs + traps
Day 2Back + shoulders + lats
Day 3Upper and lower legs + glutes
Basic 3 Day Setup

Bookmark this page and use this table as a guideline. If you train more than 3 days a week, keep a diary or make a schedule on your phone so that you don’t forget what you did if you have a day off.

As for how many sets and reps you do, this is personal but I do have guidelines for you.

Reps and Sets

When you are building muscle, you want to do three to four sets per muscle with eight to nine reps. You need to find what weight you are comfortable with doing this. Gradually increase the weight every time you train the same muscle.

Do not overdo it. If you do, you can harm the recovery process and your muscles won’t get the full benefit of the workout you just did. If your muscle is uncomfortably sore the next day, you might have gone too heavy. Your muscles should feel stiff and have a slight discomfort the next day, not be painful.

Eat Properly

Eating properly can speed up the muscle gain process significantly, it can also hinder the process. Let’s take a quick look at what you should and should not be eating.

We aren’t going to go crazy here, chances are, you are not a bodybuilder who needs trillions of calories a day. More likely, you are a normal person who wants to look good so let’s be realistic with the diet.

You just need to modify your regular food intake to suit the process. Eat three times a day and try to fit at least one of those meals within 30 minutes after your training. This helps send nutrients to your recovering muscle fibers.

Try to balance your day with a healthy split of carbs and protein. The most important is a good amount of protein.

Carbs are necessary to fuel our bodies, during this phase, I recommend eating 200g to 350g of carbs throughout the day depending on your size. Remember, we aren’t “bulking” like a bodybuilder, we are building some muscle.

Handsome young fit muscular caucasian man of model appearance workout training in the gym gaining weight pumping up muscles and poses fitness and bodybuilding sport - How Long Does it Take to Get Muscle Definition

Tone Your Muscles

Ok, so you have been training to gain muscle for however long you thought necessary. It could be 2 to 3 weeks or 2 to 3 months. Whatever it is, it’s awesome, you should start seeing a difference in your fitness, strength, and the way your body shape looks. Maybe you don’t even notice, most of us don’t, but if you have been training properly, there is a difference, trust me.

Target Your Muscles More Specifically

After the first step, your muscles have grown, now you want to start toning your muscles. This means you need to be more specific on what muscles you train. Instead of doing just arms, you need to target specific parts.

Arms now involve biceps, triceps, and forearms. It gets more specific than this but for now, we are still keeping things relatively simple.

The best example would be regarding shoulders. The shoulder has three main parts, the medial deltoid, rear deltoids, and front deltoids. Now for a shoulder workout, we are going to hit all three of those muscles.

I will be giving an example for the shoulders. I just want to highlight what I mean when I say, “be more specific”.

Shoulder Press

This is your main shoulder exercise, do it at the beginning of each shoulder session.  For this, I prefer dumbbells. Whether you do it sitting or standing, make sure to keep your back straight. Start wide and bring the dumbells in as you press up until the dumbbells touch each other.

Side Lateral Raises

This will work your medial deltoid also known as the middle delt. This is the muscle that makes your shoulders look wider. This exercise needs to be done with dumbbells. You might find that you can only do very little weight but that is totally normal. 

Upright Row

This is for your front deltoids. If I am being honest, your front delts get worked with a lot of other exercises such as bench press, shoulder press and back exercises. So, you should spend a limited amount of time on this.

Bent Over Reverse Fly

You can do this standing up or sitting. Keep a dumbbell in each hand, have them close to each other, bend over from the hip and pull the dumbbells away from each other going up slowly as much as it feels comfortable.

There you have it, a small example. When you start training like this, your muscles start getting good shape and this is what is meant by “toning”

Continue Eating Properly

At this stage, it is still important to eat three times a day. You still need to eat within 30 minutes of training and you still need a good amount of protein. Carbs at this point become less important but you still need them.

Start Shedding Weight

Everything you have done up until this point will seem like a piece of cake compared to cutting weight. At this point, your muscles should have grown and developed some definition. Now, you need to shed extra weight so that your muscles can be seen, this is what we think of as “muscle definition”.

As I said earlier, you can have massive muscles but if there is too much fat surrounding the muscle, they won’t appear to have any definition. That is why this phase is the most important and it is also the hardest.

Cardio

You need to increase your cardio, you can do this by increasing the intensity or the amount of time. When I am busy cutting, I do cardio before and after doing weights.

For this phase, my favorite form of cardio is running but if you struggle with that, cycling is just as good. I also include a form of cardio into my weightlifting which I will explain in the next section.

Supersets and Monster Sets

Do not be thrown off or intimidated by the name. A superset is when you combine two sets from different muscles into one. A monster set is when you combine three sets from different muscles into one. I will use the shoulder exercises from earlier to explain this. For this, you want to decrease the weights, you should do about 60 % of what you can normally lift.

Doing these types of sets acts as a form of cardio while shaping your muscles. It raises your temperature and heartbeat while testing your fitness. It might seem difficult at first but trust me, it works.

Superset

For the superset, we will break the shoulders down into two parts. Get your equipment ready for two exercises at a time. You are going to group up shoulder press and side lateral raises together. Then group up upright rows and bent over reverse fly together.

Instead of doing shoulder press as one set and lateral raises as one, a set now becomes both exercises as one. You do one set of shoulder press with 11 reps and immediately go into side lateral raises for 11 reps. Once done, that is one set. Try to do 4 sets of this if you can.

Monster Set

It is the same concept as a superset except for the fact that you group three or more exercises together as one set. Again, I recommend 11 reps and 4 sets.

The Diet

Ok, so this depends on how much weight you have gained. If you are still relatively skinny. I recommend staying with the same diet. If you have always been heavy or have gained a couple of pounds/kg, you might want to hit the keto diet at this point.

The Keto diet

This diet is designed to place your body in a state of Ketosis. When you eliminate or eat less than 15g of carbs a day, your body will find ways to fuel itself. To put It in simple terms, Ketosis is when your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs.

The Keto diet consists mainly of protein and very little to no carbs. Your body will start burning stored carbs for a few days until it runs out. You will then “hit a wall”. When the body cannot find stored carbs, you will feel down and lethargic while your body starts to convert stored fats into fuel. After a day or two, you will get a sudden burst of energy. This is when you will lose a lot of weight.

It is important to keep your protein intake high so that you minimize the amount of muscle loss during this diet. It takes about 4 to 7 days to hit a state of ketosis, depending on the level of fat loss you need you may need to stay on this diet for more than 7 to 8 weeks. If you have pre-existing conditions like bad blood pressure, be sure to consult your family doctor, first.

Final Thoughts on How Long Does it Take to Get Muscle Definition

Well done, at this point, you will notice a considerable change in your appearance. You will also be fit, healthy, and happy. This article was about the best way to achieve a goal, that goal is getting muscle definition. While getting a little bit of definition might seem quick, the process I spoke about will give you better results.

Whenever things start to get tough, do not give up. If this was easy, everyone would be shredded. The fact is, it is not easy but even just trying is a sign that you want to better yourself.

For the average joe that has never been to the gym before, it takes a few weeks to start showing changes in appearance. The real pride starts to kick in when other people notice it. I have to be honest though, the muscle definition you chain over 6 weeks won’t be that much, and losing it will be easy.

I recommend using this article to draw up a plan of no less than 3 months, 1 month for each phase. If you have time to do it over 6 months, the results you can get will be life-changing.


This is my own experience except for the time it takes. That's what everyone says on google.  For me, it took 4 months of weightlifting and eating a lot and then 2 months of a keto diet, cardio, and supersets with weights. Even then, I had definition but not a crazy amount as there is plenty of body fat slowly leaving.

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