Resting Muscle Tonus Boosting Workout

I’m on a several week hostel hopping trip overseas where I told myself I’m OK with mostly skipping the gym to maximize use of my time off. However, I got covid the first week and between the illness and several days of total bedrest my muscle tonus has plummeted. My muscles feel very soft and have little definition for my size and leanness.

I’ve got some beach days planned and want to pop the definition back. What exercises and rep schemes would you use to boost resting tonus in a time efficient manner? My first guess would be heavy compounds: work up to a top set of 3-5 reps +1-2 back off sets on bench and chins, then one heavy set on deads. But I have never trained for this “goal” before.

What would you do, coach? Thank you!

It doesn’t matter. It will get back with any type of challenging resistance training.

In fact, pure hypertrophy work in the 6-10 reps (probably more 8-10 for you) range to failure, or 1 RIR is likely going to be better than heavy work.

I understand your logic: muscle tone is mostly neurological so doing heavier lifting which would “amp up” the CNS and increase muscle tone. BUT there are several things to consider:

  1. The activation/amping up of the nervous system is transient. In fact, post-tetanic potentiation (increase in neurological activity following heavy lifting) peaks at 2 minutes after a set and lasts for around 5 minutes. So lifting heavy will not cause a direct increase in muscle tone for the rest of day or next day.

  2. Training that focuses heavily on improving neurological efficiency, over time, can lead to a higher muscle tone. But that’s a long-term adaptation, not something that will occur after a workout or even a few.

  3. There are other factors involved in making a muscle look full and hard. First you have intramuscular glycogen and fluid storage, which is increased with training, especially with training that upregulate GLUT-4 to increase glucose (and water) transport into the muscle. And this occurs a lot more with glycolitic work (slightly higher reps). Low reps use mostly the phosphagen system and as such, do not upregulate GLUT4 much.

  4. Another factors which can cause a visual impact is inflammation. While in normal circumstances you don’t want to much of it, and too much muscle damage (which causes inflammation) is bad for muscle growth. In this specific case, it can give the illusion of size and hardness.

As for your exercises selection, more targeted work will be a lot more effective than compound movements. Again, I understand why you thought compounds would be good (greater neurological demands) but you really want to upregulate GLUT4 in your muscles and create some localized inflammation. Compound movements divide the load over too many muscles to be able to fully concentrate on doing that.

So more concentrated exercises like single-joint exercises or machine movements would be a better choice. You can even overemphasis certain muscles to get the look you want.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID. Do not expect miracles. Illness + detraining both affect where fluids are retained (less inside the muscles more beneath the skin, making you look smaller and fatter) and depending on the “severity” of the state it can take some time to be reversed. You didn’t mention how much time you have before your beach days. But you would certainly need at least 4-5 days of hard training and proper nutrition/electrolyte ingestion to make a sigificant visual difference.

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Thank you so much! Really great info and perspective. You were right that I was thinking too much about neurological activation.

I’ve been hitting hypertrophy rep range workouts hard now. Starting with isolations and finishing with same muscle compounds to failure. Just one workout made a big difference going from arm tubes to looking like I lift again, but still a good ways to go before at pre-illness physique.

coach,one rapid question : would neurotype3 train like type 1B / fast,explosive /strech reflex,not to failure ?

In what situation?

training for strength and power ? and this type training make me feel good