How to Get Muscle Definition and Separation
If you compete as a bodybuilder, then you will know very well that training for muscle separation needs to be supplemented with dieting for separation pre-contest. Muscle definition and separation and getting that "ripped", "sliced", "chiseled", or "cut" look, comes from planning. Bodybuilders concentrate on the following areas, when trying to achieve "separation":
It seems that most bodybuilders or weight trainers who want to increase muscle size and strength know that the answer is heavy weights lifted using high intensity workouts with a low to moderate rep-range, doing compound exercises and always focusing on continual progression, progressively increasing the weight lifted.
The problem is that if you ask these same bodybuilders about weight training specifically for overall muscle separation, improved definition and fat-loss, most lifters seem to miss the plot. Somehow a myth started that explained heavy weight with low reps will build muscle and a light weight with high reps will burn fat.
If you're training hard at gym and you are following a well-controlled nutrition plan, you'll have one of these two primary goals:
A) Increase overall strength and muscle size.
B) Burn off body-fat and get a more defined and leaner physique.
The problem starts after they have successfully built up some lean body mass, they'll then switch over to a cutting phase and immediately reduce the weights, with a lot more reps done on isolation exercises to help "define the muscles", improve separation and bring out the hardness of your muscles.
This "muscle definition workout" is completely misguided, in fact it's downright counterproductive to any of your lifting goals because muscles can either grow bigger or smaller. There is simply NO training technique that both science or bodybuilding has discovered that is suddenly going to "define", "shape" or "sculpt" your muscles and NO technique will magically make you harder and bring out more separation.
Your own muscle definition comes from only one thing: the amount of lean muscle mass you carry in combination with your body fat percentage. There is a simple golden rule that applies to everyone. The lower your body-fat percentage, the more separated and defined your muscles will be; the higher your body-fat percentage, the less defined you will be.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to target fat-loss from any specific area of your body when weight training. Sports science has clearly demonstrated that "spot reduction" does NOT work. When you stimulate a muscle to work it will have NO effect on your fat stores that are part of the same targeted muscle group.
Fat-loss happens when your body is put into a calorie-deficit, burning more calories than are consumed. This is achieved by reducing your caloric intake, increasing your caloric expenditure doing additional cardio exercise. You will lose body-fat all over and not in specific areas.
In a brief summary, it's impossible to "separate", "define" or "sculpt" any muscle. You can either train the muscles to get bigger or smaller. Fat-loss is achieved by caloric deficit, helping you to lose fat from all over your entire body over time. Your approach to training specifically for "muscle definition" should be exactly the same as your approach you used to gain strength and overall size.
That means training with heavy weights (that's heavy weights for you personally), using moderate to low reps, compound movements and to focus on improving or maintaining your own strength level each week. Unless you're some genetic freak, or a beginner who's never trained with weights before, you will NOT be able to add muscle size and strength when in a calorie-deficit. Your goal when you're doing a cutting phase is maximum fat-loss while trying to maintain as much muscle mass as possible.
So the bottom line when "cutting" is to create a correctly structured weight training schedule during this fat loss cycle. Your muscles are going to need the most deeply penetrating stimuli possible to give your body a VERY good reason to continue holding onto its lean muscle mass, despite being on a calorie deficit. As mentioned above, this is accomplished by using the same principles you used for gaining muscle. By keeping your lean mass intact you'll be able to gradually reduce your own body-fat by a little each week from dieting correctly and doing some extra cardio, creating that muscle definition you're so desperate to see that will slowly reveal itself.
During your cutting phase there are only two aspects of your training that are important:
1) Weight training for maintaining your current lean muscle mass.
2) Extra cardio work and manipulating your diet to burning fat.
The pre-contest diet you follow will be the most important factor determining your degree of separation you can achieve. Sooner or later most bodybuilders realize how critical eating correctly is when trying to maximize your results. A pre-contest diet should be a carb-fat-protein ratio that looks like; 8-10% carbs, 5-10% fat, and then 90-95% protein for maximum separation. (These percentages are only an approximate value, and they may not all add up to exactly 100.)