How to Build Muscle – A Guide for Women Bodybuilders
September 14, 2021
There are more and more women bodybuilding these days, and it’s refreshing and exciting to see this typically male-dominated sport being approached and mastered by women. To build muscle women are going to want to know the best tips, tricks, and techniques.
However, women bodybuilders may have noticed that a lot of the information about bodybuilding available online is tailored to men. Bodybuilding women may benefit from this information, but those wondering how to build muscle for women should follow advice and information tailored to their gender.
That’s what this article is about; teaching you the best and most effective women bodybuilders’ tips so you can be your best.
Table of Contents
- Women bodybuilding – It’s not only for men
- Set your muscle building goals and prepare a plan to achieve them
- To build muscle get more calories than you burn
- Learn about macros
- Women muscle building workout plan
- Supplements for women bodybuilders
- Pitfalls of professional women bodybuilding
- How to become strong and muscular but stay feminine
In a lot of cases, when we hear about women working out, it’s in an attempt to slim down, lose weight, and shed pounds. This is fine and dandy, but what about women who actually want to build muscle? What about women who want to be strong – not just slim and quick?
Unfortunately, when it comes to how to build muscle, women aren’t always able to find information as easily as men might be able to. Regardless of how much info is available on how to build muscle for women, it’s no secret that more and more women are taking to the art of bodybuilding – getting rid of old stigmas and proving that women are just as capable of massive feats of strength as men.
One of the things that interests and confuses men and women alike is the influence that testosterone has. Men generally produce more testosterone than women, and this has led some people to wonder whether women are even capable of producing as much muscle as men.
It certainly is possible. With the use of supplements and proper techniques, women are not only able to gain significant muscle bulk, but they can also reach similar levels of strength as the testosterone-fueled males.
In fact, there are more benefits to muscle building than simply looking tough:
- You’ll increase your functional strength and balance
- Your metabolism will increase, meaning you can burn calories quicker
- You’ll develop better insulin sensitivity, decreasing your chances of getting diabetes
- You’ll be more resistant to holding on to fat in the future
So now that you know that women bodybuilding is achievable, you probably want to know how to do that.
The first thing that you’ll want to do is set your muscle building goals. This will, naturally, be different for everyone. The most important thing that you can do is to be realistic. Don’t set goals that are too high, especially in the beginning. If you set unreachable goals, they obviously won’t be reached and you’ll end up discouraged and unenthusiastic.
One thing that should be avoided is the fear of fat. A lot of women try to avoid putting on any fat when they’re gaining muscle. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to put together a low-fat diet plan that will be very useful for gaining muscle. You’ll probably have to make do with gaining a bit of fat while you’re putting on the muscle. Big deal – a bit of fat is healthy.
A realistic long-term goal of bodybuilding for women is to shoot for gaining about 10-15 pounds of muscle in a year. This is a bit of a long goal, however – but unfortunately, realistic goals are not as explosive as one might hope. This means that you should shoot for gaining between 1-2 pounds of muscle a month.
If you’re too focused on doing this while avoiding fat gain, you’ll only slow down the growth of your muscles.
Another thing that frightens women who are focusing on maintaining a slim figure is the fact that you actually need to consume more calories to gain muscle. The food that you eat is what provides your body with the nutrients and energy to make more muscle.
The average recommended caloric intake for women should be about 2,000 calories a day. Many women eat less than this. Whatever the case, it’s likely that you’re going to need to eat more than 2,000 calories a day to put on muscle. If you don’t, you won’t have any excess energy to develop your muscle.
It can be uncomfortable to suddenly stack thousands of extra calories into your diet. You can start by increasing your caloric intake by about 300-400 in the first week, and about 80 calories a week after that. Doing this slowly gives your body a better chance to process these calories instead of simply storing them as fat.
Once you have reached a calorie intake that’s providing you with the level of benefits that you’re looking for, you can stop increasing your calorie count and maintain at the level you’ve reached.
You’ve probably heard quite a bit about macros by now, but they can be a confusing concept. The term is thrown around a lot by fitness gurus and bodybuilding junkies, but not everyone takes the time to explain what a macro is.
Macro is a short term for macronutrients, a term that describes three of the most important classes of nutrients that we need as humans:
- Protein, to build and repair cells – giving function to our organs and muscles
- Fat, to provide energy for our body and brain and to encourage healthy nervous function
- Carbohydrates, to provide easy accessible energy and glucose for the brain and body
Macros are a much more holistic way to address what you’re consuming than simpler tactics of simply ‘reducing fat’ or ‘increasing protein’ because it allows you to take a more detailed account of what you’re eating.
A good ratio for building muscle is 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat – though this varies from person to person. A fitness trainer or a nutritionist can help you identify the best ratio for you.
Finding a workout plan for women can take a bit of time and selection. You want to make sure that you get a plan that helps you improve the muscles that you need to work on most, and this takes some thought.
There are some tips to follow. For example, if you’re hoping to bodybuild and improve the physique of your whole body, you might want to develop a plan that targets muscles you have a hard time building.
For example, if your calves don’t respond as well to training and don’t produce new muscle as easily, while your biceps put muscle on easily, you might want to trade out one day of bicep training and focus instead on your calves.
Muscle groups that you want to target specifically should be worked on at least twice a week.
It’s also important to minimize the number of cardio workouts that you do – gasp! If you do a lot of cardio, you’re expending valuable energy, nutrients, and recovery time on a workout that won’t actually help you build muscle. Focus on heavy weight training.
There are a lot of supplements out there that can be useful for helping women build muscle. Because men are naturally more efficient at producing muscle, some say that supplements are incredibly important for women bodybuilders.
Pre- and post- workouts. Pre and post workout supplements are specific formulas that help to maximize the effects of your workouts.
- A pre workout supplement might contain some sort of stimulant like caffeine mixed with other substances that help boost endurance or reduce pain so you can push yourself to your limits.
- Post workout supplements usually contain some combination of substances, such as amino acids, that help to speed along with your muscle recovery and reduce soreness after an intense workout.
- Protein powders. Protein powders are immensely useful for people who are hoping to stack on the pounds. Whey protein is one of the most popular, since it contains a huge range of valuable amino acids (protein building blocks) that are easily absorbed by the body. There is some debate as to the health of whey protein, however, and some people prefer more natural vegetable-based proteins like pea protein or hemp protein.
- CrazyBulk supplements, such as Winsol, have been shown to be highly effective at helping to improve the rate of muscle growth, boost energy, and help other aspects of women bodybuilding.
While it’s fantastic to see that women are becoming more and more comfortable with bodybuilding, there are still certainly some pitfalls that one might experience when pursuing this hobby. Some of these apply to both men and women, but they are often issues that are more commonly reported by women.
- Your body becomes a hot topic (more so than it was before). Not everyone’s used to seeing very strong women. You might get a lot of compliments or observations about parts of your body that you’re not used to receiving. For instance, people might openly discuss the muscles in your arms or legs.
- Unfortunately, some women are also subject to judgement from both sexes as a result of choosing to build a strong body.
- It can be hard to find clothes that fit. Most women’s clothes are made to fit a certain type of figure, and so are men’s clothes. It can be difficult to find clothes of a similar type that you enjoy wearing that are made for women with big muscles. Tank tops and tights are usually good choices that tend to fit all types of bodies.
- You might lose your boobs. A lot of woman bodybuilders burn up a lot of their fat – including the fat found in their chests. Some might find this an improvement, but others may be disappointed.
- You’ll be eating a lot more. Fortunately, after a while of consuming everything in sight, you won’t really care about how much you’re eating and it’ll become a normal part of life.
- You won’t be soft. Physically or mentally. You’ve probably already realized this. This also means that you won’t have soft hands anymore, though – barbells and dumbbells will give you calluses for days.
- There will be pressure. It’s great to feel strong as a woman bodybuilder, but you may also find that some people become expectant of you – as if you have to maintain the physique that you’ve developed, otherwise you didn’t ‘succeed’ in accomplishing the task of being a woman bodybuilder. If anyone truly cares that much about this, though, chances are they’re not supportive enough to want around.
Gaining a ton of muscle doesn’t mean that you have to lose your femininity. However, it could be wise to consider what femininity is and how you can preserve it.
To do this, you have to define what femininity is – and this can be hard. The definition of both masculine and feminine are so up-in-the-air and sensitive right now that many people prefer to avoid discussing them at all.
For many thousands of years, masculinity has been associated with action and strength, this is why people associate muscle with masculinity; because it allows people to do more.
Femininity has traditionally been associated with creativity, intuition, and emotional understanding. None of these traits inherently disappear because you’re gaining more muscle.
In most cases, you won’t really have to put that much extra effort into nurturing your feminine side – staying true to yourself, as a woman, will probably be enough.