Some women shy away from weight lifting because they fear getting too bulky. Truth is, not all women can get super jacked. Even with proper weight lifting and proper eating, you will not likely get big muscles so easily because of low testosterone. This hormone is responsible for muscle growth in both men and women. Women’s testosterone levels are very low, which means they will not get big muscles as fast as men. Male or female bodybuilders train hard, at least five days a week when preparing for competitions. They usually do cardio and lift weights almost every day. If you want to build muscle like a pro bodybuilder, your workout schedule is going to be pretty crazy too! But if you’re just getting started, a strength training workout can help you achieve your target. Here is what you need to know to build muscles like the pros. Also try to a 6-week female bodybuilder workout.
How To Structure A Female Bodybuilder Workout
With a good workout structure, female bodybuilders can avoid under training while being on a caloric deficit for fat loss. The first step when planning a bodybuilder woman workout is having an idea of the outcome you want from it.
Do you want to focus mainly on strength , hypertrophy (muscle growth) or endurance? Before starting any resistance training program, think about what outcome you hope to achieve by doing this program and the importance of each outcome. Then, you can ensure that your program will be effective and meet your goals. If you want to focus on strength, then a good workout structure for hypertrophy would not work well for increasing strength and vice versa (6).
Once you’ve figured that out, follow these principles to design a full body workout plan that targets all your muscle groups.
Set Realistic Goals
It takes women longer than men to build muscle and lose body fat. This is because women have lower testosterone levels than men and also because women’s bodies are naturally designed to carry more fat (11).
Expect your muscle building to take longer and allow yourself enough time to achieve the results you want. Most female bodybuilders target 0.5lbs muscle increase per week, or burn 0.5lbs of fat per week depending on what their goals are. Your progress could be quicker or slower than this depending on your training background, diet, and overall training.
If you expect it to happen quickly, chances are high that you will get frustrated and quit. Make sure your goals are realistic and within reach so that you can make a positive change in your life and feel good about it.
Combine Compound And Isolation Exercises
It is important for female bodybuilders of all levels to incorporate both compound exercises (such as squats) along with isolation exercises (such as leg extensions). Compound exercises stimulate more muscles at the same time which helps increase strength while also burning more calories during the workout (1). Some examples of compound exercises are:
- Bench press
- Overhead press
- Lat pull downs
Isolation exercises help strengthen specific muscles or muscle groups, making them leaner and more defined (9). Some examples of isolation exercises are:
- Leg extensions
- Leg curl
- Biceps curl
- Chest flyes
- Triceps pressdowns
Use Progressive Overload
One of the most important considerations when designing a workout is increasing resistance for progressive overload. When you lift a weight that is too light and continuously repeat this exercise it will not produce any results no matter how hard or how often you do it.
You have to progressively increase your ability by adding more weight or doing more reps so that your muscles can keep growing stronger over time. Another way to achieve progressive overload is by working out with a training partner who has slightly more strength than you so that you are forced to work harder.
It is best to track your progress with a workout journal so that you know exactly how much weight you are lifting each week from one workout to another. Then you can see if it needs increasing from there on out.
Use The Right Training Frequency
Find a training frequency that works best for you. If using low weight and lots of reps is easy, then it might be time to increase your training frequency. Train each muscle group twice per week if your strength significantly increases each time you work out, or once every three days if you are not seeing this type of improvement (5). Make sure to allow enough recovery between workouts so that you do not over train muscles by constantly bombarding them with stress from weight lifting.
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Use The Right Cardio For Female Bodybuilders
Combining cardiovascular exercise (LISS) with high intensity interval training (HIIT) helps maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss during periods of calorie restriction like dieting (3). It is best to include cardio at least three times per week if you are trying to trim down and six times per week for general fitness.
The best type of LISS exercise is a low impact activity like walking or bike riding. Make sure it’s intense enough, but not fast enough that you can’t converse with someone while doing it. HIIT involves short bursts of high intensity training followed by less intense intervals. This could be something like sprinting for 30 seconds then jogging or walking for one minute until your heart rate has dropped back to normal levels. Repeat this five to ten times and stop if your muscles become extremely fatigued early on in the workout.
Combine both types of cardio workouts together, alternating between an intense interval session followed by the LISS workout the next day is a good way to lose weight faster than just doing one type of cardio alone.
Make Time For Post Workout Recovery
Muscles grow and get stronger during periods of recovery so it’s important to take time off after every bodybuilding session, even if you feel like you can do more (7). Make sure you’re taking proper rest days between workouts or your progress will be severely held back. It is also important to sleep at least 7-8 hours each night for muscle growth.
Sample 7-Day Full Body Workout Plan
Now that you have a better idea of how to structure your workouts around compound and isolation exercises, the progressive overload principle, training frequency and cardio for female bodybuilders along with allowing enough recovery time in between workouts; it will be much easier to start sculpting yourself into a muscle building machine.
Here is a sample workout schedule that you can use. This schedule is inspired by the push-pull routine. It involves alternating between compound upper body exercises on one day and lower body exercises the next. This gives different sections enough rest in between workouts so that your muscles recover and grow to the maximum.
- Monday: Upper body push/lower body pull (e.g. chest presses, lateral raises, overhead presses)
- Tuesday: Upper body pull/lower body push (e.g. dumbbell pullovers, bicep curls, pull-ups, squats).
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Upper body push/lower body pull (Chest flies, single leg deadlifts, dumbbell snatches)
- Friday: Upper body pull/lower body push (barbell curls, single arm rows, elevated step ups)
- Saturday: LISS cardio
- Sunday: HIIT cardio
The Health Benefits Of Strength Training For Women
Adding a little resistance to your workout will not only help you become stronger; it also brings many other health benefits for women. Here’s why strength training is good for your health:
It’s scientifically proven that muscle burns more calories than body fat. Because strength training builds muscle, it increases your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the faster you’ll burn calories and fat throughout the day (10).
For example, a 125-pound woman who strength trains a few times a week for several months may increase her metabolism 15 percent or more. This jump in metabolism will help her maintain her weight loss over time.
Increased Bone Strength
Without resistance training or some other form of exercises that put stress on bones, women are more prone to losing bone mass. As a result, they are more likely to experience osteoporosis which is when the bones become brittle and weak due lack of minerals in them. Regularly engaging in weight bearing exercises helps maintain density in bones, therefore reducing the risk of osteoporosis (12).
Decreased Risk Of Heart Disease
Strength training is great for strengthening your heart muscles and improving their function. This makes them more efficient at pumping blood around the body which lowers blood pressure and improves muscle tone in the coronary arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart (8). Regularly engaging in strength training brings about these benefits even if you are not making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, but if strength training is done alongside other healthy habits like quitting smoking; the effects are magnified.
Reduced Anxiety And Improved Self Esteem
Exercise releases endorphins; these are feel-good chemicals that help improve your mood and make you feel happier. Moreover, strength training helps improve self image by making women feel good about their bodies which boosts self esteem (8). Women who strength train also feel more confident in situations where they might otherwise be anxious because they are aware of their body’s capabilities and feel more empowered.
Nutrition For Building Muscle
Eating plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates within 30 minutes of finishing up in the gym will help promote muscle growth as well as ensure proper glycogen synthesis (muscle growth) after a workout. However, to build muscle you’ll need to focus on your nutrition every day, even on rest days.
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What Are The Right Foods For Building Muscle?
Eat lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish and egg whites. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes work great for gaining muscle mass. Get plenty of essential fatty acids from flaxseed oil or fish oils to aid in muscle growth.
Protein should make up 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight, so if you weigh 150 pounds you would eat between 150 and 225 grams of protein each day. Carbohydrates should be 1-1.5 grams per pound as well and fats shouldn’t exceed 30% of your daily calorie intake (13).
Make sure to drink plenty of water every day to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep to ensure restful sleep.
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
For a person looking to gain weight, it is best to eat between 4000-6000 calories each day. Make sure the majority of these calories come from protein, complex carbs and good fats. In order to find out how many calories you should eat each day for building muscle, use an online calculator or speak to a trainer at your gym.
What Supplements Are Good For Building Muscle?
Creatine monohydrate is perhaps the most studied sports supplement on the market. It helps promote ATP energy production in muscles which helps you exert more force during workouts and helps recovery after workouts (4).
Citrulline malate and alpha-lipoic acid are both novel supplements that work synergistically with creatine. They help your body recover faster after tough workouts by reducing oxidative stress and promoting better energy production within muscles (2).
Whey protein powder is an easy way to get more protein in your diet and it helps promote muscle growth when combined with resistance exercises.
The Bottom Line
Strength training is great for women because it helps maintain bone density which reduces osteoporosis risk. Doing strength training has many other benefits including reduced anxiety and improved self esteem, better energy production in muscles and increased heart health. However, without a well-structured routine and proper nutrition, you might not achieve your desired result.
Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Study of Effect of the Compound Physical Activity Therapy on Muscular Strength in Obese Women (2013, nih.gov)
- Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness (2010, nih.gov)
- Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women (2017, nih.gov)
- Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance (2018, nih.gov)
- Higher Training Frequency Is Important for Gaining Muscular Strength Under Volume-Matched Training (2018, frontiersin.org)
- Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods (2019, nih.gov)
- Recovery in Training: The Essential Ingredient (n.d., unm.edu)
- Resistance training – health benefits (2018, vic.gov.au)
- Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy (2015, nih.gov)
- Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men (1994, nih.gov)
- The bone-muscle relationship in men and women (2011, pubmed.gov)
- The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review (1999, nih.gov)
- What are My Calorie, Protein, Fat, & Carbohydrate Needs? (n.d., k-state.edu)