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Are you a woman that is tired of looking skinny, and want to gain muscle and strength? If you are then the following article has been written specifically for you.
With our tips and advice, you can gain muscle without becoming too “bulky”. Something that many women are afraid will happen as soon as you look at a pair of dumbbells.
Men produce a hormone called testosterone, which allows their body to gain large amounts of muscle.
As a woman's body does not produce high amounts of testosterone, lifting weights will not bulk up their muscles, but will instead tone them up and create a more fit physique.
In this article, we will dispel those myths surrounding female muscle growth once and for all.
Instead, we will simply use facts to create a simple, practical guide that you can use to build muscle. Please continue reading to learn how to build your dream body.
How Can Women Benefit From Strength Training?
Strength training is beneficial for women of all ages. Below are a few of the most well-known benefits.
Benefit #1: Lose Up To 40% More Fat
You may think that long cardio sessions are the secret to blasting excess belly fat. This actually isn't true.
A study done by a group of researchers at Penn State  examined 3 groups of dieters with varying activity levels. Whereas the majority of the individuals lost roughly 21 pounds, those who incorporated strength training into their routine lost 6 more pounds of pure body fat than those who only performed cardio exercises.
Benefit #2: Your Clothing Will Fit Better
Studies have shown that most women between the ages of 30 and 50 lose 10% of their body's muscle. Over time, this lost muscle tone is replaced by unsightly fat.
Whereas you may weigh the same, your waist size may have increased. This is because fat takes up 18% more space than muscle.
Benefit #3: Your Heart Will Be Healthier
A study conducted at the University of Michigan  shows that individuals who perform strength training exercises 3 times per week for 2 months lowered their diastolic blood pressure by 8 points on average.
This may not seem like a drastic reduction, but it is enough to reduce your risk of having a stroke by 40%.
Benefit #4: You Will Live Longer
A study conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina  shows that individuals who have a higher percentage of muscle as compared to body fat have a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related death.
Benefit #5: Your Mood Will Improve
Researchers have discovered that individuals who performed strength training exercises 3 times per week for a period of 6 months were better able to handle anger and stressful situations, and had an overall improved mood .
Benefit #6: Stronger Bones
Osteoporosis is a concern among women of post-menopausal age.
Studies have shown that resistance training is highly effective at increasing bone density, which can reduce the risk of fractures as women age .
Benefit #7: You Will Burn More Calories
One reason you will burn more calories is that muscle burns more calories when the body is at rest than fat does.
Another reason is, when you perform strength training exercises, you create tiny tears in your muscle tissue. Your body must expend extra energy to try to repair this damage, therefore raising your metabolism.
Benefit #8: You Will Be More Productive
Researchers have found that individuals are 15% more productive at both work and home on days they strength train .
This could mean an extra pat on the back from your boss, or a little extra relaxation time after your housework is finished.
Female Muscle Growth Myths
Here are some female muscle growth myths, which we will aim to dispel leaving only the facts behind:
Myth #1: Women Can’t Build Muscle as Effectively as Men
Men have much more testosterone flowing through their veins than women, so you may think that this will stop women from building as much muscle as their male counterparts.
However, while testosterone is important it is not the only hormone that is involved during the muscle building process.
For example, oestrogen, which women produce in higher amounts than men, also offers numerous muscle building benefits. These include:
- Stimulates the production of growth hormones that can aid in post-workout recovery
- Helps to prevent muscle breakdown
- Helps to boost your metabolic rate
Research has found that women produce more growth hormone than men during the day . This obviously helps them to build muscle mass.
While women can build muscle as effectively as men, due to hormones and the differences in anatomy women tend to be smaller than men.
Myth #2: Lifting Weights Will Make You “Bulky”
Fear not, unless you are genetically blessed, probably take steroids and are dedicated to weight training you are not going to gain enough muscle for someone to call you “bulky”.
What may occur if you do not watch your diet is you may gain fat, which is what may make you appear bigger than you are.
When you gain fat, most of it will accumulate inside or on top of your muscle. So if you have a lot of muscle and fat you may appear “bulky”.
The trick is to keep your body fat percentage down to remain lean instead.
Myth #3: Women Should Tone, Rather Than Build Muscle
You’ve probably picked up a women’s magazine at one point and seen an article on how to “tone”. It probably involved lots of cardio, lifting light weights and starving yourself.
While the “skinny fat” look may look good on the catwalk, most women do not want this figure. Nowadays most would prefer a more athletic look, like Anllela Sagra for example.
To get that more athletic look you need to ignore the advice given in these magazines.
Building muscle will involve the exact opposite of what they advise. So you will need to limit your cardio, lift heavy weights and eat more often. Sounds much more appealing I would say!
To achieve this athletic look you need to aim to build around 10-20 pounds of muscle while cutting your body fat percentage to under 20%.
Best Methods for Women to Build Muscle
This section does not need to be complicated. The process of building muscle, whether you are male or female involves just 3 simple steps:
- Making sure you are consuming the right amount of calories.
- Making sure you get the correct macros (protein, carbs and fat).
- Making sure you are doing the correct muscle building workouts.
Let's break these steps down just a little bit.
Step #1: Consuming The Right Amount of Calories
Without calories, you are not going to build muscle, however hard you try at the gym.
This is a mistake many women make, thinking that cutting calories is key to building their ideal bodies. However, the opposite is true.
Without adequate calories, your body may actually start to break down muscle mass for energy, particularly if you are working out regularly.
By increasing your overall calorie intake you will see an increase in the production of anabolic hormones that will aid muscle building. It will also improve gym performance and help with recovery post-workout.
You may be worried about gaining fat while you build muscle, and I’m sorry to say but it is likely to happen. Especially if you do not keep track of your calorie intake and the kinds of foods you eat.
To build muscle (without gaining too much fat) by increasing your calorie intake there are a few steps you should take:
- Use a calorie calculator to determine how many you need to consume daily. Bodybuilding.com have a good one.
- Try to avoid massive cheat days. They can cause massive amounts of weight gain in a short space of time.
- If your body fat percentage is over 25% then try to cut it down to 20% before you start building muscle. This will save you from a long cut once you have reached your muscle building goal.
- Once you reach 25-27% body fat, it is time to cut again.
- Continue to swap “bulking” and “cutting” phases until you are pleased with your physique.
Step #2: Getting The Correct Macros
Getting the right kind of calories is incredibly important for muscle growth. I would recommend sticking to the following macros:
- Consume at least 1 gram of protein daily for every pound you weigh.
- Eat 0.3 grams of fat per pound in body weight.
- The rest of your daily calories should be carbs.
Eat a diet of lean proteins like chicken, turkey and fresh fish. Vegetarian or vegan protein sources include quinoa, beans and various seeds.
Healthy fats can be found in fresh fish, as well as nuts.
As for your carbs, I would suggest that you look at fruit, vegetables and whole grains. I certainly would not recommend too much junk food.
Step #3: Doing The Correct Muscle Building Workouts
If you truly want to see changes to your physique then you need to drastically cut back on your cardio. At least while you are building muscle.
Out should go the yoga and Zumba classes, instead try to focus on the following:
- Heavy lifting
- Compound movements; squats, deadlifts, overhead rows and the bench press
- Your lower body should be the priority
Aim to workout 3-4 times a week. Pick around 6 movements a session, then aim to complete 3 sets of between 8-10 reps of around 80% of your maximum rep.
You should try to keep proper form when you workout, not only to ensure you experience the maximum gains but to avoid potential injury too.
Don’t forget that rest is incredibly important for recovery, both during the workout and after.
Make sure to give yourself around 30 seconds to a minimum rest between sets while working out, and to try and aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night.
Supplements for Female Muscle Growth
While certainly not as important as your diet and training, supplements can play a part in the muscle building process.
So, which supplements can help you achieve your goals? Let's look at the different types available that you should probably add to your muscle building arsenal:
Creatine is produced naturally within your body and is found in red meat too.
It is worth supplementing with creatine as it offers the following benefits:
- Strength and muscle gains
- Improved anaerobic endurance
- Reduced muscle damage
If you have healthy kidneys then it is completely safe to supplement with creatine . As despite reports to the contrary it has no side effects. Those with kidney disease, however, are advised not to use it.
Of course, you can get your daily allowance of protein through diet alone, however just think about how much easier it will be to get your allowance using a protein shake.
Protein is essential for muscle growth, repair and recovery so you need to make sure you are getting adequate amounts each day. As stated earlier, aim to get a minimum of 1 gram of protein daily for every pound you weigh.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched Chain Amino Acids, also known as BCAAs, sounds like a highly complicated supplement that should be avoided, but in reality, it is a combination of three essential amino acids which are not produced naturally in the body and therefore have to be consumed.
All three amino acids in this combination have a similar composition and should be ingested together for the best results.
Isoleucine, leucine and valine play a vital role in muscle building by increasing the production of the insulin and by speeding up the rate of protein synthesis in the body.
When all three of these amino acids are taken together, they can be converted into glucose quite easily. The converted glucose gives ladies a much-needed energy boost when working out for prolonged periods in the gym.
23 g of BCAAs both before and after workouts is the ideal way to start off with these supplements. As you become more used to the effects of BCAAs, you can increase your dosage to about 50 grams.
A pre-workout can give you the energy needed to give 100% at the gym.
Most pre-workouts are full of stimulants, which will give you an energy boost but often side effects that you would rather not encounter. For example the jitters, insomnia or a raised/irregular heart rate.
When looking for pre-workouts look for those that contain the following ingredients:
- Caffeine – A natural stimulant that boosts energy
- Beta-Alanine – An amino acid that helps reduce exercise-induced fatigue
- Citrulline Malate – Helps improve aerobic performance
- Betaine – Increased strength, and higher production of HGH and IGF-1
- Ornithine – Another amino acid that helps reduce fatigue
- Theanine – Helps improve focus, while helping to reduce mental and physical stress
There are women out there who are willing to try anything to increase their ability to build muscle, even resorting to the use of steroids like Anavar and Winstrol.
While steroids undoubtedly offer numerous benefits , there are also numerous risks associated with their use:
- High blood pressure
- Higher risk of heart attack
- Greater risk of liver disease
- More risk of injury
- More aggression
- Acne on the face, back and chest
- Virilization – The development of male features
Why would you want to risk your long-term health? Especially when there are legal alternatives available for most anabolic steroids.
For example, there is a product called Winsol available (sold online by Crazy Bulk) that is a safe and legal alternative to Winstrol.
It offers the following benefits:
- Increased muscle mass
- Strength and endurance boost
- Improved definition
- More speed, power and agility
Made from proven muscle building ingredients, it comes highly recommended.
If you want to build muscle as a female there is nothing really stopping you.
Research has shown that despite lower testosterone levels than men, women are still equally as capable of building strong athletic bodies through just diet and exercise.
By following our guide you should be able to overhaul your current physique, gaining strength and confidence along the way.