In this post I would like to share my top 5 tips on how to build muscle mass as a woman. I have been training over 2 years now and have had a lot of experiences, troubles, ups, downs and celebrations regarding bodybuilding and gaining muscle mass. In this time I have developed my own techniques and things that worked for me. I am not yet a professional fitness trainer, nor a sport student, I am just learning and finding new ways to progress on my personal fitness journey. In this article I talk about my own personal experiences and tips mixed with researches that I made.
I have separated my tips into two categories, inside the gym and outside the gym. Building muscle mass, specially as a woman, requires a lot of concentration and discipline during and outside your workouts.
Inside the gym
1. Lift heavy
A lot of women are scared to lift heavy, because they think they are instantly gonna look “bulky”. But don´t be afraid to go heavier. Muscle mass takes a lot of time to grow, specially for women. The main hormone that is responsible for gaining muscle is testosterone, but women have much less testosterone in their body than men. Therefore lifting heavier stimulates women´s bodies to produce more testosterone and other growth hormones and allowing you to gain muscle more effectively.
2. Mix compound and isolated exercises
Start your workouts with 2-3 compound exercises, like squats, deadlifts, benchpress.. etc. with heavy sets and low reps. This sort of exercises is called myofibrillar hypertrophy, which involves more than one muscle group. It allows your muscle to grow by increasing the size and the quantity of muscle tissue. In order to get the most out of these exercises use a relatively heavy weight performing about 2-8 repetitions. The weight should be picked so heavy, that you are reaching fatigue within the last few reps.
Moving on to isolation exercises, which are only focusing on one muscle group. These types of exercises, like hip thrusts, kick-backs, chest flys ..etc. are increasing the fluid within muscle cells and are great for stressing your muscles. In order to get results isolated work requires higher reps and low rest in between the sets. You can also choose 2-3 exercises and perform a so called superset, which means to perform the sets back-to-back.
Personally I love to do a mixture of both of the exercise types. Starting with 2-3 compound exercises, moving on to 4-6 isolated exercises. This combo has given me great progress and muscle growth.
3. Warm up and activate
Before starting your actual workout you should always warm up and activate your muscles. This helps you achieving more mind to muscle connection and mindfully contracting your muscles during each movement. I have noticed much more results after doing this, specially in my glute sessions. Mentally concentrating on the movements has become a priority in my workouts.
Outside the gym
4. Eat more!
Even though your workouts are the base of muscle growth, the magic actually happens while your body rests and fuels. Building muscle mass is a process of repairing and rebuilding. The repairing happens in the gym, the rebuilding outside the gym.
When it comes to building muscle it is absolutely necessary to eat a lot of food. Muscle requires a lot of energy and to get energy you have to fuel up. Without a caloric surplus your body will just remain in the size it is. Women, who want to build up should eat about 200-250 kcal more than they are burning. So don´t be afraid to eat! Food is what fuels your workouts. A balanced diet with wholesome food and quality calories, like complex carbs, protein and healthy fats is key to a strong and healthy body. Also increase your protein intake to at least 1 gram per pound of your body weight (2, 204 grams per kilo).
5. Rest and sleep
My last tip is to get enough sleep. Your body needs rest and the most effective form of rest is, of course, sleep. For physical well-being and in order to build muscle you need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. During sleep our body does a lot of important things: Digests, repairs muscle tissue and releases human growth hormones. These are just a few of the main reasons to show you the importance of sleep.