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February 08, 2022 12 min read

While most women focus on exercises to help them burn away extra layers of fat, only a few percent of women gravitate towards exercises to help them build muscles. This might be due to the fear of building too bulky muscles and acquiring overly manly features.

Contrary to popular opinion, it has become increasingly more accessible for women to build lean muscles for the body type that they prefer. With the correct diet and exercises, women can build toned and defined muscles without spending all their gym sessions on the treadmill. Below, we have compiled some tips and practices you should incorporate into your routines for your muscle ratio goal.

African american woman with afro hair holding yoga mat at pilates room looking stressed and nervous with hands on mouth biting nails

The Phobias Involved

Treadmills and the infinity stairs are often two pieces of equipment that women never get tired of using at the gym. While this might be due to its fantastic ability to increase the heart rate and burn extra calories, the reason for them being a woman’s favorite is due mainly to their fear of dabbling in other bulky gym equipment. This fear can be generated from a host of reasons that range from the fear of attaining a too-bulky build to the fear of becoming too stiff. 

Fear of Muscles

Muscles and heavier builds are often associated with masculinity. This is primarily due to the lesser percentage of female bodybuilders and powerlifters or a societal norm that assumes that ‘real’ women need softer bodies.

However, a rise in the percentage of female athletes has shown that women can be anything they want.

Getting big muscles like a man remains a widespread concern regardless of this change. Women don’t understand that it is physiologically impossible for a woman to grow as bulky like a man. A complete transformation can't occur after just a few bench presses.

Unlike their male counterparts, women build muscle mass more slowly.

This slow muscle build is due to the lower testosterone hormone that their body manufactures. This phenomenon makes it easier to acquire cut and lean muscles instead of heavier, bulky muscles. This makes the fear of obtaining a bulky size irrational, as women control how much muscle they gain.

Stiffness & Rigidity

This misconception stems from an unlikely assumption that the bigger your muscles get, the lower your range of motion. Rigidity is never a problem during muscle gain as long as you remember to stretch before and after your routines.

It does the opposite and strengthens your muscles enough to increase flexibility and mobility.

As long as you focus on executing the full range of motion during your exercise and maintaining comfortable weights during your lifting, you are doing your body a big favor.

Fear of Big Weights

Most people automate muscle growth with big gym equipment. This opinion believes that the only way to build lean muscle is to focus on smaller weight, leaving bigger weights to individuals in need of bulkier muscles. While increasing your lifting weight might help you acquire a more significant muscle mass, many more factors are involved apart from the weight you lift.

The opinion that you need to stay away from big weights to build toned and lean muscles is a myth that you must dump at the gym doorstep.

Many of these fears are irrational. You will not become Arnold Schwarzenegger after just a few sessions at the gym. Many female bodybuilders who attain bulky physiques would only do so with the added boost of increased testosterone levels or other performance enhancing substances.

Building muscle comes more difficult for women due to their genetic makeup.

Many women might find it challenging to develop and maintain the appropriate muscle mass for their size, to their dismay. If you are one of these women, how do you go about it?

Building Muscle 101

Getting a toned physique takes longer than you anticipated, and here’s why. Building muscle is not a one-size-fits-all approach for every woman. Women today come in various shapes, sizes, and genetic make-up, and understanding your body is the key to building lean muscle in no time.

You need to understand every detail of your body, down to your diet.

This would go a long way in tailoring the perfect regimen for you. Many women yet to begin their fitness journey would remain skeptical about the need to build muscle. If you are yet to start your muscle-gain journey, here are some benefits of muscles to motivate you.

Increased Strength

The essential benefit of increased muscle is increased strength in functional and athletic activities. More muscles not only mean a better look but more strength to take on your daily tasks without hitting fatigue quickly.

More muscle mass would increase stamina, power output, mobility, balance, and agility.

You would be able to tackle more tasks faster, thanks to improved muscle endurance. This increase in muscle strength would also reduce your risks of muscle-related injury.

Boost Metabolism

Putting up with low or slow metabolism means taking more time to burn calories, even while you are engaged in demanding physical activities. This might lead you to the treadmill in search of leverage to increase your cardio, get your heart pumping, and sweat out those extra calories that you gathered.

But what happens the moment you step off the treadmill?

This leads to an unhealthy obsession that cycles around fasting, treadmills, and overexertion of your body. A great solution to break this cycle is dedicating time in the gym towards building muscle and increasing your muscle mass.  Muscle can determine your metabolism.

Muscle mass helps to determine your resting metabolism or the number of calories you burn while doing nothing.

If more muscle mass means more calories are burned even while at rest, the more muscle you grow, the more calories you burn. You not only burn calories in the gym, but the benefits of muscles also extend during your daily activities.

Toned Physique

While many women still worry about bulking up, it will take intentional effort to build a body a professional bodybuilder would envy. Thanks to the low testosterone level in women’s bodies, they can create a toned physique that would focus on increasing muscle definition rather than a crazed mass gain. The time it takes to achieve an optimal fat to muscle ratio depends on the body type and size of the woman.

Regardless of other factors, an excellent muscle gain regimen followed steadfastly yields a better body shape from toned arms, toned legs, flatter stomach, and rounder glutes. This helps to improve confidence, and this change is evident in every area of a woman’s life.

Great for Weight Loss

Why waste your time on cardio workouts when you can lose fat and build muscle simultaneously? While your fats do not magically turn into muscles overnight, the continuous disintegration of the fat cells and the building up of new muscle cells help work towards an excellent muscle fat ratio. Not only are you losing unhealthy fat, but you are also strengthening your body at the same time.

Thankfully, muscle is much more dense than fat and takes up less space.

This results in a smaller size but a more muscular build than you would get from simply engaging in weight loss exercises.

Bone Strength

Resistance exercises help to improve bone mass.

Usually, around the age of 35, most women begin to experience bone loss. Like muscles, your bones wear down due to biological processes and physical stress. This severely decreases the strength of your musculoskeletal system, putting you at risk of minor and significant injuries.

Building your muscle also simultaneously helps to increase bone mass and prevent osteoporosis.

Your bones respond to muscle-strengthening exercises leading to an increase in overall strength. While building your muscles, you have a chance to improve your bones.

These benefits are prevalent in your lifestyle, from eating more thanks to burning more calories to improving overall cardiac health.

How To Build Muscle

Building muscle is no walk in the park.

To stimulate muscle hypertrophy for significant muscle growth, you need to:

1. Use Your Weights Properly

Muscles require enough resistance to stimulate the onset of hypertrophy. To improve your muscle mass, you need to focus on moving past your plateau and taking on bigger weights to increase the amount of stress on your muscles.

You might worry that the weights might be too much for your muscles, however, muscle hypertrophy requires the literal breaking down of your old muscle cells to regenerate new muscle cells. These cells are the gains that you begin to spot after sessions and sessions of dedicated resistance training.

Increase Your Weights

Lifting more weights doesn’t set you on the path to a manly bulk. Without the right amount of testosterone in your system, chances are you are in no way going to be shredded as a man.

Increasing your weights helps you to increase the demand on the muscles for an equal muscle mass gain.

While this might leave you feeling sore, remember there is no gain without pain. Once you can lift a particular pound or kg of dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbags, or barbell, you should begin pyramiding with heavier weights.

Increase Your Reps and Sets

Your repetitions make up your set, and the higher your repetitions, the more the demand on your muscle.

To stimulate the onset of muscle growth, focus on working in 6-12 reps of 3 to 4 sets.

If you begin to move past 12 reps in a set comfortably, you should consider switching your current weight for something heavier.

Proper Form

The trick to getting the most out of your resistance exercises to maximize the results in your muscles is executing the activity in perfect shape. This would ensure that you do not engage in fruitless cheat reps. Unlike powerlifters, your goal isn’t to lift heavily but to lift in the proper form so that you activate the right muscles. This not only ensures that you begin to see results in little to no time but also reduces the risk of muscle injury during your routine.

Choose the Right Exercises

Or get someone who can. Various exercises are meant for different muscles. To build muscles in the right places for that trim look, you need to engage in suitable activities, programs, and routines. Do not focus on one exercise or one part of the body.

Pursue a full-body workout that ranges from plyometrics like skipping, jump squats, clap push-ups, and lunges to calisthenics like pull-ups, chin-ups, and planks.

Add a few weighted exercises, and you are good to go. For the best exercise programs for you, work with a personal trainer.

Include HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training workouts are a great addition to your routine. It is a term that describes workouts with short but intense exercises and alternative rest periods in between. Despite the short duration of the exercises,

HIIT exercises enable you to get a maximum full-body workout in minimal time.

Additionally,  HIIT exercises have great benefits like the increased metabolic rate that lasts hours after your training, fat loss, muscle gain, reduced blood pressure, and a lower blood sugar level. From burpees to crunches to jumping jacks and squat jumps, HIIT workouts no doubt deserve a place in your workout routine.

Strength-Train Regularly

The last thing you want to do is become a weekend warrior. Muscle-building requires discipline, dedication, and consistency. It requires you to come to the gym even if you do not feel like it. Increase the frequency of your training and ensure that you complete every session.

To get maximum muscle response, train for 3 to 5 days every week.

Don't know how long you should train each muscle group for? Let us guide you.

Compound Exercises are Your Friends

Compound exercises give you a run for your money. These exercises are the opposite of isolation exercises as they work multiple muscles at once. You can achieve more with compound exercises in less time, while isolation might take a long time but assists in the direct stimulation of each muscle group.

Compound exercises help burn more calories, increase the heart rate, improve muscle coordination, improve muscle flexibility, and increase muscle mass.

Some examples of compound exercises are deadlifts, lunge with a bicep curl, and squats.

Progressive Overload

The moment you begin to stop challenging your muscles is the moment you start to lose all headway you have made so far. Your muscle gains come from the resistance placed on them. The bigger the opposition, the more muscle cells are broken down and repaired to form mass gains. The human body is designed to adapt, and so unsurprisingly, your muscles get used to using one weight size.

Progressive overload allows you to stress your muscles and rebuild them stronger.

This method of strength training increases muscle response by aiming to increase the resistance size gradually, so you don’t get too used to one resistance size. Some great ways to do this are increasing your lifting intensity progressively, increasing your weekly exercise volume, raising your frequency, and increasing weight size. Remember only to grow one factor at a time not to overexert your muscles.

Healthy diet for the cardiovascular system with a heart-shaped plate of acai, lentils, soy sauce, ginger, salmon, carrot, tomato, turmeric, cinnamon, walnuts, garlic, peppers, broccoli, basil, onion

2. Eat Right

Your diet is as important as your exercise. What you eat and how much you eat determines how well your muscles respond to muscle-training exercises. Muscles are living things, and to grow and function properly. They require the right combination of nutrition. This means you can no longer go days with junk food. To gain lean muscle, you need to focus on improving your diet.

Eat Your Proteins

Proteins are bodybuilding foods. Along with carbs and fats, proteins are essential  macronutrients that help repair and form new cells. Proteins have multiple benefits. They are more thermogenic than carbs, so they help burn more calories. They are satiating, a great source of energy, and they convert to glucose more slowly than carbs which help to prevent blood sugar spikes. You need to prioritize your protein and ensure that every meal has a good protein source.

Protein contains amino acids that help repair muscle cells that you break down during workout sessions to birth stronger and bigger muscles.

The amount of protein intake you should have per day depends solely on your metabolism and body weight. We highly recommend an intake between 1.6g-1.8g of protein for every kg you weigh.

If you weigh 70kg, you should have eaten or drunk 112g-201.6g of protein at the end of the day. Don’t focus on eating just any protein.

Your diet should consist of protein-rich foods like eggs, milk, peanuts, Salmon, Chicken breast, Greek yogurt, tuna, lean beef, shrimp, beans, and even tofu.

Most of these foods are also rich in vitamins like  vitamin B, which is excellent for the body.

Consume Your Calories

Your body burns energy during physical activities. Every time you eat, you fuel your body. The amount and quality of this fuel depend on the type and amount of food that you eat. Building muscle requires you to balance the number of calories your body gets from food and the number of calories to burn. To build muscle, you should take in more calories than you can burn in a day.

You need about 2800 calories to gain one pound of muscle.

To achieve this, eat foods high in calories and ensure you eat extra 250-250 calories every day.

Proteins, carbs, and healthy fats are excellent sources of calories. Your meal plan should combine all three groups and can vary between foods like pork, red meat, fish, poultry, potatoes, brown rice, whole grain pasta, butter, mayo, nuts, peanut butter, and avocado. Form a meal plan that doesn’t leave space for skipping meals, as this can delay your fitness goals. Never skip breakfast. Eat every three hours and snack in-between.

Micronutrients are Your Friends

Other than carbs, proteins, and fats, your body needs other nutrients like vitamins and minerals to function.

Some of these include Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Iron, Sodium, and zinc.

They are great for energy function, immunity, blood clotting, growth, and bone health, nuts, seeds, vegetables, cocoa, berries, cheese, and grains are excellent sources of micronutrients.

Drink Water

Water is vital to regulate most biochemical processes in the body. During muscle training, you lose fluids in sweat and raise your body temperature. Water helps to prevent dehydration and thus increases muscle mass.

Take Your Supplements

Supplements provide enough calories and essential nutrients necessary for muscle growth. They also improve your performance and muscle endurance, helping you reach your fitness goals faster. Couple your exercises with  ADABOLIC  to shorten muscle recovery time, and increase endurance.

3. Rest

Rest is as vital to your muscles as exercise, and nutritional meals are. Your muscles are broken down during workout sessions due to fiber tears during muscle contractions.

Adequate rest helps you recover properly and tasting the muscle repair process which is an essential part of muscle gain.

Essentially, rest is vital for muscle gain, healing, and repair.

Get Enough Sleep

Adequate sleep encourages muscle growth. When you fall asleep, your body- mainly your pituitary gland- stimulates the release of a growth hormone. Growth hormone introduces protein-building amino acids, which help to repair torn down muscles in your body.

Without sleep, your body cannot gain sufficient momentum to begin the rebuilding process.

To help your body build muscle faster, sleep longer and sleep more deeply,  get rid of the late-night coffee and other distractions. RESTED-AF  is designed for deep sleep and recovery. Give it a try if you want better, deeper sleep!

Rest between workouts

Overexerting your muscles gets you nowhere near your fitness goal. It is like taking one step forward and two steps back. Your muscles need time off to recover and rebuild properly. This would encourage muscle growth while ensuring that you do not suffer injuries. Take time to rest between each workout.

Adding It All Up

With the right mindset, adequate  rest between workouts, the right choice of exercises, and consistency, building muscle becomes easier than expected. It takes time for the body to begin experiencing profound changes, so you need to develop a regimen that works for you.

Regardless of what regimen you choose to work with, always remember that you can easily pull the plug if you are going too fast. After all, it's your body, and it’s your rules.