For Women

Muscle Building Workout for Women

Author: Lee Bell

February 5th 2018

It’s time to develop a strong woman attitude with this muscle building workout for females.

Rewind a few years and for women in gyms it was accepted that cardio bunny activities and the occasional aerobics class were the done thing.

Unless you were a pro athlete or one of the very few women that competed in bodybuilding, seeing a woman in the free weights area of the gym was a rarity.

Back to the present day though and there’s been a revolution.

It’s now the norm to see women mixing it with the guys. In fact, not just mixing it up… ruling the room!

If you’re here because you want to build muscle, define your aesthetics or build a better booty, you’re in the right place.

  • Build curvy and shapely, beach-ready muscle
  • Enhance your femininity and strength
  • Tone up your abs and build an athletic, hourglass physique

What does this program cover?

Goal:Fat loss, muscle building
Aimed at:Intermediate level women
Program duration:8-12 weeks
Workout duration:45-60 minutes
Equipment needed:Barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, resistance machines

Be a Strong Woman and Build Muscle

It wasn’t even that long ago that it was popular for women to want to look thin, fragile and weak. Gaunt and waif-like models were the pinnacle of inspirational female figure.

And then something wonderful happened.

All-of-a-sudden it became the in thing to develop toned legs, a defined stomach, a curvy ass and arms that were sexy and strong in equal measure.

About time too!

Strong women lift weights

Almost over night, more and more women were ditching the endless hours of cardio to try something new… strength training to build muscle.

Gone are the days of boring exercise that only promoted a skinny, thin look.

Now it’s all about muscle and curves.

Women no longer have to feel self-conscious about entering the testosterone-fueled weights areas that have been dominated by men for years.

Women get curves by lifting heavy things

To truly transform your body, you need to start being comfortable lifting weights. Gone are the aerobics sessions. Say goodbye to the low-impact dance classes.

Rip up the rule book about what society thinks about women and weights.

If you really want to turn heads with your womanly curves and lean muscle you’re going to be training for strength.

Muscular female athlete with skipping rope on a black background

Considerations for Female Muscle Training

Women have come a long way when it comes to acceptance in the gym. But with a new shift in the way you want to train comes new considerations – both on safety and effectiveness.

Here’s everything you need to know to optimize your body and make your training count.

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone

One of the concerns for many women is a loss of feminine grace during workouts. It’s something we hear a lot from the females we’ve coached.

It might be that you’d rather be seen dead than without your make-up on, or the thought of being caught red-faced and sweaty just doesn’t do it for you.

Some women just hate the thought of perspiring.

But the bottom line is that a muscle building workout is all about what you put into it.

And with so many women starting to embrace a working attitude with gritted teeth and rosy complexion, it’s time for you to do the same.

So it’s time to embrace the suck and get ready for some full-energy, hard-hitting workouts.

You won’t build huge bulk

Building muscle as a woman is hard.

It’s not impossible though; and anyone that tells you that you can’t is wrong.

But even if you wanted to, getting absolutely jacked is pretty much impossible. Training to pack on huge slabs of muscle just doesn’t happen.

Unless you choose to go down the assisted route, your hormones just don’t give you the anabolic support that your male counterparts are lucky enough to have pumping through their blood.

Testosterone levels in particular are much lower in women.

You’d be lucky to top out at 70 ng.dL when it comes to this naturally occurring steroid hormone; whereas for men you’re looking at 300-1,000 ng.dL.

that’s nearly 15 times more.

And let’s be right.

Even with such high levels of muscle supporting hormones, many men still struggle to bulk up and build slabs of muscle themselves.

So what will you achieve with strength training?

Even though the power of the bulk may not be on your side, hard strength training will help you achieve:

#1. A more athletic and toned shape

You can’t choose where you lose body fat, but you can choose which areas of your body you accentuate through building shape and curves.

As the old saying goes – “you can’t spot reduce; but you can spot enhance”.

#2. Lower body fat levels

One of the great things about carrying leaner muscle is that you burn more calories each day. The difference isn’t huge, but ramping up your metabolic rate by directing food energy into muscle tissue rather than fat cells is a great way to get shredded.

#3. Better metabolic health

If there’s one sure-fire way to improve your health and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease it’s weight lifting.

Research shows that the cellular changes that occur when you improve lean tissue levels helps to offset body fat levels, elevated cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and inflammation too [1].

#4. Stronger bones and connective tissue

Progressive resistance training using body weight or strength training equipment has a site specific effect on bone.

This means that squats and deadlifts help you maintain bone strength in your legs and hips while pressing and pulling with your upper body boosts the integrity of your arms and shoulder skeleton [2].

You might not even care that much about bone health at your age, but with over 1.5 million fractures per year in the US coming from older people, keeping your skeleton healthy now will be an asset in later life.

#5. Improved confidence 

Whether it’s the second looks you get from admiring passers by or it’s the self-confidence you carry from knowing you look good; strength training changes lives.

You’re just as strong as a man… so let’s show it!

If you’ve ever lifted weights with a male friend, chances are they were stronger than you.

Men do have higher absolute strength compared to women

But that’s only because men tend to be be taller, heavier and bigger too.

If you crunch the numbers, you have around 50% of the upper body strength of your male friends and slightly higher leg strength at 70%.

But ‘equate’ your body weight (basically do some calculations to remove body weight as a factor) and the difference in strength disappears.

So called relative strength between men and women in pretty much the same.

You generally don’t lift as much only because you’re lighter.

But you’re still just as strong.

So let’s get in that gym and start lifting heavy!

Your recovery is phenomenal

One of the perks of being a resilient, strong woman is that your physical recovery is quick.

Like, real quick.

While the guys are there puffing and panting 3 minutes after their set of 8 reps, we’re ready for our next exercise in half the time.

Your enzymes, hormones, muscle architecture and overall physiology all support quicker rest times between sets. And this allows rapid fire workloads and a much higher session volume than you probably thought possible.

This creates an even better muscle building and fat burning stimulus.

You don’t need hours and hours of cardio

You can finally ditch the cardio on this muscle building program for women.

The plan you’ll be taking part in ditches the aerobic work and instead focuses on a dual-approach of intense fat burning and potent muscle building all in one.

You can add in cardio if you really want – after all, it’s not a bad thing. But genuinely, if you work hard enough with your strength training you’ll not need to.

Black and white image of athletic woman performing double-bicep pose

The Program – Muscle Building for Women

Just before we move onto the main aspects of the program, it’s important for you to realize that diet plays such an important role in muscle building too.

Just in a nutshell, if you really want to excel and get the body of your dreams, here’s what we want you to focus on with your eating plan.

Key Diet Points to Build Muscle:

  • Achieve a small calorie surplus to maximize muscle tissue gains

Taking your calorie intake up by 15-20% above maintenance gives you excess energy to lay down new muscle cells.

If you’re unsure how to calculate your calories, use our calorie calculator at the bottom of this article.

  • Eat sufficient protein

Building muscle is all about fueling your cells.

Aiming to achieve a diet of 0.7-1 g of protein per pound of body weight optimizes the way in which body composition improves.

  • Share the remaining calories between carbs and fats

Once you’ve calculated your protein intake you can fill in the gaps with the remaining macronutrients – carbohydrate and fats.

It’s very much individual in terms of exact ratios, but plugging for 1-2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight gives you enough energy to get through your tough workouts.

You can make up the rest with some fat-based foods.

No need to over-complicate things

Simplicity is key when it comes to sculpting a hourglass figure that screams lean muscle.

Sticking with core movements that are tried and tested helps you zone in on what really matters – muscle building, curves and leanness.

In this program you’ll be focusing on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. and you’ll be supplementing these with targeted isolation exercises that accentuate and lift problem areas too.

Weeks 1-5: Laying down muscle with maximum results

In this first lifting phase you’ll be expected to hit the gym for 3 workouts per week.

The way the plan is organized means that if you begin to miss sessions, the balance between muscle groups and volume just won’t add up – so do all you can to get your workouts into your weekly schedule.

Be warned, this isn’t a gentle introduction to lifting.

We’re throwing you in at the deep end with some challenging workouts. And that’s what you need if you’re chasing muscle building gains.

All exercises are 3-4 sets of 6-15 reps, with 2-3 minutes rest between. Take the sets up from 3 to 4 once you feel ready.

Lift as heavy as you can for your rep range.

Keep the weight the same until you can comfortably hit 15 reps. Then increase it.

Note: you can adapt the length of this phase if you want to. Making it a 3-6 week massing phase is cool with us so just let your body tell you when you’re ready to progress to phase 2. If you’re unsure, stick to 5 weeks. 

NumberSession 1Session 2Session 3
1DB Step upsLeg press machineLateral raise
2Lat pulldownNeutral grip pulldownLeg extension
3Lying leg curlDB Romanian deadliftIncline DB press
4Assisted dipsDB flyesDB Deadlift
5Split squatStanding calf raiseSeated row (neutral grip)
6DB Hammer curlDB triceps extension Frog pumps / hip thrusts
7Cycle crunchDynamic side plankSuitcase crunch

Weeks 6-12: Using advanced techniques to keep pushing muscle growth

Once you get to the end of phase 1 it’s probably worth taking a few days off to fully recover and regenerate. That way you can hit phase 2 with everything you’ve got.

The general theme of this phase is similar to the previous one: muscle growth.

The big difference though is that you’ll be adding in one or two advanced lifting techniques to keep progressing.

  • Descending pyramids – the first set is heavy and then each one after that gets lighter and lighter… but the reps go up. It’s absolutely horrible, but great for strength, muscle mass and fat loss.
  • Supersets – in this system, you pair up two exercises for different muscle groups and complete them back-to-back. Supersets are fantastic for fat loss and muscle conditioning. Tough but rewarding.

Workout day 1:

NumberExercise Reps Sets
A1BB Hip thrust8, 10, 122
B1Lat pulldown6-123
B2DB Lateral raise6-123
C1Kettlebell goblet squat6-123
C2Kettlebell sumo deadlift6-123
D1DB Bench press6-123
D2DB bent over row6-123
E1Lying leg curl8, 10, 122

Workout day 2:

NumberExercise Reps Sets
A1BB deadlift8, 10, 122
B1DB Bicep curl6-123
B2Rope triceps extension6-123
C1Kettlebell goblet Lateral lunge6-123
C2Kettlebell goblet step-up6-123
D1Reverse ab curls15-203
D2Cycle crunches15-203
E1Leg extension8, 10, 122

Workout day 3:

NumberExercise Reps Sets
A1BB squat8, 10, 122
B1DB Shoulder press6-123
B2DB rear flyes6-123
C1Kettlebell swings6-123
C2Kettlebell goblet back lunges6-123
D1Narrow push-ups (on knees if necessary)15-203
D2Neutral grip pulldown15-203
E1Bulgarian split squat8, 10, 122

  1. Warner, SO et al. The effects of resistance training on metabolic health with weight regain. J Clin Hypertens. 2010; 12(1): 64-72
  2. Laybe, JE et al. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999; 31(1): 25-30

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