When it comes to building muscle for women, there are some clear differences in what can be expected from that of men. For instance, women have a different chemical makeup than men which is less geared toward the development of large, dense, powerful muscles. Women also have higher natural body fat which can result in a less “chiseled” look.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is no hope when it comes to muscle gain for women—just that women may need to take a different approach to strength training than men.
To start, if you are simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle, don’t expect to step on the scale and see a drop in your weight. This is because fat weighs less than muscle, although this isn’t to say that a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat. A pound of fat takes up more mass than a pound of muscle; for instance, a pound of fat takes up about as much space as a large grapefruit, and a pound of muscle equaling about the territory taken up by a tangerine—quite a difference indeed!
What this means is that there is a chance that despite you losing body fat, you may still weigh the same or even more after a few months in the gym. This makes the scale unreliable at best, and a discouraging study in frustration at worst.
So, rather than the scale, use a tape measure or even a simple “pinch test” to determine your progress. If you have a body fat scale or other means of measuring your body composition, by all means use it.
When a muscle is overworked, it responds by becoming stronger, which is the basis for resistance exercise. And, for women just as with men, using heavier weights and fewer reps (anaerobic, or “without the presence of oxygen) results in bulkier muscles. Likewise, using lighter weights and an increased number of reps (aerobic, or “with the presence of oxygen”) results in leaner, more sinewy muscles.
Of course—and assuming no outside hormones (steroids) are being used—women still produce only a fraction of the muscle-building hormones (androgens) as men.
That said, this doesn’t mean that women don’t produce enough testosterone to build muscle, they are just less likely to gain as much or as fast as younger men who produce the most testosterone.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that you can’t increase your strength by 20-40% over the course of a few months of work in the gym.
Your body type also comes into play as to how fat is stored, and muscle is gained.
In fact, there are three women’s body types, each of which reacts differently to muscle gain and fat storage.
So, using this information, the questions you need to ask yourself are:
Of course, the answer to the second question will help you determine the realistic answer to the first question, so be prepared if you are hoping to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger but are either an endomorph or ectomorph. True, you can buck the trend—there is nothing wrong with that—just that you should ultimately be realistic in your expectations based on your body type.
Working with a good personal trainer will also help, especially one who understands what you can expect from your body type, eating habits and work ethic. Assuming you have taken your time to find a good trainer who you are comfortable working with, this can be the best way to see the most gains while decreasing your risk of injury, overtraining or under training.
Another aspect of building muscle for women is nutrition, although eating right can be tough due to your busy modern lifestyle.
Fortunately, there is a way to enjoy convenient, protein-rich, nutritionally balanced and above all GREAT TASTING food to keep your training goals on track.
Eat Rite Foods will deliver fresh, never-frozen whole food meals right to your doorstep so that all you have to do is hit the gym while we take care of dinner. With an ever-evolving menu that includes full disclosure of protein, fat, carbohydrate and calorie content, we make sure your needs are met nutritiously and deliciously.
Plus, with low prices and volume discounts available, you don’t need Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wealth to afford great food!