Read time: 8-minute read

There are a million reasons why you should build muscle, including; 

  1. Bone density
  2. Protection from injury
  3. Metabolic health
  4. Healthy body composition
  5. Nervous system resilience 
  6. You can pick stuff up
  7. Confidence!

So with that being said let’s go deep into how you build muscle. Let’s start with what you should do; 

  • Eat at maintenance calories or above
  • Lift weights 
  • Focus on recovery
  • Sleep well

And what you shouldn’t;

  • Diet 
  • Do lots of cardio

With that in mind, let’s get on with the article. We are going to cover; 

  • What you should do training wise
  • What you should do food wise, and 
  • What you should do in terms of recovery

Training!

Your training needs to be focussed on lifting weights! I wrote a post a few weeks back on ‘5 reasons you’re not seeing results in the gym’ – check that one out after you finish reading this one! 

When it comes to lifting weights, you really need to train every muscle group twice per week, even three times if you’re a beginner. You also want to focus on your posterior chain. Lastly, you want to be consistent. So that is; 

  1. Train each muscle group twice per week
  2. Focus on your posterior chain
  3. Be consistent! 

Note the main muscle groups that we train include are; 

  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves 
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Abs

So you want to do at least two exercises for each muscle group twice per week. If you went three days per week that would be either three full body days, or one lower, one upper and one full body. If it were 4 days/week you can do two upper and two lower, or just split the muscles up in a way that you train them each twice per week still. This ensures everything can be trained twice per week. 

Then we have my second point of focussing on the posterior chain. This is when you have passed your introductory phase but here you really want to focus on; 

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Back
  • Abs. 

And you want to be able to do a hip-hinge movement, you can find a link to what this is by clicking here

From there you can learn to squat and deadlift, as these are the movements that will bring you the lasting results (and motivation) when it comes to training. Understand these are hard though and there is no point in doing them if you can’t do them correctly. Hire a professional for these or start really light and work your way up from there!  

Also on the topic of training we have cardio, and the main thing I want to point out is that cardio is counterproductive for muscle building. It increases cortisol, which is a catabolic (ie muscle wasting) hormone and if the more frequently you do cardio, the less need your body feels it has for muscle. It thinks it’s best to lose it, as it’s not sure how long you’re going to run for and muscle is not as important as body fat for your survival. 

Walking is not catabolic, if it’s not excessive. Running is. Biking is the most likely to preserve muscle mass out of all of the moderate-intensity options, but again you don’t want it to be excessive, and you want to ensure you’re eating enough food to fuel it. 

HIIT training is only good if controlled, you’re conditioned for it, and eating well. Otherwise, avoid it. It won’t help you put on muscle. 

Then you want to make sure you’re consistent!

This means, whatever training program or schedule you have that meets the above criteria, you want to be consistent with it. Follow the same routine and try to lift more weight, or complete more repetitions each time you do that particular workout. You won’t always be able to increase, but the point is you try to. This is what we call progressive overload. My clients follow programs for 8-12 weeks before changing. 

So to recap, that is; 

  1. Train each muscle group twice per week
  2. Focus on your posterior chain
  3. Be consistent! 

Now we want to look at food! 

The main thing here is to eat enough! When it comes to muscle, this is what you need to know; 

  • You need to eat maintenance calories, and
  • You need to eat protein

When it comes to maintenance calories, this is the amount of food you need to eat on a daily basis to survive and do your activities (many women don’t eat enough here!). If you multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 16-18, this will give you a rough idea of how much to eat on a day you’re active, the higher number on a weight training day and the lower number on a ‘rest’ day. 

If you need to work out your weight in pounds, this is your weight in kilograms, multiplied by 2.2. 

Keep in mind that for a woman, muscle is not essential to our survival, nor do we have the hormonal profile to gain excessive amounts of muscle, so we need to create the environmental conditions to make that possible. 

Protein is essential as this is the building block, and contrary to popular opinion it is animal protein that is key here. I have had three pescatarian/vegan clients in my life, and they got less results as far as weights are concerned. If you follow a vegan bodybuilder and they’re amazing, understand it’s not their diet it’s their genetics (so they’re outliers), or performance enhancing drugs. 

So protein should be your weight in pounds in grams, so if you’re 130lbs, this means you need to eat 130gms of protein per day. Use a calorie tracking app for this. 

Note if you are in a deficit, your weight training is only going to serve you as muscle maintenance, not building, as there is no excess fuel available to build ‘unnecessary’ muscle tissue. 

Lastly, we have rest!

Sleep is KEY. As we sleep we release growth hormone, which helps us build muscle. If you don’t sleep, you miss out on this powerful hormone. 

If you don’t rest, then the same applies. When you train, you tear the muscle and they grow back stronger as a protective mechanism. They need a day or two to rest in between sessions, and you want to train them again once rested. 

If you train on top of sore muscles, there is just not the same benefit 

The same goes for beginners who train to the point of debilitating soreness. This is not necessary, you want enough stress to elicit a response, but not so much that it takes you a week to recover. 

So sleep, and rest. More is not better when it comes to building muscle!

In summary; 

  • Training wise you want to focus on weights, and limit cardio
  • Food-wise you want to focus on eating your maintenance calories, prioritising protein
  • Recovery wise, you want to focus on getting good sleep, and rest in between sessions

Keep in mind that things like; 

  • Pre-trainers
  • Keto diets
  • Vegan diets
  • HIIT cardio

….are not the key to building a lean, strong physique. They have nothing to do with it really. 

What you need is patience, consistency, and mastering the basics and you’ll see muscle growth over time!

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Female Training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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