Female bodybuilding is famous for enabling women to build confidence and muscle. There are majorly two reasons for gaining muscle through weight lifting, fun, and competitions.

Getting into bodybuilding is different for women compared to men. As they lack natural testosterone, which aids in building large bulky muscles that men can grow. Bodybuilding aims for visible muscle building; hence it is very intense and requires more persistence than weightlifting for recreational purposes. Additionally, weightlifting strengthens the bones aiding in the fight against osteoporosis.

Irrespective of how you want to go about weightlifting, learning the fundamentals is a must. Later on, making favorable nutritional choices will bring you one step closer to becoming the ultimate female bodybuilder!

Step 1

Start by looking for a gym that is well equipped with free weights and machines. Then with your personal trainer’s guidance perform workouts correctly.

You might wonder why you need a personal trainer if you are motivated enough? Well, a personal trainer is specialized in preparing one for bodybuilding and will provide structure, accountability, inspiration, and motivate you to make it through a tough workout.

Step 2

To build yourself up, straighten major muscle groups. Train opposing muscle groups to balance your sessions, once your strength increases add free weights for small muscle targeting and gaining definition.

Some Typical Exercises to Start Female Bodybuilding

Firstly, assess what you need to work on, is it losing fat, building muscle mass, or gaining weight?

For either case, the workout will overall have the same components with slight differences. Aerobic workouts or High-intensity cardio burns fat and warms up the body and burns fat hence, works out the muscles. At this stage, your goal is body toning. Your progress will be defined by your workout routines and it should in correspondence to your personal goals.

Some typical exercises for targeted muscle gains, and keep your goals up at the gym!

  1. HIT (High-Intensity Training) – cardio that burns fat efficiently.
  2. Squats- full-body exercise targeting the quadriceps femoris muscles, hips, thighs, hamstrings, and buttocks.
  3. Plank-full body exercise working on core muscle groups including rectus abdominis, the external oblique muscle, the transverse abdominis, and the glutes.
  4. Various exercises coupled with Dumbbells, barbells, and deadlifts for building muscle groups throughout your body.
  5. Crunches- for building six-packs and working out core muscles.

Step 3

The intensity of female bodybuilder prep ranges from high throughout. Heavy lifting and diet are to be relied upon If you are not in the favour of lean muscle growth through anabolic steroids (currently illegal in the U.S.A).

Two phases of a bodybuilding program are bulking and cutting.

  1. Bulking phase: During this phase muscle growth is our prime focus with the ultimate goal of muscle failure, followed by muscle fatigue. This failure will lead to muscle fiber remodelling and eventually hypertrophy. The bulking phase of training lasts as long as the desired muscle mass gain is not achieved. Athletes rely on excess calories to build muscle and minimize body fat gain. Building lean muscle requires working hard, lifting heavy, precision with calories, and commitment to a strict yet rewarding lifestyle
  2. Cutting phase: during this phase training’s intensity and cardio will remain high with reduced calories. Hence, high fatigue, and one may have an urge to eat in the evenings. Indeed, it is an uncomfortable sensation, lasting 6-8 weeks of contest preparation. The whole cutting phase lasts for 12-16 weeks depending on the athlete’s desired weight and his initial weight. A steady process of reducing body fat while maintaining maximum possible muscles, by training hard (cardio and HIIT) and creating a calorie deficit. Bodybuilding is a great example of how perfectly strength training and cardio complement one another.  To achieve your goal of reduced body fat, these two training components are needed in the correct balance!

Planning a training split targeting muscle groups that one wishes to improve is the key to bodybuilding success.

Morning cardio can be completed fasted or after a meal. It is a personal preference. Following are 3 methods of cardio training: 

  • Steady-state – has a moderate intensity for longer durations mostly done on an elliptical, Stairmaster, or treadmill
  • Intervals – maximum intensity for short durations with full recovery in-between consecutive rounds, done on an outdoor track or a treadmill.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) –comprises explosive exercises like push press, kettlebell swings, or squat jacks in training sets to increase calorie burn and heart rate.

Note: Resting is an important component of success. Sleep for at least 7 hours every night. As muscle repairs and grows stronger while you rest. Resting helps you lift more weight and enable you to work harder towards your goal.

Step 4

Ideally, the female bodybuilder work with a nutritionist to come up with a suitable diet that meets your caloric need. The general rule is that you should intake one gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight, however, trial and error is the best way to find the perfect balance.

Be sure to remember that carbs, protein, and fats are usually included in each meal for contest prep with their quantities, ratios, and the overall calorie requirement differing based on your phase of training.

Diets for competitions are very strict and may only permit a cheat meal (not a cheat day) weekly, to provide a mental reset, rev the metabolism, and spike hormones. A few tips for your diet:

  • Eat and prepare home-cooked meals as much as possible.
  • Divide your calories over 5-8 smaller meals a day
  • Measure your food via scales and measuring cups
  • Eat lean proteins to promote muscle growth
  • Try to have a daily intake of 1.5 or more gallons of water
  • Sate your appetite with healthy fats such as avocado, nut butter, and coconut oil
  • Carbohydrates like brown rice or whole grains are an efficient source of energy

Before Signing up for a Bodybuilding Competition

There are many female bodybuilder organizations out there and they’re all somewhat different. Before deciding to sign up for a competition be sure to do some research on which competition and type of bodybuilding for women is right for you.

Bikini: This is the most well-known division focused on balanced physiques with a moderate measure of muscle.

Figure: Muscle-wise, the figure classification is a step up from that of the bikini category and being judged on symmetry and muscular balance.

Women’s physique: It packs on considerably more muscle, emphasizing more of an athletic look.

Bodybuilding: This is the most muscular category.

Fitness:  It not only includes being judged on physique and appearance, but also a fitness routine performed to music and incorporating components of dance, strength moves, and acrobatics.

Note: All of them require you to wear a swim-style suit and to pose in front of judges for scores.

A lot goes into women’s bodybuilding but making it to the stage is possible given one stays focused, organized, and disciplined. The average person will never even consider doing what you are aiming for. Winning or losing doesn’t matter as you have succeeded just by getting to the stage. Because after all bodybuilding is more than a sport…it is a lifestyle!