Adhering to a female bodybuilding routine can be a phenomenal way to gain a healthy, good-looking physique in a fraction of the time it takes with "traditional" women's training.
Female bodybuilding is about gaining muscle tone and losing body fat. Your metabolism directly correlates with your muscle mass. One pound of muscle is very different from a pound of fat in the amount of energy it requires just to sit idly. As a bonus, weight training, which is the foundation of bodybuilding, is especially beneficial to women for avoiding age-related problems like osteoporosis. Still, many women hesitate to embrace weight training.
The Myth of Female Bodybuilding
Many women are wary of competitive-level female bodybuilders' muscular look, using that as a reason to avoid lifting heavy weights. In truth, there's very little to worry about. It takes a substantial effort, genetic predisposition, and sometimes the use of steroids, to build extreme amounts of muscle on women. Additionally, competition-ready female body builders diet to an extremely low level of body fat for competition in order to make their muscles "pop" and appear larger. As soon as they return to a more normal level of body fat, they don't appear quite so muscular.
Men are genetically designed to have higher levels of muscle-building hormones, yet they have to work hard to add even an inch or two to their biceps. If it were that easy to become an oversized, muscular hulk, every teenager would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's not the case, and you won't risk waking up tomorrow three sizes larger than you intended. It's truly a case of having everything to win and nothing to lose.
Weight Training vs. cardio
As a bodybuilder, weight training is always more important than cardio. That doesn't mean no cardio; just that you plan your cardio around your weight training rather than the other way around.
For example, a female bodybuilding regimen could be:
- Monday: Weight training (upper body)
- Tuesday: Weight training (lower body)
- Wednesday: cardio (60 minutes indoor cycling)
- Thursday: Weight training (upper body)
- Friday: Weight training (lower body)
- Weekend: Rest plus five-mile countryside hike or similar low-intensity activity
This is a workout schedule that works well for building muscle. Heavy weight training places small tears in the muscles, and all bodybuilders need to schedule at least 48 hours between workouts for a particular muscle group to allow those muscles to heal and grow stronger. Some bodybuilders may leave even longer between workouts to achieve healing, particularly when they work each muscle group very intensely. For example:
- Monday: Weight training (arms, chest, abs)
- Tuesday: cardio (60 minutes spinning)
- Wednesday: Weight training (back, shoulders, abs)
- Thursday: cardio (60 minutes elliptical trainer)
- Friday: Weight training (legs, abs)
- Weekend: Rest
Additionally, competitive bodybuilders change their workout as they approach competition. In the six weeks to three months before competition, bodybuilders focus on maintaining the muscle mass they have achieved and losing fat. They do this by adding more aerobic activity, incorporating high-intensity interval training, dieting, and lifting lighter weights for more repetitions. They also incroporate an isometric form of exercise by practicing bodybuilding poses.
Important Factors for Success
Weight training isn't the only thing necessary for success.
Most of your recovery and progress takes place while you're curled up in bed. Aim for the traditional eight hours per night to maximize the benefit of your hard work. Any less and you're short-changing yourself. Why miss the easiest part of the equation?
Aim for a basic, healthy diet and increase the protein intake to about 0.7 to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. For a 140 lb woman, that would mean 100 to 140 grams per day, which is a goal easily reached by adding a protein drink or a couple skinless chicken breasts at lunch. If you plan to compete, you will also need to incorporate a weight loss diet in the six weeks to three months prior to competition. Competitive bodybuilders achieve an extremely low level of bodyfat in order to show muscle definition.
Dehydration is a big obstacle to progress in general, and female bodybuilding in particular. Twenty-four ounces per day of pure water is the bare minimum, but double that to be on the safe side (or even more if you live in a hot climate).
Health food and gym stores can have a dizzying array of products, all promising miracles.The only mandatory supplement is a good multivitamin/mineral, preferably in capsule form, as hard-pressed tablets can be hard to digest. Another good supplement is a pure protein powder containing no carbohydrates.
Obvious as it may seem, avoiding injuries is actually a big issue for long-term female bodybuilding success. If you pull a muscle or injure a knee or elbow, you could be out of the loop for weeks or even months. So instead of making slow but steady progress, you're giving back some of your hard-earned gains. Because of this, incorporating good form when you exercise is essential. The bottom line is this: If you're not sure you're doing something right, ask a professional trainer.
Finally, a small but important part of the equation lies in your own head. If you can visualize success and set small, realistic goals for yourself on the path to a bigger, distant goal, odds are infinitely better that you'll stick to the program when work gets intense or your friends break out the gourmet chocolate.
Everyone can get in shape with strength training and aerobic activity. Bodybuidling, on the other hand, takes a higher level of commitment, especially if you plan to compete. Not ony must you pay careful attention to weightlifting, diet, and cardiovascular activity, but you must carefully plan your workout schedule in different phases for muscle building and fat reduction. With such specific requirements, you may wish to seek expert advice from a qualified trainer. Once you've made the decision, with commitment and motivation, you'll be well on your way to success.