How Can a Woman Build Lean Muscle?


A lot of women want to get strong but are afraid of becoming bulky. They are interested in building lean and feminine muscle mass.

The approach to building lean muscle for women should be a combination of Low-intensity training and High-intensity interval training. Add eating right and you have the recipe to build lean muscle. LIT will boost fat burning. HIIT will boost overall calorie burn and cardiovascular fitness.

Avoiding becoming bulky is important to a lot of women when entering the weight lifting universe. This is not strange considering all the big sweaty, grunting guys hanging around the squat racks at most gyms. Luckily there are several ways for women to build a feminine lean muscle mass without turning into the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Building Lean Muscle for Women

What most people fail to consider is that to gain muscle mass you would have to be in a caloric surplus while doing heavy low rep lifting regularly. It’s also harder for women to build muscle in the first place due to the lack of testosterone. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that increases growth. it is what most people know as anabolic steroids.

Building lean muscle entails working out correctly and eating right. The food you eat needs to fuel your workouts and keep you full. A Lot of women turn to crazy diets that never really work or are too hard to maintain over time. When working on building lean muscle balance is key.

By not eating properly there’s the risk of not being able to properly train and functioning in our daily lives without exhaustion.  

Don’t be afraid to eat fats or carbs for that matter. They all play a crucial role in our body’s homeostasis. Being aware of which macronutrients that are essential for your body will increase the success in building your lean muscle growth. Eating the right amount and balance of these 3 macronutrients you will be satisfied and keep your cravings at bay.

Macronutrients

The following table helps you understand the components and function of the 3 macronutrientsOpens in a new tab. that are key to your progress.

Protein   Fat  Carbohydrates  
Protein is an essential nutrient and building block for the tissues in the body. This is why it’s so important to consume enough protein when working out.Sadly, fat has gotten a bad reputation that it does not deserve. Fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient which will keep you feeling full for longer. Fat is also crucial as fuel for your workouts. When doing low-intensity like distance running your body’s main fuel is fat.    Carbohydrates are the third macronutrient and are the main energy source for your body. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen and are the source that your body uses for short and intense movements like sprints.    
The function on ProteinThe function of fatThe function of carbohydrates
To build muscles your body needs protein. When you work out your muscle fibers are being torn. Protein is crucial in rebuilding the muscle after the workouts.   Protein also keeps you feeling full for longer. This is why protein should be a big part of your nutrition while working on building that lean muscle.    It’s important to consume proteins that has a full amino acid profile.There are however different kinds of fat, and when building that lean muscle we want to consume the good fats. The High-Density Lipoproteins. Also known as “The good cholesterol”, will transfer the Low-Density Lipoproteins “the bad cholesterol”, back to your liver. That way the body can remove it from the body.   Resistance training like weight lifting or distance running increases muscle mass while also boosting your post-training metabolism of fat.The glycogen storages are in the muscles and therefore your body has immediate access to it. These storages empty pretty fast. To make sure your storage is full its important to consume enough long-lasting carbohydrates. Also known as complex carbohydrates.     During the activity, glycogen storage is converted back to glucose. This is how the body utilizes the glycogen.
Protein sourcesHealthy fat sourcesCarbohydrate sources
Great sources of protein with full amino profiles are legumes, buckwheat, quinoa, tofu, and seitan.  High-Density Lipoproteins are found in foods like vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and avocadoes.      Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  

Working Out to Build Lean Muscle

Achieving a lean muscleOpens in a new tab. mass means reaching a lower percentage of excess body fat while gaining muscle. To achieve this there should be a combination of Low-Intensity Training and High-Intensity Training.

LIT will help build muscle mass and boost fat-burning metabolism, while HIIT will crank up calorie burning while also improving cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

High-intensity Interval Training can consist of a mix of strength and conditioning where you work for short bursts, often between 20 and 90-seconds before resting for about half the time of the interval. This could be doing sprints or bodyweight exercises like squats or push-ups.

To get a great high-intensity interval workout you can do intervals with weighted exercises like Kettlebell- workouts, where you perform the squats with resistance.

In these kinds of workout, you are working on your cardio at the same time as you’re building muscle. A lean muscle that is!

Weight Lifting

Strength trainingOpens in a new tab. like weight liftingOpens in a new tab. is a great way to build strengthOpens in a new tab. and lean muscle. A moderate amount of repetitions ranging from 8-12 will help you sculpt your body and get strong. Unless you are in a caloric surplus every day and lifting heavy with a lower repetition rate your muscles won’t grow out of proportions.

This study says that strength training is key when it comes down to burning those calories. Muscle mass burns more calories than fat tissue, and by doing weight lifting at least twice a week you’re not only increasing your strength. You are boosting your calorie-burning metabolism. SOURCEOpens in a new tab.

There are different ways of doing strength training. Compound movements are the most recommended as these are movements that recruit several muscle groups in your body to work at the same time. Like squats and pull-ups. Multi-joint exercises are shown to be the most effective exercises in strength training for reducing body fat percentage. Reducing body fat is key to build that lean muscle. SOURCEOpens in a new tab.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval trainingOpens in a new tab. has become extremely popular these last few years. HIIT is a way of working out that fits into most people’s lives, as they are in the definition “short spurts of intense exercise”.

HIIT is characterized by short intervals of hard work that spikes your heart rate into oblivion. In return, you get a faster, harder workout and more free time to eat well and recover. Two things that are crucial to reaching your goal of building lean muscle.

Studies have shown that the main benefit of High-Intensity Interval Training is the increase in VO2max. VO2xmax is a measurement of the maximum volume of oxygen uptake in the body while working. This will spike your endurance in workouts.

For most people, it’s common to think of running or other endurance activities when we hear the word intervals, but HIIT can very well be done with bodyweight strength exercises or with weights. This way you are doing workouts where you’re increasing endurance while building strength. All in one go. SOURCEOpens in a new tab.

High-Intensity Interval Training in addition to Low-Intensity Training will help you increase your body’s capability of oxygen intake, boost your endurance to higher levels, and most importantly, help you build that lean muscle that you’ve always dreamt of.

abel

Retired Athlete, Retired Personal Trainer, Retired University Teacher, Retired Sales Manager...

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