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February 15, 2017
Building Muscle for Women: Why Weights Don't Make You Bulky With Jaime Filer
I'd like to think that when it comes to building muscle for women, the common misconception about lifting heavy weights has been put to rest. It was assumed that women who lifted heavy got bigger, because you'd see thick female powerlifters, Olympic lifters, bodybuilders, and Crossfitters who had slabs and slabs of muscle on their frame. While those styles of training are surely conducive to hypertrophy – aka muscle building – nutrition, recovery, and supplements ALL play a huge role in body size.
Fact: Weights don't make women bulky; cupcakes make women bulky. That is to say, nutrition plays an important part. So some of these women are more muscular because they choose to be, or because their genetics have predetermined that's the case. Their training styles are certainly not the be-all, end-all of their physique.
Building Muscle for Women: 101
Don't be scared! Women have more estrogen and less testosterone than men. It's a fact. When building muscle for women, in order to create that lean, long body, we need to push ourselves. That means getting strong and getting fast. It also means that without chemical/pharmaceutical enhancement, we'll never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a ponytail.
Routines to Explore Building Muscle for Women
As I said, it's very hard for women to become bulky simply through lifting heavy, but it will definitely help when it comes to building muscle for women, which in turn will help us increase our metabolism. With that said, staying loyal to tried-and-true methods like high reps and supersets will be beneficial to increasing heart rate and keeping the intensity of your session high.
Without further ado, here's a great way of combining those two modalities (pump reps of 15-30 and power reps of 6-12) to your advantage – build muscle and get lean. Scramble/switch up your reps during the workout, but also from workout to workout, to keep your body guessing.
Sample routine for shoulders:
A1) Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 4 x 15, 6, 15, 6
A2) Side Lateral Raise – 4 x 15, 6, 15, 6
B1) Arnold Press – 3 x 20
B2) Front Raise With Cable – 3 x 20
C1) Rear Delt Face Pull – 3 x 8, 20, 8
C2) Strict Press – 3 x 8, 20, 8
Going back to physiology for a minute, to lose fat and build muscle – but still look feminine – we need to increase growth hormone; that means training in a way that demands intensity. Hopefully you're already doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as your cardio, versus low intensity steady state. HIIT is a far more effective way to reduce fat, improve insulin sensitivity, and build more muscle. HIIT can also increase lactic acid to boost GH. All in all, for a number of different reasons, short bursts of high intensity followed by low intensity periods is your GH-boosting ticket.
Sample HIIT routine:
20 Min AMRAP (As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible)
Run 200 meters
5 Clean and Jerks at 95 lb./135 lb.
10 Kettlebells at 24 kg
5 Dumbbell Snatches (Each arm) 25 lb./35 lb.
Row 200 meters
To summarize, if you're a woman looking to build muscle in order to improve your performance, look better/tighter, and feel more energetic, don't be scared of lifting heavy weights! Say goodbye to long hours and two-a-day low intensity cardio sessions; instead, get those weights and that heart rate up, high and fast!
This primer on building muscle for women has been generously provided by Jaime Filer, Online Editor-In-Chief of Muscle Insider, Canada's #1 Muscle Magazine. Love Jaime's badass energy as much as we do? Check her out on Instagram and read more of her work on CrossFit Competition Day: The Dos and Don'ts of Feeding the Fittest on Earth, how to CrossFit meal prep, the best time to work out, and even her own fitness transformation. Jaime rocks the Expedition 300 backpack – find your perfect gym backpack, gym tote, or meal management system today.