Bodybuilding is much more than just working out. While you might picture women bodybuilders with huge muscles and bulging veins, this is only one form of female bodybuilding. The bikini, figure and fitness categories all prioritize body shape, definition and aesthetics over muscle mass. Quit lifting pink dumbbells and spending hour-long sessions on the stepper. Start pumping iron, grunting while you grind out tough reps, and tame the bodybuilding beast.
If you're new to the gym, you probably don't have a set training routine yet, but if you want to succeed in bodybuilding, then planning your training is critical. Beginners should start with a full-body routine, training every major muscle group three times per week, writes trainer Cassandra Forsythe in "The New Rules of Lifting for Women." Full-body workouts burn the most calories and hit more muscle fibers. Further down the line, however, you might wish to progress to a split workout where you train different muscles each session, as this allows you to dedicate more time to individual areas. Cover model and former Ms. Fitness world champion, Vanda Hadarean, recommends training your chest and biceps on Monday, legs on Wednesday and shoulders on Friday. Also add in back, triceps and core work on the days in between.
Forget isolating each muscle group with hundreds of exercises. Performing multiple exercises for each body part is very 1980's, so don't let your training get stuck in the dark ages either. Choose bang-for-your buck exercises, advises strength coach Nia Shanks. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, dips and lunges work more muscle fibers and stimulate more growth than leg extensions and pec flyes.
Don't get sucked too far into the black hole that is cardiovascular training. Cardio definitely is important, but there is such a thing as too much. Aerobic training raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can prevent muscle gain, claims Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Center. Stick to one or two light sessions per week during the off-season. Then increase to four sessions -- two low-intensity steady state and two high-intensity interval sessions, when you're stripping fat for a contest.
Diet is just as essential as working out in bodybuilding. Base your diet around nutrient-dense whole-foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and nuts and adjust your calorie intake according to your goals. Aim to increase the weights you're lifting or the number of sets and repetitions in each workout. You're not competing in weightlifting, but getting stronger will help you get bigger and ramp up your metabolism to burn more fat.
- Shape: True Life: I’m a Female Bodybuilder
- "The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess": Lou Schuler and Cassandra Forsythe: December 2008
- Oxygen Magazine: Vanda Hadarean — October 2009
- Nia Shanks: 30 Rules to Lift Like a Girl & Look Absolutely Awesome
- Charles Poliquin: The (Many) Negatives of Aerobic Training
- Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images