Following a bodybuilding program won't automatically turn you into the Incredible Hulk. There are four main categories of women's bodybuilding, says champion competitor Ashley Toms. Standard bodybuilding does require big muscles, extremely low body-fat and often results in masculine-looking features caused by the use of performance-enhancing substances. The other three types -- bikini, fitness and figure -- place more emphasis on symmetry, aesthetics, muscle tone and shape, rather than big, bulging muscles. A bodybuilding routine will be intense and grueling, but can yield exceptional results if you stick with it.
Split your training schedule over five days, focusing on a different muscle group or two in each session, advises fitness model and figure bodybuilder Jamie Eason. Train your quads and calves on Monday, chest, triceps and abs Tuesday, back, biceps and calves on Wednesday, hamstrings and glutes on Thursday and shoulders, abs and calves on Friday. Rest over the weekend to allow your muscles time to recover, or perform an extra workout for a lagging body part.
Choose mainly multi-joint compound exercises. These work multiple muscle groups, increase strength and muscle growth faster and burn more calories. Ultimately, they give you more bang for your buck, claims strength coach Nia Shanks. Base your leg training around squat variations, deadlifts and lunges and for your upper body work stick to bench and dumbbell presses, chinups or pulldowns, dumbbell rows and dips or pushups. Pick three compound exercises per session, then add in one or two single-joint isolations like curls, calf raises, lateral raises, fyles and crunches for smaller body parts.
Perform cardio at least twice per week. While weight training should be the foundation of your program, cardio helps to keep body-fat levels in check. High intensity interval training is the best form of cardio, according to trainer Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough." It elevates your metabolism and burns more calories than simply training at a steady pace on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. To perform an interval session, warm up for five minutes, then work at maximum intensity for 15 seconds before going at a moderate pace for the next 45 seconds. Repeat this 10 times, then spend five minutes cooling down. You may need to increase the frequency and duration of your cardio sessions as you get closer to a contest to accelerate your fat loss.
- Check with your health care provider before starting a bodybuilding routine.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.