While women may often be more concerned with losing weight and seeing the numbers on the scale go down, putting on weight and building muscle mass could actually be just what you need. By carrying more muscle, your metabolic rate soars and your body becomes a calorie-burning furnace, helping you get leaner much quicker. More muscle also leads to a more toned physique and can drastically improve your appearance.
Full-body workouts and split routines are the main ways you should schedule your training. When it comes to building muscle, bodybuilders tend to favor splits, where you work different body parts on different days. Split sessions allow you to dedicate more time to each individual muscle group, according to strength coach Marc Perry of BuiltLean.com. Train your upper body on Monday and Thursday and your lower body on Tuesday and Friday, advises Shannon Clark, personal trainer and writer at Bodybuilding.com. Rest on the weekend to give your muscles time to recover and grow.
The best exercises are the ones that work the most muscle groups. The more muscles you hit, the more growth you spark. Your training should be based around multijoint compound moves such as deadlifts, lunges, rows, chinups, squats and dumbbell or barbell presses. These exercises give you more bang for your buck, claims powerlifter and strength coach Nia Shanks. You can use single-joint isolation exercises such as curls, leg extensions and calf raises, but these are best saved for when muscle groups are lagging behind and need an extra boost to get growing.
At each session you should aim to lift a bit more than the last, or add extra reps and sets. Building muscle is all about progressively increasing your training and making each session tougher than the last. Stick with the same exercises in every session until you plateau on one, then change it for a different one. Pick four or five exercises in each workout. This may not seem like many, but if you go hard on them it'll be more than enough.
Training alone isn't enough; to get big you need to eat big. One of the most common mistakes for female trainers is being afraid of eating, claims nutritionist and bodybuilder Alex Stewart. Your muscles will only grow when you feed them, so start eating plenty of meat, fish, fruits, veggies, dairy products, nuts, seeds and grains to bump up your calorie intake. If you feel you're putting on too much fat you can eat a tiny bit less or add in a cardio session or two.
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.