A Fitness Coach Shares 3 Underrated Lean Muscle-Building Tips For Women
There’s plenty of misinformation out there about building muscle, like the common myth that you’ll automatically “bulk up” if you eat enough protein and start lifting weights. For this reason, it’s best to stick with expert advice and limit unofficial tips and tricks you may have found online (hello, gym TikTok).
Train close to failure
"We need to focus on making sure that we train with close proximity to failure," says Baxter. This doesn’t mean you should lift weights until you can barely move, but try to test your limits more than you sit in comfort.
See, your muscles need to feel "fatigued" in order to grow. Yet "what I tend to see with women is that they'll go into the gym and don't lift enough weight," she explains.
Still, it can be hard to know how much weight is too much (or not enough). As a general rule of thumb: Keep your max reps around 10. "If you are still able to perform 10 more reps with that same dumbbell or barbell, then you are not effectively signaling your muscles to grow," she adds. It might be time to add on more weight.
Restrict blood flow
Another helpful suggestion: Consider restricting blood flow to certain muscle groups via resistance bands (like these BFR Booty Bands).
While resistance bands don't work for everyone, Baxter says they are generally helpful for women looking to build muscle. “We are more fatigue-resistant,” Baxter says regarding women, which is why we may benefit more from drop sets (which calls for lifting weights until you can’t anymore) and blood flow restriction.
When you use bands like the ones above, you’re restricting the capillaries and venous returns, which minimizes the amount of metabolic byproducts that can accumulate inside the muscle cells, she says.
In simpler terms: Blood flow restriction speeds up your time to failure, which is great for folks looking to get in and out of the gym ASAP without compromising efficiency.
Eat enough protein
Finally, you’ll want to pair these workout tips with adequate protein intake in order to reap the benefits.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight1 per day. This is the minimum amount of protein a sedentary person needs to meet their nutritional requirements; meaning, it's conservative and not exactly applicable for those looking to build muscle or working out frequently.
Helpful tips for women looking to build lean muscle include training near failure, utilizing blood flow restriction bands, and consuming enough protein throughout the day. Tune into the episode below for more workout and nutrition tips—trust us, there's so much more to consider!
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.