More and more women are headed to the gym not to lose weight, but to gain some serious muscle. While there’s a lot of information out there on how to build muscle, there is a right way to properly see and grow those #gainz — that doesn’t just include eating a ton of protein and increasing calories.
If you’re looking to build those biceps and grow those glutes, here’s what you need to know.
1. Do Less Cardio
First, you need a workout plan. If you want to gain muscles, this isn’t the time for those long runs. Long-distance runners have long, lean bodies while sprinters are more muscular. You want a bod more like a sprinter’s, which means you want to put your energy into lifting heavy enough weights that create small micro-tears in your muscle tissues, so when you’re resting or sleeping, they’ll rebuild into stronger and bigger muscles.
In order to make this happen, you’ll have to cut back on the cardio. One to two cardio days, focusing on 10-15 minute interval sprints or HIIT, is sufficient. In fact, HIIT should be your preferred cardio since it’s a type of exercise that creates an anabolic system in your body similar to strength training, and would help sustain your muscle growth more so than endurance cardio.
2. Lift Heavy
Don’t be afraid of lifting heavy. If you can easily pound out 12 reps without breaking a sweat, your weight is too light. You want your weight to be heavy enough that you can complete a set, but that you’re really fighting to finish it. You want to give those reps everything you got because the more stress you’re putting on your body through weightlifting, the more muscle you’ll produce.
Also, while weight machines are fine, you’ll find that you’ll see faster results and gain more strength by lifting free weights.
3. Do More Compound Muscle Movements
Compound movements, like squats, lunges, and deadlifts, not only work many muscle groups at once — so you’re doing more work in less time — but they also recruit and break down maximal muscle fibers. Which means more muscles are able to build and grow during recovery this way than over isolated movements.
Also, compound exercises create a positive hormonal response within the body that is beneficial for building muscle and burning fat. For example, muscle-building hormones, like testosterone, are boosted in an intense set of deadlifts.
4. Eat More Calories
Yes, you will need to eat more. This is because if you’re burning more calories than you’re eating, you can’t build any muscle. You want to increase your calories by ten to fifteen percent. Meaning, if you typically eat 1,800 calories daily, tack on another 180 to 270 calories per day.
Reminder: just because you can include additional calories in your diet doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all at the buffet. You want to ensure your diet is filled with whole, nutritious food, and very minimal, if not any, processed food. Focus on quality nutrition and not solely on macros and calories. Fueling your body with the best food counts for way more in the long run.
Also, don’t forget to eat a carbohydrate and protein dense meal post-workout, and hydrate! Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily so your muscles can recover and rebuild.
5. Make Sure to Rest and Recover
Two of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of building muscle is resting and recovery. You need at least 48 hours between intense workouts for the most efficient recovery, so that your body adapts to the stress of exercise and so muscles can heal. You also reduce your risk of injury by taking adequate time between weight training sessions.
Sleeping is also vital for your muscle growth because it’s then when your body integrates the nutrition you’ve consumed and the workout you’ve completed to build and grow your muscles. If you aren’t getting some solid sleep, then you’re doing a disservice to your weight training routine.
By focusing less on cardio and more on lifting heavy weights, eating more calories in forms of whole food, and allowing your body to rest, you’re on your way to growing big biceps and a very bountiful peach.
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