The Ultimate Guide to Female Bodybuilding

Woman showing a female bodybuilding routine lifting a barbell

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Our bodies are amazing things. They circulate air through our blood, digest our food into energy, protect and encase the experience machine that is our brain, and they are even capable of reproducing themselves (well, with a little help from a friend that is). But not all bodies reach the same potential. Neglect the body and its vitality will fade, and then you will soon find yourself much more hindered by your mortal coil than enabled by it. But the opposite is also true—pay attention to the needs of the body, take advantage of the best ways to build the body, and you will soon find yourself sporting a form that makes the other ladies jealous. That’s right, we said “ladies.” Bodybuilding isn’t just a boy’s game anymore. Countless women are improving their bodies every day through the sculpting process that is female bodybuilding.  

In fact, today the internet is full to bursting with articles proclaiming the benefits and methods of female bodybuilding. So many that it’s nigh impossible to know whose advice to trust. For that very reason, we have compiled this article of what we consider the most essential bits of bodybuilding advice for ladies. Your body is likely fairly different from those men whose pecs grace the covers of health magazines, and you need bodybuilding advice that takes that into consideration.

Join us on this journey of body sculpting and self-discovery as we explore The Ultimate Guide to Female Bodybuilding, which begins by humbly asking...

What Is Female BodyBuilding?

a woman showing her strong biceps

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Getting shredded, building meat, maintaining mass, erecting a hominid, there are so many ways to express the sentiment, but female bodybuilding is simply about a bunch of women who want to get fit in a particular fashion.

Why Get Fit with Female Bodybuilding?

There are many ways to get fit and fulfill your body's destiny to look and feel great, but the best reason to build over other methods of fitness has to do with health. Most female bodybuilding experts know a fit body is a healthy body and building your ultimate form takes time and effort.

Best Weight Training Program

A woman in the gym showing a female bodybuilding workout

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The best weight training program for female bodybuilding is tailored for each individual trying their hand at sculpting their body. The reason for this is the wide diversity of bodies, histories, and futures. There are no two people who mirror one another, so there should be no two workouts with a perfect tandem.

However, there are general rules you can follow. You need to be doing different workouts every time you head toward the gym. Alternating the type, duration, strength, and general inclination of each workout can help to aid your game. There should be diversity here.

Keeping it simple is a great way to begin. Start every workout with a warm-up phase that includes stretching and lunging. Then, end every workout with a cooldown phase. Warmups and cooldowns are standard practice across disciplines.

A Weekly Routine for Anyone

The following is an award-winning routine for female bodybuilding that is recommended for those wishing to get into shape. As with any routine, you may need to start slower and work up to the full tilt of the routine.

On the first day of the week, in the morning, the routine starts with a focus on cardio, chest exercises, and tricep exercises. Around 35 to 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio exercise is recommended.

  • Incline Dumbbell Press - 2 x 8-12 (SETS) x (REPS)
  • Flat Barbell Bench - 2 x 8-12
  • Dips - 2 x 8-12
  • Cable Crossovers - 2 x 8-12
  • Skull Crushers - 2 x 8-12

​On Tuesday anytime during the day, it is recommended that the bodybuilder workout focuses on the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Take a breather because there is no cardio on Tuesday!

  • Squats- 2 x 8-12
  • Seated Leg Curls- 2 x 8-12
  • Walking Lunges- 2 x 8-12 (Each Leg)
  • Straight Leg Dumbbell Deadlift- 2 x 8-12
  • Seated Leg Extensions- 2 x 8-12
  • Standing Calf Raises- 3 x 12-15

On Wednesday in the morning, cardio and abs are the focus. Around 35 to 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio is one of the set goals. Other goals are listed below.

  • Exercise Ball Crunch- 2 x 20-25
  • Machine Crunches- 2 x 20-25
  • Hanging Leg Raise- 2 x 10-12
  • Bicycle Crunches- 2 x 20 (Each Leg)

On Thursday in the morning, it is recommended that the individual commence in cardio, and exercises focusing on the back, biceps, and forearms. The cardio should be around 35 to 45 minutes with a tilt toward being low-intensity cardio. Additional exercises are listed below.

  • Lat Pull-downs- 2 x 8-12
  • Barbell Rows- 2 x 8-12
  • Good Mornings- 2 x 8-12
  • Preacher Curls- 2 x 8-12
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls- 2 x 8-12
  • Barbell Wrist Curls- 3 x 10-12

For Friday morning, we suggest the routine targets cardio and a focus on the delts and traps. This will consist of 35 to 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio determined by the individual. Other recommended exercises are listed below.

  • Dumbbell Military Press- 2 x 8-12
  • Cable Front Lateral Raise- 2 x 8-12 (On Each Arm)
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise- 2 x 8-12
  • Smith Machine Shrugs- 3 x 10-12

On Saturday, in the morning it is advised to do some cardio. Around 35-45 minutes of low-intensity cardio would be best. This can take the form of jumping jacks, jogging, or anything your heart desires.

On Sunday you can celebrate your achievement of a job well done and take the day off. Don’t mistake this for an excuse to eat your weight in donuts, but do make it a celebration. After this week of intense workouts, you will be grateful for the day off and the brief respite before the next one.

Remember that this is an advanced workout and not absolutely necessary for all beginners. You can start slowly and work up to the full tilt of this intense routine.

Nutrition and Tips for Female Bodybuilders​

A glass of leafy vegetable smoothie

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Humans are calculators. Well, at least your gut bacteria are calculators. If you put in more calories than you spend in your daily routine, then you gain weight. The converse is true of eating too few calories—you will lose weight. Now, I am not telling you to go out and have a big old plate of celery. Quite the opposite, You should be eating calories if you want to gain muscle.

If you are looking to get shredded and build up your body like a sand castle on a beach, then you need to know your nutrition. Vitamins, minerals, and the occasional massive sandwich are your friends. However, before beginning your journey to the gym, you might consider consulting a doctor about the general guidelines you should follow rather than use a guess and check method.

Intermittent Fasting Is a Key 

For those of us looking to appear in the world like long, lean goddesses, intermittent fasting can be a great addition to the tool belt of any female bodybuilding routine. This tiny trick can help boost your immune system, heal your muscles after a workout, and it requires no effort. Believe it or not this is not a gimmick. All you have to do is not eat, rather, all you have to do is eat a lot—but only when in the non-fasting phase of intermittent fasting.

The only rule is to eat for an 8-hour period during the day and at no other time. For example, if you wake up at 7 and eat breakfast at 12, then you can eat as much of anything as you want until 8 PM. However, after 8 you cannot eat or drink any more calories. Yes, this includes beer; I am sorry to say.

The reason this works has to do with the stages of our digestion. When you eat from sunup to sundown and sometimes afterward, then you leave no time for your body to turn its attention toward things other than digestion, namely healing your sore muscles. That is why intermittent fasting is the key to female bodybuilding. So make like the flash and get fasting.

Vitamins You Need to Be Consuming

Knowing what your body needs and when is a real hat trick of human evolution culminating in the 21st century. B vitamins, or a B complex, will make you feel great and give you the energy you need to hit the gym with the full force of your female bodybuilding furry and fervor. You can take them in a pill or in a drink. The drinkable version comes packaged with vitamin C, another essential nutrient.

Vitamin C helps with almost everything. Most Americans are deficient in it, so even if you are not a fan of female bodybuilding you should be taking more of this. You can get it in pill form as well. It is not terribly expensive and well worth the few bucks it costs. Additionally, you can get it in some fruits, including oranges, lemons, and limes. This may be your only excuse for another tequila shot by the way.

Mushrooms and How They Help

Besides possibly curing cancer and helping to clear the cobwebs from your mind, mushrooms can help to heal your body and boost your energy. There are several companies that sell them. Paul Stamments and Joe Rogan both do a great job. We are also huge fans of the mushroom, tea, and coffee supplier, Four Sigmatic, whose products include anti-carcinogenic coffee and nervous system supporting elixirs. The list of mushrooms and their uses is much too long for a single article, so research about the benefits of each one yourself. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to steer clear of portobellos and eat all the others.

Energize Me: How to Get That Extra Pep in Your Step

By far and away the biggest bodybuilding complaint we receive is that it simply leaves the bodybuilders too tired either to complete their workout or to finish their regular chores afterward. Energy drink companies want you to believe that the only way to get that extra kick is to consume a 24-ounce can of sugar, “electrolytes,” and industrial sludge. This is obviously not the case. The caffeine these energy drinks provide has been shown to be beneficial for athletes undergoing intense or grueling workouts, but the sugar and other nastiness is literal poison for your body.

If you need that extra caffeine kick why not reach for good old-fashioned coffee? The added stimulation will perk you up and the anti-hunger effect of a cup of joe will help prevent your tummy from rumbling when you’re pumping iron. Here’s a great tip for amping your coffee to the next level: combine it with L-theanine and a fat. Yes, that’s right, add butter to your coffee. It may sound counterproductive, but research shows that the fat helps the caffeine to better cross the blood-brain barrier as does the L-theanine. L-theanine is the active ingredient in green tea and can be found in pill form if you aren’t keen on drinking a coffee on the heels of a cup of tea.

Caffeine is by no means the only healthful, legal “perk me up” available to aid your bodybuilding adventures. Guanine, a chemical cousin of caffeine and the active ingredient in Yerba Mate tea, is a great alternative for those for whom caffeine has just lost its kick. In fact, many people have found that guanine provides a “cleaner” buzz than caffeine and have never gone back.

If you’re seeking a less jittery type of boost, we highly recommend apple cider vinegar. It may have a strong astringent taste by itself, but once watered down a bit and garnished with lemon, it becomes one of the tastiest tiny boosts you can drink. The vinegar will jump-start your metabolism, the acidity will aid your digestion, and the malic acid it contains provides a laundry list of healthful benefits.

Adding More Calories

One of the mistakes those new to female bodybuilding make is not increasing their calorie count. If you want to get ripped and gain muscle mass and you are really shredding on those weights at the gym, then you need to be increasing the amount of food you are eating. This makes intuitive sense after the first glance. Additionally, if you are not trying to build mass, then decreasing or even maintaining the amount of food you are eating is fine.

Greens, Greens, the Magical Food

The more you eat, the more you can do. Dark, leafy greens will be important for consumption as you move forward on this journey. They are jam-packed with essential nutrients and a great way of cleaning out your system. The name of the game here is fiber. The best way to look for these little guys is in the vegan section of the grocery store. Keep an eye out for the leaves with purple edges and extra-dark veins. Those are great signs of vitamins.

Training outside Your Program and Why

Often the best athletes train outside their area of expertise. Wonderful and accomplished football players practice yoga or ballet as often as they train in the gym with weights. Your muscles are like rubber bands and they need to be stretched in all directions to gain flexibility and strength. The better the complementary exercise the more disparate the activities.

The recommended complement to female bodybuilding is yoga. Any practice, even at home will do, but the best combination will be the addition of hot yoga. This is yoga that is strength and flexibility focused. Fair warning, the room will be unbearably hot, but you will leave feeling great all over and the next time you hit the weights you will feel like a million bucks.

As you begin to change your routine with female bodybuilding and working out, you will notice other changes in your life. You will apply the principles you learn at the gym to your practices of other activities, including work, school, play, and around the house.

Mass vs. Lean

The expectation is that bodybuilding will transform the female form into a Hulk-ette, but this is not the case for every body type. Spending hours doing the wrong workout can be a real problem for female athletes in general.

In truth, most females don't have the hormonal tendencies like men do, helping them to gain muscle mass in a particularly masculine way. The hormone testosterone is the determinant of why men look the way they do. Women simply do not have as much of this muscle building chemical.

So don’t worry about growing chest hair as you learn to bench press double your body weight. However, if looking like the hulk is your ultimate goal, then you are in for years of dedication, practice, and most certainly a gym membership.


Woman in the gym looking at the mirror while holding a dumbbell

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The best way to get results is to tailor the workout, diet, lifestyle, and goals to your individual needs. Through this individualization process, you can achieve whatever you set your mind and body to. The only gatekeeper is your own endurance, which luckily, you can increase over time with female bodybuilding.

In the end, we are all just here to be happier and healthier, so do whatever method or routine that floats your boat.  It's all a journey, and it takes a whole village. Remember to eat your greens and keep your meats lean, but ultimately the best you can do is your best.

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