Learn how to build muscle women! Lean muscle is what gives you shape. More specifically lean muscles will help you achieve those crazy transformations you’ve no doubt seen on social media. I mean lean muscle is what helped me achieve my transformation. So maybe you’re wondering, how long does it really take? How long does it take to build lean muscle and transform your body?
While there isn’t anyone number that will apply to everyone, I can tell you it’s nowhere near as drastic as most Hollywood celebrities make it out to be. That said, there are a couple models that in my experience work relatively well. The McDonald model calls for a set rate of muscle growth per month, depending which year of training you’re in. Whereas the Aragon model calls for a percentage rate of muscle growth depending on your fitness level. Similar enough except for one has a set rate of muscle growth whereas the other is proportional to your body weight.
3 main factors affecting muscle gain
Now that we know how quickly we can expect results, what exactly affects muscle growth? Muscles respond to the demands put on them. The three main factors affecting muscle gain are: exercise type, nutritional intake, and hormone levels. When choosing an exercise program, you should focus on a concept called progressive overload. In short this means doing more over time. This could mean lifting more weight, doing more reps, training with more intensity, overall doing more of the activities that move you closer to your goals and less of those activities that move you further away from your goals. The idea of doing more in the gym kind of ties into nutrition where you should aim to be at a slight calorie surplus and eat a high-protein diet.
Overall similar exercise and nutrition principles apply to men and women. However, hormones are where things diverge. Men’s higher testosterone levels give them an edge for building muscle. While women’s higher estrogen and growth hormone levels have their own unique muscle building benefits. So what if you’re already doing all these things? What if you’re already training hard, eating healthy, keeping your hormones in check? This is where our strategy comes in.
The first thing you need to look at is exercise as this is what stimulates muscle growth. When I first started my fitness journey, I had muscle history from growing up athletic, but to stay active I’d been doing a combination of distance running, P90X, and insanity style workouts. As you can see, I built some muscle but that progress quickly leveled off, likely because I’d grown strong enough using just my body weight and needed to add additional resistance. The good news is that if you’ve been training improperly or in a way that’s not ideal for muscle growth, you can still achieve approximately the same first year gains as someone who’s just starting out.
So part one of our strategy is to get yourself on a program that applies progressive overload. This doesn’t mean you have to lift weights right off the bat, but it does mean that you should challenge yourself with a variety of body weight exercises until you become strong enough to add additional resistance.
The next thing to consider is nutrition as this is what fuels muscle growth. One of the biggest issues I see particularly with women is that they’re not eating enough. Not enough calories, not enough protein, and this was me to a T. The good news is that even if you’ve been under eating for an extended period of time, you can still bounce back.
A 2017 study examined the physiological changes that occurred following competition in male and female physique athletes. In case you’re not familiar with physique or bodybuilding competitions, these events require that competitors under eat or diet for an extended period of time in order to reach low levels of body fat. One of the biggest fears I had when increasing calories was that I was going to gain a bunch of fat. This study reinforces that this is not true. More likely than not, your body will preferentially use those extra calories to replenish depleted energy stores, and then gradually increase your body fat and lean muscle mass.
With that said, part two of our strategy is to get yourself on a diet that’s specific to your goals. My advice if you have a decently lean starting point would be to figure out your maintenance calories at 10-15% on top of that, and make sure you’re allocating those calories so you get at least .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Our final point to consider is hormones. A common belief is that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to building muscle. This is not true. While we have significantly lower levels of testosterone compared to men, in women this muscle building hormone is replaced by growth factors like IGF-1 and growth hormone to lead the muscle building processes. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a couple studies you may find interesting. In this 2010 study they found that when you take into account women’s lower starting-point for lean muscle mass, the relative gains between men and women were the same. Also in this 2014 study that looked at elite athletes, they found that elite natural female athletes had 85% lean muscle mass of their male counterparts.
With that said, part three of our strategy is to optimize hormone levels. I went about this by gaining weight in a controlled manner and by making sleep quality a priority by getting a blackout sleep mask and getting into a regular nighttime routine.