How to Build Lean Muscle for Women

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I have been into fitness and working out for the past 13 years now. When I first started working out, I was a typical cardio bunny, the usual run outside after work, or the 45-minute run on the treadmill. I was in shape, but I was very skinny. My body had no curves, and I looked like a stick figure. To help you visualize, I am 5’9” barefoot, so basically, I was a string bean. Fast forward a couple of years, and I was bored with my routine, feeling stagnant, and honestly not loving my skinny frame. I started doing research to learn more about how to build lean muscle for women. I slowly began to change my workouts, incorporating more weights, doing various kinds of exercises. My body felt so challenged and great!

Working out to build lean muscle for women

Working out to build lean muscle for women

So how can a woman build lean muscle?

First, muscle building takes time and patience. There is no magic wand to wave that will make you suddenly have Beyonce’s booty. If there was, I would have waved it years ago instead of spending hours a week doing booty workouts. The first step in gaining muscle is to work on gaining lean . We do this through a combination of diet and exercise. Diet is just as (maybe even a little more) important as exercise. We will talk more about food later in this post, so stay tuned girlfriend!

Building muscle is 50% diet and nutrition and 50% exercise

Several things happen when you start to . It is essential to take note of these things so that you are prepared for the various ways your body will begin to change.

It is important to understand your body type before trying to make changes.

You will need to more than you usually eat

Your body will crave the additional food because at this stage you are bulking (not like a massive bodybuilder). If you have always been the kind of person that hops on the latest fad diet trends, this may scare you. Do not stress or allow yourself to quit because this journey is all in the name of getting healthier and more fit.

The scale can be a bit tricky

I am not a scale person. To be honest, the only time I am ever weighed is when I go to the doctor. I recall when I first started my journey to building more muscle tone; I got on the scale and freaked out thinking I was gaining too much weight. Nope, it wasn’t ; it was muscle. Heyyyy! Keep this story in mind when you get on the scale and see a number that is a bit higher. Higher weight equals more muscle, which is what we are trying to achieve here, right?

Tracking your progress

While you are in the beginning stage of charting your progress, there are a few key things you should do to make sure you are keeping up with how your body is changing.


Weigh yourself 1 – 2 times per week, at the same time of day
Do so wearing minimal or no clothing
Keep track of your numbers each week

Measure yourself

Use a measuring tape to measure yourself once a week
Measure your waist, arms, and thighs
Be sure to record this number

weigh and measure yourself when you are working to gain lean muscle

weigh and measure yourself when you are working to gain lean muscle

Take pictures each week to track your progress

We are human which means we are very visual. It is easy to look back on a picture to see how your body has changed. Plus, seeing progress is often the motivation you will need to keep going.

Hard work pays off

To stay on the right track, and make sure you are gaining lean muscle, you will need to put in the work. Gaining muscles means working out 3 – 4 times per week doing strength training exercises. If you do not do strength training 3 – 4 times per week, you will gain fat, which defeats the purpose of all of the hard work you have put in up to this point. Keep in mind that you are hungrier, and probably eating more food, so we want to put those carbs to good use.

Cardio is not your friend

Remember my earlier story about being a stick thin cardio bunny? When you are working to gain lean muscle, you want to avoid large amounts of cardio. Cardio burns calories, and we need calories to build muscle tissue. I do very moderate cardio 1 – 2 times per week, for no more than 15 minutes, and then it’s on to the weights. Also, avoid those HIIT , they will drain your , which will require you to take more time to recover.

What should I eat to build muscle?

At this point, you are probably wondering what foods you should eat to build muscle. Keep in mind that working to build muscle is not an excuse for us to eat any and everything in sight. Doing this will give you the opposite effect of what you are trying to do. You will gain weight, but it will be fat, not muscle. When you are working to gain lean muscle, you must keep track of your calories, protein, carbs, and fats also known as macronutrients.

When I first started working to build muscle, I tracked my using the My Fitness Pal app. I no longer track everything I eat anymore, because I have been doing this for years now, and I have a good sense of what I should and should not eat.

Here is a breakdown of how I eat. I currently weigh 155 lbs

Calories allotted per day + 2,050 (this number is based on the My Fitness Pal Calculator)
Carb intake 50% = 256 grams
Protein = 155 grams
Fat = 65 grams
Be sure to calculate your numbers for your body. The numbers above are specific to my body weight and body type.

Do you really need to eat more to build muscle?

You may be reading this and asking yourself this question. The answer is yes. Remember what I said earlier about your body being hungrier than usual?

You may be looking at this, and thinking how on earth will you be able to eat all of this food, right? Trust me; it is easier than you think when the hunger hits.

Here are to eat to get your calories:

Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
Fruits like bananas and apples
Healthy fats like avocado and walnuts

Eat green leafy vegetables to help you gain lean muscle

Eat green leafy vegetables to help you gain lean muscle

On Supplements

This is a topic that I go back and forth on. It is definitely possible to gain lean muscle both with and without supplements. I use protein powder from time to time, but I take breaks from it because it can cause lots and lots of gas (ewe).

Supplements can be great because they aid in muscle recovery, which helps to reduce the soreness you may feel after you work out. During the times when I am not using supplements, I eat avocado or make a smoothie with a banana in it to help deal with the aching muscles.

I will link to the protein powder I use below.

When to eat when you’re building muscle?

I try to live by the no food after 8 pm rule because I am over 30 and that ole metabolism just ain’t what it used to be.

A few additional rules that I abide by are as follows:

If I am eating heavy carbs like pasta, I eat them post workout. So, if I workout in the afternoon after work, I am starving, and try to prepare/eat my dinner shortly after that.

Women’s muscle building workouts at home

I cannot always make it out to the gym because time does not permit, but on the days that I cannot, I make sure I workout at home.

There are several pieces of equipment that I have acquired through the years, and you can check out this post where I link to my home gym equipment.

Total body strength training without weights

Full body dumbbell workout

Full body toning workout

20-minute booty workout

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how you are adding these workouts and tips to your plan. Learning how to build lean muscle for women can take some time and effort, but once you get into a routine, and start to see results, you will not want to stop.

If you are a complete newbie to working out, be sure to out my post on beginner workouts so help you get started on your fitness journey.

Now go be fabulous!

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Want to learn how to build lean muscle without the extra bulk? Use this guide to help you achieve the strong body you want

Want to learn how to build lean muscle without the extra bulk? Use this guide to help you achieve the strong body you want

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