How Female Athletes Can Gain Muscle

Want more muscle tone and body definition? Follow these principles to strengthen and grow your muscles to achieve the body you desire.

Build Muscle

Becoming more toned and defined means adding lean muscle. To do this, you must first become stronger. When you have more strength, you'll be able to lift more, push harder and gain more muscle. Here is a breakdown of the best ways to build muscle.

Work Your Whole Body

Include compound movements in your workouts. Compound movements engage multiple joints and stabilizer muscles in a coordinated fashion to effect a full range of motion. In other words, they work several muscles and joints at the same time. This helps you gain more strength and reduces the time you need to work out. To complete each set, you use many muscle fibers at once, which encourages your muscles to break down faster and, with proper nutrition and rest, allows them to increase in size. For example, the Squat (illustrated above) is a compound exercise that involves the ankles, knees, hips, glutes and quads.

Aim for 3-6 exercises of the following exercises:

Sets/Reps: 3 x 6-12 reps


After your workout, make sure your nutrition is on point. For your muscles to grow in strength and size, you need to take in enough protein to allow for protein synthesis, the process by which muscles rebuild and grow.

Protein has many other uses in the body. For optimum bodily function and muscle growth, consume 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day.

Along with sufficient protein, you must also consume carbohydrates. After a hard workout, carbs replenish glycogen (increasing your insulin levels), maximize protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. Aim to consume 30 to 60 grams of complex carbs with protein within 30 minutes of your workout.

Change Your Workout Routine

To prevent your body from adapting to the exercises you're doing, switch your routine every six to eight weeks. If you stick to the same program indefinitely, you won't make progress, since your body will have developed enough muscle to perform your repeated exercises. To challenge your muscles, you must progressively overload them while maintaining good form.

Ways to do so include:

  • Increasing the weight you are using
  • Increasing the intensity (reducing the amount of time you rest between sets)
  • Adding in drop sets or pyramid sets
  • Doing a few negative sets
  • Trying some supersets
  • Changing your fitness routine so you will continually be challenged


Sleep and hydration are essential to build muscle. Another key component is rest. When you train hard four to six days a week, you place a lot of stress on your body. Don't neglect the time you need to recover and prevent overtraining.

Ultimately, if you don't get sufficient rest, you will slow your progress, decrease your energy levels and reduce your growth hormones, which can lead to a catabolic state, where your body burns lean tissue as fuel for energy.

Proper rest will help your body replace aging and dead cells and aid the regeneration of muscle tissue. Water is also critical for your body (especially on days you exercise) to maintain proper joint movement. The synovial fluid protecting your joints contains a large amount of water. If the fluid is not there to lubricate your joints, you can risk injury, which will delay achieving your goals.

Water also transport nutrients to your cells and helps maintain electrolyte balance during training, so you won't suffer from muscle cramps and reduced energy levels.

Now that you have the proper knowledge, remember these rules:

  • Always use proper form on every repetition
  • Work hard
  • Be consistent
  • Be patient


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock