Weight Training for Women: Why It’s Hard to “Bulk Up”

When people think of weight lifting and bulking up, they don't typically think about women.

Although weight training for women is becoming more popular, what many people don't know is that it's entirely possible for women to “bulk up.”

It's just harder.

We are here to go over a few reasons why it might be harder for women to gain muscle and what you could possibly do to overcome that particular challenge.

1. Weight Training for Women: Myth Busters

You've been reading listicles and articles on the internet, jotting down every bit of advice you can before hitting the weights. Everything you read seems legit and some of the people writing these articles seem like absolute experts in the field of women's weight training.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but a large portion of the internet is probably false. And an even larger number of people on the internet probably call themselves experts when they are nothing of the kind.

Why aren't you gaining muscle? You might be reading the wrong information. Make sure you vet the authors of the articles you read before you actually implement the information or advice.

Related: Best Steroids For Women To Burn Fat and Build Muscle

2. Counting Calories Wrong

It's the freshman 15 thing. It's that strange myth that any kind of weight gain counts as bulking up. This is absolutely wrong. Just because you're gaining weight, doesn't mean you're gaining muscle.

And just because you're loading calories, doesn't mean you're going to gain muscle mass. You need the right amount and the right kinds of calories to gain muscle mass.

To maintain muscle mass, you must eat 20 calories per pound of your weight. If you are wanting to gain muscle mass, you need to eat 350 to 700 more calories per day than the 20 calories per pound would have you eat.

This means that if you were, say, 100 pounds, you would need to eat 2400-2700 calories a day to gain muscle mass if you are working out intensely every day.


The only time you need to eat fast-digestion carbs like white rice or white bread is right after an intense workout to give your muscles some quick glucose and help you recover for your next workout.

Outside of those post-workout meals, you need to be eating whole grain, whole wheat, slow digestion carbs. Remember, a great motto is “The closer to the earth the better.” In general, eating whole foods is healthier anyway.


You need high quality, complete proteins. Proteins that come from eggs, beans with brown rice, low fatty content meats, and dairy. You need about 2 grams of protein a day, no less.


Look for unsaturated fats. These can be found in things like avocados, almonds, walnuts, salmon, olive oil. And you need unsaturated fats to be about one-quarter of your diet.

3. Getting Teste…or Not

Women have fifteen to twenty times less testosterone than men. Which means that women just can't make the same gains that men do. Period.

You're going to find that the difficulty of gaining muscle mass isn't always something you can control. But you will still make gains if you follow all other advice and keep at it.

4. Wrong Cardio

If you look at cross-country and track runners, you will first notice that they are the skinniest people on the planet. This doesn't mean they don't do strength exercises. They do. They need the strength to weather the long miles or burst through that 90-yard dash.

But the reason they are so skinny is that too much cardio will metabolize muscle tissue. Many women make the mistake of jumping into too much cardio after their weight lifting.

This could be because they are afraid of gaining the wrong kind of weight.

This is a trap you need to avoid.

Don't get me wrong. Cardio is important. But there is an optimum amount of time for cardio.

Three thirty minute cardio sessions are all you need each week.

No more, no less.

And if you maintain this routine, if you incorporate it into your workout, you will notice that your appetite will go up and you'll be able to down the calories you need without much effort.

5. Weight Training for Women: The Rise of the Machines

One of the mottos of building muscle mass is “Engage!” Well, sorta. What I really mean, is that you need to engage as many muscles as you can in a muscle group.

Sure, those white and shiny machines on the floor are easy to use, and what's more, they feel safe. You don't feel like you're going to drop something on your head or your toe if you mess up.

But these machines are the biggest hindrance on the floor to gaining muscle mass. Most machines isolate a certain muscle or a certain group of muscles. If

If you isolate your bicep, you're only going to work the bicep. But if you use dumbells to do curls out away from your body, you're going to engage stabilizing muscles along with your pecs, your biceps, and your shoulder muscles.

6. Late to Bed Early to Rise

We get it. You're busy. You need to get things done and you need to get up early to do it. Maybe you're a mom or a busy career woman. Either way, you've got loads on your plate and you don't have time to get adequate sleep.

If you can't get enough sleep, you're not going to make gains. This isn't just a problem women have, this is a universal weight lifting problem.

You're working your body harder than you've ever worked it before. You're ripping up muscle and your body is trying its best to put you back together like all the king's men. Except now, all the king's men aren't getting enough sleep, and they're falling asleep on the job.

And not only that, but you need to give your muscles adequate time to recover between workouts. You need at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours between specified workouts. If it's legs day on Monday, it shouldn't be legs day again until at least Wednesday.


Women can make gains. Those gains may not come as easily and you may not grow to the size of your male counterparts. But you can do it.

What advice would you give to your fellow women who want to make gains? Sound off in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *