There are a lot of misconceptions pertaining to women and resistance training. Some women shy away from lifting weights because they're afraid they'll get bulky and look too masculine. Other women don't see the point because they believe their bodies aren't capable of building significant muscle in the first place. The truth, however, lies somewhere in the middle. It's correct that women aren't equipped with enough natural testosterone to build huge, bulging muscles -- but with the right training and diet, they can certainly build toned and muscular physiques.
Train with intensity. In order to stimulate your muscles to grow, you have to work them hard enough to break down existing muscle fibers. The process of increasing the size and strength of a muscle is called hypertrophy, which is best reached by performing three to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise. If you can complete more than 12 reps in a set, you probably aren't maximizing muscle growth because the resistance you're using isn't heavy enough. Women tend to reach for the little dumbbells at the gym, but to build muscle, you'll have to opt for the bigger ones. Push yourself. Never stop a set at eight reps when you could have completed 10.
Allow adequate time to recover. The first part of hypertrophy is muscle breakdown; the second is repair. Each muscle group needs adequate rest to make muscle repairs that result in increased size and strength. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends waiting at least 48 hours between training sessions for the same muscle group, but depending on the intensity of the sessions and your current fitness level, you may require more. Organize your workout routine around a split schedule to ensure each muscle group receives ample recovery time.
Eat a nutritious, high-protein diet. To build muscle, you must provide your body with the building blocks it needs. Protein synthesis requires amino acids, which you receive in the form of protein. Aim to take in 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. It may take some experimenting to find the best balance of macronutrients for your unique physiology, but you can start with a balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. Make sure your food sources are fresh, whole foods such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods with added sugar, sodium and fat.
Monitor your progress. It's important to track your results so you can figure out what is -- and isn't -- working. Instead of focusing on body weight, monitor your body fat and circumference measurements. Your goal is to increase lean muscle mass while decreasing body fat, and the scale isn't the best measure of that. Progress photos taken once a month are another great way to hold yourself accountable and reflect on your results.