Women are able to significantly increase muscle mass by participating in an aggressive weight training program and eating properly. Weight training must be designed for muscle building, and attention needs to be paid towards making appropriate eating choices. Building muscle will increase a woman's metabolic rate, meaning they'll burn more calories throughout the day. With appropriate training and eating, a woman can build up to a half a pound of muscle per week.
An increase in muscle mass, or hypertrophy, is a result of consistent participation in a specific weight training program. As you overload and break down your muscle cells with weight training, during your rest periods between training sessions, your body responds by regenerating at an increased size.
Women do not gain muscle mass as quickly as men because they don't possess the same levels of muscle-building hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone. However, hormone levels are shown to increase when women train regularly with a program designed for muscle building. Significant increases in muscle mass are still shown in women, and the American Council on Exercise states that women will see about a 20 to 40 percent increase in muscle strength after a few months of weight training.
There's no distinction between sexes when training for muscle hypertrophy. To build muscle mass, a frequent training program consisting of lower weights, higher volume and shorter rest periods is necessary. A common training volume for muscle hypertrophy is to lift three days per week with each exercise being completed at three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions with 1 to 3 minutes of rest in between sets and exercises.
To build muscle, you must provide your body with more calories through food than you burn throughout the day. Joseph Chromiak, of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, suggests increasing consumption by 250 calories per day above your typical calorie consumption. Protein is important for protein synthesis and increased muscle mass, and Chromiak recommends obtaining 0.65 to 0.80 grams of protein per pound that you weigh each day. Eat a meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein immediately following your weight lifting workouts.
With an aggressive training program and proper fueling of your muscles, a common rate of muscle gain is 1/2 lb. of muscle per week. Although hormonal limitations will may affect this rate of absolute muscle gain in women, author of "Women In Sport" Barbara Drinkwater states that women are able to increase their relative strength at the same rate as men.