While women cannot bulk up as much as men, there are exercises women can do and ways to approach training that can build muscle mass. Bulking up requires a serious dedication to lifting, eating the right foods and making sure the weight you are using is heavy enough.
Building Muscle Mass
Before performing any exercises to build muscle, it is important to understand how to exercise to build muscle. Each woman responds to training differently, so it may take some trial and error to find the exact program that works for you. Your genetic makeup and body type determine how your muscle fibers will respond to training, says the American Council on Exercise.
In addition, you must apply the overload principle. You need to challenge or overload your muscles by using heavy weights and a lower amount of reps to build bulk, and you should work the muscle at a variety of angles to create definition. Unless you have the type of body that bulks up easily, you need to plan on being in the gym five to six days a week for two to three hours at a time.
Squats are one of the best exercises to strengthen or bulk up the leg muscles as they target the quadriceps and hamstrings. They can be done holding free weights, by resting a weighted bar on the shoulders, or by using machines. Proper form is critical with squats to avoid injury.
To mix it up, do one set with the toes straight ahead and one set with the toes turned out. You can also place your heels on a board to add even more variety. Remember to keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and your back in a neutral position. Go for five to eight repetitions and three to five sets using a weight heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue on each set.
Lunges are another simple exercise that can build muscle mass in your legs. Like squats you can use weights, bars or even cables while doing lunges. They can be done in a stationary position, with alternating legs, or traveling to add more challenge and variety. When lunging, be sure to keep your front knee behind your front toe. When in a lunge you should be able to look down at your knee and still see your toes.
To add further variety place your back foot up on a bench or chair. If you are looking to build muscle mass, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing three to five repetitions and one to three sets.
Standing Calf Raises
As well as exercises to build mass in the upper thighs, it is important to include an exercise for the lower leg area. The standing calf raise targets the muscles in the lower back part of the leg. Using free weights, a weighted bar or cables, raise up onto the toes as high as you can, then lower down slowly. To add definition, do sets with the toes turned in and out as well. You can also let the heels hang off a step to create more range of motion.
For the best results, mix your workouts up by using free weights one day, a weighted bar the next time, and then cables or a machine every third time you work your legs. Since it takes 48 hours for your muscles to recover from a heavy workout, do not work the same muscle group or groups on two consecutive days.