How to Build Muscle for Skinny Women

The workout plan for skinny women should feature resistance exercise.
Image Credit: Mikolette/E+/GettyImages

Women have increasingly turned to anabolic steroids for muscle gain. Yet, these performance-enhancing drugs cause reproductive system changes and other undesirable side effects. You should, therefore, consider using natural methods to increase your body weight and muscle mass. These healthy ways will let you quickly move from bony to beastly.


Read more:Long-Term Effects of Steroids

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Understand Gender Differences

Women and men have different hormonal profiles. For example, women have less testosterone than men, and this difference makes it more difficult for them to reach the muscle gains known as hypertrophy. This positive change will allow you to add lean muscle mass.

Culture plays a role as well. For example, historically women have rarely appeared in highlight shows, despite their massive level of sports participation. When it comes to sports, girls have few role models. This lack of mentors can have negative effects, because role models enhance self-esteem. Fortunately, women can also increase their self-esteem by increasing their lean body mass.

Read more:How Do Men and Women Differ Athletically?


Understand Age Differences

Women are more likely than men to drop out of sports as they age, and they consider this change a negative event. Older women also have decreased estrogen levels. Such a change puts them at risk for age-related muscle loss — ​sarcopenia​. ​Gaining muscle mass​ is the easiest way to fight this medical condition.

Read more:What Is the Right Age to Start Lifting Weights?


Understand the Consequences

The gender and age differences negatively affecting a woman's anabolic capacity have dire consequences, according to a 2017 review in PLoS One. These consequences include an increased number of hospital stays, fractures and falls. More important, women with sarcopenia have a greater risk of functional decline and all-cause mortality than those who stay in shape. Thus, all women can benefit by going from too skinny to fit.


Read more:Common Reasons for Weight Loss & Muscle Wasting


Know Your Options

Many nutrition and exercise plans will allow you to avoid the negative consequences of sarcopenia. Given the side effects of anabolic drugs, ​it's best to focus on natural methods of building muscle​. These methods include doing exercises and taking supplements. Yet pursuing any treatment can lead you to unexpected places.


Some treatments are ineffective, and some are dangerous. Unfortunately, there are treatments that are ineffective ​and​ dangerous. Thus, your best course of action is to work with a healthcare expert to find the treatment right for you. A physical therapist, trainer or doctor can easily direct you to effective and safe remedies.

Read more:Bad Side Effects of Muscle Building Supplements


Lift Weights for Muscle Mass

Weightlifting gives you the most reliable way to gain muscle mass.​ For example, a study in JAMDA showed that ​all participants​ had positive responses to resistance exercise. Scientists and doctors rarely find such a homogeneous response, and it appeared irrespective of gender and age.

This finding suggests that ​skinny women can quickly gain muscle mass by weightlifting​. A 2016 report in Disability and Rehabilitation tested this hypothesis in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa.


Participants did eight weeks of resistance exercise. Compared to baseline, the girls showed increases in muscle mass and muscle strength. The strength gains lasted for at least four weeks after the treatment. A 2017 paper in JAMDA found similar, hypertrophic effects of resistance training in frail women.

Read more:13 Benefits of Weightlifting That No One Tells You About


Do Circuits for Muscle Mass

Doing ​circuit workouts​ may also help skinny women gain muscle mass. In this type of training, you intensely exercise from a few seconds to about a minute. Then, you quickly move on to the next station. Stations typically feature a range of endurance, explosion and strength exercises. A 2015 report in Geriatrics and Gerontology International tested the effects of circuit training in middle-aged and older women.

The subjects exercised three times a week for 12 weeks. They did either circuit training or tai chi during that time. Compared to their baseline, the ​women in the circuit training group showed increases in overall metabolism and muscle mass​. They also showed decreases in blood pressure and fat mass. Women in the tai chi group showed only a decrease in blood pressure.

Read more:Sample Workouts for Circuit Training

Bench Step for Muscle Mass

Skinny women may be able to use readily available objects to help them gain muscle mass. Taking advantage of staircases and things like exercise steps you purchase for home use also helps you keep the cost of exercising down. A 2019 article in Experimental Gerontology explored the effects of ​step exercise​ in older women.

These researchers randomly assigned participants to one of two groups — bench stepping or no treatment. Compared to the no treatment group, the exercise group showed increases in thigh muscle volume and power. They also performed better on tests designed to assess their daily functioning.

Take Leucine for Muscle Mass

Lean women can also take ​supplements to gain muscle mass​. Leucine seems like a good candidate, because it increases muscle mass in older men. An experiment described in the Journal of Nutrition tested the impact of this essential amino acid in older women.


Participants took leucine supplements twice a day for six days. During this time, they also exercised a single leg, with the other leg serving as a control. Compared to baseline, leucine increased muscle mass in both legs. The exercised leg showed an even larger increase in muscle mass.

Read more:How to Use Leucine for Bodybuilding

Use Carnitine for Muscle Mass

A quaternary ammonium compound known as carnitine converts your body fat into the energy needed to fuel your muscles. Women have less carnitine than men, and aging decreases your circulating levels.

In general older adults have difficulty building muscle. Carnitine appears to be an important component of gaining muscle mass. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the effects of supplementation in women and men ​over the age of 100 years​.

The centenarians received daily doses of carnitine for six months. Compared to baseline, the supplement increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass. It also improved the elders' walking skills. The participants tolerated the treatment well, but one subject withdrew because of digestive distress.

Read more:Amount of L-Carnitine to Take for Optimum Fat Burning

Supplement Creatine for Muscle Mass

Creatine also generates fuel for your muscles. This nitrogenous organic acid recycles adenosine triphosphate — the main energy source for all cells, including those in muscle tissue. As with carnitine, the creatine content of your muscles decreases with age.

These facts have led to the increased use of creatine to fight age-related muscle loss. Thus, it should help skinny women gain muscle mass as well. A 2013 report in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested this hypothesis in older women doing resistance exercise.


Subjects took 5 grams of creatine each day for 12 weeks. A control group received a placebo. Compared to baseline, participants in the creatine group showed increased muscle mass and exercise efficiency. The placebo didn't affect either measure, and no side effects were reported.

Read more:Protein Vs. Creatine for Muscle Gain

Remain Fit to Retain Muscle

Trainers design most treatments to foster muscle gain, but preventing muscle loss is an equally effective strategy. In fact, remaining fit offers you the best way to keep your muscle tissue as you age. Master athletes, for example, appear less prone to anabolic resistance. Yet, master athletes only keep the muscles they regularly use.

Therefore, it's important to ​regularly do a whole-body workout​. Following that workout plan for skinny women will keep a healthy balance between the major muscle groups.

Read more:Bodybuilders Who Use Full-Body Workout Routines