How to Start Bodybuilding for Women

How to Start Bodybuilding for Women: A Beginner’s Guide

17 min read

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27 May 2024

Hack Beast Mode

  1. How to start bodybuilding: Your preparation checklist
  2. Women’s bodybuilding: How To Get Started
  3. Three beginner’s bodybuilding training programs
  4. Crazy Bulk: Your supplement matchmaker

Are you a fierce female ready to learn how to start bodybuilding? If so, then welcome.

Here in this beginner's guide to bodybuilding for women, you’ll discover everything you need to know about female bodybuilding, from your workout routine to body composition, diet—and more.

But let’s make this clear: It’s not a world for most people. But you’re not most people…are you? 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

How to start bodybuilding: Your preparation checklist

Let’s talk about what you need to get going on your female bodybuilding journey. 

Here’s your quick checklist to manage your building building expectations. It’s what you’ll need to kickstart your bodybuilding program.

Access to weights

It sounds obvious, but you’re going to need access to a gym or home workout equipment that includes weights, such as dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands. 

You can totally get started with bodyweight exercises and bodybuilding exercises at home with resistance bands and free weights. But if you’re planning on taking it further you’ve gotta hit it like the big dogs in the gym.

Cupboards filled with nutritious foods

Just because you’re going to be working out more doesn’t mean you can eat more junk. Bodybuilding is a precise discipline, and it involves well-timed and well-prepared foods that fuel your gains and fast-track your recovery.

Stock your kitchen with a variety of nutritious foods that support your bodybuilding goals. Include lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

We’ll get into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ later.

Planning

Female bodybuilding planning

Getting into female bodybuilding doesn’t just take the desire to do so. It takes organization and efficiency. But don’t be put off—the best bodybuilders are very orderly—and that’s the perfect place to start. 

Take advantage of planning and scheduling tools, like a workout log, a meal planner, or a fitness app, to help you structure your training sessions, track your progress and stay organized with your nutrition plan. That’s what the best female bodybuilding athletes do.

Support system and networking

Are you going to do this with a friend? Has your personal trainer suggested you do it? However you made this decision, think about who should be by your side during your muscle-maxing journey.

Join online bodybuilding communities, connect with fellow enthusiasts through social media, or consider finding a workout buddy who can motivate and hold you accountable. 

Clothes and shoes

As you know you’re gonna sweat and grimace in your clothing, so you’ve gotta make sure it can take the strain. Get yourself comfy, breathable clothing that allows for proper movement and flexibility. 

Yes, those hotpants and crop tops might look cute, but what happens when you get the chills?

Also, ensure your sneakers are comfy, padded, and allow for plenty of movement during workouts. You want breathability and support, too.

Support bands and accessories

Safety first.

Consider buying some support bands, lifting straps, or other accessories for your workouts. These can help you master proper form, prevent injuries, and improve your performance during certain exercises.

Music and playlists

It isn’t just nutrition that fuels you. No, getting your ears listening to energizing playlists can push through that extra rep and get you centered in your focus.

Women’s bodybuilding: How To Get Started

OK! Let’s talk about how to start bodybuilding the right way. No frills, no hacks. It’s all hard work and of course—reward.

Set clear goals

Define your short-term and long-term goals, whether it's gaining muscle mass, losing fat, or competing in a bodybuilding competition.

Female bodybuilder lifting weights

Let’s take a look at the goals in more detail.

1. Gaining muscle mass

  • Short-term goal: Increase muscle size and strength in specific muscle groups. For example, a short-term goal could be to add two inches to the circumference of your biceps within three months.
  • Long-term goal: Achieve overall muscular development and a higher level of hypertrophy. For instance, you might aim to gain 15 pounds of lean muscle mass over the course of a year.

2. Losing fat 

  • Short-term goal: Reduce body fat percentage by a certain amount. An example is to decrease body fat by 5% within three months.
  • Long-term goal: Achieve a lean and defined physique with a lower overall body fat percentage. For instance, aiming to reach a body fat percentage of 10% or less over the course of a year.

3. Competing in a bodybuilding competition

Short-term goal: Prepare for a specific bodybuilding competition by improving physique, refining posing techniques, and adhering to a structured training and nutrition plan. An example of a short-term goal could be to perfect the posing routine for the competition within three months.

Long-term goal: Successfully compete in bodybuilding competitions at various levels and achieve a desired placement. For example, aiming to win a regional-level competition within three years.

Stay consistent

Consistency is key in female bodybuilding (and all bodybuilding). Establish a routine that includes regular workouts and proper nutrition. Don’t deviate—and the results will follow.

Why is consistency so important? Because it allows for a sustained progression towards your fitness goal. 

When you continuously train hard, your muscles also have enough time to adapt to the exercises, making it easier to increase intensity or duration over time. 

But if you miss a workout, you may lose some motivation and experience muscle atrophy (the loss of muscle mass). 

Stay motivated

There are going to be days when you don’t want to crush every rep or when you want to stay in bed. Resting is a good idea if you’re sick. But if you’re not, it’s just a psychological game.

Find inspiration from famous female bodybuilders, fellow bodybuilders, fitness influencers, or your own progress. Visualize your goals. Stay focused.

The difference between the best and the rest is finding that motivation day in, day out.

Training principles to follow

Woman using gym cable machine

Effective training principles are like the Bible for bodybuilding. They ensure growth, progress and the ability to maintain mass and composition.

Here are some step-by-step tips to get started:

Progressive overload

You’ve probably heard of this if you’re already into strength training and weight training.

Progressive overload is a principle in weight training that involves gradually increasing the intensity (weight or resistance), volume (repetitions or sets), or frequency (number of training sessions) of your workouts over time to continue stimulating muscle growth and strength gains.

Let's look at an example:

  • Start with a weight that you can comfortably lift for eight to 12 repetitions with proper form. This weight should challenge your muscles but not be too heavy that you compromise your technique.
  • Aim to perform two to three sets of each exercise. Begin with eight to 10 repetitions for each set.
  • Once you can complete all sets and repetitions with good form, gradually increase the weight. 
  • As you increase the weight, you may find that you can no longer complete the same number of repetitions in a set. That's okay! It’s all about good form. Even if you only do six to eight repetitions with heavier weights, that's a sign of progress.
  • Continue increasing the weight as your strength improves. The goal should be to reach a point where you can perform 12 repetitions with proper form, and then increase the weight again.

Compound movements

Focus on basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses to target multiple muscle groups and maximize gains. Include them in your workout plan.

These are some examples:

  • Squats: These exercises target the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. They also engage the muscles in the lower back, calves, and even the upper body for stabilization. 
  • Deadlifts: These primarily target the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. They also engage the quadriceps, core, upper back, and grip strength. 
  • Bench Press: Bench presses target the chest (pectoral muscles), shoulders (deltoids), and triceps. It also engages the muscles of the upper back and core for stability. 

Rest and recovery

This is so important. Don’t forget how much you can crush after resting. Or how good you feel after quality sleep. Rest days are as important as weight days.

If you don’t allow your muscles time to rest and recover between workouts to prevent injury and help muscle repair. If you don’t want injuries, you need to rest. 

Also, make sure to stretch before and after training.

Nutrition guidelines for bodybuilding

Nutrition plays a significant role in bodybuilding success. But it isn’t just what you eat but when.

Let’s take a look at what you should eat to get that muscular physique and more.

Timing

  • Eat a balanced meal for carbohydrate intake and protein intake one to two hours before your workout to fuel your muscles.
  • Consume protein and carbohydrates again within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout to support muscle repair and recovery.

Food portions

Don’t shy away from portions. Learn how to build muscle from good nutrition.

  • Aim to consume about 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to support muscle growth.
  • Include a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables in your meals to meet your daily needs. Crush those calories!

Types of foods to eat

Foods for bodybuilding

A balanced diet and proper food intake are essential for providing a diverse range of micronutrients necessary for optimal health and performance

You need to think about your meal plan for all days a week, every week.

  • Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and plant-based sources such as tofu and legumes.
  • Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oats for sustained energy.
  • Healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil support hormone production and your general health.

Foods to avoid

  • Processed foods high in added sugars, saturated fats, and preservatives that offer minimal nutritional value. Cut them out.
  • Limit consumption of sugary drinks, desserts, and fried foods that can hinder your progress and impact your health. 

Meal planning

This falls under organization. Plan your meals in advance to ensure you're meeting your calorie and nutrient goals throughout the day.

Set your calorie and macronutrient goals

Determine the number of calories you need to support your training and bodybuilding goals. 

It should be 10% to 20% more than required to maintain your current weight. 

Example 1: If you want to increase your calories by 10%, you would multiply your maintenance calories by 1.1.

2,500 calories per day x 1.1 = 2,750 calories per day to bulk.

Example 2: If you want to increase your calories by 20%, you would multiply your maintenance calories by 1.2.

2,500 calories per day x 1.2 = 3,000 calories per day to bulk.

Prep meals in advance

Meal prep

Once you have your meal plan, spend time prepping meals and snacks in advance. 

Here’s what to do.

Prepare lean protein sources
  • You can marinate, bake, grill, or steam these proteins ahead of time. Portion them into individual containers for easy access throughout the week.
Include plant-based protein sources
  • If you follow a plant-based diet, prepare plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, quinoa, or tempeh in advance. 
  • Cook these items and portion them out for quick and convenient use in meals.
Roast or steam vegetables

Prepare a variety of vegetables by roasting or steaming them. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and store them in airtight containers. 

This way, you can easily weave them into your meals throughout the week.

Cook and portion whole grains
  • Rustle up whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta in larger batches. 
  • Portion them out into containers or ziplock bags for quick and easy access to carbohydrates during your meals. If you're making sandwiches, also use whole-grain bread.
Make grab-and-go snacks
  • Prepare other grab-and-go snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt cups, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, or homemade protein balls. 
  • These snacks can help you stay fueled and satisfied throughout the day.
Pre-made smoothie packs
  • For smoothies, pre-portion the ingredients into individual bags or containers.
  • Include frozen fruits, leafy greens, a protein shake you enjoy, or any other desired add-ins. When ready to use, simply blend the contents with your preferred liquid.
Track your meals
  • Use a food diary or a smartphone app to track your meals and monitor your progress towards your goals. 
  • This will help you ensure that you're consuming the right amounts of calories and meeting your macronutrient targets consistently. 
  • Adjust your meal plan as needed based on your progress and feedback from your body.
Hydration
  • Stay hydrated to support muscle function, digestion, get better sleep and nail your overall health.
  • Aim to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. The general recommendation is to consume at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water daily. 

4. Supplementation recommendations

Woman using supplement in gym

Female bodybuilders complement their diet and training regimen with supplements if they can’t rely on hitting all their macros. And when you are observing a calorie surplus, this may happen.

Think about adding these supplements in your bodybuilding mix.

Protein supplements

Whey protein powders can help meet your protein needs for muscle recovery and muscle gains. It’s a fast-digesting, complete protein source, rich in essential amino acids that are vital for muscle protein synthesis. 

It’s also a good go-to to reach your required protein intake. 

Creatine is an ideal supplement for female bodybuilders because it increases the availability of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which can help improve strength and power output during resistance training. The result? More reps and heavier lifts. 

It also assists the body with muscular endurance, allowing for increased training volume. And not only that. It helps muscle hydration too, which adds to a more anabolic environment for muscle growth and recovery.

Understanding competitive bodybuilding division categories

Before jumping into female bodybuilding, you need to understand the nuances of the competitions. 

Here are some key tips.

Research divisions

Know the differences between bodybuilding divisions and categories like bodybuilding, classic physique and bikini to choose the one that aligns with your physique and goals.

Attend competitions

Attend local bodybuilding shows to observe different categories and understand the judging criteria.

Consult a coach

Work with a coach or experienced bodybuilder to get guidance on choosing the right competition category and preparing for your first show. 

Three beginner’s bodybuilding training programs

Muscular woman

We’ve put together three four-week start programs that are tailored to your specific needs and goals so you can get in the gym and crush it.

#1 Training Program for gaining muscle mass

Duration: Four weeks

Frequency: Five to six days per week with a primary focus on muscle hypertrophy (increasing muscle size).

Key Focus Areas:

  • Muscle hypertrophy
  • Strength building
  • Recovery and nutrition

Bodybuilding program #1

Day 1: Chest and triceps

Barbell bench press: Four sets of six to eight reps

Incline dumbbell press: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Chest dips: Three sets to failure

Dumbbell flyes: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Tricep dips: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Tricep rope pushdowns: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps


Day 2: Back and biceps

Pull-ups or lat pulldowns: Four sets of six to eight reps

T-Bar rows: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Seated cable rows: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Barbell bicep curls: Four sets of six to eight reps

Hammer curls: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Concentration curls: Three sets of eight to 10 reps


Day 3: Legs

Barbell squats: Four sets of six to eight reps

Deadlifts: Three sets of six to eight reps

Leg press: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Leg curls: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Standing calf raises: Four sets of six to eight reps


Day 4: Shoulders and abs

Standing military press: Four sets of six to eight reps

Dumbbell lateral raises: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Front plate raises: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Cable crunches: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Hanging leg raises: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Russian twists: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps per side


Day 5: Arms and calves

Barbell curls: Four sets of six to eight reps

Close-grip bench press: Three sets of either to 10 reps

Preacher curls: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Skull crushers: Three sets of eight to 10 reps

Seated calf raises: Four sets of 10 to 12 reps


Day 6: Optional cardio or active rest

Cardio option: 30-40 minutes of light steady-state cardio or HIIT session.

Active rest: Engage in light physical activity such as walking, yoga, or stretching.

#2 Training program for fat loss

Woman doing push ups

Duration: Four weeks

Frequency: Five to six days per week with an emphasis on burning calories and body fat.

Key focus areas:

  • Fat loss
  • Cardiovascular fitness

Bodybuilding program #2

Day 1: Full body circuit

Squat jumps: Three sets of 15 reps

Push-ups: Three sets of 15 reps

Mountain climbers: Three sets of 30 seconds

Plank: Three sets of 60 seconds

Jumping jacks: Three sets of one minute


Day 2: High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

HIIT Cardio: Five sets of 30 seconds sprinting followed by one minute of walking/jogging (repeat for 20 minutes).


Day 3: Lower body and core

Walking lunges: Three sets of 20 reps per leg

Leg press: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Russian twists: Three sets of 20 reps per side

Leg raises: Three sets of 15 reps

Bicycle crunches: Three sets of 20 reps per side


Day 4: Cardio and abs

Steady-state cardio: 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling, running, or elliptical training

Plank variations: Three sets of 45 seconds each (high plank, side plank, etc.)


Day 5: Upper body and cardio

Dumbbell shoulder press: Three sets of 12 reps

Renegade rows: Three sets of 12 reps per side

Bent-over reverse flyes: Three sets of 15 reps

Cardio circuit: jump rope for Three sets of one minute each

Day 6: Cardio and flexibility

Hiking, swimming, or cycling: 40 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio

Yoga or stretching: 20 to 30 minutes of stretching and flexibility exercises

Day 7: Rest and recovery

Active Rest: Engage in light activities such as walking, stretching, or yoga to recover well and improve your mobility. 

#3 Training Program for competing in a bodybuilding competition

Woman in bodybuilding competition

Duration: Four weeks

Frequency: Five to six days per week with a focus on hypertrophy and muscle definition.

Key focus areas:

  • Muscle hypertrophy
  • Muscle definition
  • Symmetry and proportion

Bodybuilding programme #3

Day 1: Legs and abs

Barbell squats: Four sets of eight to 10 reps

Romanian deadlifts: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Leg press: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Walking lunges: Three sets of 12 to 15 steps per leg

Leg extension: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Standing calf raises: Four sets of 10 to 12 reps

Abdominal circuit (Choose three exercises):

Plank: Three sets for 30 to 60 seconds

Russian twists: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps per side

Hanging leg raises: Three sets of 10-12 reps

Cable crunches: Three sets of 12-15 reps


Day 2: Chest and triceps

Barbell bench press: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Incline dumbbell press: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Chest dips: Three sets to failure

Cable flyes: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Tricep dumbbell kickbacks: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Tricep rope pushdowns: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps


Day 3: Back and biceps

Pull-ups or lat pulldowns: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Barbell rows: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Seated cable rows: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Dumbbell bicep curls: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Hammer curls: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Chin-ups or assisted pull-ups: Three sets to failure


Day 4: Shoulders and abs

Seated dumbbell shoulder press: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Lateral raises: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Front raises: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Upright rows: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps

Hanging leg raises: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Day 5: Arms and calves

Close-grip bench press: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Skull crushers: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Preacher curls: Four sets of 8 to 10 reps

Concentration curls: Three sets of 10 to 12 reps

Standing calf raises: Four sets of 10 to 12 reps

Day 6: Optional cardio or active rest

Cardio: 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-intensity steady-state cardio or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session.

Active rest: Engage in light physical activity such as walking, yoga, or stretching to promote recovery and mobility.

CrazyBulk: Your supplement matchmaker

CrazyBulk stack

Feeling psyched about your exercise program and bodybuilding exercises? Ready to get in the gym? 

It’s time to build muscle, start your eating plan and get that body composition you’ve dreamed of. But how do you start that journey right now?

Visit our blog to find out expert advice on bodybuilding poses, competitive bodybuilding and more today. We’re your go-to when it comes to tips and tricks on how to crush, shred and Hulk-up.

Use our Product Finder to find specific products that match your goals. Enter your age, goal, gender and workout type to find products and stacks to kickstart your bodybuilding into orbit. You’ve got this!

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