How to Gain Lean Muscle

Not all women are looking to lose weight—some actually want to add a few pounds. But not just any pounds, they typically want to gain muscle. There are several factors that can help you put on muscle in the healthiest and most efficient way.

When you're in the gym working out, you are breaking down your muscles; out of the gym they recover and grow via diet, sleep, and hydration. Here's your two-part plan to maximize muscle growth.

Inside the Gym
1. Do strength exercises that are compound muscle movements.  In other words, do moves that utilize multiple muscles and multiple joints at the same time. These recruit and break down more muscle fibers so that in recovery phase, more are building and growing than if you were to do just isolated muscle moves. Include exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, cleans, burpees, walking lunges, and plyometric moves like jump squats and box jumps, that can be performed with our without weights, as appropriate.

2. Lift heavier weights. Train like a man, look like a lady. Do not be afraid of bigger weights! If you lift like the boys, your body produces testosterone in order to adapt to the big stress that you place on it, and this helps build muscle not bulk!

3. Increase your rep speed. Another way to place more stress on your body is to complete your reps faster. You should still be able to maintain your form.

4. Stick to low-impact, light cardio. And not very much of it. Cardio gets your blood flowing so that your muscles are receiving more oxygen, which promotes muscle growth. But don't do much of it: You should always be lifting more often than doing cardio if you want to increase your muscle mass. Also don't do heavy cardio before your strength training session if you do choose to do them on the same day. This will fatigue your muscles, and you'll sacrifice form and increase risk of injury.

Outside the Gym
1. Time your carbs. Eat more carbohydrates at breakfast and  in that half-hour window after your workout to maximize muscle recovery. Your body has that short window post-workout to restore, so get a liquid carbohydrate and protein drink into your body to help replenish your glycogen stores as fast as possible. This has proven to restore muscle recovery, increase lean muscle gains, and increase growth hormone levels. During your cardio session, sip on a carb-rich or calorie-rich drink to make sure you keep your calorie intake up. The rest of the day eat good-for-you foods with lots of color and protein. 

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily so your muscles stay full and saturated.

3. Sleep. This is where the magic really happens. After a workout, your muscles use the nutrients and water you've ingested during the day, and will work during your sleep to build and grow your muscles. So don't skimp!

Happy Muscle Building!