This guide to bulking for women has been inspired by the frequent requests Lipstick Lifters receives for information on how to bulk.
As strong advocates of the bulking and cutting method; we are keen to ensure that women fully understand how, when and why they should utilise this method.
This is a lengthy guide, so if you don’t have time now, be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back later.
Before you go any further…
First you need to understand the concept of bulking & cutting. Because the two go hand in hand. If you haven’t already read Bulking & Cutting For Women, it’s worth doing so before you delve into this guide.
With that said, if you already have a good understanding of the bulking and cutting process, you can skip the above guide and continue reading this guide to bulking for women.
Bulking for women: What does it mean?
When we consider bulking for women, we know that it is a deliberate attempt to gain weight – namely lean muscle, with the intention of altering our physique.
Many women fear this process, because the idea of gaining weight can seem counterproductive.
However when you use this method, you understand that it is a necessary process in order to alter your physique. Because the bottom line is; you can do all the ‘cutting’ you like, but you will not reveal lean muscle you haven’t built.
Bulking for women: When to bulk
Bulking is what happens before the ‘cut’. So if you’ve ever found yourself wondering if you should ‘lose weight and then tone’, you are urged to reconsider.
The fact is; bulking comes first, and if you’re not bulking – you have no business cutting. Especially when it comes to bulking for women – because the reality is; we build muscle at a much slower rate than men.
Of course you can ‘lose weight’, but the entire concept of bulking and cutting is an advanced and strategic approach to building a physique.
However, it is worth noting; if you have 30+lbs to lose, you should consider a simpler approach to weight loss first.
You can start bulking whenever you like. If you intend to compete you will need to be specific about which muscle groups you need to work on, and give yourself enough time to build the one which will take the longest.
We all build muscle at different rates, so it would be impossible for somebody to put a time frame on your bulk. For an absolute female beginner we would recommend 6-12 months; closer to 6 if you have some visible lean muscle already, and closer to 12 if you have none.
With experience you will be able to predict how your body will respond and you can plan your bulks around that.
How to bulk
Bulking is a combination of a calorie surplus and heavy weightlifting. And just like cutting; when you bulk, your diet is the most important factor.
Potentially the most common misunderstanding about bulking is the idea that it is a ‘free for all’ when it comes to food. While this may work for some people, it is not something we want to encourage.
Women bulking: Diet
Just like your cutting diet, your bulking diet should be made up of a combination of proteins, fats, carbs and fiber.
As a guide to get you started; you can use your ‘weight gain’ calories as provided by our macro calculator. Remember that these will be progressive, so keep a close track of your daily intakes, your weight and your progress. You can make tweaks if necessary.
We have covered the concept of ‘clean’ vs ‘dirty’ bulking in this guide to bulking and cutting for women.
The short version is; you don’t have to be perfect, but avoid ‘dirty’ bulking as this may help you gain weight, but it won’t be the type of weight you want. We believe this is even more crucial for women bulking. Since we naturally burn fat at a slower rate than men.
If you’re struggling to eat your daily calories; consider drinking them. Protein powders blended with fruits, yogurt and peanut butter are a great way to get those extra calories in.
Don’t try to cheat the system by consuming fewer calories in your bulk with the hope of losing weight. This will hinder your progress in a couple of ways:
First of all; the excess calories will help you lift more and therefore gain muscle faster. If you consume fewer calories, you will hinder your strength potential.
And secondly, if you’re not eating enough to feed your muscles post workout, they won’t be growing to their full potential.
Also, accept that some fat will be gained in your bulk, but if you keep your diet as healthy as possible, this will be minimal. Of course, you will lose this excess fat when you cut.
Plan what you are going to eat
You don’t have to use the macro approach to your diets, it’s just the easiest way for a newbie to teach themselves. Longer term you will start to fix the meals you need by default. So don’t worry, you won’t be weighing and tracking every bite forever.
Once you’ve worked out your weight gain calories broken down by proteins, fats and carbs, start to build some meal ideas around that – and don’t forget to include your veggies!
The lifting side of bulking for women
There are a number of ways you can do this. Ultimately it boils down to the weight you lift and how you lift it.
First and foremost; you should consider that generally you need to be working with a weight that physically challenges you.
As a guide; you should start to struggle around the 8th rep of a 10 rep set. And when you’re going for rapid mass; 3 heavily loaded reps is a valid set.
For beginners; it is best to start with either a full body or an upper/lower body split. From there you can progress to muscle group rotation; whereby you break down muscle groups across workouts.
More advanced methods include; half/partial reps, trisets and dropsets. To further progress you can consider the 5x5 method, German volume training, and even the FST-7 training program.
We cover some of the above methods in more detail in this article on bodybuilding exercises.
In short; as long as you’re getting stronger, you can be confident that you will be getting bigger – provided you are hitting your daily caloric needs to bulk.
The good news is; our pre-written workout plans cover a variety of training categories and allow you the opportunity to choose and work with a number of methods to find which ones suit you best.
Related categories include:
Single Muscle Group Categories...
Women bulking too much – aka; ‘getting bulky’
This is a common fear when we consider women bulking. But you need not be afraid. Take it from a woman who has actively been trying to get ‘too bulky’ for years – it’s not that easy.
Honestly, if you are, stop stressing about this right now. Nothing is going to change overnight.
Building muscle takes time, more time than most lifters care for, but that’s just how it goes. So you are 100% in control of how ‘big’ you get.
Pay attention to how your body is responding
Tracking is crucial to your overall success. When you monitor your diet, your workouts and your progress, you build yourself a backlog of invaluable data to make more informed decisions on moving forward.
Bulking and cutting is a cycle that you should repeat. Going into the cycle with a record of the results from the previous, will put you in a stronger position than before.
So in conclusion; track everything.
Bulking for women: Take ownership
By far, the most valuable thing you can do is teach yourself independence.
The fact is; even the most experienced PT/coach/nutritionist won’t know how your body will respond until you start doing the thing.
The bonus to being guided by a pro is that they will be more informed when it comes to making the inevitable tweaks to your diet and workouts. If you can afford it, you should definitely consider a dedicated coach.
That doesn't mean you can't be successful alone, it may take a little longer, but in the end it will be worth it. You should treat this as a journey, we are always a work in progress, so unless you intend to go pro, don’t worry about how much time it takes, worry about being on the right track.
As long as you are seeing positive changes, you are headed in the right direction.
The Ultimate Guide To Bulking For Women Conclusion
In short; you’re not going to achieve anything with a short term mentality.
Take the time to understand and plan this process out for yourself. Give yourself at least 12 weeks of uninterrupted ‘bulking’ and track your results so that you can make more informed decisions moving forward.
Also keep in mind that women generally build muscle at a slower rate than men, so if you’re starting with little lean muscle, accept that you will need to bulk for several months before you start to see significant changes.
As mentioned at the very start of this article; bulking is part of the bulking and cutting cycle. So be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide To Cutting For Women so you know what to do next.