So ladies… you’ve been smashing your training, mastered your meal plan and you’ve dropped off that initial weight you’ve been trying to shift!
But what now?
A lot of women (and men) will hit a plateau in their training where there body stops progressing at the rate they’d like. Too often us females can focus too much on losing weight, getting that bikini bod and ‘toning up’ but are guilty of neglecting the necessary muscle growth i order to achieve that ideal body shape.
Our obsession with losing weight can often impair our work in the gym which leaves us looking a little flat and feeling unmotivated! To over come this problem you’ll hear a lot of people in the fitness world talk about a ‘bulk’ – a term which can often make us females want to run in the opposite direction!
But don’t panic! While the word ‘Bulking’ may conjure up images of Arnie in a sports bra, we’re actually only talking about allowing our bodies the necessary calories and nutrients in order to grow and build the lean muscle mass to your frame.
Many desirable aspects of the female body require this addition of muscle such as that peachy bum you keep checking out on your favourite Instagram fitness model or achieving visible abs and a sculpted upper body!
It may all seem a bit daunting at first but there’s lots of ways to continue your progress and keep those muscles growing without simply just gaining weight.
Food is your friend…
Unless you have a lot of fat to lose, being in a constant calorie deficit may not be the best way to go for you. You can’t build muscle while depriving your body of the essential nutrients and energy that it needs to grow. You may find yourself training hard but not eating enough which will result in you diminishing your muscles instead of fuelling them, which will only stunt your progress. To overcome this we need to up those calories! Only when you’re in a calorie surplus can your muscles truly grow in strength and size.
Upping the protein, upping the carbs…
Just because you’re increasing your calories it doesn’t mean you should go around eating everything and anything! The two macronutrients that are most important for gaining lean muscle mass are protein and carbohydrates. Proteins contain amino acids, which are essentially what your body will build muscle tissue out of. Your body is also going to need energy in order to take these amino acids and form muscle, and for this it will to turn carbohydrates (along with a small amount of fats). By increasing these food groups you’ll make sure that all that gym work doesn’t go to waste!
Take it easy on the cardio…
If you’re serious about getting that booty then you might want to think twice about jumping on the cross trainer or going to that HIIT class. While trying to gain lean muscle you want to avoid burning off too many calories to allow the extra food you’ve been eating to be used efficiently. Instead of killing yourself to get in hours of cardio every week, instead try going on short brisk walks each day. This will help to avoid that sluggish feeling that comes with an increase in food but prevents excessive calorie loss.
Switch up your reps…
It’s far too easy to get caught up in a routine of sets of 10 or 15 at a weight which feels comfortable to you. To increase your strength and really work your muscles try switching to sets of 6-8 and upping that weight, this will really break down the fibres in your muscles and you’ll feel a different kind of burn the next day!
Recovery is key…
It’s all too easy to become consumed with training hard all day every day. But when trying to add lean mass it’s essential to allow your body time to properly recover. The best way to do this is to use a split; training only one or two areas of the body each day. This gives each muscle group several days of rest to allow for full recovery.
Full rest days are also seriously important. When your body starts to feel drained it’s important to take time to let yourself recover both physically and mentally. This will not only help you get the most out of every training session but also decrease your risk of injury.
(Coach at The PT Studio)