Eyes on the Prize (Part 2): Secret Rituals of Muscle Building Women

While I was in nirvana last week, doing my weightlifting thing after a four-month layoff, all the subtle techniques (or rituals – I hate the word rules) I use to get results kept popping into my head. Guys ingrained in the lifting culture already know these rituals, but for us, these training subtleties can seem mysterious and unnatural. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them; we just need to validate the fact that women need muscle-building rituals too.

Secret Rituals of Muscle Building WomenThese rituals aren’t optional for building muscle and strength, and you need to employ all of them. Following a progressive, structured program is a no-brainer, mind you – you must do this. Plan it yourself or get help from a rock star online coach, like myself.

In Part 1 of this series we looked at why tracking your progress and knowing where you stand are sexy, necessary tools for building muscle (hey, I can try, can’t I?). Training is my favorite topic, so let’s cover that now.I’m not going to go over sets and reps or what exercises to do; I’ve covered the basics in other strength-training articles. But I will tell you what most women do not do, and therefore miss the boat on building epic muscle definition.

Building Muscle, Like, for Real

And now for the secret rituals of muscle building – are you ready? Let’s go! (And check out the end of this post where I share my own comeback workouts, along with my thought process for choosing them.)

Push Hard Enough to Look Unlike Your Normal Self

Your face will often contort into a grimace when you’re lifting heavy enough. You should be grunting at least some of the time. It should look hard because it IS hard. Lifting heavy ain’t a walk in the park and it’s not meant to be. Your muscle fibers need to have microscopic tears by the time you’re done and you might even have a pump as the blood rushes in. That’s a good thing, as a pump is one of the mechanisms that helps you build muscle.

All this means you will look unlike your normal self. Get over it.

Obviously, I don’t mean you should use crappy form and pull a muscle or put your back out. Owning it in the weight room means having pride in your technique and feeling confident that you have the best form of anyone around. (Pro tip: Women pushing hard in the gym is hot.)

Put a Ban On Momentum

With conventional lifting, momentum is not your friend. You should use whatever means you can to prevent your body from swaying when you lift. When your body sways, the muscles you’re targeting aren’t working as hard. And you have to work hard to build muscle, as I said earlier. (Power/Olympic moves are the exception.) More about avoiding momentum HERE.

Rest With Purpose

Some experts will say that how long you rest is not very important, as long as you’re working hard. But if you’re waiting too long between sets or not long enough, you will not see the same results you would if you rested appropriately and purposefully.

Resting long enough can be a game changer, as can resting less. Timing your rests is essential. How long you rest depends on how many reps you can do, and I wrote about that HERE.

Shun Randomness

You train randomly if you don’t have a plan in place that prevents overuse injuries and plateaus. You hit a wall and have no idea why or how to fix it. Making up your workouts on the fly will give you random results, and that is seriously unmotivating.

As I said in Part 1, tracking is really key to getting anywhere with muscle building. That includes tracking your workouts. Think that’s boring or embarrassing? Then you’ll remain with the crowd. If you’re ready for standout muscle and strength, you need to log your workouts.

Why? Because you’ll look back at your log every session to see how much you lifted last time. This is how you progress – by not using the same weight week after week, but by adding weight to the bar when you’re able. All about logging workouts HERE.

Claim Consistency

The weight room is yours. Is it located in your garage, basement, or bedroom? Then that little space where you lift is your weight room. Own it. Claim your time to lift as a ritual that is non-negotiable.

People who are consistent get all the results. If you’re a busy person (and who’s not?), you can certainly choose a training split that is less demanding. Keep in mind that if your goal is MO’ muscle, you need to hit each muscle group 2-3 times a week. Why don’t we all just train twice a week then? Because (1) it’s tough to do an adequate job on all muscles in just two full-body workouts, and (2) for some of us, training is nirvana.

Training splits aside, if you want to be a stronger, leaner, more muscular version of your already fabulous self, you need to LIFT and make EVERY sesh. Will there be exceptions? Well of course… Plus going on vacation is a great way to deload, if you rarely miss a workout. But week over week, you make most sessions. And that’s how you’re gonna reach your strength and muscle potential.

Revel in Recovery

Rest and recovery are your friends. You grow in between sessions, not during. If you constantly burn the candle at both ends with lots of lifting, running, exercise classes, and/or lack of sleep, you will not grow. But you will get run down and maybe injured.

You’ve got to pick your priorities. More about how to rest and recover HERE.

That’s a rundown of the secret rituals of muscle-building women, though there are more, of course. What about nutrition and muscle building, you ask? You do need to eat enough and face your fat phobia, and those are covered in Part 3 of this series.

Suz’s Workouts

I have traditionally tracked my workouts on various platforms and also in spiral notebooks. But if you’re interested in the workouts I did for the first two weeks of returning to training after my two surgeries, go HERE. I share my reasons and philosphy around why I chose the workouts I did.

I hope by now you can see that, in addition to your having hella resources here at workoutnirvana, you should integrate these secret rituals into your training. When you start seeing better results, let me know, k? I am so down with seeing you crush it.

This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.

8 thoughts on “Eyes on the Prize (Part 2): Secret Rituals of Muscle Building Women

  1. What a wonderful post Suzanne. As always you rock with your clear insights and right advice. Lifting heavy is something women don’t do which they should. They fear the big muscles.

    Well ladies, unless you do it on purpose women are not going to grow as big as men. So no worries on that front. Just lift heavy and be consistent. Increase the intensity every session. Good luck.


  2. Hi Suzanne,
    This is great information. I lift in my bedroom and I am proud of it. You have inspired me to continue my weight lifting and you’ve helped me understand more about muscle tears and rest. Very clear and straight to the point. Thanks so much, Suzanne!


    • It almost sounds like a t-shirt slogan, doesn’t it?
      Not surprised it took you years- same for me. And the tricky part is that recovery needs are different for every single person. So individual…


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