Female bodybuilding requires dedication, hard work and patience. According to the American Council on Exercise, women don't naturally produce nearly as much testosterone as men, which makes it harder, though not impossible, to build muscle. Lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels also make losing body fat for competitions tougher for women; therefore, to succeed in female bodybuilding, you need a well-planned, intensive workout and diet program.
According to Chad Waterbury, author of "Muscle Revolution," the fastest way for most lifters to gain muscle is by following a full body workout, which involves training your entire body in every session. Waterbury notes that the full body training promotes a far higher muscle-building hormone response than body part split training, and allows you to hit each muscle group more frequently but still give it time to recover between sessions. Perform three full body workouts per week, with at least one day of rest between each.
The main muscle groups in your upper body are your chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps. Strength coach Christian Thibaudeau writes in his book "High-Threshold Muscle Building" that compound exercises that work multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time are the most effective muscle-building movements. Perform one compound exercise for your chest, one for shoulders and one for back, such as bench presses, overhead dumbbell presses and barbell rows. Do each for two to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. According to Thibaudeau, smaller muscle groups like biceps and triceps respond better to single-joint isolations, so finish your upper body training with biceps curls and triceps pushdowns for one set of 15 reps each.
Your lower body training should also revolve around compounds. Start with a quadriceps-dominant compound exercise like squats or leg presses for three sets of 8 to 10 reps, then move on to a hamstrings exercise. A deadlift variation, such as stiff-legged or regular deadlifts for three sets of six to eight is ideal. New York-based trainer and author of "Final Phase Fat Loss" John Romaniello advises adding in reverse lunges, too, as these are an effective way to target the glutes and hamstrings. Do four sets of 8 to 12 per side, then finish with two sets of 15 to 20 reps on machine calf raises.
Building muscle is only one part of female bodybuilding. To show off your hard work in the gym to full effect, you need to have a low level of body fat, which is obtained through diet and cardiovascular training. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of one hour and 15 minutes of intense cardio per week, but if you're struggling to lose fat, you may need to increase this slightly, along with lowering your calorie intake. Nutritionist and bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton advises splitting your cardio between steady-state work, such as jogging, swimming or cycling, and high-intensity interval training, where you intersperse short bursts of maximum intensity cardio with longer low-intensity intervals.