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Is it Harder for Women to Gain Muscle Size? 

Is it harder for women to gain muscle size? Let’s take a look at the research.

When comparing the physique of men and women, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the anatomy of men and women are completely different. 

But, is it harder for women to gain muscle size compared to men? 

To put it simply, yes! But don’t lose faith just yet! Women can definitely make some impressive muscle gains. Let’s find out more

Why is it harder for women to gain muscle size? 

We’ve all heard of it, it’s that famous hormone that men have in abundance that apparently makes them exactly that – men! 

This hormone is commonly associated with aggression, dominance and just all round manliness. 

Comparatively, while women do have some testosterone floating around, our levels are significantly lower, because oestrogen, which is used alongside other hormones (including testosterone) to regulate our cycle, is a testosterone inhibitor (2). That basically means, it all but stops testosterone in its tracks. 

What you might not know, is testosterone also plays a really big part in muscle growth. The hormone works with neurotransmitters to increase tissues growth and it increase levels of growth hormone (1). 

All of this adds up to bigger muscles. 

[Related Article: Body Recomposition for Women: Lose Fat and Gain Muscle]

So, can women gain muscle too?

Of course! Women can go to the gym, do a killer workout and add muscle to their body’s. There’s absolutely nothing in our DNA or physical make up to stop us doing this. 

But, if you’re comparing the results to testosterone fuelled men, you’ll notice that men can build bigger, stronger muscles more easily due to their hormone levels. 

What’s more, you might also notice that men seem to have a more toned look more often. This is because oestrogen levels in women do make it harder for women to lose fat. 

[Related Article: Muscle Gain for Women: 6 Game Changing Things to Try]

Should women train in a different way to men to gain muscle? 

There is nothing to suggest that women need to do a different type of workout or training programme to a man, based on hormone levels or anatomy. Instead, do whatever workout you can reasonably do, push yourself and you’ll see results in your own body. 

And, when it comes to results, women shouldn’t compare to men because, unfortunately, hormones just make it that bit harder for us to gain muscle size. However, it doesn’t mean for a second that women can’t create a strong, powerful physique if we put in the time, dedication and grit! 

So what’s the best way women can gain muscle?

Harder for women to gain muscle size compared to man

So, we’ve established that it’s harder for women to gain muscle size. But we’ve also established that comparing ourselves to men is definitely not the way forward either! Or anyone else for that matter! 

Instead, let’s take a look at how women can gain muscle through good exercise, the right kind of food and consistency. Because let’s remember, it’s totally possible for a woman to gain muscle! 

Women’s muscle gain – weight training

Resistance training, weight training, strength training – it all pretty much means the same thing: lifting heavy things! 

And, if you’re looking for the best way for a woman to gain muscle, this is the way to do it! Whatever your hormone levels! 

Every time you lift something heavy, you’re putting your muscles under a certain amount of stress. The higher the intensity (whether that comes through weight, repetitions or speed) the more stress your muscles will be under. 

When this happens, tiny tears begin to form within the muscle fibers – that’s the muscle pain you feel after a workout! 

When your body recovers from the workout, it starts to heal these muscle fibers stronger and bigger than before – this is your muscle gain.

By doing strength training 3-4 times a week, you’ll be working your muscles regularly enough to start consistently building stronger muscle. 

Top Tip: if you’re building muscle, remember to keep the intensity up as you get stronger! Once you’ve recovered and built strength, the workout you did in the first week won’t be challenging any more and muscle growth will stop! Keep it challenging and mix it up to continue with your growth. 

Women’s diet for muscle gain

We just talked about muscle coming back bigger and stronger. However, there’s one thing you simply have to get right if you want to maximize your muscle gain, and that’s your diet.  

[Related Article: 8 Best Foods for Recovery After a Workout]

It takes energy to recovery from a workout, and those bigger, stronger muscle fibers don’t come from thin air – you need the right food in your muscle gain diet so your body can recover as quickly and efficiently as possible, while maximizing your results. 

The main thing on your shopping list should be protein. It’s the building blocks of muscle growth, and without it you can expect slow and unsatisfying results from your workouts. 

Nowadays, you can add protein to your diet in a huge number of ways, no matter your food preferences. Check out this list: 

  • Protein shakes – Whey and vegan options are available!  What’s more, it’s a super cheap and convenient way to up your protein intake
  • Lean meat – Chicken, turkey, pork etc
  • Dairy products – cheese, quark etc. Plus, there are absolutely loads of high protein yogurts available these days! 
  • Legumes – Chickpeas, peanuts etc.

[Related Article: 17 Ways to Get Lean on a Vegan Muscle Building Diet]

Add a couple of these foods into your regular daily routine alongside your workouts and you’ll find you’re recovering way more quickly, and you’re seeing better muscle gain too! 

If you want to work out how many calories you should be consuming, and how much protein, fats and carbohydrates you should be eating, check out these articles:

How important is consistency for Women’s muscle gain?

If you really want to see results, then it’s absolutely essential that you work out regularly and keep your diet on point. However, you won’t see any drastic decline if you take a week out every once in a while!

We like to work to the 80:20 rule. Get it right 80% of the time and you can definitely allow yourself a break for the other 20%. 

[Related Article: Cira Nutrition Bright Whey Protein Review – Discover one of our faves!]

On top of being consistent, we also say listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a day off for a break. If you feel like your workouts aren’t challenging you any more, then look at changing your routine, up your weights or increase those reps. 

Plateaus happen all the time, so it’s important to remember that, by simply mixing up your approach or upping your weights, you can continue to see muscle gain in the future. 

Is it harder for women to gain muscle size? 

As we’ve discussed, when it comes to building muscle size, men have the hormonal make up to build muscle size bigger and faster. 

However, we’re definitely not throwing in the towel! Women can still make awesome muscle gains, and build strong physiques. 

With the right workout routine, diet and attitude, muscle gain is 10000% on the cards for any woman! And, we’re not about to sit around comparing our progress to anyone, never mind a man who’s physical anatomy make it easier for him to gain muscle. 

It’s a no brainer, only ever compare your progress to yourself. Keep pushing forward, challenging your self and doing the right thing, and you’ll see the results you want in no time! 


gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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