In the late ’90s, I watched a television show featuring a big — and scary — woman with huge, rippling muscles. At the time, I didn’t know what bodybuilding was and feared getting as big as her. Several years later I learned she was Nicole Bass, one of the top female bodybuilders of the 1990s.
Now in my 20s, I’m heading down the same path: to become a professional female bodybuilder. I’m not getting big, though. I’m leaning out, looking firm and getting stronger. During the height of Bass’ career, she didn’t lean out like me — she just got bigger and bigger.
So why did bodybuilders such as Bass get bigger instead of leaner? After consulting a local bodybuilder, he told me how female bodybuilders really get big.
The Secrets of How Female Bodybuilders Really Get Huge
Not all female bodybuilders get big, especially if you’re natural. Here’s how female bodybuilding’s elite got bigger:
Let’s not mince words: Women can’t get as big as huge bodybuilders without using anabolic steroids. Steroids take women above and beyond their body’s potential, adding serious muscle to their feminine physiques.
Steroids also carry numerous side effects. According to DrugFree.org, steroids can change a woman’s voice tone, increase facial hair growth and cause infertility. Then there’s the side-effect no woman wants: the enlargement’s of a woman’s most private area.
While I can’t say that Bass took steroids, it isn’t uncommon for female bodybuilders to use steroids. According to WebMD.com, one-third of women athletes recruited by bodybuilding and gym contests used anabolic steroids to improve their physiques.
Bodybuilding plans are rubbish without the right diet — and female bodybuilders don’t skimp on their nutritional intake. To get big and add muscle, bodybuilders need to eat more calories. Although novices can make minor muscle gains on a diet, you can’t promote substantial muscle growth while leaning out.
Female bodybuilders generally eat in a caloric surplus during their off-season and diet down while preparing for a bodybuilding contest.
Calories are only one part of the equation — the right training program counts too. Female bodybuilders have been lifting heavy weights for years, if not decades, and don’t use the same lifting programs as the average female. They generally focus on working one muscle group per week, using compound lifts and isolated movements.
They also use special lifting techniques, such as supersets and drop sets, to promote muscle growth. Some female bodybuilders also get bigger by using an upper-lower body split.
Plenty of time — and patience
Women who think they’ll get big after lifting weights for a few months are fooling themselves. Even bodybuilders on steroids spend years lifting heavy and eating right. Women also don’t have as much testosterone as men, making it harder to build muscle. To get big, consistency is key. Most women can’t truly get big without steroids, however.