8 Week Hypertrophy Program for Women

8 Week Hypertrophy Program for Women

I recently got a DM on my Facebook page asking if I knew of any good hypertrophy programs for women. I was about to write back, “any program will do, if you put in the work,” but the next few sentences of the message gave me pause.

She did not like the fact that many muscle building programs for women these days are so “booty-centric” that they neglect chest and arms. She was equally dismayed to find most men’s programs were designed to blast the traps and the pecs so hard she’d look like a linebacker and not a lady.

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Really, what this comes down to, is many programs these days are trying to appeal so hard to gender-specific training that they are imbalanced. So, I have whipped up a program that will not only grow muscle from top to bottom, but make you stronger, too. This program can be done by men or women, but since a woman asked me to make it right, I’m marketing it to all of you strong, sexy ladies that read Tiger Fitness.

What is Hypertrophy?

You’ve heard of atrophy, right? Atrophy is akin to shrinking and wasting away. For instance, someone who has been in a cast for months will find that limb to be smaller than the other once the cast is removed. The muscle has atrophied. Hypertrophy is just the opposite. Hypertrophy is tissue growth, namely, growing bigger muscles.

It’s funny how so many women’s programs only seem to want to apply hypertrophy to the butt, and set everything else to atrophy. Slim down, get skinny! No way – we want hypertrophy.

How Does Hypertrophy Differ from Strength?

Training for muscle growth is actually different than training for strength. You can get remarkably stronger without getting much bigger using heavy weights in the 1-5 rep range. Likewise, you can get remarkably bigger but at a certain point, stall out on getting stronger, when you are using higher reps like 12-15.

That said, most hypertrophy programs crank up the volume. Many of the plans I have seen will have you doing numerous reps of endless sets on every lift, whether it is a main, an accessory, or a supplemental. I don’t think that is necessary. In fact, I think plans like that waste a lot of time and burn a lot of energy – energy that could go to muscle-building.

Plus, since I am over 40, I like to treat my tendons, joints, and ligaments with respect.

How Does Hypertrophy Benefit from Strength?

I like to hit my main lift in a strength-building range for the majority of my sessions. Then, I use more volume with accessory and supplemental lifts.

I do this because the stronger you are, the more reps you can handle at a heavier weight. And lifting heavier weights for more reps is where the hypertrophy magic is made.

Rules for Growing Muscle

Hypertrophy happens when your muscles tear and rebuild. Every time we do a little bit of microscopic damage to our muscle tissue, our body repairs it with denser, stronger tissue. Over time, this causes your muscles to grow.

You can do this program and make no other changes to your life and still gain muscle. However, to optimize the growth factor and to keep your body healthy, I advise you follow these rules:

Calorie Surplus

Eat a few hundred more calories than you typically would. This doesn’t have to be a ton of food, just an extra protein shake and banana or a full fat yogurt, or an extra cup of rice. Your body needs to be in a surplus to have the energy to add mass.

Volume and Frequency

In order to keep the tearing and rebuilding active, we try to hit a body part every few days. Whereas a five-day bro split has you waiting a whole week to resume working on a muscle group, my program has you working opposite muscle groups each session, so the cycle of build-tear-rebuild is on repeat every few days.

Progression

Progression means you are always trying to push for a little more than you did the previous workout. If your accessory was at 20 pounds, try 25 next time, or add a few reps. If you adapt to a plan, eventually, your muscles will no longer need to tear themselves.

If they aren’t tearing a bit, they are not building. Read: there is no growth. This strength program progresses the big lifts, but it is up to you to push the accessories as you see fit. Reach a little further each workout, but don’t burn yourself out.

Rest

For building muscle, rest is half the program! Ladies, avoiding cardio can be a major mind-flip. Even when we want to build muscle, we often worry about getting too “fluffy.” Let me tell you something, you will get a bit fluffy the first few weeks. This happens because as muscles tear, there is inflammation and water retention that inevitably goes along with it. This is perfectly natural.

You may be tempted to jump on the treadmill, but I ask that you do not. It’s just 8 weeks. Don’t waste energy whittling down the progress you are trying to make. Don’t add cardio. Don’t try to burn calories. Your body needs them to repair the muscle tissue – which it does at rest.

How to Do the Program

This program calls for four lifting days per week. Personally, I like Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but your schedule is your own. Fit it in however works best.

It is a four-week cycle, repeated twice. The first week is a quick but difficult reps session on each main lift. Week two has you doing three sets of five, week three is three sets of three and week four will call for six heavy singles. Weeks 5-8 are the same thing, but a little heavier.

The reps weeks are not a de-load, but a chance to shake up the muscle fibers a bit and grow.

Don’t forget to eat and rest.

Deadlifts

The Reps Weeks (1 & 5)

These may seem on the surface like “easy weeks” because there are very few accessories. Don’t be fooled, though, they are challenging in a completely different way. Plus. they give all of your ligaments a bit of a break.

Make sure the weights you choose for week five are a tick heavier than week one.

Workout A

Let’s squat.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 reps bodyweight squats with a band and 10 sidesteps with band
  • MAIN LIFT - Squat 5 sets of 10 (120 seconds between those sets). Try to increase the weight just a little each set.

That’s it today – a quick, ten-minute ride on a bike to cool down would be advised, to flush out the legs and keep them from tightening up.

Workout B

Today, we bench press.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 5 banded pull-aparts chest-level, 5 banded pull-aparts overhead, 5 pushups
  • MAIN LIFT - Bench Press 5 sets of 10 (120 seconds between those sets). Try to increase the weight just a little each set.

That’s it today – a quick, ten-minute cooldown would be advised, plus some dynamic chest stretching.

Workout C

It’s deadlift day!

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 reps bodyweight squats with a band and 10 kb Romanian deadlifts
  • MAIN LIFT - Deadlift 5 sets of 10 (120 seconds between those sets) Try to increase the weight just a little each set.

That’s it today – a light, ten-minute row to cool down would be advised, to flush out the legs and back and to keep them from tightening up.

Workout D

The overhead press.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 banded pull-aparts, overhead and 5 banded dislocates
  • MAIN LIFT - Barbell Overhead Press 5 sets of 10 (120 seconds between those sets) Try to increase the weight just a little each set.

That’s it today – a quick, ten-minute cooldown would be advised, plus some dynamic shoulder stretching.

Barbell Press

The Strength Weeks (2,3,4)

These main lift reps are for week 2 ONLY. Week 3 will be 3 sets of 3 reps. Week 4 will be six sets of heavy singles, very close to your 1RM.

Workout A

Today is all about those legs. We will begin a strength cycle for your squat, hit the posterior chain as well and solidify the core which will help both of those lifts.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 reps bodyweight squats with a band and 10 sidesteps with band
  • MAIN LIFT - Squat Warm up to 3 sets of 5 reps (approx. 75-85% of 1RM) Three minutes rest between sets of 5 (make the reps deep and strong). Drop the weight to 50-60% and perform 2 sets of 10 reps. (60-90 seconds between those sets)
  • VOLUME LIFT - Choose between Barbell Romanian or Stiff-Legged Deadlifts. Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps (60-90 seconds rest)
  • ACCESSORY SUPERSET - 3 rounds: Kettlebell Rack Carries (heavier kb), Kettlebell Overhead Carries (lighter kb), (perform these by walking once up and down your gym track for each position, then rest for 60-90 seconds in between rounds)
  • SUPPLEMENTALS - 3 rounds: Glute-Ham Raises OR Back hyperextensions, Calf raises 3 sets of 15-20 with 1 min rest in between rounds

Workout B

Today is focused on lateral pushing and pulling. We will begin a strength cycle for your bench press, hit the lats and front delts, as well, plus grow the arms, which will help both of those lifts.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 5 banded pull-aparts chest-level, 5 banded pull-aparts overhead, and 5 pushups
  • MAIN LIFT - Bench Press Warm up to 3 sets of 5 reps (approx. 75-85% of 1RM). Three minutes rest between sets of 5 (make sure the reps touch your chest). Drop the weight to 50% and perform 2 sets of 10 reps. (60-90 seconds between those sets)
  • VOLUME LIFT - One-arm dumbbell row Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps (60-90 seconds rest)
  • ACCESSORY - Incline dumbbell press. Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • SUPPLEMENTALS - 3 rounds: Dumbbell Hammer Curls (10), Triceps Pushdown (10). 1 min rest in between rounds

Workout C

Today is all about the deadlift, queen of exercises. We will begin a strength cycle for your deadlift, hit the quads as well and shore up the hips and the core which will help both of those lifts.

  • 10 min General warm up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 reps bodyweight squats with a band and 10 kb Romanian deadlifts
  • MAIN LIFT - Deadlift Warm up to 3 sets of 5 reps (approx. 75-85% of 1RM). Three minutes rest between sets of 5 (make each rep full stop, reset, and pick it up again). Drop the weight to 50-60% and perform 2 sets of 10 reps. (60-90 seconds between those sets)
  • VOLUME LIFT - Front Squats perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps (60-90 seconds rest)
  • ACCESSORY SUPERSET - 3 rounds: Single Leg Step Ups (no weight) 10 each leg, Russian Twist with a weighted ball or plate 20 reps . Rest one minute in between rounds
  • SUPPLEMENTAL - 3 rounds: Banded sidesteps 3 sets of 15-20 1 min rest in between rounds

Workout D

Today we round out the program with vertical pushing and pulling. We will begin a strength cycle for your overhead press, hit the upper back as well and build those shoulders, which will help both of those lifts.

  • 10 min General warm-up (easy pace elliptical, rower, bike)
  • 2 sets of: 10 banded pull-aparts, overhead and 5 banded dislocates
  • MAIN LIFT - Barbell Overhead Press Warm up to 3 sets of 5 reps (approx. 75-85% of 1RM). Three minutes rest between sets of 5 (make the reps deep to shoulder level, not 90 degrees). Drop the weight to 50% and perform 2 sets of 10 reps. (60-90 seconds between those sets)
  • VOLUME LIFT - Choose between Lat Pulldown or Assisted Pull-ups. Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps (60-90 seconds rest)
  • ACCESSORY - Seated Cable Row – Narrow grip 3 sets of 10 reps then Seated Cable Row – Wide grip 3 sets of 10 reps (60-second rest in between sets)
  • SUPPLEMENTALS - 3 rounds: Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises, Reverse Dumbbell Rear-Delt Raises  3 sets of 12-15. One min rest in between rounds

Good luck! Let me know in eight weeks how much muscle you’ve built!

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