Muscle Sculpting Workout Tips Part 1


(Note – that’s a picture of my friend, Jill Coleman from

Muscle sculpting.

Muscle building.

I prefer the term “muscle sculpting”  since the objective, as the definition implies, is to “change the shape or contour of” the body; and it’s fitting because the human body is truly a work of art. Plus, I’m not gonna lie, it just sounds a lot better. Call it whatever you prefer, but this article contains workout tips for women who want to add sexy muscle in all the right places.

What are the “right places”? Generally (at least for my female clients) that means focusing on the shoulders, lats, thighs, and glutes. Not only do building up these muscles make for a nice strong, athletic looking physique, but they also make the waist line look smaller. It’s a little “illusion” trick. Think about it; if you add muscle to your shoulders, glutes, and thighs, and your waist stays the same, it will automatically look smaller. This is a win-win.

Let’s get into Part 1 of Muscle Sculpting Tips for Women Who Want to Sculpt Sexy Muscle and discuss the first five tips you can use to start sculpting some muscle.

First, Get Strong!

If you’re a beginner to the wonderful world of resistance training, your main focus should be on the basic exercises and getting stronger. A raw beginner is much better off focusing on a few compound exercises, mastering proper exercise technique, and getting stronger; I recommend the Beginner Program in the Train to Be Awesome Guide. As a beginner you should use lower reps and focus on constantly adding more weight to the bar, which will happen fairly quick for a beginner trainee.

As a beginner you won’t be able to use much weight for most exercises, and keeping the reps on the low end allows you to use more weight. For example, a beginner may be able to squat 75 pounds for five reps. But, if she was doing 12 reps she may only be able to use 35 pounds. The lower reps and heavier weight will provide a greater stimulus, lead to a more rapid increase in strength, and is much safer since your form is more likely to break down with higher reps.

Once you have a base level of strength, then you can get into some of the other muscle sculpting tips.

Pump up the Volume

A high volume routine is a great way to sculpt some sexy muscle. Specifically I like to focus on at least 30 reps per exercise while keeping rest periods between sets fairly short. For example, in Phase 1 of the Muscle Sculpting Program, you do 4×10 for the dumbbell bench press and one arm dumbbell row. I recommend leaving a few reps in the tank for each exercise and only resting about 30-45 seconds between both.

So it would look like this:

  • -Dumbbell bench press x 10 reps
  • -Rest 30 seconds
  • -1 arm dumbbell row x 10 reps
  • -Rest 30 seconds
  • -Repeat until you complete 4 sets of eaach

Each time you repeat that workout, make sure you improve your performance. For example once more, in the 15 Week Muscle Sculpting Program, you would follow these progressions:

  • -Week 2: increase weight by about 5 pounds
  • -Week 3: perform an additional set (5×10)
  • -Week 4: increase weight by about 5 pounds and perform 5×10

With this progression you’re improving your performance every workout, thus you’ll constantly provide your body with a muscle sculpting stimulus.

Crank up the Intensity

This is the exact opposite of the tip above to Pump up the Volume. These two cannot be accomplished simultaneously.

When the goal is sculpting sexy muscle, I like to sandwich a high-intensity, low-volume training phase between phases of lower-intensity and higher-volume. Doing so allows you to reap the benefits of both high volume and high intensity training without getting burned out on either since you only do each for a period of four weeks (at least that’s how it’s set up in the Muscle Sculpting Program).

Furthermore, alternating phases of high volume and high intensity training provides a nice change of pace which is great for keeping things fresh and staving off boredom. If you’re bored, you won’t excited to train and probably won’t  put in 100%. Using different training methods keeps you excited and motivated to keep working out hard since you’re not constantly doing the same thing over and over.

Using both high volume and high intensity is used very effectively in the Muscle Sculpting Program. There are three phases to the program: Phase 1 and Phase 3 are high volume, and Phase 2 is a high intensity phase.

Here’s how it looks in the program:

So weeks 1-5 are high volume and low intensity, then you jack up the intensity and scale the volume way back for weeks 6-10, and then it’s back to high(er) volume training for weeks 11-15.

For high intensity phases, that’s when I love to use training techniques like RPT (reverse pyramid training) and R/P (rest/pause). These techniques allow you to train with high intensity and low volume while reaping some great strength and muscle sculpting benefits. Both of these methods are used exclusively in Phase 2 of the 15 Week Muscle Sculpting Program.

I’ve discussed the RPT method in this article and rest/pause in this article if you want more information on both. If you’re in a plateau and looking for a way to bust out, then I recommend playing with the RPT and rest/pause methods. It’s a tough challenge that may be what you need to get the muscle sculpting results you’re after.

Use Isolation Exercises

There’s a time and place for isolation exercises, and they fit well in a muscle sculpting program. Just remember, when it comes to isolation exercises, you’ve gotta earn them first! Make sure you’re working hard on the big, basic, compound exercises before you get too carried away with isolation exercises. So if you want to improve the appearance of your shoulders, make sure you’re training the overhead press either with dumbbell or barbell presses, and then add isolation exercises like lateral raises. (Note – if your shoulders don’t tolerate overhead pressing, don’t do it!)

For my female clients who want to add some muscle to their physique I like to include isolation exercises specifically for the shoulders, glutes, and calves. That means a combination of overhead presses and lateral raises for the shoulders. And, as much as I love squats, deadlifts, and lunges, glute isolation exercises like single leg glute bridges, hip thrusts, and high rep back extensions can really take your glutes to the next booty-licious level. You’ll find this powerful combination in the Muscle Sculpting Program.

Don’t Wing It — Have a Plan

If you really want to change your physique and sculpt some sexy muscle, I highly recommend you follow a program and don’t just show up to the gym and wing it a few times per week. A program keeps you on track and you know what you have to do each and every time you show up to the gym.

If you want a detailed, motivating workout program that combines all of the muscle sculpting tips discussed above, and more, then check out the 15 Week Muscle Sculpting Program.

Click Here or click the image below and start sculpting some muscle.

Here’s Part 2 with more Muscle Sculpting Tips you can apply to your workouts => Muscle Sculpting Workout Tips Part 2

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • Connie Braaten

    I have a question. How long on average would you say a workout in this program takes?

    • Nia Shanks

      Great question! The workouts for Phase 1 and Phase 3 will take about 40 minutes. Phase 2 workouts will take about 30-35 minutes.

  • Tracey

    Are there pictures of the exercises?

    • Nia Shanks

      Good question. No, there are not photos. But I mention in the program that if you need demo videos to contact me and I’ll help you out.

      • Tracey

        Okay, I did end up purchasing it!

  • Cass

    Nia, would this program be a good fit for someone fairly advanced in her training who wants to take her physique to the next level?

    • Nia Shanks

      Yes, definitely. If you have any questions about the program, please contact me and I’ll help you out.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Nia, I just completed a 12 week “fitness model” program, i.e. leaning program. I enjoyed it and saw some great results, but am now looking to continue with a next step. This seems like a good fit – would you agree?

    • Nia Shanks

      If your goal is to sculpt some muscle, then yes. :)

  • shannon_schierling

    What about after the 15 weeks? Is there discussion of maintenance or progression?

    • Nia Shanks

      I do make the recommendation of moving on to a new program; in this case I suggest training for strength after the Muscle Sculpting Program.

  • Elizabeth Lazier-Lintz

    Hi Nia,
    I havent purchased yet, I am wondering if there is any cardio involved in the program and what do you think of doing 20-30 mins of cardio before hitting the weights?

    • Nia Shanks

      Yes, I do mention cardio. I definitely would not recommend cardio BEFORE the workouts. You want to put 100% into the strength workouts. You could, however, do 20 minutes of easy cardio AFTER the workouts if you so choose.

  • Tamarah Smith

    Hi Nia, just wondering what kind of equipment is needed for these workouts, thanks!

    • Nia Shanks

      It’s recommended to have access to a gym because the programs uses dumbbells, barbells, a cable machine, and back extension. This program uses a wide variety of equipment compared to the Beautiful Badass, (S)hero, and Lift Like a Girl Guide programs. There’s also a good amount of isolation exercises, too. Hope that helps.

  • Maria

    Out of interest, what would you suggest would be a “base level of strength” (which you say one should possess before smashing out the reppage!)?

    • Nia Shanks

      I wouldn’t set specific numbers. Rather, I would suggest focusing on the basics for at least 2 months and improving performance.

  • TamaraP

    What are the differences between this program and Lift Like A Girl (i guess im tryna choose between the two to start the new year and i guess i am between intermediate to advanced in terms of strength for most lifts). I wanna build my physique (hello beach body lol) WHILE increasing strength.

  • Ellen

    I’m very interested in this progam and currently workout 5 days a week, with a 45 min TRX workout on two of those days, weights the other days. Could this program be incorporated into a week with two TRX workouts or would that be too much and potential overtraining?

    • Nia Shanks

      No, that would definitely be too much.

    • Nia Shanks

      That would definitely be too much.

  • Aine G

    Hi Nina,

    I’m confused… confused as to which programme pf yours to pick lol!

    I have trained with a PT on and off for a 2 year period and I love heavy lifting… though recent months and lack of my usual motivation has meant that I’ve lost my confidence and feel like I can only succeed at my goals with guidance and supervision.

    But I would be so proud if I could make this year the year I finally feel 100% confident in my abilities and not feel any intimidation in the weights room and just get in there and do it myself!

    However, I do need structure to keep me going! So having gotten ‘soft’, added 10lb in recent weeks…I’m looking for a program that will ‘tone’ me but add muscle especially to my upper half… whilst leaning me out a little too and changing my body composition.

    But I don’t know whether I should opt for this programme or BBS? Can you please help reccomend one?

    Thank you