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This article is for the fitness girls out there! As with the other articles about women in bodybuilding, one of the main goals of this blog is to help you to improve as quickly as possible so that you can attain the shape of your dreams with no fluff! There is a lot of information out there to filter and thousands of fitness influencers who will don’t always give the best advice to get in great shape.
That is what the article will be about today – how to get the body of a female fitness model in the most efficient way possible! We will first see how you can build muscle effectively as a woman; then we will talk about Rachel Mclish, analyse her physical shape, and see how we can train to attain a similar body.
How do you gain muscle as a woman?
First, let’s remind ourselves how to build muscle as a woman? Is there a difference between women and men training?
Men and women actually have to train similarly. It is about lifting proper weights and respecting the crucial principles of dieting and progressive overload to build muscle.
As mentioned in previous articles, don’t be scared of the weights: if you want that bubble butt, you need to be lifting them!
In this article, we take the example of Rachel Mclish, who was the first famous female natural bodybuilder back in the 80s. We did a similar piece using the model of Steve Reeves for the guys on how to achieve an incredible natural shape.
We can say Rachel Mclish was in an absolutely phenomenal shape, which many women would dream of having today.
She had excellent arm definition without being overly muscly, great legs and overall shape.
We all have different body morphologies, and nothing is precisely the same for each individual, but we can follow general footsteps to get to a similar physique.
Who is Rachel Mclish?
Rachel Mclish is an American bodybuilder and a fitness model. She went on stage for the first time in 1980 at the 1980 US Bodybuilding Championship. She was looking to gain some popularity to get visibility for her business.
However, she ended up winning the show! From there, Rachel got better and better. That’s when she went for the Olympia contest. The judges voted in favour of her phenomenal shape. She became the first woman to win the Olympia title.
Her bodybuilding career did not last long though. She was more of a fitness model being featured in magazines looking to popularise fitness.
In this video, she insists on the fact that it’s not because you lift weights as a woman that you will become a “monster”. Lifting takes time; it will certainly take a bit of time before you are satisfied.
The only way you would become as big as the insanely shredded bodybuilder women is if you take steroids, which you certainly won’t!
What did Rachel lift, what were her performances?
Rachel would train three days in a row before taking one rest day and repeating, which is quite a lot – but necessary to build that Olympian shape. It’s been hard to find what Rachel Mclish’s best lifts were, but from experience, I can estimate what it would take for anyone wanting to achieve her kind of shape.
If you are training for bodybuilding, which means looks, you have to get stronger over time on your lifts without forgetting to implement some volume/hypertrophy training in the routine. That means implementing strength methods with lower rep schemes but also higher rep methods for the volume part.
This mix of strength and volume is also called power building.
I think Rachel could have been squatting 70kg for reps. In terms of deadlifts, this is hypothetical, but I would guess she’d be deadlifting between 90kg-110kg, as for bench-pressing, probably 55kg-60kg, maybe more.
This is hard work, sure, but is it impossible? No!
At her prime and probably still to these days, Rachel weighed around 125-135lbs at the height of 167cm.
What was Rachel Mclish ‘weekly training routine?
So, what would a proper woman fitness model workout like Rachel Mclish’s one look like?
Rachel Mclish would train day one, day two, day three and a rest day before restarting this cycle.
Getting closer to Rachel Mclish physical shape
The human body has a lower and upper body – no surprise here!
And to get closer to Rachel Mclish aesthetic shape, we will focus our workouts on half body exercises.
Two days a week for your lower-body, two days a week for your upper body.
Because if you are starting the gym, four times a week is more than enough. Then, if we talk about a woman’s aesthetic shape, we could say a defined upper body is vital with a slightly bigger and defined lower body.
Now, if your standards are different, feel free to change the program accordingly.
The two lower body sessions will be more intense as the legs are what we want to focus on more. Also, legs have muscles which can take quite a lot! As for the upper body, we won’t be able to concentrate as hard on each muscle group because we have to work on back, chest, shoulders, arms and core. But this will allow us to reach the goals mentioned above.
This routine aims to get closer to Rachel Mclish’ aesthetic shape, meaning an overall strong aesthetic upper body shape with a little extra focus on the lower-body.
How to get closer to Rachel Mclish’ lower body shape
Rachel Mclish said it herself: the lower body was where she excelled. She had an easier time building her lower body than her upper body!
So how do you get thick thighs and a bubble butt?
You could say: let’s copy Rachel Mclish’ training plan to get a similar body, but that would be a mistake!
First, everyone has different genetics and body-morphologies; second, we want to get closer to this type of physique! At the time she was following the routine plan described above, she had already trained for years on end! We have to take it easy to start.
We want to focus on the best exercises out there and follow the right principles to build muscle; this means focusing on the basics because there is no magic shortcut. We will be doing squats, Bulgarian split squats, Romanian deadlifts, calf raises and more.
Then if we are in a position where we want to build muscle, we will eat at a small calorie surplus. If you are a total beginner, you will need to adapt your diet to something healthy and keep yourself at a maintenance level.
You will be able to take advantage of this “beginner phase” and try to reach its best potential before thinking of “bulking”. The beginner phase can be very advantageous, as a beginner, you can add quite a lot of muscle fairly quickly, check out this article to see how this works. Bulking should not be a scary word either; it means being at a small to moderate calorie surplus in your diet.
Ok, where do we start?
Yes, pretty basic and boring, right? But every routine is pretty boring, what makes it exciting is improving on these routines.
Here we are practising squats in your full range of motion. Don’t let the weights force you down, but don’t do half squats either.
Squat: 4 x 6-8
We will go relatively heavy and make them our first source of a leg workout.
We will then focus on the glutes with Bulgarian split squats and hip thrusts.
Bulgarian split squats: 4 x 8-10
Hip thrusts: 4×12-15
Last but not least
Calf raises: 4×15-20
That’s for our first leg session. Because we work legs twice a week, we will focus the second workout on hamstrings and quads.
We start again with squats! But why? Because you get very good at what you practice the most. Our goal is to get stronger and be able to do more volume over time to improve. By practising the same movements, we become experts at them. It would be best if you did squats twice a week to start improving on this movement. Moreover, it is a great exercise.
Here we are working on your hamstrings with Romanian deadlifts. They are probably one of the best exercises for this.
Romanian deadlift: 4×10-15
We will then go onto doing goblet squats; these really put emphasis on the quads. Goblet squats are very similar to front squats.
Goblet squats: 4×8-10
Here we go, we’ll finish with leg curls.
Leg curls: 3×15-20
Calves raises: 4×15-20
How to get closer to Rachel Mclish’ upper body physique?
Rachel Mclish had an incredible upper body shape. I would say that her biceps were one of her best body parts! Not too big, not too small, and they well defined!
Her back definition was also fantastic showing a good-looking “Christmas tree” shape (lower back visual effect when you are lean enough).
We are going to do two days a week workouts for your upper body. These workouts will involve all upper body parts, biceps, shoulders, back, core, chest, triceps.
We could do two workouts where we split it in two instead, but I believe doing a bit less while focusing on the right exercises more frequently like twice a week will be more beneficial to building muscle and keeping fit. You will improve faster on the exercises, and therefore, build muscle quicker.
Here is what it could look like:
Day 1: Back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, core
Let’s also try to do your first pull-up if you have never done one!
4×5 pull-ups with elastic bands
3×12-15 chest flies
4×12-15 lateral raises
Biceps and triceps:
3×12-15 inclined curls in superset with 3×12-15 skull crushes
Day 2 will be the same. We will focus on getting good at these exercises and specialising in them. Because this is a half body workout and our time is limited, we chose the very best exercises (specialising).
When can you expect to see results and how to keep track?
This way, you will understand that tracking down your results is essential. You will have to write down what you are capable of at the start of this program and write down how many sets of how many reps and at what weight you can perform.
Once that is written, you now know how to progress and what you need to beat from last time. Don’t be too impatient and give yourself time to improve on those lifts. Avoid training to failure, especially if you are starting, go close to failure but leave some reps in the tank.
When progress starts to feel like it’s slowing down despite doing things well, slowly increase your calorie intake, which will help you go through the plateaus.
Rachel Mclish philosophy
Rachel Mclish was an advocate for popularising fitness and bodybuilding for women. She felt a lot of women were scared of lifting weights. This is why this article contributes well to the one entitled “women in bodybuilding”.
At first, Rachel was scared of the atmosphere in the gym, but as soon as she jumped in, she loved it.
Rachel was against steroid use, she says you should get an incredible physique naturally, and although it will take more time, you will be delighted with the result in the end.
You can listen to this interview with Rachel and hear her philosophy. She has influenced thousands of women back in the 80s, so why not you and why not now?