by Neil Zietsman, 3S Functional Traning

Strength training is bad for women, seriously you don’t want to bulk up or get an injury!

weightsIf you use a little bit of savvy its easy to argue a case for or against any type of training routine, even on the most basic levels. Crossfit, weightlifting and Functional Training have been given a hard time lately because as you know they are dangerous (see what I did there). Long distance running is no better because it also causes problems like ITB and eventually your skin will start to sag (did I just do it again?).

One of the biggest sources of mis-information and influence is the conversation that goes like this “That girl trains really hard I don’t want to do that. I really don’t want to bulk up”.

Its difficult to know what is real and what are cherry picked facts or opinion. Plus all sides seem to be back by scientific research. The quality of these studies is never really known. Below is a case in point.

Why weights are bad for you?

Doing exercises like weighted squats, lunges as well as deadlifts will give you big thick legs, especially thighs. Pushing, pulling and arm exercises will make your shoulders look broader and manlier.

As you increase the weight that you push (intensity) your muscles thicken and strengthen to be able to handle the extra load place upon it. This is because working at an intensity of 70% to 75% of your 1 rep max (A one rep max is the most you can lift in one repetition) will cause your muscles to grow. Another consideration is working in an 8 to 12 repetition zone and with up to 5 sets causes your muscles to grow. This is called working in the hypertrophy zone (muscle growth).

If you lift weights like this you will bulk up and your voice will break like a thirteen-year-old boy. Also loading your body with weights increases your chance of injury. Neck, back, knee and shoulder injuries are all commonplace in a weight room.

To conclude training for women should be done with high rep, high volume, low intensity. This type of training ticks all the boxes for what most women’s common exercise goals are.

Back to reality

Most of the above is true (except for the part about your voice breaking and the conclusion might be a little off). Lifting weights like this will cause muscle growth and does increase your chance of injury. So does that mean women should stay out of the weight training area? Definitely not, a body builder would do the above training routine. Man or woman, working in a very specific way to grow muscle (which if you ask the guys is actually quite difficult to do).

Lets take a step back and consider the following. Weight training is great for women (the headline was just there to catch your attention) science has proven this over and over again.

It improves strength to perform for everyday activities more functionally, helps to perform cardiovascular exercise more efficiently, it increase bone density and more. There are a few modifications to be made that reduce the chances of muscle growth:

Considerations in weight training for women:

  1. Women have less testosterone then men, making muscle growth more difficult. Often when women have complained about getting bigger because of weight training, there is usually no measureable change in girth, or they have become smaller. It may be that for the first time they have really been able to see their muscles.
  2. To develop real muscle growth (hypertrophy) a person needs to train consistently for 8 weeks or more and the intensity needs to be between 70% and 75% of a one-rep max.
  3. Body builders (both male and female) will often spend hours and hours in the gym focusing on particular body parts for maximum growth.
  4. To really grow your muscles you need to be doing around 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of a specific exercise on a specific body part.

A skilled trainer would take these things into consideration as to reduce chances of hypertrophy for women and would make the following program modifications:

  • Reduce intensity to below 70% by performing additional reps per set (15 to 25). This also helps to lower the chance of injury.
  • Reduce the number of sets per exercise
  • Reduce the number of exercises affecting the part of concern
  • Start or end training session with aerobic exercise
  • Change exercises more frequently
  • Use rest periods greater then 1 min between sets
  • Use compound exercises
  • Practice perfect form to reduce chance of injury.
  • Use warm up exercises to promote correct muscle activation and sequencing.

Taking this into consideration let’s look at a great simple compound exercise that can be done with or with out a weight, the squat. We will show you how to warm up and sequence your muscles for this exercise that works your whole body but specifically your quads and glutes. We will start with our warm up move the supine hip extension.

Supine Hip Extension

This is a great exercise to get your posterior chain warmed up and to get the glute muscles active for the squat.

Key Points:

  • Place head and shoulders on the Swiss ball
  • Keeping the shins vertical at all times, drop the pelvis straight down until the knees are fully flexed. Keep the shins vertical and extend the hips by activating the gluteus maximus (butt muscles) and pushing of the back half of the feet.
  • Extend the hips to the point at which the torso is flat or parallel to the floor


  • Hold a weight plate at hip level
  • One leg action


  • Improve knee stability
  • Integrate back, abdominals, glutes and hamstrings
  • Great warm up for a squat

Hip Extensions

The squat

Key points:

  • Keep head position for a forward gaze, yet elevate eyes to look slightly up (not moving head/neck into extension)
  • Take a full breath and hold it prior to initiating the squat, unless resistance is less then 60% at 1 RM. At low levels allow breathing to occur naturally
  • Prior to the decent pull the belly inwards
  • Hips should move backwards through he decent and a flat back maintained.
  • Through out the decent keep knees turned slightly outwards
  • With correct back/torso posture and weight is into the heals there should not be too much of a worry about shin angle as this can be relative to the individual.
  • As you ascend through the sticking point the following should happen
  • Release air through pursed lips
  • Maintain an good upright chest position
  • Avoid pulling down on the bar if using one
  • Keep your weight equally balanced on the feet


  • Trains the brain to activate the TA while lifting heavy objects
  • Integrates the TA, glutes, quads and hamstrings
  • Trains an essential movement pattern



To put it all together warm up with the Supine Hip extension with 20 reps then 40 squats (Body weight). Complete three rounds of this to really get the lower half of the body working.

Meet Liz

Meet-LizOur new trainer at 3S Functional Training is starting the Hot Mommies club. Come and join her twice a week Tuesdays and Thursdays Mid day where Liz will teach you:

  • To flatten your abs for ever, especially those difficult lower abs
  • Over come post pregnancy body issues
  • Provide weight loss and strength routines to get you on your way to looking fabulous in the shortest time possible

Oh and did we mention she does personal training too?

To get the times that suits you and avoid missing out. Call her on 079 475 7503, seriously just give her a call you wont be disappointed.