A common concern we hear from women (and sometimes men) is that they don’t want to get ‘too bulky’ or ‘musclebound’. This shouldn’t be a real concern for women in particular, as low testosterone levels mean they are very unlikely to put on excess levels of muscle mass.

Many of the female bodybuilder’s or professional athletes who you may be concerned are ‘too bulky’ are either very genetically gifted or in the case of the bodybuilders taking steroids to manipulate their testosterone levels. With this in mind there should be nothing to stop you training with heavy weights.

Strength training when performed properly has massive benefits for overall injury prevention and posture which can benefit you late into life! Lastly, the idea that very light weights performed to twenty or so reps is great for ‘toning’ is outdated as without an element of difficulty there will not be a strong enough stimulus for adaption to make any meaningful difference.

So if you are a woman what type of practical tips do we have? Here are a couple of our favourite exercises for the lower body.

Raised Hip Thrusts

So this is in many ways the king of glute exercises. This exercise displays one of the highest EMG activities of any of the glute exercises and can easily be modified to perform at home rather than just at the gym. Key technique tips are:

Full range of motion:

Try and go all the way to the bottom of the movement and make sure you squeeze your glutes at the top of the exercise. A one second pause is recommended here.

Spine in Neutral position:

Tense your abdominal muscles so as to make sure there isn’t an excessive arch in the back. Also try and keep your head in line with your chest throughout the movement. With this exercise many of you may struggle to ‘activate’ your glutes and may begin to feel the exercise in your back or hamstrings. If this is the case try one of our progression movements and make sure you maintain concentration on tensing your glutes throughout.


Lying hip bridge holds>> raised hip bridge holds>> single leg bridge holds>>unweighted raised hip bridges>> weighted raised hip thrusts>> single leg raised hip thrusts>> single leg weighted hip thrusts>> banded/chain raised hip thrusts

With all of these exercises the aim is to squeeze the glutes and feel a real tension here. If these exercises are felt in the hamstrings or lower back take a brief rest and then restart the exercise focussing on re-engaging the glutes.

Split Squats

Again there are numerous progressions of this that are used in our programs at Embody. These are all great exercises for shaping the legs whilst helping with hip range of motion and stability. We will show one of our earlier progressions here the front foot elevated split squat. Key technique tips are:

Keep knee’s in line with feet:

Women are much more at risk of knee valgus, where the knee travels inwards when performing lower body exercises. This is due to having wider hips which automatically places the femur in a disadvantageous angle. Trying to maintain tension on the outside of your leg and pushing through the heel should help with this.

Keep body upright:

Don’t lean too far forward during this exercise try and stay nice and upright to keep a good posture and prevent too much pressure on the knee.


FFE Split Squat (unweighted-weighted)>> Split Squat (unweighted-weighted)>>RFE Split Squat (unweighted or weighted)

In these exercises progressing from no weights to dumbbells and finally barbells are recommended. If you feel too much pain in the hip flexors on the non-working leg, then drop down a progression.


That just about wraps it up for now, I hope you enjoyed and keep your eyes peeled for more articles like this on the blog written by personal trainer Niall.