Exercises Women Should Avoid!

Some of the wealthiest people in fitness today have a huge following and turn over more money than many of us can ever imagine. 

Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake and there is such fierce competition, you occasionally see some truths get bent as a way of ‘standing out’

You see, it’s incredibly hard to make fitness and nutrition ‘sexy’; I mean, if we were all on the same page, how would any of us stand out?

As such, a lot of silly trends and beliefs trickle into the mainstream and thus we ask questions like: “What exercises should a woman never do?”.

Women get bombarded with confusing messages in the fitness industry.

If you are expecting an article about how “tricep exercises make your arms blocky” or how “squats make your torso thick.”

…Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not my thing.

Pigeonholing clients based on their chromosomes – it is not me, nor is it very good practice.

I have coached multiple Britain’s strongest woman competitors, winning figure competitors, Ice hockey players, Models and powerlifers.

All of them female and all of them unique.

If my anecdotes and what limited research exist are to serve us correctly, then there is some truth to the statement that “men and women do perhaps respond a little differently to certain programming”,

I don’t however see that as a strong enough reason to start stereotyping your workout or deciding which muscles you should totally not be training, in fear that you’re “no longer looking like my perceived ideal woman”.

Likewise, If you loved to deadlift and I told you “hey, you should use a rowing machine instead” – are you going to listen to me?

I really hope not, you’ll probably crack on with the deadlifts. 

Training first and foremost for the majority of people is about doing what they love and getting a little bit more active.
Likewise, if you hate to squat but want to build bigger legs, I’m not going to insist you squat but utilise a more suited and enjoyable movement for you.

Finding what appropriate for you

There are always better and worse ways of going about your training in the gym Lets have a look at what they might be…

Before you can even begin to decide if an exercise is suitable for you, let alone a ‘man or a woman’, you need to actually consider a few things:

1. Why am I training? Is it to get stronger? Leaner? Faster? Fitter?
2. What do I enjoy?
3. Do I care about how training will affect me visually?

The answers to the above questions will tell you more about what you should and should not do for your exercise.

There is very little difference between men and women when we look at muscle fibre type, make-up, meaning from “untrained” levels. Both have the same general potential to train toward any goal they so wish. Men just get dealt a genetic head-start on the muscle-mass and general strength, in contrast women tend to have a slight tendency towards being more resilient resistant creatures.

For the general health-addict, this should not mean much difference at all, but for the lady pursuing sporting excellence, there may be a few considerations.

Now, again it’s less of a case of what women must never do, but what women might be better off doing. Anecdotally, as-well as supported by some evidence, women respond better to high frequency, higher volume training.

And by “higher frequency and volume” I don’t mean swinging disempowering pink dumbbells around the poorly matted, afterthought of a “female area” in the gym.


We also have a few genuine considerations a female might make with her training would involve the true physical differences in structure, between males and females.

Ever heard of your Q-Angle? It’s essentially the angle at which your femur is at, in relation to your hip and knee, females due to their ability to birth have what we call a steeper Q-Angle, which can sometimes lend itself to the “bowing inward” of the knees we see when performing squat movements or landing from jumping exercises or performing running exercises on harder surfaces.

This essentially translates again to not a “movement to never do” but a movement to “never forget about considering”.

This leads to a conscious approach to maintaining stronger and healthier knees when supervising a lot of my female clients training, the broader the hips, the greater the angle tends to be.

How does this effect exercise selection, weight selection and repetition ranges?

My two cents, experience and understanding leads me to believe and suggest that female clients benefit most from training single rep lifts less frequently (but push harder in the 1-3 rep ranges than men) and utilise a slightly larger degree of volume and exhaustive training than men with specific muscle group training.

So…what exercises should women never do?

Simple – The ones that they don’t want to do!

If you want slightly more detailed guidelines from my personal experiences, avoid regularly maxing out, but when you do go into the lower rep ranges, you’re going to have to really push yourself.

Choose training and movements you enjoy and don’t be afraid to really push fatigue, failure and frequency, especially if you want size and shape and curve.

If weight management is what you are after, choose activity but be mindful of activities such as running, leaping and bounding if you do have large Q-Angles, take a little more time to build up the strength of the legs, knees to ensure a longer and healthier career.

And when in doubt – speak to a coach!