Weight training for women over 50

mature woman doing weight training deadlift

by Bryony Firth-bernard |

Weight training for women over 50 is incredibly important, because as we get older our bones get weaker and so it’s therefore important to keep our strength up to allow our bodies to continue functioning properly. Weight training for older women is also helps prevent the risk of injury.

Weight training involves lifting weights at a low rep range in order to build up your muscle strength. This type of training can be performed using dumbbells, a barbell or types of resistance training machines and resistance bands. For many women this can sound rather scary and sometimes off putting, but it’s a brilliant way to stay fit, sculpt and tone your body, without making you bulky.

In this handy guide we round up everything you need to know about strength training for women over 50, including its benefits, tips and the best moves to get you started.

Benefits of weight training for women over 50

woman lifting a barbell

It is estimated that women going through the menopause can lose 10% of their bone mass. What strength training does is make your tendons and muscles pull and push on the bones, causing their cells to become stronger, which can help prevent bone loss.

Our muscle mass also decreases, which results in our metabolism becoming slower, making it harder for us to lose weight as we get older. Weight training is brilliant at burning calories and fat, and your metabolism can stay elevated for up to 48 hours after a weight lifting workout.

Another reason why strength training for women over 50 is great is because, like all exercises, it increases our happy hormones of dopamine and serotonin. Increasing these hormones can be very beneficial, especially during the menopause stage where your hormones are fluctuating.

Weight training tips for women over 50

If you’re a newbie, stick to bodyweight exercises: don’t march straight over to the squat rack if you haven’t used it in ages, or at all, as you may injure yourself. Start off by doing bodyweight squats, planks and push ups to build up your initial strength again. Then once you’ve mastered your form, you can start using weights.

Try resistance bands: these are another good work around if you’ve either been out of the gym a while or have never used weights before. Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s a stretchy band, resistance bands come in many different strengths and they’re a great way to add controlled resistance to your workout and building muscle.

Don’t neglect your core: without a strong core you’ll struggle to balance and it can increase the risk of injury, especially in your back. Try doing the plank, deadbugs and leg raises to really build your deep core muscle.

Use exercise machines: once you’ve built up enough strength doing body workouts, move onto exercise machines before you move onto the free weights. Your gym will provide plenty of these, from leg press machines, to lat pull down machines, shoulder press and many more. Again, these are great for beginners and help you to perform the exercise technique properly before moving onto free weights.

Form over weight: although weight training is about lifting a challenging weight, having correct form and technique champions all. There’s no point lifting a weight that is too heavy, as it’ll just increase your risk of injury–and if you’re not performing the lift correctly, you won’t see results.

Strength exercises for women over 50

Walking lunges

Walking lunges are great lower body weight training exercise targeting your glutes, calves, quads and hamstrings. If you’re a beginner, start by practicing bodyweight walking lunges, then move onto dumbbells once you feel comfortable. If you’re advanced, you can try these using a barbell and weighted plates.

Assisted pull up machine

woman doing weight training on the assisted pull up machine

Pull ups are a one way ticket to a toned back and are a predominantly good exercise to strengthen the upper back muscles. This machine is designed to help you perform a pull up, by standing or kneeling on a lever that effectively reduces the amount of weight you’re pulling. If your gym doesn’t have this machine, you can also try doing pull ups with a resistance band.

Shoulder press

This exercise is also referred to as an ‘overhead press’. Again, it targets your upper body and can be performed either using free weights, such as dumbbells, or your gym may have a shoulder press machine. It can also be performed with a barbell, however we don’t recommend using this unless you’re at an advanced level of weight training.

Leg press

weight training for women over 50 woman on leg press

Another machine found in many gyms, the leg press targets your glutes, calves, quads and hamstrings. This machine is very easy to use and requires you to push weight away from your body using your legs.

Squat

This is a compound exercise (meaning it works multiple muscle groups) that is very popular amongst weight training workouts. Squats can be performed using your bodyweight, dumbbells or with a barbell. They work your glutes and quadriceps, as well as your core muscles. Check out our article of how to do a proper squat.

Bench press

woman performing dumbbell chest press

Another compound exercise that’s used in many weight training and strength programmes. The bench press works your chest, shoulders and triceps and can be performed using either dumbbells or a barbell. If you struggle using free weights for this exercise or you don’t feel too confident, a good alternative is to use the chest press machine.

Bicep curl

You’ll use your biceps for everyday activities, such as picking things up, therefore it’s important to make sure they’re strong. Bicep curls can be performed using dumbbells or a barbell. Make sure you control the movement to really target the bicep—don’t swing your arms.

If you're at a gym and you're ever unsure about how to use an exercise machine or perform an exercise properly always ask a member of staff to show you. Never struggle alone as you may end up hurting yourself. If you feel uncomfortable in the gym read our article on how to overcome gym anxiety.

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