Strength Training For Women Over 50: Not Optional!

Do you exercise much (or at all)? And if you do, is it mostly cardio? If so, you need to find out why strength training is not optional for women over 50!

The workout started like every other. I went into the spare bedroom/exercise room, turned on the big-screen TV and inserted my DVD of the day.

The weights were lined up; my water bottle was filled. I was ready to go after a warmup.

This workout involved a deck of cards…something about putting them down in front of you and then picking them up in a certain way that worked my butt like crazy.

Just what I loved/hated!

One move included a kick. I’m fairly uncoordinated when doing a new workout with any sort of complicated moves, and this was no exception.

Have you ever attempted a roundhouse kick?

Like that. Anyway, I had done similar moves before, but this time I felt something. Something that hurt. Really bad.

I went down, writhing in pain. The only real injury I had ever sustained in all my years of workout out and running!

Fortunately, I healed relatively quickly, but now I worked out with more trepidation. After all, I was over 50.

This was more than 10 years ago, and here I am over 60! And still working out. ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ

Why Should Women Over 50 Be Strength Training?

I get questions all the time about why I recommend strength training for women of a certain age.

So I’m here to answer all your questions about the what, why, where, and how of beginning strength training when you’re over 50.

In this post I’ll explain all the things related to strength training:

  • what kind of exercise is best if you’re over 50?
  • why women over 50 need to lift weights at all?
  • what strength training actually is…
  • how the heck to get started strength training

Let’s see what we can cook up!

What Kind Of Exercise Is Best If You’re Over 50

We’re all familiar with the idea that we should exercise if we want to stay healthy.

Throughout the 70s and 80s and beyond we all thought aerobics was the queen of all exercises.

Going for our long slow runs, sweatin’ to the oldies, or “feeling the burn” with Jane Fonda were all the rage.

And don’t forget step aerobics! Somehow, even though I’ve exercised on and off (mostly on) since I was 19, I never got into the step aerobics craze.

But now? It’s one of my favorite ways to exercise. You can find me at least a couple days a week working out to one of Christine Dorner’s Youtube step videos!

You Need More Than Just Cardio

But routine cardio isn’t always enough to help you meet your goals. When it comes to weight loss, muscle is the most calorie-consuming tissue in your body.

3 graphics of women working out on cardio machines | treadmill | elliptical | spinning bike

Cardio exercise is always, always important, but it should not by any means be the only type of exercise you do.

Experts today say you should aim for 30 minutes per day (up to 150 minutes per week) of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of higher intensity aerobic exercise.

But if you’re just starting out, any time over your base of no exercise at all is a good place to begin! So don’t think you have to jump in at 30 minutes every day.

That would be a recipe for burnout in no time.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

original aerobic step
The original Step

Types of Cardio

The following are very accessible forms of cardio exercise.

  • walking
  • marching in place
  • step-ups (totally underrated in my opinion!)
  • jogging
  • dancing

Any of these can be done outside or inside while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew or watching Netflix.

That’s what makes them so awesome, not to mention excuse-proof! I mean, come on, if you can watch a show and step up at the same time, what’s stopping you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I mentioned above, I LOVE, love, love Christina Dorner’s Youtube step workouts. Here’s an example of just one of them, below:

Amazing free step workouts on Youtube

So, cardio is not optional, but neither is lifting weights!

Women Over 50 Need To Lift Weights

Women over 50 need to lift weights because of the incredible, amazing, benefits.

Strength training can improve your metabolism, bone density, and of course, your muscle mass.

And guess what? Increasing muscle mass leads to a higher metabolism, which leads to better weight control!

What could be better? Better control of your weight, while at the same time getting yo body lookin’ hot!

In addition to helping you look awesome, weight-bearing exercise can help prevent, and even reverse osteoporosis.

Women over 50 have an increased risk of osteoporosis which as we know, causes bones to become brittle and fragile.

graphic table showing 9 benefits of strength training over 50

Oh, and if you’re worried about bulking up, rest assured that it is impossible for women over 50 to gain significant muscle mass.

Trust me, it’s even hard for the dudes to get big muscles without putting mega-lots of time and effort into it. And they have the added testosterone to help them along.

Other Weight Training Benefits

Women are more likely to have joint problems that start to develop around the age of 50.

This is also the time we get particularly concerned about weight gain, changes in body shape, and losing muscle mass.

Fortunately, exercises abound for women over 50 that can help you maintain (or increase) your muscle mass and STILL help you ditch joint pain.

Exercises that help you avoid injury and enjoy life more by keeping active.

You’ll not only look better, you’ll feel better and probably sleep better too.

Plus, if you have grandchildren, maybe they won’t wear you out as much as they otherwise would!

And one benefit we don’t always consider? Improved confidence and brain function!

Avoiding Type 2 Diabetes

Adding aerobic exercise helps drive down the risks for Type 2 diabetes. A 2016 study shows that those who did at least 120 minutes a week of aerobic exercise and some strength training had a Type 2 diabetes risk 65% lower than women who didnโ€™t do either.

But if you HAD to choose between cardio exercise and strength training? Strength training would win out (but please do both!).

The women in the study also had a Type 2 diabetes risk that was 30% lower and a cardiovascular disease risk 17% lower than those who did no strength training, 

So What IS Strength Training, Actually?

Strength training is an umbrella term for weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and other exercises that increase muscle strength.

graphic drawing of strength training woman

Weight training for women became more popular in the 70s and 80s, with women being encouraged to “not bulk up.”

And that we should exercise differently from men.

Say what? Why is that? Who knows. Apparently the so-called experts thought we were more delicate, or whatever.

But National Strength and Conditioning Association says that “there is no sensible reason why resistance training programs for women need to be different from those of men.”

Lifting heavy is what gets you more lean muscle mass, which in turn revs up your metabolism, along with a host of other awesome things.

Repeat this after me: I WON’T GET BULKY!

Whatever the heck “bulky” actually means, that is. Unless you take steroids or other male hormones, you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger from lifting weights.

Basic Supplies for Strength Training

Resistance Bands

resistance bands for strength training

For some, these are better than dumbbells, though I have both. Lightweight, packable for travel.

Adjustable Dumbbells

adjustable dumbbells for strength training

These are the bomb. They take up little space, and make changing the weight easy. Great if you have small spaces!

What Strength Training Exercises Should You Do?

Of course there are literally entire courses/books/trainings, etc. on strength training exercises.

But since you may be unfamiliar with strength training, or just starting out, we’ll focus on a few basic moves.

Besides, if you’re just starting strength training in your fifties or above, you really need to start small and basic.

Related Post: New Rules Of Lifting for Women

Deadlift

The deadlift is sort of a creepy-sounding exercise, but it’s one of my favorites. I think that’s because of two things: I can lift relatively heavy weights, and I can really feel it in my butt!

Because your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body, it’s a strong muscle (even if you don’t work out) and able to withstand higher weight loads.

woman's firm glutes maximus from strength training

This is also the muscle that gets you up to a standing position, helps you climb stairs and even hold yourself in a standing position!

So, yeah, the glutes are important. PLUS, if they’re shapely and firm, your butt looks fantastic!

But a deadlift doesn’t end there. It also recruits muscles in the front and back of the thigh, the lower and mid back, and even your calves.

Because it uses so many muscles at the same time (meaning it’s a compound exercise) it also burnes mega-calories, therefore leading to fat loss!

I count that as a win-win-win.

Here’s a video showing the proper way to do a deadlift with a kettlebell. This is my preferred method. You can do them with a barbell or dumbbells as well, but I find the kettlebell works best for me.

Squat

Ah, the squat. Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s certainly one of the best all-around exercises you can do. (Personally, I love squats but HATE lunges!).

The key to squats is bending your knees and keeping your torso slightly bent forward. You want to keep looking up.

If you find yourself hingeing too much at the hips or looking down at the floor, try a modified sit-to-stand until that move feels comfortable enough to do without the chair. Here’s a video showing how:

And another showing door squats. I really like this one!

Also, if you have any knee problems, don’t go as deep into a squat + try placing your feet closer together or further apart. Experiment to find what feels pain-free to you.

modified push up

You probably knew this one was going to show up, right? Love ’em or hate ’em, push ups are really good for your upper body strength. And most women, no matter their age do not have enough upper body strength!

I can barely do a handful of full big-girl pushups on my toes. So we all have to start somewhere. If you can do kneeling push ups, go ahead and work with those.

But if those are too difficult for you at first, try wall push ups! I’ll show you how to progress from wall push ups all the way to first class big girl ones.

You’ll start with wall push ups, then move to waist-high, knee-high, knee push ups, and finally the big girls.

Here’s a video with 6 variations of wall push ups:

And then one of my favorite exercise instructors, Jessica Smith, showing 4 modified push up variations leading up to the full one!

Shoulder Overhead Press

As mentioned above, most women, even those who do a lot of cardio exercise, lack upper body strength.

This not only leads to the arms we all want to prevent (batwings anyone?) as we get older, but it can lead to all sorts of functional problems, including joint pain, decreased strength and mobility (think reaching for something over your head), or even opening tight jar lids!

The shoulder overhead press and the 2 exercises following + push ups above–will all help with these issues, AND give you sexier-looking arms!

Here’s a short video on how to do the overhead press. Note that you can do this standing OR sitting, preferably on an stability ball.

Stability Ball Overhead Pull

This exercise strengthens your chest muscles as well as the latissimus dorsi, more commonly called the “lats.” These are the wing-shaped muscles in the back.

It helps your spine stay in a stable, lengthened position, aiding in maintaining good posture. It also helps for overal upper body flexibility.

Video for how to do it:

And finally, the:

Biceps Curl

This is a standard bodybuilding exercise. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger! And though there are other ways to strengthen the biceps in more compound moves, we’re going for beginner here so this is a good one to shape your arms and keep your elbow bending smoothly and without painful joints.

Though this exercise seems simple enough, there are some things you need to be on the lookout for to insure proper form. Check the video below!

Conclusion

Strength training over 50 is so beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is how you look. I think most of us know that looking your best can give you confidence to move forward in many other areas of life.

Getting older does not need to mean “slowing down,” unless you want it to! Keeping (or getting) fit and healthy will not only help you (likely) live longer, but live better.

You’ll be less fatigued, have less pain, have more energy, and be able to continue activities you’ve enjoyed for many years, or start new ones.

Remember that these are just some beginning exercises you can incorporate. Start where you are, use light or no weights at first until you have nailed the moves and can do them freely and accurately.

You can increase weight as you get stronger, add newer compound moves, use some of the many, many Youtube videos or DVD workouts available. You can even go to a gym if you want.


There’s almost no excuse these days for NOT working out!

What new exercise will you try this week? Let me know in the comments!

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mature woman strength training

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6 Comments

  1. Strength training is fun, especially when you combine it with some short cardio sessions. I like it as it helps you keep strong to do your daily chores and maintain your quality of life.

  2. Amazing blog post!
    I am 26 years old and I am so in love with fitness and healthy lifestyle I just know that I will never give up on it. The benefits are just endless!
    Incredibly informative and motivational!
    Thank you for sharing!