Feeling Great at 50: Best Strength Training Tips for Women

Welcome to "Feeling Great at 50: Best Strength Training Tips for Women" – your essential guide to keeping your body healthy, fit, and fabulous as you age.

If you're in your 50s and starting to notice that your body needs a bit more care to stay in shape, you've come to the right place.

You might have noticed your arms becoming flabbier and your waistline expanding, creating that pesky muffin top.

You want to look good, feel strong, and stay healthy, but perhaps you're not seeing the full results you desire from just doing cardio.

Smiling Woman doing a 'plank' exercise

Maybe you're also curious about the buzz around weight lifting and strength training for women as we get older.

Let me assure you, strength training is your ultimate tool for transforming your body. It can help you turn flabby midsections into toned, sculpted abs and reach your fitness goals.

The benefits are undeniable: a toned physique, reduced inflammation, fewer chronic issues, and a stronger, fitter you. I'll delve into these benefits in the first chapter.

But ladies, the most crucial takeaway is this: don't delay starting weight or strength training, and be sure to follow the strength training tips.

The older you get, the harder it becomes to maintain muscle strength, and the risk of weakness and health issues increases.

While cardio is excellent for endurance and heart health, strength training builds muscle, enhances stability, supports bone health, and offers so much more.

A quick note: as we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes. If you have any health concerns or are unsure if these exercises are right for you, please consult with a healthcare professional before starting. (I am not a doctor.)

Let's embark on this journey to a stronger, healthier you!

FEELING GREAT AT 50: BEST STRENGTH TRAINING TIPS FOR WOMEN

UNLOCK YOUR STRENGTH: WHY WOMEN OVER 50 SHOULDN'T DELAY WEIGHT TRAINING

As women, one inevitable change we face as we age is menopause. While some may experience it earlier, it typically occurs around the age of 50. Once we've gone 12 months without a period, we enter the post-menopausal phase.

The Impact of Menopause

The NIH report shows that muscle mass and bone density significantly drop in menopausal women, highlighting the big impact hormonal changes have on our muscles and bones.

Starting in our 30s, muscle mass begins to diminish by about 3-8% per decade, with a sharper decline after age 60. It's crucial to address this decrease in muscle mass to maintain our health and vitality.

Metabolism Changes During Menopause

As we get older, our bodies go through several changes that can affect our metabolism.

  • Slowing Metabolism: As women age, their basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the number of calories our body needs to maintain basic functions - decreases. This means our bodies burn fewer calories at rest.
  • Hormonal Changes: Lower oestrogen levels lead to a slower metabolism and increased fat storage, particularly around the abdomen.

Menopause and The Impact on Muscle Mass

  • Muscle Mass Reduction: With age and hormonal changes, muscle mass naturally declines, contributing to a slower metabolism since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.
  • Sarcopenia: This age-related loss of muscle mass and strength begins in the 30s and accelerates in the 50s and beyond, further exacerbated by reduced physical activity and lower levels of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.

Menopause and Increased Fat Storage

  • Redistribution of Fat: Menopause often shifts fat storage to the abdomen, partly due to hormonal fluctuations. This stored energy, unused due to reduced muscle mass and activity levels, accumulates as visceral fat.
  • Insulin Sensitivity: Menopause can also impact how the body processes insulin, leading to increased fat storage and weight management difficulties.

In Real Terms, this Metabolic Slowdown Means 

Weight Gain


With a slower metabolism and less muscle mass, gaining weight becomes easier, if caloric intake remains unchanged

Decreased Energy Levels


Lower energy levels make staying active and maintaining a regular exercise routine harder.

Reduced Bone Health


Reduced oestrogen levels negatively impact bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. 

The benefits of strength training workouts:

This is where strength training becomes essential. It's a powerful tool to combat these changes and maintain a vibrant, healthy lifestyle. Here are some compelling reasons why women over 50 should embrace strength training:

Stronger Muscles

Strength training builds muscle mass and strength, making everyday activities easier and enhancing overall physical fitness.


Combating Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is an age-related loss of muscle and strength.  Engaging in regular strength training can slow the process of sarcopenia, maintaining muscle mass and strength.

Improvement of Joint Health

Regular strength training strengthens the muscles around joints, which helps stabilise them, reduces the risk of injuries, and improves overall joint health.

Improves Heart Health

Strength training can enhance cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure, reducing body fat, and lowering the risk of heart disease.

Blood Sugar Regulation

 Strength training can help regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for managing or preventing type 2 diabetes.

Leaner Physique

Strength training is effective against visceral fat. It triggers the body to utilise visceral fat for energy, reducing the fat around your abdomen and leading to a leaner physique. 

Increase of Bone Density

Regular strength training stimulates bone growth, increasing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

A Mood Booster

Exercise, including strength training, releases endorphins which improve mood and boost confidence, helping you feel good overall.

Enhanced Metabolism

 Strength training increases muscle mass, which boosts metabolism since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest.

Increased Flexibility and Mobility

Regular strength training can improve flexibility and range of motion in your joints, reducing stiffness and enhancing overall mobility.

Improves Cognitive Health

Strength training has been linked to better cognitive function, helping you feel sharper and more focused.

Chronic Disease Management

 Strength training can help manage and alleviate symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.

Boosted Immune System

Exercise, like strength training, strengthens the immune system, helping fight illness better

Improved Balance and Coordination

Strengthening the muscles can enhance balance and coordination, which is  important as you age to prevent falls and injuries.

Better Sleep

Regular strength training has been linked to improved sleep quality, helping you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.

You can't afford to wait with strength training. Losing more muscle increases the risk of long-term effects from injuries and puts your heart at more risk. You might lose your independence quicker and feel down due to ageing.

Do something about it now - strength training provides all the essential benefits for a healthier you, with the added bonus of looking and feeling good.

Starting Strong: Strength Building Programs for Beginners

Following a dedicated program in strength training keeps you on track. You will need to monitor your progress, focus on specific muscle groups consistently, gradually increase the weight load, and maintain regularity.

A structured program allows for steady progression and visible results over time. Remember, strength training isn't a quick fix; it's essential for maintaining a strong and fit body and taking care of your long-term health.

How can you find the right program? Consider exploring the Strong Women Program, HASfit, or the NHS Strength training program. These programs offer comprehensive strength training routines, ensuring you feel supported and motivated every step of the way.

The StrongWomen Program, developed by Tufts University, focuses on strength training exercises specifically designed for middle-aged and older women.

Its primary aim is to improve muscle strength, bone density, balance, and overall health through a series of safe and effective resistance training routines.

A program is also offered by ‘Be Fit After 50’ that provides specific weight training courses, coached by Lynn.

By incorporating strength training into your routine, you'll look better and feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered. So don't wait – start your strength training journey today and unlock the vibrant, confident you!

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH STRENGTH TRAINING

First, get yourself some equipment. You might start at home, but even if you plan to go to the gym for weight lifting, it's beneficial to have basic strength training equipment at home.

As with any new endeavour, start light and progress slowly. Don't rush into it like a bull in a china shop, as you're likely to injure yourself.

It's always recommended to seek professional advice when you start doing strength exercises. Women over 50 are more likely to have sustained some injuries in the past; perhaps you have a bad back or shoulder pain.

Please get medical advice if you're unsure whether the exercises are right for you.

Here’s a list of some basic equipment to start with:

  • Dumbbells (2 kilos and 3 kilos)
  • Yoga mat
  • Resistance bands
  • Kettlebell

There is a wide range of equipment available for weight training, but since you are just starting out, you can build your collection gradually. Your choice of equipment also depends on where you plan to train – at home or in the gym.

Next, decide on a program. You might want to start with some easy weight training videos at home, such as:

As you progress and feel ready to intensify your workouts, consider joining a dedicated program, which might cost some money, or start going to the gym and get advice from a personal trainer.

Before committing to a personal trainer, check out their references. 

Confirm the trainer's experience and expertise, especially in areas relevant to your goals, and ensure you feel confident in their style of working.

Try to get insights into previous clients' experiences to gauge the trainer's effectiveness and professionalism.

Having a personalised training plan in place can significantly enhance your progress in building body strength compared to trying to do it all by yourself.

Remember, viewing this as an investment in your health can lead to long-term benefits that improve your overall quality of life, helping you stay strong, vibrant, and healthy well into your later years.

Woman, 50 plus, in blue top, lifting dumbbels

Here are some key points to remember when starting with strength training:

  • Warm-up is essential to avoid injury.
  • Aim to do weight or strength training twice a week.
  • Begin with lighter weights and avoid progressing too quickly to heavier ones.
  • Make sure the exercises challenge you towards the end of each set. If they don't, consider increasing the weight.
  • Allow at least 48 hours of rest between strength training sessions to give your muscles time to recover and grow stronger.
  • Ensure you're consuming enough protein in your diet, as it's essential for muscle growth and repair. 

Strength Training Tip: Increase Your Protein Intake for Building Lean Muscle Mass

The intake of protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. After strength training exercises, your muscles need protein to repair the microscopic tears and build new muscle tissue.

Adequate Intake: Ensuring you get enough protein supports muscle synthesis and helps maintain muscle mass, especially important for women over 50.

So how much protein should you aim for?

For building muscle, it's recommended to eat 0.7 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Muscles use amino acids from protein to grow. To keep and build muscle, it's important to eat protein regularly.

So, include protein in every meal, from breakfast to dinner. This ensures a steady supply of amino acids throughout the day, supporting muscle repair and growth.

Protein Sources

Here are some excellent types of protein for muscle building:

Protein Supplements

  • Whey Protein: A fast-digesting dairy protein, ideal post-workout
  • Casein Protein: A slow-digesting dairy protein, good for sustained amino acid release
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders: Pea protein, hemp protein, and brown rice protein for those avoiding animal products.
    Please be aware that while these options are plant-based alternatives, some may not always be as healthy due to potential chemical spraying.

Strength Training Tip: Importance of Rest and Recovery

  • Muscle Tears and Repair: Strength training causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. This is a natural and necessary part of building muscle strength and mass.
  • Healing and Growth: During the rest and recovery period, these muscle fibres repair themselves. As they heal, they become stronger and larger, a process known as muscle hypertrophy.
  • 48-Hour Recovery Period: To maximize muscle repair and growth, it is essential to allow a recovery period of at least 48 hours between strength training sessions. This gives the muscles sufficient time to heal and adapt to the increased load.

Benefits of Strength Training TWICE a Week

Sustainable Routine


For many people, especially those new to strength training or those over 50, a twice-weekly routine is more sustainable and less intimidating, making it easier to maintain long-term.

Prevents Overtraining


Training too frequently without allowing for sufficient rest periods, which can result in injuries, fatigue, and decreased performance.

maximises Results


Research suggests that strength training twice a week can be very effective for improving muscle strength, endurance, and overall health, while also allowing for adequate recovery.

KEY STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES FOR WOMEN 50-PLUS

So we now understand the importance of strength training, especially for women going through menopause. Strength training requires more than just lifting a few weights casually.

It involves actively engaging muscle groups and ensuring consistent, challenging workouts to promote muscle growth and increase bone density, which is particularly important for women going through menopause.

Strength training would be best done under the supervision of a personal trainer, but not everyone can go to a gym and not everyone is financially capable of paying for the gym and a personal trainer.

But don’t worry - you will be able to do strength training in the comfort of your own home.

Key Strength Training Exercises

Incorporating these key strength training exercises into your fitness routine can significantly enhance your overall health and well-being, especially for women over 50.

Here are a few strength training exercises which can be performed at home.

Bicep Curls:

  • Description: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. Keep your elbows close to your body and curl the weights up towards your shoulders, then lower them back down.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the biceps, which are important for everyday activities like lifting and carrying.
  • Tips: Keep your back straight, engage your core muscles, and avoid swinging your body to lift the weights.
Middle-aged woman doing a bicep curl

Walking Lunges:

  • Description: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Step forward with one leg, lowering your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, then push back up to standing and repeat on the other leg.
  • Benefits: Builds strength in the legs, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Tips: Keep your front knee directly above your ankle, and don't let your back knee touch the ground to maintain tension in the muscles.
Woman doing a 'walking lunge'

Planks:

  • Description: Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Engage your core and hold your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the core muscles, including the abs, obliques, and lower back.
  • Tips: Keep your body in a straight line, avoid letting your hips sag or hike up, and breathe steadily throughout the exercise.
Woman doing a plank exercise

Overhead Press:

  • Description: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Press the weights overhead until your arms are fully extended, then lower them back down.
  • Benefits: Targets the shoulder muscles, particularly the deltoids.
  • Tips: Keep your core engaged to stabilise your body, and avoid arching your back or shrugging your shoulders as you lift.
Woman doing an overhead press

Seated Row:

  • Description: Sit on a rowing machine or with a resistance band anchored in front of you. Grab the handles with palms facing each other and pull them towards your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the upper back muscles, including the rhomboids and latissimus dorsi.
  • Tips: Keep your back straight, avoid rounding your shoulders, and focus on pulling with your back muscles rather than your arms.
Woman doing a 'seated row' exercise

Squats:

  • Description: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Bend your knees and hips to lower your body down as if sitting back into a chair, then push through your heels to return to standing.
  • Benefits: Targets the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Tips: Keep your chest up, back straight, and knees aligned with your toes to prevent them from collapsing inward.
Woman doing 'squats' exercises

Tricep Dips:

  • Description: Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with hands gripping the edge beside your hips.
    Lift your hips off the chair and walk your feet forward, then bend your elbows to lower your body down until your arms form a 90-degree angle, then push back up.
  • Benefits: Targets the triceps muscles on the back of the arms.
  • Tips: Keep your shoulders down away from your ears, and avoid locking your elbows at the top of the movement.
Woman doing a 'tricep dip'

Chest Fly:

  • Description: Lie on a bench or mat with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended above your chest. Lower your arms out to the sides in a wide arc, then bring them back together over your chest.
  • Benefits: Works the chest muscles, particularly the pectoralis major.
  • Tips: Keep a slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement, and avoid lowering the weights too far down to prevent strain on the shoulders.
Woman chest fly exercises

Dumbbell Deadlifts:

  • Description: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Hinge at the hips, lowering the weights towards the ground while keeping your back straight, then push through your heels to return to standing.
  • Benefits: Targets the muscles of the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
  • Tips: Keep your chest lifted, back flat, and shoulders pulled back throughout the movement, and avoid rounding your back or letting your knees collapse inward.
Woman doing a 'dumbbell deadlift' exercise

SIMPLE GUIDE TO STRENGTH TRAINING AT HOME:
EXAMPLE UPPER BODY WORKOUT

Here's a simple guide to strength training at home for women:

Example Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday  & Thursday: Upper Body (chest, back, shoulders, arms) 
  • Other Days of the Week: Rest or light activity 

You can add cardio on rest days for overall fitness, but keep it moderate to avoid overdoing it. Activities like walking, cycling, or swimming can enhance your cardiovascular health and help with recovery without straining your muscles too much.

Just make sure to listen to your body and not push too hard, as excessive cardio might hinder muscle recovery and increase the risk of injury.

Intensity and Volume: Make sure each workout challenges you without overwhelming you. Adjust the intensity and volume (sets and reps) based on your fitness level.

Take short breaks between sets to catch your breath and recover before moving on to the next set.

Example Upper Body Focus - Duration: Approximately 45-60 minutes

Dumbbell Floor Press:  Lie on your back with knees bent, push dumbbells up, and slowly lower them down.
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Bent-Over Rows: Bent at the waist, holding weights, and pulling them towards your torso, targeting the back muscles.
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Overhead Shoulder Press
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Bicep Curls
Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Tricep Dips
Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60-90 seconds

STRENGTH TRAINING TO LOSE BELLY FAT?

Strength training helps your body burn away the stubborn fat around your belly. This fat, called visceral fat, hangs out around your organs in the midsection. That’s where it can become visible as the muffin top or love handles. So, by lifting weights, you're saying bye-bye to that unwanted fat.

But here's the thing: You can't zap fat from one spot with specific exercises. So, those crunches won't magically melt away your muffin top.

Strength training works your whole body, helping you lose fat all over, especially with weightlifting. This process will take time, so will not see any overnight success.

These type of exercises increases your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This means that even when you're not exercising, your body will burn more calories than before.

So, not only does strength training help you build muscle and lose fat, but it also boosts your metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight over time.

Graph: silhouettes of 2 women lifting weights

You don't need to sweat buckets every day to get fit and lose belly fat. While cardio keeps you fit, weight training enhances overall health by strengthening muscles. Just make sure to allow enough rest for your muscles to recover and grow stronger.

Ensure you get enough sleep and eat balanced meals with healthy fats, carbs, and protein to fuel your muscles in addition to your strength training regimen. With these added steps, you're on the right track to success.

Starting strength exercises early, preferably before you turn 50, sets you up to stay strong and healthy for life. You need to make your muscles stronger, so you stay healthier for longer.

TOP 10 STRENGTH TRAINING TIPS FOR WOMEN OVER 50

With these top tips, women over 50 can start getting stronger, healthier, and more motivated. These simple strategies will help you reach your fitness goals without getting hurt. Get medical advice if you are unsure strength exercises are suitable for you.

Let's check out these 10 tips to make your workouts better and more effective!

  1. 1
    Warm-up and cool-down: Always begin and end your workouts with proper warm-up and cool-down routines to prevent injury.
  2. 2
    Follow a program: Stick to a structured strength training program to ensure consistency and progression in your workouts
  3. 3
    Progressive overload: Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to continually challenge your muscles and see improvements. 
  4. 4
    Proper form: Focus on maintaining correct form and technique to maximize effectiveness and avoid injury. 
  5. 5
    Consistency: Stick to your strength training regimen consistently to see results over time.
  6. 6
    Start slowly and progress gradually: Begin with manageable weights and intensity, then gradually increase as you become stronger.
  7. 7
    Set realistic goals: Establish achievable goals to keep yourself motivated and track your progress. 
  8. 8
    Nutrition and hydration: Maintain a balanced diet rich in protein and stay hydrated to support muscle growth and recovery.
  9. 9
    Rest and recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to rest and recover between workouts, ensuring at least 48 hours of recovery before working the same muscle groups again to prevent burnout and injury. 
  10. 10
    Stay motivated: Find ways to stay motivated, whether through tracking progress, setting milestones, or seeking support from others.

CONCLUSION:
ACHIEVE YOUR BEST SELF AT 50 WITH STRENGTH TRAINING

Having this knowledge about strength training is truly remarkable. The benefits it brings, such as feeling great, looking great, and enjoying better health as we age, are simply invaluable.

By incorporating weight training into our lives, we enhance our independence and reduce the risk of injury, allowing us to thrive well into our later years.

It's reassuring to realise that we can begin strength training even in our older, post-menopausal years. It's never too late to start, but I want to stress the importance of not delaying your strength training. 

You only have one life, so taking care of yourself should be a top priority.

Strength training isn't just about lifting weights; it's about lifting yourself up. It's a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. With every lift, you're not just sculpting your body; you're shaping your mindset, resilience, and spirit.

It's about pushing through barriers, conquering doubts, and emerging stronger, both inside and out.


Take action now: Stay informed and receive valuable tips and insights periodically. Joining is simple - just sign up below, and you're all set. Rest assured, I won't overwhelm you with information, but you'll receive occasional tips that could make a significant difference in your life!

Birgit is a compassionate guide specializing in supporting senior women through life's transitions. Alongside her dedication to this cause, she finds joy in teaching piano, nurturing her garden, cherishing family moments, and enjoying walks. These activities fuel her creativity and bring depth and richness to her life.


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