Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
Why Strength Training for Women Over 40 is Important
As women pass 40, metabolism slows down and weight gain sets in. The risk of loss of bone mass increases. These are reasons why strength training for women over 40 is more important than ever.
Sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle mass, continues unless efforts are made to reverse it.
Most people lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30.
If you’re over 40 and you’re not doing regular strength training, you’re losing muscle mass.
Strength training for women over 40 can be used to prevent or reverse many of the problems that women encounter.
Other ways strength training can help women over 40:
- Improved sleep
- Decreased stress levels
- Improved mood
- Better brain health
- Improved glucose management
- Increased libido
So let’s get into the details of strength training for women over 40.
Frequency of Workouts
For beginners, 8-10 multi-joint exercises, or compound exercises, that target the major muscle groups is a great starting point, 2-3 times per week.
Allow 48-96 hours rest between workouts.
Your body temperature peaks between 4pm and 6pm, and it’s believed to be the reason pliability, speed, and strength peak during this time frame.
Therefore, the optimal time for resistance training is 4pm to 6pm.
You may be surprised to know that cardiovascular exercise and resistance training conflict with each other at the molecular level. When they are done in the same session, gains in muscle mass (hypertrophy) and strength are adversely affected.
The molecular mechanisms in the muscles involved in strength gains need approximately 3 hours to reset. This is why you should do cardiovascular exercise and resistance training at least 3 hours apart.
Additional research has shown that you need between 6 hours and 24 hours to avoid having cardiovascular exercise interfere with gains in strength and muscle mass.
For beginners, perform 60%-70% of 1 repetition-max for 8-12 repetitions.
10-15 repetitions is a good range for people over 50.
Beginners can start with 2-3 sets per exercise. More advanced people can do 4-6 sets per exercise.
Adjust your intensity based on your fitness level.
Regarding progression, when you can complete the full number of repetitions on a set, increase the load by 5% in the next training session.
Progression can also be achieved by increasing the number of sets, or doing higher repetitions.
Length of Workouts
When time is not a limiting factor, allow rest intervals of 2 minutes or more. This will allow you to handle greater workloads for increased strength improvements.
Allowing 60-120 seconds rest between sets will facilitate a more efficient use of time and help you get your workout done in less time.
For more efficient use of time, try Effective Repetitions. Do 12 repetitions to failure. Rest 15 seconds, and then do as many reps as possible (usually about 4 reps). Rest 15 seconds again, then do as many reps as possible until you’ve accumulated 20 reps. Then move on to the next exercise. You may want to rest 2 minutes before moving on to the next exercise.
Another way to save time is to do supersets. For example, combine tricep extensions with bicep curls with no rest between the exercises. Rest after completing a superset.
Types of Exercises
Select a combination of single joint and multi joint exercises that work opposing muscle groups, or agonists and antagonists. You can avoid muscle imbalances by following this strategy.
To effectively improve muscular fitness, use a wide variety of equipment, such as barbells, dumbbells, cables, resistance bands, kettlebells, and gravity.
Sample Beginner’s Workout (2-3 times per week)
2-3 sets, 8-12 repetitions each:
Standing calf raises on one leg
Hip extensions with cables
Dumbbell bench press
Dumbbell press overhead
Lower torso rotation
Prone back extension
A word of caution: People with osteoporosis should avoid excessive bending, twisting, and compression of the spine.
There are multiple ways to structure a workout. Change your workout frequently.
Doing the same workout for a long time contributes to boredom due to lack of variety. When you lose interest in exercise, you’re more likely to drop out. It’s a good idea to change your workout once a month.
When selecting exercises, try to select exercises that mimic your functional activities of daily living.
Most people can exercise safely without first visiting a doctor.
If you’re not exercising regularly and you have cardiovascular, metabolic, or renal disease, or signs or symptoms that suggest you do, you should get medical clearance before commencing exercise.
Need help designing a workout? The American Council on Exercise has resources to help you find a fitness professional.
By incorporating weight training into your fitness regimen, you can craft a workout designed for longevity.
Regular strength training will reduce the risk of many of the health problems women over 40 encounter.
Including strength training as part of your exercise routine is not just about living longer, but also living better.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.