While aging is inevitable, aging well is not. There are many factors involved in maintaining good physical and mental health as you age, but one of the most important things to consider as you grow older is weight training.
Exercise not only keeps you feeling and looking younger, but actually physically slows down the aging process. And while exercise comes in many forms, strength training is where the true anti-aging magic happens. If you’re over 50 and haven’t been strength training, it’s not too late to start!
Let’s explore in detail the benefits of strength training and some of the specific weight training moves women over 50 should do.
Use the links below to quickly navigate this article:
- Benefits Of Strength Training After 50
- 11 Strength Training Moves Women Over 50 Should Do
- Additional Strength Training Tips Before You Get Started
Why Is It Important to Strength Train After 50?
The important benefits of strength training after 50 include:
Builds Muscle Mass: Those who strength train see tighter, more toned bodies, rather than getting “bulky”. Being stronger means you are able to stay independent and strong for life’s daily activities such as carrying groceries, lifting grandchildren, or engaging in fun activities like golf or other sports.
Around the age of 30, we start to lose our muscle mass if not doing anything to actively replace it. As many women age, they become more sedentary and hence, their muscles start to deteriorate. That’s why you need to start doing strength work.
Builds Bone Density: Unexpected falls put countless older people in the hospital every year. In fact, according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans. By strength training the muscle and connective tissue that surrounds your bones, you are making yourself stronger and helping to prevent a fall from happening in the first place.
Decreases Body Fat: Maintaining a healthy weight is important when it comes to preventing many diseases that come with aging. By strength training, you are able to decrease the amount of body fat, both internally and externally.
A healthy amount of body fat is both good and necessary. Too much, however, is not. Strength training can help with this.
Speeds Up Metabolism: Strength training and lifting weights leads to more muscle, which then leads to a higher metabolism. Muscle uses more calories at a resting heart rate than body fat.
When you have more muscle on your body, you burn more calories everyday.
Improves Mental Health: As you get older, you may go through a lot of life changes making it normal to feel sad, stressed, or uneasy about these changes. Strength training has been shown to improve your confidence and boost your mental health. Harvard Medical School reports that exercise helps lessen the incidence and the degree of clinical depression.
Improves Balance, Coordination, and Mobility: As you age, you tend to lose the overall muscle strength that allows you to balance. By lifting weights, you are not only building up muscle strength, but you are also forcing your body to function in an unbalanced state, thus improving overall balance and coordination.
Reduces Risk of Many Diseases: According to Tufts University, strength training will reduce the risks and symptoms of several health problems too including: arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression.
11 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women Over 50
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Here are 11 exercises that will work every muscle group and give you a good total body workout. Several use your body weight and a few require a set of dumbbells. Choose a weight that allows you to complete 12 repetitions of each exercise. If it’s too easy, go a little heavier.
1. Basic Squats for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a basic squat:
- Stand tall with your feet hip width distance apart. Hips, knees, and toes all pointing forward.
- Bend your knees and sit your butt back as if you are going to sit in a chair. Primarily keeping your weight equal in both heels, allowing you to keep your knees behind your toes.
- Hit the bottom of your squat, pause, and then rise back up to stand.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes and Core
2. Modified Push Up for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a modified push-up:
- Begin in a kneeling position with your hands below your shoulders and knees back behind your hips.
- Keep your gaze in front of your fingertips so your neck stays long, squeeze your glutes and inner thighs together, keeping the lower body active.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground, keeping your elbows back at about a 45 degree angle.
- Press yourself back up to the starting position
- Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions
Advancement: Once you have mastered the modified push-up try a full push-up from your toes. Begin in a high plank position, hands stacked underneath the shoulders, legs long behind you. Lower your chest to the floor, with your elbows pointing slightly back, until you are just above the ground. As you exhale, tighten your belly and push yourself back up to a plank position.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps, and even your Core.
3. Reverse Grip Double Arm Row for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a reverse grip double arm row:
- Start with your legs together and sit back into a small squat; engaging the glutes and abdominal wall. Arms will be stretched out in front of the body holding the dumbbells with the palms facing the ceiling.
- Drawing your elbows back by squeezing your upper back muscles together, pull the elbows gently past the hips so you feel the lats and triceps engage and return to the starting position with control.
Options: Start with a lighter set of weights and focus on slow controlled movements. Take a 3 second pause at the top of the range of motion and slowly return to the starting position. Once you’ve mastered lighter weights with a slow and controlled pace, grab a set of heavier weights and try completing a few more repetitions.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Triceps, Back and Shoulders
4. Full Body Roll-Up for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a full-body roll up:
- Start lying on a mat (or the ground) with your arms extended overhead, legs long, and feet flexed towards your face.
- Inhale as you lift your arms up and begin curling your chin to your chest. Exhale as you roll the entire torso up and over, keeping your legs straight, abs engaged, reaching down towards the toes.
- Inhale as you begin to roll back down your spine, one vertebra at a time and exhale as the upper portion of the back lowers to the ground, reaching your arms back overhead.
- Repeat moving slowly and using the abdominals to lift and lower, not using momentum.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Core, Shoulders and Back
5. Dumbbell Deadlifts for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a Dumbbell Deadlift:
- Start standing with your feet hip width distance apart and dumbbells facing towards the front of your thighs.
- Tighten your abdominals and keep a flat back as you bring a soft bend through the knees, lowering the dumbbells towards the floor.
- Send your butt backwards with a slight hip hinge, squeeze the glutes, and use your hamstrings to lift and return to your upright position.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Hamstrings and Glutes
6. Forward Lunge with Bicep Curl for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a Forward Lunge with A Bicep Curl:
- Start standing tall with your feet hip width distance apart. Take a large step forward with one foot and lower your back knee down to the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
- Bring weights in towards your shoulders to complete the bicep curl at the bottom of the lunge, then push off the front foot and return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, and Biceps
7. Forearm Plank for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a forearm plank:
- Begin by lying on the floor with your forearms flat on the ground. Your elbows should be aligned directly below your shoulders. Hands should be separated the width of your elbows.
- Engage your core, press down through your elbows and raise your body up off the floor, keeping your body in a straight line from your head down to your feet. Pull your navel into your spine and squeeze your glutes to keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
Modifications: Drop down to your knees and hold from your forearms and your knees. This will allow you to focus on squeezing your belly into your spine without dropping your hips or dumping pressure into your low back.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Core/ Abdominals, Shoulder, Chest, Upper Back, Arm, and Leg Muscles.
8. Single Leg Hamstring Bridge for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a single leg hamstring bridge:
- Lie on your back with bent knees both hip width distance apart. Your feet will be flat on the mat stacked underneath your knees. Once in a bridge position extend one leg long towards the ceiling.
- Squeezing your glutes and lifting your hips off of the mat into a bridge. Lower and lift the hips for a desired number of reps and then repeat on the other side.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Hamstrings, Glutes, and Quads
9. Tricep Kick Back for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a tricep kick back:
- Start with your feet together (or hip width distance apart), sit back into a slight squat with arms bent at 90-degree angles, and dumbbells at the sides of the chest.
- Press the dumbbells back past the hips, keeping the line from your shoulder to your elbow joint stable and only finding movement from the elbow joint to the dumbbell. Return back to the starting position with dumbbells at 90-degrees.
Advanced Option: Stability Ball Tricep Kick Back
Adding the stability ball to a tricep kickback is a strength exercise that will not only strengthen the triceps but will also challenge your core stability. An exercise that can be done by all levels from beginners to advanced will make you work your entire body in order to keep you on the stability ball.
Here’s how to perform a stability ball tricep kickback:
- Holding dumbbells, place your chest firmly on the ball with arms draped along your side body and legs extended on the floor behind you. Keep your head in line with your spine, squeezing your glutes to hold yourself in a stable plank position on the ball.
- Pull your elbow up to a 90-degree angle for the starting position of the tricep kickback.
- Press the dumbbells back, squeezing the triceps.
- Release dumbbells back down to starting position, maintaining balance on the stability ball the entire time.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Triceps and Core.
10. Shoulder Overhead Press for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform a shoulder overhead press:
- Start with your feet hip width distance apart. Bring your elbows out to the side creating a goal post position with your arms. Elbows will be straight out from shoulder height and abdominals held in tight.
- Press dumbbells straight overhead until your arms are straight. Slowly return to starting position (goal post arms) with control.
Muscle Groups Targeted: Shoulders
11. Bird Dog for Strength Training
Here’s how to perform bird dog:
- Kneel on a mat (or any soft surface) on all fours
- Reach one arm long, drawing in the abdominals, and extend the opposite leg long behind you.
- Hold for 5-10 seconds and return to all fours.
- Repeat on the other side.
Muscles Groups Targeted: Abdominals and Low Back
Try these strength exercises for a total body workout for women over 50 two different ways:
1. 10 Minute AMRAP Workout (As Many Rounds as Possible Workout) – Set a timer for 10 Minutes. Complete a total of 10 repetitions of each exercise above. Repeat as many times as possible within the 10 minutes. Taking breaks as needed – the goal is to get through as many rounds as you can of all strength exercises in the 10 minutes.
2. Circuit Workout – In this circuit workout we are going to bundle a few of the exercises together and you will repeat each circuit 2 times through.
- Complete Exercises 1 – 4 together: You will complete 10 repetitions of each exercise (squats, mid back rows, modified push-ups and the full body roll up) and repeat the circuit again for a total of 2 rounds.
- Complete Exercises 5 – 7 together: After completing 2 rounds of exercises 1 – 4, you will move onto exercises 5 through 7. Completing 10 repetitions of each (deadlift, lunges with bicep curls, and 1 minute of a forearm plank) and repeat the circuit a total of 2 rounds. If you need to modify the forearm plank you can adjust the time down to 30 seconds or drop down to your knees and continue to engage your core.
- Complete Exercises 8 – 11 together: After completing the first 2 circuits, you will move onto the third circuit which consists of exercises 8 through 11 (single leg hamstring bridge, tricep kickback, shoulder overhead press, and bird dog). Complete 10 repetitions of the 4 exercises and repeat the circuit one more time!
Additional Strength Training Tips for Women Over 50
The CDC has set the guideline that everyone should perform strength training activities at least two days a week. This goes for anyone in their 30s and all the way up into your 50s, 60s, and even 70s! Strength training is perfectly safe for women over 50, but there are a few tips you should know before getting started:
- Consult your doctor before dramatically changing your exercise regimen or if you have any pre-existing conditions or injuries.
- Start with baby steps. Let your body adapt to the exercise. If you haven’t been strength training for a while or ever, you need to let your joints, muscle and tissues get used to your increased activity.
- Drink a lot of water! This should be before, during, and after.
- Always start your weight training session with a dynamic warm-up. The older you are, the more warming up you will need. Get some range of motion happening in the joints, start breathing through your mouth and get your blood pumping.
- The “No Pain, No Gain” mentality does not apply during strength training. Muscle fatigue is good. Muscle pain is not. If something hurts and does not feel good, you should stop. Do not keep pushing through!
- Always end your strength workout with a cool-down or stretch. When you strength train to fatigue, you are breaking down your muscle fibers to rebuild later. By cooling down and stretching post-workout, you will decrease the potential or at least the degree of sore muscles a few days later.
The good news is that we can beat the odds by continuing to weight train, helping to build and maintain muscle muscle throughout life! So what are you waiting for, grab a pair of dumbbells and start your weight training journey today!