Strength Training Tips for Womxn at any age
I am not going to lie, there is never not a good time to include strength training in your fitness and wellness regiment regardless of your age.
However, more often then not strength training is not really marketed to womxn. Usually it’s sold as this thing that will bulk you up and get you jacked. To me, getting jacked is pretty exciting, but I recognize that that isn’t the goal for everyone.
Every body is different and responds differently to strength training. This is why the right kind of training and the right program is key.
Why Strength Train
Strength training has many benefits.
Builds and Maintains Muscle Mass
Let’s start with the obvious here, it builds and maintains muscle mass. As we age, muscle mass and power naturally declines. This natural loss can make things that used to be easy, like getting up and out of a low chair, feel quite challenging. Strength training can help counter this natural muscle [strength] loss.
Strength training protects your bone health. Our bones are strongest at about age 30 and then slowly lose mineral density from there.
Womxn who will experience (or who have experienced) menopause can lose up to 20% of their bone mass due to the reduction in estrogen and progesterone resulting in osteoporosis.
Strength training supports bone density and can help lower ones risk of osteoporosis. This is because weight bearing activities and resistance training help stimulate the bones and building bone density.
It’s Also Cardio!
Strength training is a low-impact cardio exercise. Strength training can be both low intensity or high intensity cardio too. This depends on how challenging the weights you’re lifting are for you or how quickly (but not too quickly) you are moving through the exercises. So strength training improves your cardiovascular health!
Body Composition Changes
Strength training is effective in weight maintain or even weight loss, if that’s a goal of yours. Strength training increases your lean muscle mass (see point number one) which helps to use the energy that you eat to fuel your body more efficiently. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be mindful about how you’re fueling your body, just that more of the energy consumed will be used by the body.
And depending on the goals and the training program, strength training can increase weight too, if that’s a goal of yours. This is usually coupled with consuming more energy to meet the demands of the training program.
Weight loss isn't a main focus in our, Redefine Strength and Fitness's, training philosophy, but we recognize that for some people that is one of their goals. We focus on assisting folks move well, feel good doing it and just feel good in general. We want folks to feel all around like the badasses that they are!
A Mental Health Boost
Lastly, strength training improves your mood and mental health. Studies show that people who engaged in resistance training (AKA: strength training) have a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. One reason may be because exercise can release feel good endorphins.
How Should I Train Based on My Age
To go off on a bit of a tangent, age is just a number-right? It’s how you’re feeling that’s the most important. In society there is this ageism stuff that says a certain age is old and that if you’re old you slow down and take it easy. And that is just malarky. [yep, I just used malarky!]
Every body is different and every body has experienced life differently. Each person’s body is going to move differently based on those life experiences. Some folks may have more mobility, strength, flexibility, stamina, than others based on the movement history of their body and that is independent of age.
So let’s throw the story that popular culture likes to tell over and over again out and reframe it in our minds.
Where to Begin
You can start wherever you are now and go to wherever you’d like to go. Sometimes that just means you need some guidance. [Enter this blog, but also having a coach is a super useful thing]
To be honest there isn’t a do these exercises at this age and do those exercises at that age guideline. There are universal movement patterns that humans want to be moving in and adding weight to to get stronger. How you personally will do those movement patterns will be different than the next human, based on how you are currently moving.
Guidelines I like to give folks, regardless of age (and I have trained people from their early 20s up into their 80s), are:
- Are you feeling the work in the muscle(s) we are trying to target
- Does it feel challenging enough for you, but not so challenging it feels impossible.
- Does it feel good in your body. What I mean by this is not everyone is going to be able to do every exercise that works a specific movement pattern based on their mobility, flexibility or previous injury limitations. So, we want to find the exercise in that movement pattern that work for your body.
Movement Patterns and their Exercises
So if there is no specific exercises for certain ages, what are the movement patters and related exercises?
Let’s break this down.
Squats are a knee dominant exercise and mimic getting up and out of chairs. Squats can be done double legged or single legged. Squats challenge your leg muscles and your butt muscles a little, but mostly your quads.
A double option is your basic squat, which can be done with body weight or with weights.
Split Squats are a great way to challenge your legs unilaterally. These can also be performed with body weight and progress to holding weights/weight objects.
Hip Hinging movements
Deadlifts, single leg deadlifts or even hip lifts are all hip hinging movements. All hip hinging exercises are targeting your glutes and a little bit of your hamstrings. A hip hinge is used in bending over to touch your toes and as part of the sitting down/standing up process.
A double leg option is the hip lift. The hip lift below can be done with your body completely on the floor, feet elevated on a surface or your shoulders elevated, as demoed in the video. If you are exercising at home the surface could be a couch or chair.
A way to progress this exercise is to add something weighted to your lap.
A single leg option that also works your balance is a single leg deadlift. You can reach forward as the video below demoes and you can also add a weight to the same hand as the leg lifting or in both hands.
Upper Body Pushing
There are two directions that the upper body can move in the pushing pattern: horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal Pushing Exercises
An example of a horizontal pushing exercise is the push-up. The video below demonstrates an incline push-up. Your incline can be the wall, counter, coffee table or two yoga blocks as you build strength in this movement pattern.
**Quick note here: it is more beneficial to do the push-up in the plank body than from your knees on the floor. Part of the strength needed to perform the push-up is core strength to maintain that plank shape. The core also supports the arms in the pushing action.
Vertical pushing Exercises
Vertical pushing is an overhead press or a landmine press. We prefer giving folks a landmine press to ensure a good core position is maintained and the low back doesn’t try to get involved in the overhead pressing movement.
Upper Body Pulling
There are also two directions the upper body can pull: horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal Pulling Exercises
Horizontal pulling are any row type exercises. They can be performed single armed or with both arms. Below is a video of a single arm row.
You can use a resistance band, dumbbells or kettlebells or even a bottle of laundry detergent.
Vertical Pulling Exercises
Some exercises that are in the vertical pulling movement pattern are pull-ups and pull downs. Vertical pulling exercises can be performed with both arms or with a single arm.
Core exercise can be separated into different functions, all of which are supporting the spine. Core exercises are generally one of these types of exercises: anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation.
The core is contracting to resist the spine extending into an arch. Below are two exercises you can do.
Bear Crawl Hold
Hard Style Plank
Anti-Lateral Flexion Exercises
These types of exercises are resisting side bending under load. A real life application is not side bending while carrying a heavy bag in one arm.
A side plank is just one exercise that is resisting lateral flexion.
Anti-rotation core exercises are resisting spinal rotation. The spine really isn’t a super fan of spinal rotation under load. Performing anti-rotation exercises can help resist these loads in real life.
Below is a half kneeling inline lift. Inline refers to your feet and knee being inline with one another, like you’re on a tightrope.
Another anti-rotation exercise is the press-out hold.
I hope you feel more empowered to add some strength training to your weekly workouts.
This article really is just scraping the iceberg. We highly recommend getting a movement assessment before embarking on a new exercise program. An assessment from a fitness profession will let you know what exercises are best suited for where your body is at now. An assessment also informs a fitness professional about what to program for you based on where you want to go.
If you need more guidance there are a couple of options for you.
- You could download this Two-Day Strength Training Workout
- Email us about our training memberships for in-person or virtual training options.
- Email us to talk about our distance strength training program.
As always feel free to reach out to us or leave a comment. We are always happy to help out and connect with folks anytime.