Strength training for women, in general, is an important part of fitness and either maintaining or losing weight. However, for women over 50, strength training takes on new urgency. That’s because women over 50 naturally lose muscle mass. The best way to counteract this natural phenomenon is to lift weights, which will build muscle mass. And despite many rumors you may have heard in your life, lifting weights will not make you big. Unless, of course, you’re working really hard at developing showy muscles. This kind of strength training helps you toned if you keep at it.
Before getting started, it is best to get warmed up. Get your muscles warmed and your heart rate elevated by taking a quick walk, jog, or doing some other light cardio activity. Also, make sure you have weights that will allow you to be fatigued at 20 repetitions. Finally, if you’re just getting started or are just coming back to working out, know that one set is enough. Even if you finish the workout feeling like you could do more, that’s better than feeling like you’re spent. If you feel ready today or as you get comfortable, add another set by just replaying the video. Do the cooldown video when you’re finished.
How to do This Strength Training for Women Workout
The workouts listed in this article are not intended to be done all at once to start. Instead, you have a selection of workouts that focus on different parts of the body that you can choose from. The intention is to start by doing one exercise your first week, at just 5 minutes a day, then add another 5-minute workout your second week, and so on. The goal is that by the end of 30 days, you’ll have worked your way up to a 20-minute strength training workout. Try and do the full workout each week, but it’s okay if you truly only have 5 minutes! Give yourself permission to just do what you’re able, or feel free to push yourself just enough to make it uncomfortable. Look to customize a full workout that feels right for you using the options we’ve provided.
Workout #1: Floor Strength Training
Start by laying on your back. Make sure when you do this that you are pressing your shoulder blades into the ground. Take your weights in your hand, then push up with power, with a slight bend in the elbows. Then come down with control, slightly slower than when you pushed up. During this entire exercise, your weight will stay over your chest, not stray to your face or waist. You should reach muscular fatigue at the end of every set: don’t wait until set two to push it!
Bent Arm Pullover
While still on your back, take one weight in both hands and hold it over your chest. Your neck should be relaxed, and your elbows slightly bent. You will keep them at this same angle during the entire exercise, so the power comes from your shoulders, not your arms. Then lower the weight toward the ground behind your head, almost to the floor. While doing this, make sure your back stays on the floor by engaging your core. You should not be able to slide your hands under your back while doing this exercise! If you cannot lower your weights without lifting your back, don’t lower quite as much. Then bring the weight back to the starting position, repeating 20 times.
Place your exercise ball under your ankles. Don’t choke up or put it under your feet, or this move will be less effective, and the ball may slip. Make sure toes are facing up, and knees are facing up and stay together. Then keeping your fingers at your chest, engage your core and glutes and raise your bum toward the sky, so your body makes a straight line from head to feet. Lower back toward the ground without actually touching it.
Workout #2: Legs
Remember when doing this strength training for women workout that the goal is to reach fatigue at 20 reps. These exercises were done with bodyweight, but if you will not reach fatigue at 20 reps using just bodyweight, add a weighted vest or hold a weight.
To do a plié squat, have feet wider than a normal squat, with toes turned out. However, don’t turn your toes out so far that the knee can’t track over the toes. Make sure you keep your weight on the heels. If you cannot wiggle your toes, you need to move your feet a little wider and drive down through the heel. Lower into the squat, keeping the back straight. Creases should be in the hips, ankles, and knees, not the spine here. As you rise out of the squat position, make sure you continue to engage your core and glutes. Squat 20 times, then on the last squat pulse in the lowered position for 15 counts.
Have both feet together, standing tall and driving your weight into your heels. Then move one leg back into a squat. Make sure your front knee is over or behind your ankle, not in front of it. Then bring the rear leg to touch the toes before it comes forward into a single high-knee. If your balance is good, you can skip touching toes. Repeat 20 times, keeping core and glutes engaged and your chin and chest up. Try to land as lightly as you can during this exercise. Then switch, and do 20 repetitions on the other leg.
Lateral Side Steps
If you have it, use a band, placing it just above the knees. If you do not have a resistance band, you can still do lateral side steps. Start in a slight squat position. Then move one leg to the side, following with the other leg. Continue to sidestep laterally, staying low and keeping the weight in your heels for 4 side steps or as far as you can before hitting an obstacle. Then go back, opposite leg leading this time. Repeat until you have done 20 reps.
Workout #3: Upper Body
With knees slightly bent, feet together, you will lean forward. Engage the glutes and keep the weight in your heels. Make sure your back is arched. You do not want a rounded spine while making this move. You also want to push the shoulders down the back and ensure they’re not creeping toward the ears. If you need support, or this is a new move for you, sit on your exercise ball. Then choose the dumbbells that will have you fatiguing at 20 reps. Then, with weights in hand, fix your gaze slightly down, and bring the weights to the outside of your chest. Arms should be bent and stay in toward the body, not coming out or away. On the come-down, make sure you have control over the weight, going a little bit slower than you did when raising.
For this move, take a seat on your ball. You may want to decrease the weight you use for this move. Then sitting on the ball, weights in hand, raise hands overhead, and drop the shoulders down. Then, bending at the elbows, bring the weights behind your head. Keep elbows close to the head while doing this, and make sure they’re not drifting to the side. Engage your core, keep the tail tucked into the ball and keep the crown of your head up with a relaxed neck. If you need more weight to fatigue at 20 reps during this move, cross the dumbbells while doing it.
For this move, you can either stand or stay seated on the ball. On the ball, have arms at your side, elbows bent and to the side. Bring both arms up at the same time, bending at the elbow. Then, still in control of the weight, lower arms back to the initial 90-degree elbow bent position. For standing, have palms out, and weights in each hand with elbows bent at about 90-degrees. Just as in the seated position, raise both hands simultaneously by bending at the elbows. If you want to add more challenge, balance on one foot while doing this exercise.
Workout #4: Body Weight & Floor
This set will be on the floor as the first strength workout, but it will be more challenging and put pressure on your wrists. If this is too much for you, go back and do another one of the workouts instead.
Start in a high plank position but with feet a little bit wider than they normally would be. Pull your shoulder blades together, and the core is tight. Alternate lifting arms so they are bent at the elbow and come to your chest. If you are able or want to use dumbbells, you can, or just use your body weight. Try to limit your body wiggling from side to side by keeping your core engaged.
Go straight into a push-up from here. If you can do push-ups from your toes, go for it! But because you were just in a high-plank, you may be a little fatigued. If so, there is no problem with staying on your knees. Lengthen your body so there is a line from the crown of your head to your knees (or toes). Lower down and then exhale on the way up. Make sure your nose does not get there before the chest. After 10, change your arm position slightly, going wither wider or narrower for the next 10 push-ups.
Lay with your back on the mat and place your ball under your heels. Keeping your knees together, raise your hips off the floor. Roll the ball in and out, using your heels to drag the ball toward you, then away. If you cannot do all 20 of these at once, don’t worry! Take a break and then come back to them.
If you’re still struggling to lose weight even after adding more time to your daily and weekly workouts, you might want to consider giving your diet an overhaul. If you’ve considered intermittent fasting but are intimidated by the idea, take a look at Prime Women’s PLATE program, which offers an amazing program specially designed to help women over 50 jump-start their weight loss. Now available in an app on Apple or Android with reminders to keep you on track.
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