Welcome! In this post, you will learn about strength training for women over 40 and its benefits.
You are probably aware that strength training is recommended for adults of all ages, including women over 40.
But is strength training effective for women over 40 and are there any precautions? More importantly what is the benefits?
While women have embraced the fitness world in the past couple of decades, many still see it as a “manly” activity.
Many women still have fears about strength training. You might be afraid of getting injured or not knowing what to do in the gym or you might even be afraid that you will get too muscular and end up looking masculine.
Rest assured, these fears are pointless for most women. On average men build muscle much faster and even then it takes years of dedicated work and dieting to look “muscular”.
Some women do have great genetics for putting on muscle, but it’s very easy to adjust your training if you happen to be one of the few and don’t like the
On the other hand, if you are looking to get muscular and lean, maybe even looking into bodybuilding and fitness, the only way to find out if you have good genetics
This post will focus more on the health aspect of strength training instead of the effects in can have on your looks.
What Counts As Strength Training
Let’s start by defining what counts as strength training. There are many kinds of exercise that claim to be strength training when they really aren’t.
Strength training is a form of exercise with the goal of increasing your muscular strength. This is done by lifting a weight or some other form of resistance like an exercise band or bodyweight.
That’s why strength training is also called resistance training.
When you lift a high enough weight with your target muscle or muscle group, the muscles will get fatigued and even suffer micro-injuries.
When you stop the exercise and rest your body will start to repair itself. Adaptation will happen within the muscle cells that build them a bit stronger than they were before.
Also, your nervous system will learn to recruit more muscle cells. These adaptations happen because you put a new stress on your muscles that they learn to handle.
The changes are of course very small in one workout-rest-cycle, but when you repeat this process over and over again, the changes become very obvious.
You read more about this process in the post benefits of strength training for seniors. I know, you are not a senior, but the same principles apply.
So what kind of exercise offers these benefits? Simply put lifting weight that you can lift about 1 to 20 times before failure.
Different rep ranges will have slightly different effects, but anything in that rep range will produce some strength adaptations.
Compound exercises that utilize more muscle groups are more effective and functional. This means exercise likes squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, pull-ups, etc.
Diet is an important part of strength training because the workouts and the adaptations require energy. Gaining weight while doing strength training will usually lead to increased muscle mass and faster progress.
But you can gain strength and improve your health with strength training without gaining weight. The progress is just slower and the adaptations will be mostly neural instead of increased muscle mass.
For strength training to be effective, it needs to be repeated consistently while increasing the resistance over time. This is called progressive overload.
Benefits Of Strength Training For Women Over 40
So strength training will not make you too muscular as a 40-year-old woman, unless you are a genetic freak that dedicates training to building muscle, aka bodybuilding.
But there are a ton of benefits that strength training can offer for women over 40. In fact, it’s one of the most beneficial forms of exercise for this age group.
The benefits of strength training range from improved physical performance to improved metabolism and even better cognition and mental health.
Increased Strength And Stamina
The most obvious benefit of strength training is increased strength that makes lifting heavy objects easier and improves your physical performance.
Simply put strong people have it easier when performing any kind of physical task. Be it carrying the groceries, doing construction, carrying children, doing gardening etc.
Strength training builds both strength and stamina as stronger muscles tire more slowly.
And kind of physical activity that involves lifting, carrying, jumping, pushing, or pulling will likely benefit significantly from strength training.
More importantly, increased strength and muscle mass will help keep your spine and joints healthy and make you more resistant to injury.
Improved Bone Density
Strength training is also effective for improving bone strength and mass.
This is especially important for women over 40 as aging women are more prone to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become weak and frail due to loss of bone mass.
Bone mass starts to decline in your 40s or even 30s, and it’s important to do your best to prevent this decline as osteoporosis can have detrimental health effects.
Osteoporosis is more common in women and to make things worse, menopause will accelerate the process significantly because hormones play a key role in bone metabolism.
Strength training and a healthy diet that has enough calcium and vitamin D (if you don’t get it from the sun) are some of the most effective ways to prevent osteoporosis.
Another significant benefit of strength training is that the helps to maintain and improve your balance.
While balance is a complex skill that needs to be trained with diverse exercise and movements it’s highly dependent on your leg and core strength.
Stronger legs will allow you to maintain balance in more extreme positions when you slip or stumble.
Strength training will also help keep your legs fast, which is important when your reflexes kick in to obtain stability when your balance is suddenly compromised.
Squats, lunges, and other free weight exercises challenge your balance directly and will help to improve your balance.
Strength training will also help to improve your mobility when done right, which will also affect your ability to maintain balance in extreme positions.
If you do fall, a stronger body is also less likely to suffer major injuries.
The adaptations caused by strength training will affect your metabolism as well. And I’m not just talking about burning more calories and body fat but on the cellular level.
Strength training has been shown to be quite effective in treating metabolic disorders like increased triglycerides and cholesterol and prediabetic blood glucose levels.
As you probably are aware, blood glucose and cholesterol levels are very important for long-term health and you should do your best to get them to a healthy range.
Strength training will also help you shed unwanted body fat and improve your body compositions due to increased muscle mass.
That said, strength training is just a tool that helps with metabolism. Overall activity levels and above all your diet play a key role.
Improved Cognition and Mental Health
If that list of benefits wasn’t enough there’s also promising research and anecdotal evidence for the benefits of strength training to your cognition and mental health.
Strength training has been shown to be beneficial for both cognition and mental health for many people.
This is likely partly due to the positive metabolic effects which can help reduce silent inflammation in your body as well as endorphins and improved self-image.
Exercise and especially heavy strength training makes your body release endorphins, opiate-like substances that reduce pain and improve mood. So strength training can quite literally get you high.
Strength training can also improve your confidence and thus mental health through several mechanisms.
Being consistent and improving in strength training over time will give you a sense of accomplishment and personal improvement, something which is very important for mental health.
Strength training can also increase your confidence simply by making you aware of your own strength and capabilities.
Strength training can of course help with body image, which can be a significant source of confidence for many people.
How To Get Started With Strength Training
The best way to get started with strength training is to join a gym close to you and see if there are trainers that can guide in the beginning.
You can also do strength training at home with bodyweight training or kettlebells for example.
Even if you prefer working out at home, it’s good to go over the basics with a professional.
Strength training is very safe when done correctly but if you have mobility issues or use a bad lifting form, it’s possible to injure yourself.
This is especially true for barbell compound lifts like the squat and the deadlift. They are some of the most effective strength training exercises but learning them on your own can be dangerous.
That’s why I recommend getting started under the guidance of a professional. You definitely don’t need to have a constant trainer, we all know how expensive that can be.
But learning everything correctly, in the beginning, will make your strength training journey more enjoyable, effective, and most importantly injury-free.
If you want to learn how to do barbell exercises effectively, I recommend you see if there is a certified Starting Strength gym near you.
Strength Sports For Women Over 40
If you have an athletic background or are very competitive, you might be interested in competitive strength sports.
These include powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit, and bodybuilding/fitness. Well, the last one isn’t really a strength sport but bodybuilders and fitness competitors use strength training to build their physiques.
Strength sports are a great way to get into strength training because the instructors are on average much more experienced with serious strength training than your average personal trainer.
All strength sports will offer the benefits of strength training but with an additional component of skill associated with the sport. And of course, competition is that’s what you want.
Weightlifting involves two lifts, the snatch, and the clean & jerk. It’s the strength sport they do at the Olympics. Weight lifting is very technical but effective. Weight lifting is more about explosive strength as the movements can only be performed fast.
Powerlifting includes three lifts: The squat, the deadlift, and the bench press, and tests more of your maximal strength than weightlifting, as these movements can be performed slowly.
CrossFit isn’t actually just a strength sport but it uses movements from weight lifting and powerlifting as well as other types of strength and endurance training. CrossFit can be very effective but it’s very dependent on the coaches.
CrossFit has a bad rep of people getting injured because at some boxes there is a mentality where challenging yourself is seen as more important than safety.
Another issue can be incompetent trainers that allow people to perform very complex movements like the snatch before they have the mobility, strength, and skill to perform them safely.
So as around before you join a CrossFit box, see if the instructors have experience in actual sports training.
A final word of warning. Strength sports are sports. This means that there is a higher risk of injury than in training for health, especially if you compete. Athletes take calculated risks when pushing their limits.
Strength sports can be done for health reasons, you just need to keep a higher safety margin and not push yourself as hard.
If you are interested more in bodybuilding or fitness, check out the article bodybuilding for women over 40.
I hope you found this post about strength training for women over 40 useful. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments section below.
As a recap, women over 40 can benefit greatly from strength training. It’s especially effective for preventing osteoporosis and age-related muscle loss and in improving physical performance.
The best way to get started is by getting a trainer in a gym to show you how different movements are performed. They can also give you a beginner program to follow.
There is no point in fearing getting too muscular as any kind of visible change will take months of dedicated work for most people.
So get started as soon as possible reap all the health benefits. You will be grateful for it in the future if you will!
Thanks for reading!