Today we’re diving into one of my favorite subjects – strength training—specifically, why women, and especially those who are getting older, should consider incorporating strength training into your lifestyle.
Before you tune out and go back to your cardio, hear me out: You are NOT going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You just don’t have enough testosterone to do that. Since it aids in muscle building, you are at a genetic disadvantage. This is why men typically build muscle faster and more easily than women. You can read more about this in the article in the show notes from the International Sport Sciences Association (ISSA).
As we age, both men and women face muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia. For women, the rate of muscle loss becomes particularly significant during and after menopause, often leading to reduced mobility and increased risk of injury. But you may have noticed this as early as your 30s. Add to that the fact that women are more prone to osteoporosis—a condition that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures.
Strength training offers a natural and effective way to counteract age-related muscle loss and osteoporosis. By incorporating strength training exercises into your regular fitness routine, you can improve muscle mass, strength, and even bone density.
Studies have shown that even light strength training can result in significant improvements in bone density, particularly in postmenopausal women. So, lifting weights is for anyone wanting to improve their bone health and overall mobility. It’s not just for gym bros and the Alex Hormozis of the world.
Now I don’t want you showing up to the weight section picking up those 3 or 5-lb weights. In some gyms, those weights are even pink so women will be drawn to them. How insulting! Why? Because you are capable of so much more than that!
In your daily life you carry groceries, children, move furniture, all kinds of things! You need to challenge yourself and your muscles and 3-pound dumbbells aren’t going to do it. If you want to see how much weight you can actually lift, try a simple deadlift.
On the bar, put the amount of weight equal to what you weigh. Squat down and then stand up with the bar. You aren’t trying to lift this over your head, but you have the ability to lift your body weight up off the ground. You do it every time you get out of bed!
Acknowledge and embrace your strength!
Still not convinced? Pick up weight equivalent to the weight of your child. If you can pick up your child, you can lift more than you think.
There is a common myth that strength training is incompatible with weight loss goals, and many women avoid it for fear of ‘bulking up’. I addressed this earlier, but it bears repeating.
Strength training can actually be a key player in effective, long-term weight management. When you increase muscle mass through strength training, you also boost your basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning you burn more calories at rest. But I also need you to understand that you will likely need to consume more calories to feed your muscles. A calorie deficit will be required to lose weight even when you are doing more strength training.
With an improved metabolism, it’s easier to maintain or lose weight as you age. This is especially crucial for women as we face hormonal changes that can make weight management more challenging as we get older.
Although I went through a ton of hormonal changes during school because of puberty, I credit my ability to stay slim during that time to lifting weights. And it’s what’s going to get me back to my fighting weight. Any boxing fans in the house? We’ve been watching a Rocky/Creed marathon at my house so it’s on my mind!
Believe it or not, I started strength training when I was 10 years old! Yup! My dad had some free weights and a bench press in the basement and I loved feeling stronger. When I got to middle school and was able to use the weights in the gym, things got even more fun. The fun continued into high school and college at the Naval Academy.
I was even on the powerlifting team for a season at the academy. If you’re not familiar with that sport, the events are deadlift, squat, and bench press. Basically, the smaller you are, the more you can lift, the more likely you are to win. I got a silver medal that year!
And it doesn’t mean you’ll never do cardio. But if you only had time to do ONE activity in the gym, I would rather you hit the weights than the treadmill. Yup, I said it!
In fact, here’s my order of operations for you: good nutrition, strength training, cardio, stretching. So even if you don’t make it to the gym make sure your nutrition is on point. Next, if you only have time for one thing, do strength training. If you have more time, add in about 20 minutes of cardio (unless you’re training for something), and then don’t forget to stretch when you’re done your activity for the day.
Here’s another thing to consider about strength training and exercise in general:
It’s no secret that physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. But did you know that strength training, in particular, has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety?
Completing a strength training session gives a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. As you witness your own progress—lifting heavier weights, performing more reps, mastering new moves—you gain a sense of control and competence, boosting your overall self-esteem.
For older women, maintaining physical strength contributes to a sense of independence, which can be incredibly empowering. Being strong in your body can mean a healthier, more fulfilling life both physically and mentally.
One of the other things I like about strength training, especially free weights and calisthenics, is the increased range of motion that comes from lifting. We’ll talk about that in a future episode.
Ladies, the weight room is not just a guy’s space. It’s for everyone who wants to improve their health, longevity, and quality of life. Strength training is not about conforming to a certain body image; it’s about embracing the incredible things your body is capable of at any age.
Don’t let age or gender stereotypes hold you back. If you’ve never tried strength training before, start small, perhaps with the guidance of a certified trainer like myself, and go from there. The power to age gracefully, healthily, and strongly is in your hands—literally.