There's a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Muscle accounts for about a third of the average woman's weight, so it has a profound effect on her metabolism, says Kenneth Walsh, director of Boston University School of Medicine's Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. In English: Muscle chews up calories even when you're not in the gym. Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you'll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.
I started training when I was about 17 years old.I’ve always loved weight training! And despite all the warnings my friends, family and “MOM” gave me about bulking up & looking like a man, I never listened to them – not because I knew all the amazing effects of progressive overload back then. But lifting weights (and increasing them over a period of time) gave me a sense of euphoria. The 5 lb dumbbell that was so hard to lift in the beginning seemed like cotton – 2 months into it! I guess I’m trying to say is – I’m so glad I did not be “girly” and lift pink dumbbells! 🙂
The following workout will give you 10 excellent exercises that women over 50 can concentrate on during their workouts. Several exercises are going to include single leg moves or stability ball moves. These were intentionally incorporated to help improve balance and coordination, both of which decline with age. You will need a pair of 5-8 lb hand weights (move to heavier weights as you get stronger) and a stability ball.
I just want to let you know that this article is absolute gold. You’re the real MVP for conducting a meta-analysis on this topic, especially when it’s so hard to find much research out there. More importantly, you’ve paved a way to explain more fully why strength training is so great for women to women and the benefits of it in comparison to men. Research is not only assuring and affirming, but it’s convincing for people who dabble with the idea of something, so thank you! Anyways, very well done and please keep doing what you’re doing!
Unfortunately, protein is a nutrient often downplayed when it comes to women’s diets. For some reason, many people seem to think women don’t need to emphasize protein in their diets, but I am here to tell you that we DO. Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of many tissues in the body, including muscle. Certain amino acids are “essential”, which means the body cannot make them and they must be obtained through your diet. When you workout, you breakdown muscle tissue. In order to repair that muscle tissue and gain lean mass and become stronger, you must give the body protein to supply the amino acids needed for recovery. If you do not get enough protein in your diet your body will not have enough amino acids, specifically essential amino acids, to work properly and recovery from workouts. Where will it get these amino acids you are lacking?
Unlike the exercises listed above, you don’t need water jugs or gym bags to complete these exercises. They can be completed with minimal equipment – usually all you need is a chair. If you want to make it harder, however, you can use jugs or bags. Try adding a couple of these exercises to your strength training routine, doing them three times a week.
Now you may be saying, “I have seen some female bodybuilders who are very muscular and look similar to men in their build.” The real reason they look like that is they are most-likely using exogenous testosterone injections and/or other anabolic steroids. When women use exogenous testosterone/steroids they may show signs of hair growth on the face and chest, increased muscle mass, a redistribution of body fat from a female pattern of storage to a male pattern of storage, deepening of the voice, and other effects. The point of saying this is that unless you are on exogenous testosterone or other anabolic steroids, you will not become big and bulky from lifting weights.
The following workout will give you 10 excellent exercises that women over 50 can concentrate on during their workouts. Several exercises are going to include single leg moves or stability ball moves. These were intentionally incorporated to help improve balance and coordination, both of which decline with age. You will need a pair of 5-8 lb hand weights (move to heavier weights as you get stronger) and a stability ball.

You don’t have to lift hundreds of pounds on every exercise like a guy might, but you do have to lift weights that are equally challenging for YOU and continue to push yourself to progress and gradually lift heavier and heavier weights over time. This is progressive overload, and it’s a requirement for any amount of muscle to be built or any amount of progress to be made.
Slowly, bend the straight leg down into a squat, making sure the knee doesn’t go past your toes on the chair. The leg propped up on the chair or coffee table should also bend and lower. Continue squatting down until the knee portion of the leg on the chair or coffee table almost touches the floor. Hold it for a second. Return back to the starting position by straightening your front leg. This is one repetition. Do this for at least five repetitions.
Ann continues, “There is no such thing as perfect posture. Posture is not a static position, posture is dynamic, and we must constantly adapt to the situation at hand. In order to have true, deep central core stability we need a coordinated effort of our breath with our movement. Our breathing muscles, our pelvic floor, our deep abdominals, and our spinal stabilizing muscles must all work together to allow stability of the lumbar spine for movement of the arms and legs.”
LINGUVIC: Yes. If you are under five feet tall, use a 45-centimeter exercise ball. If you are under five foot six, 55 centimeter, and if you are between 5 foot 7 and 6 foot 1, use a 65-centimeter ball. A good way to test it, if there's a couple of balls in the gym or you are trying it out at a store, you should be able to sit comfortably on it at a 90-degree angle.

Great notes! However, since people reading this might be forwarding to their girlfriend, wives, fiancees, etc, you might want to include a small section that identifies what 1 pound of muscle means. It would be a guess but most women reading this will go, “What is 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t want that!” It might say how many pounds of muscle she might need to look “toned.”
Now, I’m a student at Berkeley, so I can only fit three or four workouts into my schedule. But if you do it right, four days is enough. I do two upper-body sessions, one focused on shoulders and chest, the other on back, biceps, and triceps. The two lower-body sessions are both focused on legs and glutes. And overall, I mainly focus on compound lifts, like deadlifts, squats, hip thrusters, bench press, and military press.
Powerlifting isn’t the only way to get results. Strength training comes in far more accessible forms as well—many of which do not even require a gym membership and certainly don’t require a personal trainer. Resistance bands, cheap strips of elastic that loop around arms or legs, are one good way to build strength without weights, for instance. A 2017 study showed that when frail women over 60 who were obese worked out with resistance bands for three months, they dropped body fat and increased bone density. Another option that involves even less equipment is to use your own body weight. Sitting up and down in a chair many times builds strength, as does jumping, which uses many of the legs’ major muscles. Even walking can count as strength training, depending on the intensity.
With that being said, it’s certainly possible that there were differences in real-world training status that are basically impossible for a study to account for.  For example, if the men tended to train like hardcore powerlifters or bodybuilders, and the women tended to do the sort of lighter, higher-rep “toning” workouts that are often recommended to women, it would make sense that the women would gain strength faster.  In other words, “research tends to indicate that trained women still gain strength quicker than trained men, but I’m concerned those studies are hampered by methodological limitations, so I’ll continue to assume the null (similar relative rates of strength gains) until research on a more representative population is conducted” is also a very defensible position.
However, the role of testosterone may be overstated.  My friend James Kreiger recently published a super thorough analysis (note: paywall, but totally worth it) on all things testosterone and muscle growth, including analyses of cross-sectional research on people with different testosterone levels, studies comparing men and women, studies where people are given exogenous testosterone, and even studies where people were put on drugs to totally suppress testosterone production.  The main takeaway was that testosterone levels can dramatically affect the amount of muscle you start with, but they don’t really impact relative rates of muscle growth.
While many people advocate eating a low-carb diet for weight loss, it's not always ideal. Weight loss may come easily at first, but chronically low amounts of carbohydrates could have negative downstream effects in the long run. A woman's delicately balanced hormone system can be disrupted by low carb availability, which could bring about unwanted side effects like loss of bone density and chronic sleep deprivation. On a low-carb diet, some women may experience stopped or irregular periods because the body perceives chronically low energy levels as starvation and stress.
Unfortunately, for all of us late to the gym game (those that didn’t quite follow through on those New Year’s Resolutions but have big plans to crush them next year), that coveted summer body might not be a reality just yet. So what do you do? Do you get a gym membership and promise that you’ll go every morning right before overspending on a picture-worthy acai bowl?
Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, feet hip-width apart, core braced, knees slightly bent. This is the start. Hinge at your hips and push your butt backward, lowering your torso. Hinge until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings; focus on keeping your core braced as you do this. From this position, squeeze your shoulder blades and row the dumbbells to your ribcage. Pause, then lower the dumbbells and stand up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.
Thank you so much for this article, what a breathe of fresh air!!! I have been an athlete all of my life and have done very intense training with weights and have never looked like a man! When I was training my hardest back in the old high school days, I could lift 400 pounds on the leg press machine and never had man legs. I would bench press 80 or so pounds and didn’t have a man’s upper body. As a matter of fact, with a mix of heavy lifting days, with lighter lifting days (high intensity super sets, keeping the heart rate up, essentially cardio/strengthening rolled into one) I dropped my body fat percentage from 25% to 21% looked super lean yet with lots of muscle. I was 5’4 and 121 pounds. I was lifting as much as I could at the time, and I looked perfectly feminine. I was a sporty, fit, lean & ripped girl. I just cannot believe how pervasive this myth is among women. I have had to to tell women exactly what you are saying in this article, because they are so afraid that one single day of heavy weight lifting in the gym will cause them to balloon into Arnold Schwarzenegger over night! I want to see more attractive sporty and muscular women on magazines instead of these waifs who are unhealthy and provide the wrong image for women to strive for. They are only endorsing the best way to suffer from osteoporosis and getting blown away by a strong gust of wind. Keep up the good work on all of your articles that shatter the most prevalent training myths and give people the real info straight up.
Proper strength training also improves posture and alignment, and can help with pelvic floor and incontinence issues.  Historically, these were thought to be issues only “older women” have to deal with, but recently, these issues have been popping up for younger women, as well.  Whether that’s because more women are engaging in more strenuous activity (like box jumps, double-unders, heavy deadlifts), or women are simply more comfortable talking about it, it’s definitely affecting women of all ages.

I also like that you mentioned the menstrual cycle differences. Many women and coaches aren’t aware of this (although intuitively they should have been), but it does make a difference. I did a write up on this a few months back, and a big key I see here as well is the impact on appetite (more research on this) and perceived exertion (more anecdotal). Useful for dieting phases to work that in as well. Or for a little recomp

You see, we all build muscle the same way. We all require the same muscle building fundamentals to be in place in order for muscle growth to occur. We all need and benefit from similar amounts of weight training volume, frequency and intensity. We all need to force progressive overload to happen and lift heavy weights that are truly challenging for us. We all need to ensure certain dietary requirements are in place.
What's more, increasing that afterburn is as easy as upping the weight on your bar. In a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women burned nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after their workout when they lifted 85 percent of their max load for eight reps than when they did more reps (15) at a lower weight (45 percent of their max).
Natalie Jill is a very popular fitness trainer who you will see guest starring on some of the other sites and channels found in this list. Her best home exercise videos can be found on her personal fitness blog which shares workouts for weight loss, exercise ball routines, jump rope workouts, booty belt workouts, body weight exercises and more. Natalie also shares great healthy recipes and useful nutrition tips on her site.
I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention my own workouts that are available here at Make Your Body Work. Every single workout will challenge your entire body and will include elements of cardio, strength, and core conditioning. The uniqueness of these workouts are the “difficulty levels” that provide up to 4 distinct options for every single move. This makes each workout very accessible for newbies, yet challenging for super-fit users.
Lie with your back on a bench, glutes squeezed and feet flat on the floor. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Keeping your left arm straight, lower the right dumbbell to your chest; pause when it’s an inch from your chest then drive it back up. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.
How to Get Rid of Loose Skin After Weight Loss The Ultimate Shoulder Workout: The Best Shoulder Exercises for Big Delts The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns The Best Chest Workouts for Building Awesome Pecs (According to Science) How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat…at the Same Time The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back
Primarily, your diet should consist of whole foods. Sometimes, though, you can't get all the necessary nutrients from eating whole foods—even if you think your diet is perfect. That's where supplements swoop in. Supplements should complement your diet of whole foods; they should never be a replacement for something you intentionally leave out of your diet.
Stand holding medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, feet hip-width apart, core braced, knees slightly bent. This is the start. Hinge at your hips and push your butt backward, lowering your torso. Hinge until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings; focus on keeping your core braced as you do this. From this position, squeeze your shoulder blades and row the dumbbells to your ribcage. Pause, then lower the dumbbells and stand up, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets.

Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 4 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.


Unfortunately, protein is a nutrient often downplayed when it comes to women’s diets. For some reason, many people seem to think women don’t need to emphasize protein in their diets, but I am here to tell you that we DO. Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of many tissues in the body, including muscle. Certain amino acids are “essential”, which means the body cannot make them and they must be obtained through your diet. When you workout, you breakdown muscle tissue. In order to repair that muscle tissue and gain lean mass and become stronger, you must give the body protein to supply the amino acids needed for recovery. If you do not get enough protein in your diet your body will not have enough amino acids, specifically essential amino acids, to work properly and recovery from workouts. Where will it get these amino acids you are lacking?

Tracking what you do in the gym is critical because if you don’t, it’s unlikely that you will push yourself and the weights that you’re using.  This will slow down not only gym progress, but aesthetic progress as well. Keep track of what you’re doing in the gym, workout to workout, week to week, month to month. Write down your sets, reps, and the weight you used. Make notes about each workout (for example, “weight felt easy, can go up next week” or “feeling a little sluggish today, didn’t push it.”)  This will allow you to know when to push, and know when to take it easy.
Cardio history: I’ve been a runner/jogger/walker the majority of my life. In my early 30s, I did a lot of running races but stopped after I became a mom at 35. Then, my cardio routine depended on what I could get done while tending to a little kid. As my daughter got older, I returned to the gym sporadically and sometimes had trainers help me (but that could never last because of the expense factor). My very recent routine, before I began lifting, was jogging on the treadmill at the recommended “fat burn” rate about two times a week, and walking briskly outdoors about five times a week for about 4 miles each time.
What she does now: I signed up with a personal trainer to help me learn more about weightlifting and strength training. Sometimes I think people don’t realize the value of having someone holding you accountable and helping you with form, education and motivation. I was determined enough to make the change that I went and purchased several months’ worth of sessions and committed to it. Little did I know that I would fall in love with how lifting made me feel.
Hold two dumbbells with an overhand grip and let them hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor behind you; this is the starting position. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Let your left leg stretch out behind you with your toes pointed down to the floor the entire time. The dumbbells should travel straight down toward the floor. Return to the starting position without letting the toes of your left foot touch the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets per leg.

If the running burns enough calories to put you into a deficit and cause fat loss, your legs will likely get smaller as a result of losing some of the fat that is on them. It’s also possible for some forms of intense running to build some lower body muscle. Then again, look at a bunch of marathon runners and you probably won’t see a muscular leg among them.


One criticism: in most post the “correct form” is spoken about. I have never done weight training, let alone stepped in to the weight room at gym. Could you perhaps include an introductory post about the items one may find in the weights room and which ones are commonly used and how to use them (how do you know how to grip a dumbell? How do you grip a bar? Where? Why? When should you use gloves/chalk?) If possible, I would suggest a post about what “good form” is – when lifting where should you look, how far down should you bend, if lifting a dumbell am I allowed to swing, and for the excercises which muscles should you feel working?) I know this is a lot, but I suspect it will help clear up uncertainties about working out in the gym and at home. Plus it will be helpful to me to know which end of the bar/dumbell/thing to use! 😛
Start lying on your back, arms and legs extended. Tighten your abs, pressing your lower back into the floor as you do so. This should lift your legs off the floor; work to keep them straight. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor as well; keep extending your arms back as you do this. Do 4 reps. During Week 7, try to maintain the hollow hold for 40 seconds, then rest for 20. During Week 8, aim for 50-second holds, then rest for 10 seconds between reps. Can’t hold that long? Hold for as long as you can, then come out of the hold and get right back into it until time’s up.

Hold a light-to-medium-weight kettlebell in your right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Perform a kettlebell swing, hold the weight only in your right hand. As you complete the swing, when the kettlebell is out in front of you, shift it into your left hand for the next rep. Alternate reps back and forth until time’s up. (If you’re not comfortable shifting the kettlebell between arms on every rep, do 5 single-arm kettlebell swings with your right arm, then place the kettlebell on the ground and do 5 single-arm swings with the left; alternate those two moves until time’s up.) Do 3 sets.
Lie with your back on a bench, glutes squeezed and feet flat on the floor. Hold medium-weight dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Keeping your left arm straight, lower the right dumbbell to your chest; pause when it’s an inch from your chest then drive it back up. Repeat on the other side. Alternate reps on both sides until time is up. Do 3 sets.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital to the proper functioning on your body. Dietary fats got a bad rap due to the diet fads of the 80’s and 90’s, which promoted eating as little fat as possible, but in reality EFAs are needed by the body and are part of a healthy diet. Eating fats does not equate to getting fat. In fact, most EFAs help support the fat burning process and maintaining a lean body. Do not be scared to eat good fats. EFAs are not the enemy. Also, be sure to supplement with a QUALITY EFA product, such as Scivation Essential FA.
Want to lose fat and achieve a toned looking physique? Fantastic! To achieve those results you must improve your strength training performance every time you repeat a workout. As a beginner strength trainee, getting stronger must be your sole priority in the gym. For the first several months you should (a) perform more reps with the same weight, (b) increase the weight, and/or (c) perform more sets for each exercise.
Now that the holidays are creeping around the corner, you may have to break up with your regularly scheduled sweat sessions, at least temporarily. And though the most wonderful time of the year may interfere with your fave spin class or butt-kicking bootcamp routine, it’s completely possible to stay fit—all you need is an Internet connection and a little living room space. (OK, and maybe a few props here and there.) And it’s all thanks to these seriously excellent, totally free workout videos. We’ve rounded up the best YouTube workouts—we’re talking everything from traditional aerobics to ballet to high-intensity interval training routines—so you can keep your physique in tip-top shape this season and beyond.
Progression is the secret ingredient for every successful training program. It's the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight for weeks and weeks and weeks and expect new results. You have to constantly push yourself. Once you develop a solid base, increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods.
Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you, and spread your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Push your hips back and slightly bend your knees, and grab the kettlebell handle with both hands. Start your swing with a “hike pass” to optimally load your hamstrings, insuring the handle of the bell is higher than your knees. Then explosively snap your hips forward, squeezing your glutes and lifting your chest; as you do this, the kettlebell will swing forward. As it falls back down, guide it back between your legs and, in one fluid motion, perform another swing. Do 3 sets.

"As a busy mom, the Beachbody programs have been a godsend. The 21 Day Fix Extreme by Beachbody is my absolute favorite. I started with the original 21 Day Fix in April 2014 and have worked up from there. I love that it's an at-home workout (and eating plan) because I can get the workout done in 30 minutes. These sweat sessions include an upper-body workout, a lower-body workout, cardio exercises, yoga, and Pilates.
Just shy of an hour long, this video is a killer aerobic kickboxing workout. You’ll throw punches and kicks in supercharged sequences as you follow along with the ebullient Billy Blanks. Don’t be surprised if you start talking back to the screen, especially when Blanks looks straight into the camera and declares, “I see you at home! Keep going!” Talk about motivation.
As for yoga, it is a wonderful form of exercise. But it is not the best way to change your body. I practice yoga for the relaxation benefits of it and the breath control. Everyone in my yoga class asks me how to get cuts in their arms. Yoga is an excellent complement to strength training but it does not change your body the way strength training does.
As for food, I’m a huge foodie. I can’t eat the same thing every day, but some staples I always come back to include: avocado toast with poached egg and smoked salmon; chickpeas pastas with parmesan; and crispy tempeh and sweet potatoes. And I have one huge non-negotiable indulgence: Once a week, I disconnect and watch a totally goofy movie, while eating a big bowl of oats, peanut butter, and granola. (Where are my Mean Girls lovers at?)
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