Strength training (lifting weights) should be at the top of the hierarchy of exercise for women heading into middle age as a key component of managing weight, maintaining muscle mass, ensuring good bone health and keeping the nervous system primed and in top condition. But lifting weights is not naturally adopted by this population unless they have a history of strength training. Most don’t.
So in this short post I want to look at 3 things you should bear in mind to help you get started safely.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to see the health benefits of lifting weights. In fact, you can gain many to the rewards by doing as little as two, 20 minute sessions a week. If you can make the time to do three (each of say 30 minutes) then so much the better. But the key is to get stated in a sustainable way. If this is all new to you then where do you start?
- Always start slowly and with light weights. What’s a light weight? It’s a weight that you can lift comfortably several (15 to 20) times without taking a rest.
- Using that weight perform which ever exercise you are working on using 12 repetitions per set, three times (so three sets). Between sets give your self at least 60 to 90 seconds rest. But at the start don’t worry about taking more rest – take as long as you need.
It’s fairly common to find that some women have an existing workout programme. Probably based around cardio. This is great and you should certainly retain your cardio training, but how do you integrate weight lifting?
Quite simply however feels right for you! Some people prefer to lift before their cardio others after. Whilst others prefer to keep it to a separate day. Which is best depends on your goals and current fitness / time. There is no hard and fast answer. As you become more experienced you will learn what works best for you.
A further refinement is to break down your weight lifting sessions into upper & lower body on different days.
Regardless of how you choose to include strength into your training, the most important consideration is that you do it safely. My top three tips for someone new:
- Use correct technique. There are many resources available to help you learn the correct way to perform an exercise. If you are a member of a gym then ask a member of the fitness team and they will be pleased to help. On the other hand if you train at home use one of the many Fitness Apps to help you, most of which are free (and highly preferable to random YouTube videos).
- Always start light. And build the weight as you get stronger. You may even decide to start with bodyweight or resistance bands rather than dumbbells and weights. This can be an excellent way to learn movements, and establish a base layer of strength in your larger muscles before starting to life free weights. If you are unsure of technique then resistance bands are a lot more forgiving than free weights (such as a dumbbell).
- Build in rest days to your schedule. You should initially plan to leave two days between strength training sessions to allow your muscles to fully recover. Whilst this recovery is important as a way to avoid injury, it is also the time that your muscles adapt to the stress that has been applied to them. Insufficient rest equals reduced adaption which in turn equals reduced value / benefit from your training, as well as increasing your chances of an injury.
This really depends on where you are starting from and any specific goals you have in mind. As general advice try to focus on the larger muscle groups and include upper body, lower body and core. Essentially a whole body workout! Your body works as one integrated unit and therefore as general advice it is usually best to develop strength across the whole body.
If you would like some more specific advice then I offer a free no-obligation consultation to get you on the right path and doing exercises that are right for you. This can be done by email, phone, Zoom or in person. Just get in touch and we can use which ever channel is best for you.
If you have a chronic condition (such as heart disease, diabetes or joint problems such as arthritis) , or are over 40 and not been active recently, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any form of fitness programme.