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Weight Training For Women Over 40: What Are The Best Bone Building And Fat Burning Exercises?

Over 40 Weight Training

There are two ways to interpret “weight training for women over 40.”

The first way applies to women over 40 who began strength training many years prior to hitting age 40.

This group of women, when passionate about their fitness, usually knows all there is to know about the power and age-defying effects of working out with weights.

The second interpretation applies to women 40-plus who have either never before done any strength training, or, perhaps they’ve indeed been doing it since age 25, but non-fruitfully (e.g., minimally effective exercises, not enough resistance, improper form).

This second group almost always experiences minimal results as far as keeping a lean figure, and when workouts are non-fruitful, the bone building effects are marginal.

Here’s The Ironic Thing About Weight Lifting For Women Over 40

Many of those in this age group, who have never performed exercises with dumbbells, barbells or resistance machines, continue to believe that this type of exercise is more suitable for men – even though it is women, not men, who are at higher risk for brittle bone disease as they get older!

Lack of weight bearing exercise is one of the risk factors for brittle bone disease (osteoporosis).

A postmenopausal woman, quite literally, desperately needs to engage in a weight lifting program.

A heavy-set woman may have read that being “thin” is a risk factor for brittle bones later in life, and thus may decide to embrace her heavy frame.

Lean WomanHowever, there is a difference between being thin and under-muscled, and being lean with shapely, firm muscles.

A thin woman with low muscle mass and a lean woman with developed muscle mass may both be able to fit into the same size 8 outfit. The difference is body composition and physical appearance.

The first woman will appear to be “skinny fat,” complete with a soft, flabby physique that shows age; while the second woman will be tight all over and still rock a bikini at age 50.

Vanity aside, the second woman is far less likely to suffer a bone fracture during her retirement years than is the first woman.

Aside from being stellar at building strong bones, weight lifting is the most spectacular way to burn body fat. Like most things in life, in order for something to work, it must be done correctly.

The reason so many women who do strength train yet maintain a lot of excess body fat is because of

  • not lifting heavy enough
  • doing the wrong exercises and
  • poor diet-though this isn’t necessarily always the case.

To build strong bone and slash body fat, a woman must embrace muscle building, and knock the idea out of her head that this is something only for men.

The top 8 weight training exercises for bone building are also the top exercises for kicking fat to the curb. Here they are:

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Leg Press
  • Chin-Up
  • Lat Pull-Down
  • Lying Chest Press
  • Shoulder Press
  • Weighted Walking Lunge

This list may seem to have a few things missing. Where are the dumbbell kickbacks? Where are the inner/outer thigh exercises? Where are the biceps curls? And where on earth are the abdominal exercises?

The eight exercises all have one thing in common: They work several muscle groups at the same time; they are multi-joint, also known as “compound.”

Though none of these exercises have “triceps,” “biceps” or “abs” in their names, these small muscle groups get included in the recruitment!

For example, chest and shoulder presses work the triceps, and deadlifts, lat pull-downs and chin-ups work the biceps. And guess what: Squats, walking lunges and chin-ups work the abs!

There are more compound movements (such as bench dips and bent-over dumbbell rows), but these eight are a good start for women 40-plus who want to take their strength training to a new level, or begin a serious weight lifting regimen—“serious” as in promoting unprecedented fitness and fat burning.

Mechanism Behind What Makes Bones Get Stronger

Strong BonesBecause more weight can be moved with compound routines (i.e., a woman can bench press more weight than she can triceps press with the rope on a pulley machine), this means more stress on the bones, plus more bones involved at the same time.

Stress on the bones forces them to get stronger.

When one pushes or pulls against resistance, the muscles tug at the bones. It is not the other way around.

This tugging or pulling at the bones stimulates them to increase in density, in “anticipation” of the next weight bearing session.

A lot more bone tugging happens during a lat pull-down (or seated row—another excellent compound move that’s similar to the pull-down), than during an arm curl that isolates just one muscle group, the biceps.

In summary, bones become stronger when stress (weight bearing) is placed upon them.

How Do You Maximize The Stress On The Bone?

In addition to performing compound exercises, one can optimize the stress by lifting moderate to heavy weight loads.

If you can do any of the eight exercises for more than 12-15 repetitions, despite having base conditioning, then you are not lifting heavy enough.

For maximal fat burning, rest 60-75 seconds in between sets. This will most likely necessitate reducing the weight load for subsequent sets.

QuestionWhy Do These Particular Exercises Burn So Much Fat?

Compound movements, in combination with an 8-15 repetition max-out, plus the 60-75 second rest in between sets, is the perfect magnificent storm for maximizing your body’s fat burning system.

The max-out should top off at 12 reps for maximum fat burning.

However, for women over 40 who are in poor shape, a max of 15 reps may be more sensible, as this does not require as heavy a weight (i.e., to reach 15 reps, the weight can be lighter than what would be required to reach “muscle failure” by rep #12).

When these three factors are in place—compound movements, an 8-15 rep max, and the relatively short rest in between sets—something very amazing happens in the body.

This amazing chemical reaction does not occur with light weights!

“Light” is a relative term, of course. So look at it this way: If you can perform an exercise more than 12-15 times, the weight is too light.

The amazing chemical reaction also occurs with longer rest periods, but not as pronounced.

It also happens with non-compound moves but only when they are done with the absolute heaviest amount of weight for about 8-12 reps, but it still pales in comparison to the extent that it occurs with moderate to heavy compound lifting.

This chemical reaction is called EPOC: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. It involves a significantly increased secretion of human growth hormone and testosterone (yes, women do produce testosterone).

Testosterone

These hormones are nature’s most powerful fat burners. With elevated levels of these fat-busting hormones, the body will burn up fat like never before.

The body is in such a state of oxygen debt following intense compound lifting, that the stored fat supply in your belly and waist will be used for recuperation fuel, even if your training session involved other body parts!

This means that an upper body compound workout will burn fat in the inner thighs!

Weight Training Over 40 Protocol For Beginners

Every beginner can perform all the eight exercises, though for some individuals, modifications will be necessary.

Start out with light resistance to get the tendons and other connective tissue used to the exercise, even if you think you’re “naturally strong” or “big boned.”

Muscles have a tendency to get stronger at a faster rate than do tendons, and getting ahead of yourself can result in tendon injury.

Get your body used to a high rep, light weight regimen (this will take several weeks) before you move on to a “rep max” approach, which means that the weight load makes it impossible to exceed a certain number of reps, yet possible to perform a minimum number of reps.

A 12-15 rep max (RM) means you can do 12 reps, but it’s impossible to do 16. The ideal rep range for optimal bone strengthening and fat burning is 8-12.

1. Deadlift

Can be done with a barbell, a dumbbell in each hand, or one dumbbell/kettlebell in both hands.

Practice first with a 20 lb. barbell to master the form, which is crucial.

2. Squat

Can be done with a barbell, a dumbbell in each hand, or one dumbbell/kettlebell in both hands.

More challenged women can do bodyweight-only squats. Proper form is critical.

3. Leg Press

This is done on a leg press machine. Legs should bend to at least 90 degrees.

4. Chin-Up

One can use an assist machine or a stool.

5. Lat Pull-Down

Various machines offer this movement. Keep forearms vertical at all times and pull bar only down to neck.

6. Lying Chest Press

This can mean a bench press or dumbbell press, on a flat or slightly inclined bench, or stability ball.

7. Shoulder Press

Can be done with a barbell, dumbbells or machines.

8. Weighted Walking Lunge

Can be done holding a dumbbell in each hand, or one dumbbell/kettlebell/weight plate in both hands at chest.

Bodyweight-only is a good start for those not used to this movement.

Weight Training Over 40 Protocol For Experienced

The goal is to get acquainted with these eight exercises, get your body tuned into them, and then go for it. Even with weight training for women over 50, the guidelines are the same.

Regardless of age, all woman need to master excellent form, not get ahead of themselves, and acquire base joint conditioning first, before using resistance heavy enough for the 8-15 RM.

There is really so much more to know about the wonderful world of lifting weights for women, especially for those over 40, which is why you’ll enjoy reading “Fit Over 40 program.”

Over 40 ebookThis is a must-read for women who are ready to redefine themselves with stronger bones and a fitter, leaner and more energetic body.

Fit Over 40 program” includes real life profiles of mature women who have achieved extraordinary levels of fitness.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Courtney March 27, 2015, 10:38 am

    Great article – How many sets per exercise do you recommend?

  • Louise September 14, 2016, 10:44 am

    This article is missing one very SIGNIFICANT exercise:

    Barbell hip thrust. This is king of weight training. It activates the largest muscle in your body…the glutes….more than any other exercise.

    Check out Bret Contrares the Glute Guy. I follow his routine.

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