Strength training is hands down one of the most effective ways to optimize body composition and set you up for a long and happy life. Unfortunately, many women back off from serious workouts as they get older, lightening their weights, lowering their training volume, and shifting away from the best methods.
Although both men and women alike fall prey to ineffective workouts, women are uniquely impacted due to gender differences in physiology and metabolism.
Due to their hormone makeup, younger women are protected from some of the metabolic problems that affect men to a greater degree. But as hormones change in middle age, women are more likely to develop insulin resistance and gain fat in the belly area. They also become more susceptible to the debilitating effects of stress and high cortisol.
And while both men and women experience similar loss of muscle after age 40, women often have less muscle to start with, putting them at increased risk of health problems. Women are also at greater risk of bone loss that leads to osteoporosis in later years.
The good news is that when women train with the most effective parameters they can largely avoid these negative changes after age 40. Several recent studies illustrate the specific strength training methods that can help optimize body composition and preserve strength.
OUR TOP TIPS
• Strength training is one of the most effective forms of physical activity for women to reduce body fat and optimize body composition.
• Women over 40 don’t need to back off from training—in fact, they will get better results from ramping up their efforts with high-quality workouts.
• Every woman is different and training programs should be individualised. Most women will benefit from lifting weights 3 to 4 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour.
• Use rep ranges to allow you to gauge training loads. Weights should be light enough so that you can complete the minimum reps without cheating, but heavy enough so that you are not able to easily do more than the maximum number.
• Volume is important for producing body composition results, especially as you gain training experience. A general rule is to train a minimum of 3 sets per exercise and work up to 4 to 6 sets.
• Have a plan and purpose. Don’t just walk into the gym and go round using random machines. Quality is important when it comes to getting results. Studies consistently show that women who come into the gym with focus and a plan work harder and get more done. This pays off in terms of significantly better body composition and performance outcomes.
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