Resistance Training for the Over 50s

By on November 16, 2015
resistant training for women over 50

For women over 50, resistance training should be part of your regular fitness routine. For overall optimal health. There are three things that you need to know about weight training or resistance training. I will use those words interchangeably in this article; .

In order for you to enjoy:

  • Optimal aging
  • Optimal strength
  • Optimal stamina
  • Optimal endurance
  • Optimal ability to do whatever it is you want to do on any given day of the rest of your life

….Resistance training is a must in my opinion.

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Firstly, the purpose of going to the gym or going downstairs to your own private exercise studio and exercising isn’t so you can get good at the exercise!

It’s so that the exercises help you get good at things outside that you love to do.

So if that’s your goal, keep reading…

You need three different types of resistance training exercises.

As a woman over fifty, you need heavy strength training. And by heavy, here’s what I mean. Don’t be afraid. As long as your joints will tolerate it, and they might not at the beginning, you will slowly but surely progress to this point.

You need weights that will fatigue you in ten repetitions. In some cases, if you can tolerate it, even eight might fatigue you, and don’t be afraid of six if you’re feeling strong and healthy.

If you really want to optimize bone density or slow its deterioration down, after the age of fifty, it’s hard to really put a lot back, because we start losing it, it keeps withdrawing from that bank, but we can put the brakes on those losses to make a significant change.

  • If you look at it over a decade, someone not exercising might lose anywhere from one to three percent a year. That’s anywhere from ten to thirty percent of their bone density in a decade. That’s an awful lot.

If you can slow that to no more than one percent and maybe no loss at all, then you’re at zero to ten instead of between ten and thirty percent loss. That’s pretty significant. I’d say that’s worth it. So here’s what you need to know.

Picking up small pink dumbbells will NOT help your bone density.

It might help you with rotator cuff issues or things for physical therapy that you need to do first before you can do heavy. But if you are able to, do heavy weights, fatiguing at ten in order to promote bone density is ideal.

Then you have the muscles…

If you really want to do the most good for your muscles, picking up a small dumbbell and doing it twenty to thirty times is not the same as picking up a heavier dumbbell that you can only lift ten times.

You can’t trade that off!

The bone density doesn’t improve with higher repetitions of a smaller weight. The muscle benefits somewhat, but we also want to be careful about wearing those muscles out, right?

If you’d rather be swinging a golf club twenty or thirty times, be careful of overdoing it with the smaller weights. Heavy is important, for bone density primarily, and then maintaining that lean muscle mass that you are also losing at a rapid rate.

A recent study, involved one group performing slow, controlled exercises using heavier weights, and another group performed quick push and pull motions, using lighter weights. The group who used lighter weights experienced more bone reduction than the group who had the slower, controlled motions using heavier weights because they increased their overall “power”.

You can easily progress to the point where you’ve gone from not doing anything at all to very gradually doing heavier weights, and adding power over a short space of time. Power will help you enhance bone density and increase lean muscle mass.

And then there is functional exercise.

This right now is a buzzword to be aware of. There are a lot of people out there, especially fitness professionals, who will try and convince you that functional exercise is the only way to go. The problem with that formula is that no one clearly knows the definition of functional exercise. If you are my eighty-seven, almost eighty-eight year old grandmother, I want you to be able to get up and out of a chair easily…

In order to do that, a functional exercise can be some kind of a leg press or a squat because you need to be able to propel yourself out, and it mimics that natural movement with a little greater load, so that when it’s only your body weight, you can do it.

Now, I might have you balancing and doing some other things that rotate and move you, more like sweeping the floor and vacuuming. They are more life-like movements that are truly more functional in terms of what we define it as in the fitness industry right now, but you need to get up out of that chair before you can vacuum, right?

So the definition of “function” depends on you. No one should tell you that every person should have this type of function.

You should have the function that:

  • Only you can own
  • Based on your range of motion
  • Based on the goals that you have for what you want to do outside of the gym
  • Based on being pain free

Every exercise you perform should be chosen for a reason.

If it is, then it’s a functional exercise. Consider this, yes; we want to incorporate things that challenge your balance so that you can get better at it. We want to move you through all three planes of movement at some point during your exercise session, but occasionally we have to certain isolate muscles.

Sometimes you have to make linear movements using machine weights, but trainers seem to be shying away from these, thinking they’re not functional.

But again, if you’re my eighty-seven year old grandmother, I want you to be able to for the next decade get out of that chair on your own and do whatever you want to do the rest of the day. Maybe it’s the vacuuming…

The bottom line is:

  • You need heavy weights
  • you need power
  • you need functional exercise

All within the same exercise session!

One thing you will find is that functional exercise can be performed more frequently because it’s not quite as much of a load. It doesn’t require that much rest and recuperation in-between.

Make sure you pick a trainer and get some help so that you have somebody who can guide you through those things that you need to know, that you wouldn’t have known.

By: Stacey Marshall 


LivingBetter50 is a magazine for women over 50, offering an over 50 magazine free download for women with spirit!

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Resistance Training for the Over 50s