Strength Training For Women Over 50: Why It’s So Important

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As we age, some of our physical needs change. For example, some older adults find that they need more sleep in order to feel adequately refreshed the next day. 

Most people find that they need to consume fewer calories in order not to put on additional weight, as our metabolic rate tends to decrease with age.

But, how does aging affect our ideal strength training routine? 

How should women over 50 incorporate strength training into their fitness routine?

In this guide, we will discuss strength training for women over 50, including the benefits of lifting weights for older women, how to get started with weight training for women over 50, and the best strength training exercises for women over 50.

We will cover: 

  • Can Women Over 50 Lift Weights?
  • How to Get Started Strength Training for Women Over 50
  • Benefits of Strength Training for Women Over 50
  • Strength Training Workouts for Women Over 50
  • The Best Strength Training Exercises for Older Women

Let’s jump in.

Three women over 50 in workout clothes are smiling at the camera.

Can Women Over 50 Lift Weights?

In our younger years, the very notion of an adult who was 50 years old may have seemed so far off and old that we might have imagined that by the age of 50, we wouldn’t feel like doing much of any intense exercise.

However, 50 is actually quite young, and many women in their 50s have just as much energy and interest in being as fit and strong as women in their 20s or 30s.

There are some fantastic masters athletes who can rival any athlete in their prime, so the first thing to establish right off the bat is that 50 is not old, nor should turning the big 5-0 make you feel like your physical prime has to be behind you.

You are as young and fit in your mind and body as you choose to be and train to be; of course, there are some inevitable physiological aging processes, but strength training workouts for women in their 50s can potentially be just as intense and demanding as workouts for women in their 30s.

A class of people at the gym doing a barbell workout.

How to Get Started Strength Training for Women Over 50

The good news is that starting strength training for women over 50 can be as unintimidating and approachable as beginning with a few bodyweight exercises at home. 

With that said, although it has become increasingly popular to do home workouts due to the convenience and privacy, many women still prefer going to the gym for resistance training workouts.

Working out at a gym offers the benefits of having essentially unrestricted access to whatever exercise equipment you want or need. You may not have the space or financial means to outfit a complete home gym with lots of strength training equipment. 

Although you can get by with some resistance bands or a good set of adjustable dumbbells and a weight bench, exercising at the gym will give you far more versatility in the workouts you can do.

When you’re lifting free weights, the main options are dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells with weight plates. 

A class of people at the gym doing a dumbbell workout.

When you use dumbbells or kettlebells, it’s quick and easy to know exactly how much weight you are lifting because the dumbbell or kettlebell will be clearly marked with the number of pounds or kilograms that the implement weighs.

For example, 10-pound dumbbells will have a “10” stamped on the side of the weight, and a 15-kg kettlebell will have a “15“ painted, etched, or engraved on the side of the bell or handle.

If you are just getting started on your fitness journey, you might want to begin with dumbbells while you develop the foundational movement patterns of basic strength training exercises and build the strength and muscular control you will need for more complex, multi-planar, cardiometabolic kettlebell exercises.

If you have been training consistently for a while and are looking for a way to make your workouts more engaging and challenging, adding kettlebell exercises to your routine is a fantastic way to challenge your muscles in a new way.

Lastly, resistance bands can be a great starting place for women over 50 who haven’t done much strength training in the past or if it has been a while since they have been consistently doing resistance exercises.

A class of people doing a resistance band workout.

Moreover, if you do want to do your strength training workout at home, buying resistance bands will be a more affordable, portable, and storable option than buying a set of dumbbells.

It’s important to note that all women over the age of 50 should consult with their healthcare provider before starting strength training or other forms of exercise if they have not been consistently active or had a recent medical check-up.

Depending on your experience level and any current physical limitations, you may also find it helpful to work with a personal trainer to learn how to perform some of the foundational strength training movements such as squats, push-ups, deadlifts, and lunges with proper form.

Benefits of Strength Training for Women Over 50

There are many benefits of strength training at any stage in the life cycle, but there are some particular benefits of resistance training for older women, including the following:

A woman over at the gym.
  • Helping to maintain lean muscle mass and bone density, both of which we begin to lose shortly after the age of 30
  • Boosting metabolic rate to support a healthy body weight
  • Increasing self-esteem and confidence 

Strength Training Workouts for Women Over 50

The strength training recommendations for older women are no different than for younger women.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, adults should aim to perform 2-3 strength training workouts per week, focusing on working all of the major muscle groups in the legs, arms, shoulders, chest, back, and abs during these workouts.

Three women over 50 holding dumbbells at the gym.

When you are just starting out lifting weights, focus on proper form and less on lifting a heavy load. Then, after you’re comfortable with the right technique, choose a weight you can lift for 8-12 reps.

Many women who start strength training over 50 feel they need to lift light weights for lots of reps. This strategy can help build muscular endurance and may improve strength in novice lifters, but lifting heavier weights for fewer reps (8-12) is more effective for building or preserving muscle and improving strength.

Once you are able to do 12 reps, increase the weight you are using.

Make sure you lift slowly and use your muscles rather than swinging the weights with the help of gravity or momentum.

A woman over 50 holding dumbbells.

The Best Strength Training Exercises for Older Women

Weight training for women over 50 should include compound, multi-joint exercises that build strength, as well as unilateral exercises that improve balance and help correct muscle imbalances and functional deficits.

It’s also very important to strengthen your core and back to improve posture, balance, stability, breathing mechanics, and movement efficiency.

There isn’t necessarily a definitive list of the best strength training exercises for women over 50. As with any age or sex, the best resistance training exercises for you will depend on your fitness level, goals, and physical limitations and needs.

With that said, here are some of the most effective resistance training exercises for senior women:

A woman over 50 doing a bench press on a stability ball.
  • Lower-Body Exercises: Squats, Lunges, Lateral Lunges, Deadlifts, Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts, Step-ups, Glute bridges, Clam Shells, Side-Leg Raises, Banded Side Steps, Hamstring Curls, Calf Raises, Single-Leg Balance, Marching In Place, Quadruped Leg Extensions
  • Core Exercises: Planks, Russian twists, Marches, Bicycle Crunches, Bird-dog, Dead bug, Reverse Crunches, Medicine Ball Chops, Stability Ball Crunches, V-Ups
  • Chest Exercises: Push-Ups (against a wall or on the knees if necessary), Chest Press, Chest Fly 
  • Back Exercises: Assisted Pull-Ups, Pull-Downs, Rows, Superman, Reverse Fly, Prone Y’s and T’s
  • Arms Exercises: Bicep Curls, Tricep Dips, Tricep Extensions, Shoulder Presses, Forward and Lateral Raises, Light Dumbbell Punches

For best results, pick 8-12 exercises per workout, choosing a handful of exercises that target all of the major muscle groups.

From workout to workout, try to vary the exercises you do to keep your routine fresh and effective.

Start slow, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re lifting at a gym; the trainers will be more than happy to give you pointers even if you can’t afford to sign up for a session. Take it one day at a time with plenty of rest in between workouts at first. You can do it!

For step-by-step instructions and videos on many of the exercises listed above, check out our Exercise Guides.

A trainer helping a woman over 50 with her workout.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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