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All burn, no bulk: Strength training boosts metabolism for women of all ages

All burn, no bulk: Strength training boosts metabolism for women of all ages

  • Updated

Many women still believe that lifting weights will make them “bulky.”

The truth is that we lack enough testosterone to bulk up like our male counterparts. What you will gain is a greater appreciation for what your body can do, that “toned” look we all want (visible muscle lines) and a higher metabolism.

Strength training rebuilds lost muscle tissue, repairing the metabolic damage caused by excessive dieting and cardio. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends, meaning the more muscle you build, the more fat you will burn all day. This is true for women of all ages.

There is no significant difference between gaining muscle through resistance training from age 21-80. In fact, lifestyle plays just as much of a part in menopausal weight gain as we age. We can greatly decrease pounds gained with age with strength training.

My eldest personal training client is an independent, 80-year-old woman who started strength training in her late 60s, proving that it is never too late to start. I love her weekly reports of not needing a cane to walk the zoo, realizing that she no longer depends on a handrail to go up and down stairs and getting up and down from the floor without aid.

Added health benefits with strength training including a decrease in chronic health conditions such as:

• Arthritis, by supporting and protecting joints, also easing pain, stiffness and possibly swelling. Our joints do not have to work so hard with strong muscles wrapped around them.

• Back pain, by increasing core strength and correcting muscular imbalances.

• Obesity, by increasing metabolism (burning more calories daily). When you cut calories and don’t exercise, or just do cardio, you lose a substantial amount of muscle in the process.

• Diabetes, by increasing blood glucose regulation.

• Bone health, by rebuilding and keeping our bones strong. We start losing muscle mass naturally as early as 30, and can start to seeing signs of osteoporosis as early as age 50. Our 50+ female clients report increases in bone density with every check up.


So, what do you need to do and how often? Studies report increases of up to 4 pounds while simultaneously losing up to 4 pounds of body fat within the first 10 weeks of adding weight training just twice per week. This also means that the scale will not reflect the amazing work happening under the surface. Measurements will be your best gauge of success, along with better fitting clothing.

• Free weights, machines, or bands can be used, on 2-3 nonconsecutive days of the week, although if you fall in love with weights, a trainer can guide you on how to weight train on consecutive days.

• Perform 8-10 multi-joint exercises that target major muscle groups (the big ones). It only takes six of the correct exercises to work every muscle in your body!

• Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with good form, in a controlled manner — 2 seconds up and down.

• The last rep should be difficult but achievable with good form — you must put sufficient stress on the muscle to stimulate muscular growth and strength.

• Remember to continue to progress the amount of weight lifted to keep the results coming. It should feel like an 8 out of 10 difficulty level for those 8-10 reps.

• Up to 15 repetitions is recommended as we get a little older, but anything beyond that is not going to get you stronger or force muscle growth.

When I began my weight loss journey, my goal was of course to see how “skinny” I could get. I was able to lose 125 pounds to meet my BMI recommended weight of 150 pounds, which left me thin and weak.

With strength training, I was able to regain 20 pounds of muscle and can now lift 125 pounds and more with some exercises. My favorite thing about strength training is truly the mental strength and body positivity it has given me, along with so many of my female clients.

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