Muscles for Women Over 40? Heck yes!

Muscles for Women Over 40? Heck yes!

We hear this all the time when we get incoming female clients: "I don't want to be bulky and get huge muscles." They've heard the word hypertrophy before and get worried that they're going to look like a female Atlas if they use too big of weights. 

The word hypertrophy has been misused and, at the minimum, misunderstood.  Hypertrophy means to change the shape, function, and strength of the muscle by nourishing the cellular structure—this does not necessarily mean the muscle has to get bigger. In fact, if you are working on fat loss, building muscle will likely make you smaller because muscle is much more dense than fat.

The science behind hypertrophy indicates that you need to work your muscles to the point of overload–and this means you need to have some discomfort while you are working out. I have to break the news to you that all the articles you have ever read about getting long, lean muscles with 5 pound weights performing 200 reps are wrong! For one, you physically cannot change the length of a muscle, it is, after all, attached to bone, so unless you want to extend the length of your bones, your muscle length will stay the same. Yes, you can change the shape, viability, and function of the muscle, but not the length. 

What we as individuals determine to be bulky might also be interpreted differently by others, and there is no one true definition of what this means. For example, the majority of women do not have the hormone profile that men carry that allows for huge gains in muscle mass to happen.

So that being said, let's look at this 5 reasons why you need hypertrophy in your life.

Reason #1: It fights aging. After age 30 our muscles start to shrink just because that's naturally what happens. You can lose 3-5% of your muscle mass per year! That's one reason right out of the gates, keep what you need folks. By adding strength training to your program, you can start to regain some of that required strength in your body as it naturally declines. If you are a woman going through menopause, then you will also be dealing with hormonal disturbances that can impact your ability to gain muscle easily, so the earlier you start lifting, the more prepared your body will be for aging. 

Reason #2: Look better naked. Lean muscle boosts your metabolism, and your muscles need nutrition to thrive whereas fat is just lazy. If you have increased muscle mass, your body will use your food more efficiently (think a super car here) whereas increased body fat is just like feeding a broken down old jalopy.

I know that looking good is not everybody’s main reason for working out, but there is no denying that the by-product of a good strength session is that your body starts to change. Your body composition can be totally transformed when you develop lean muscle. A great way to see this is not necessarily by the scales, but by your clothes sizes, measuring tape, or even just visually by looking in the mirror. So, if you are interested in the aesthetics, then start lifting.

Reason #3: You boost your confidence. When you start to get stronger physcially, you feel more empowered in everyday life. This especially pertinent to women over 40 who sometimes have lost that confidence of their 20's. Keeping up with great, hard workouts give you a rush of endorphins that help you feel invincible, regardless of age. So give yourself the strong mind and body you deserve.

Reason #4: You'll prevent more injuries. While the main purpose of our muscular system is movement another primary purpose is maintenance of posture and body position, and by this, I mean that our muscles support us. If you have a strong body you are protecting your joints, and you are building a system of muscles that can contract, react, and bounce back helping you to stay injury free and mobile.

Reason #5: ften overlooked in the gym is the knock-on effect of having good overall health from building muscle through hypertrophy. Having a functioning body with a good metabolism will help us fight some of the major diseases and illnesses that plight us as we age. Supporting our structure against osteoporosis is a basic essential requirement if we are to enjoy our life moving forward. Having a strategic exercise plan is one of the proven ways for women to fight epidemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, one of the biggest causes of death in females.

Plan your workouts accordingly. We do a great job of incorporating many of the six essential movements of the body in our 1-on-1 and Small Group Training. Here are the basic requirements:

1. Keep reps in the 10-12 rep range.

2. Cover six essential movements of the body:

  • Hip dominant: swing, deadlift
  • Knee dominant: squats, lunges
  • Push: both vertically and horizontally, push ups, chest press
  • Pull: both vertically and horizontally, pull ups, bent over row, inverted row
  • Core functioning: shoulders to hip, front, and back of your trunk
  • Explosive movement: jump squat, hang clean

3. Load, speed, and duration are all elements to consider.

4. You need to reach overload with your muscles, and discomfort is okay.

5. Work for 25-30 minutes.

6. Work 3-4 times per week.

7. Alternate days of low intensity steady state exercise (LISS), walking, hiking, swimming, yoga, pilates, etc.

8. Mindfulness. I am not some raging hippie but keep your body’s stress levels regulated by finding some quiet time in your day.

9. Restoration. Get adequate rest between workouts, take days off, dial in your nutrition, and get enough sleep.

Some quick tips to get the right amount of weight on the six essential movements in the 10-12 rep range:

  • If you can do 15 reps easily, then you are not working hard enough.
  • If you can barely do 4-5 reps, then you are working too hard. If you start puking, you are working way too hard. If it hurts your body in ways that don’t feel good, then you might get injured.
  • If you get to 8 reps and have to push through those last 2-4 reps, then you are working just hard enough.

Think of the story of Goldilocks, find what's just right for you, right where the discomfort and overload is perfect.

Most of the general population could benefit from some element of hypertrophy in their life. It’s all good news. Strength training for hypertrophy is going to impact you in positive ways—you will be able to be more active, play with the kids, and manage your stresses, all with renewed energy if you push far enough to achieve this. 

Looking to get into a great program to help you gain or maintain your muscles mass? Look no further! Check us out Spokane.



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