I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from women over 50 who want to lose weight. Many of them have been exercising 3 – 5 days / week but just can’t get rid of the extra 20, 30, even 50 pounds. Often a life event like daughter’s wedding, milestone birthday, or medical diagnosis has brought them into the gym to find the magic bullet to being young and beautiful.
Most people make it to complicated and worry about doing right exercises to get rid of their spare tire around the middle or how the minimum number of calories they need to lose weight. Most of the information they get is from tv, their friends and the internet and there are so many messages it’s no wonder it’s complicated.
It takes many components of wellness to lose weight and feel good about yourself at any age. Today’s blog is about exercise.
When I talk to women in the 50+ age group about exercise, many get nervous. Some of these women haven’t exercised in a long time if ever and they have a vision of lifting heavy weights and getting bulging muscles. To get the physique you see in muscle and fitness, Oxygen, and Shape magazines takes a lot of work, preparation, dieting, and habits. Instead women need to focus on the benefits of strength training including improved muscle tone, building muscle mass, and increased bone density.
There are 5 exercises to work on and master before moving on to other exercises or trying to spot reduce. If you can master these exercises, you will strengthen your core, build muscle mass, and improve your balance. All 5 of these exercises have progressions, making it harder, and regressions, a starting point for the beginner. Following are the exercise and a brief description of the muscles it works. If you’re just starting out or aren’t familiar with these exercises, I highly recommend working with a Personal Trainer until you get your form correct.
The first exercise is the SQUAT. The squat will work your quads (front of your leg), your hamstrings (back of your legs), your glutes (booty) and abs. It is a great all over exercise and once you master a body weight squat, you can start adding weights and plyometric (jumping) moves.
Many of the women I talk to have never done a squat or are afraid to do squats because of their knees. As women we grew up wanting to be skinny and not working our legs because we’d get big quads and not look good in mini-skirts and high heels. This means a lot of women don’t have leg strength or core strength. Because of this lack of strength, we can start them out with supported squats or wall sits and progress as needed.
The squat works some of the biggest muscles in your body which means you have the potential to add the most muscle mass. Why is muscle mass important? When you increase your muscle mass, you increase your metabolism. Metabolism is what burns calories during the day and helps you lose weight.
The next exercise is the DEADLIFT. Many women have never heard of a deadlift and because the name is intimidating will immediately shy away from doing one. But the deadlift is one of the most effective exercises for developing strength and muscle mass. It’s a full-body exercise that recruits a lot of muscle building total body muscle.
The deadlift improves posture. You probably don’t think about it but we live most of our lives in front of our body and don’t think much about working out our back side. We develop poor posture, improper balance, and posture issues. Deadlifts focus on our backside and helps balance the body and encourages standing taller with greater strength.
The deadlift is a loaded hip hinge, hinging at the hips. Not sitting down but sitting back. The movement comes from your hips and not your knees. It’s like a horizontal thrust – your butt goes back as you sit back and then you fire your hips forward as you stand up.
Master the hip hinge first before you add a bar or weights.
If you don’t know how to perform a deadlift, I encourage you to talk to a trainer so you are doing it right. It’s okay to start a deadlift with low or no weight just using the bar to lift for proper form.
The next exercise is the PUSH-UP. The push-up is a great total body exercise recruiting muscles in your chest, shoulders, back, and abs. Most women are familiar with a push up because it’s such a mainstream exercise. We see it in movies and on tv when the hero or heroine is in the military or trying to get in shape for a race or competition.
The problem is most women can’t do a full push-up. Many try and get discouraged easily. There are regressions and progression to the push-up. The regressions are an incline push-up which is starting with your hands on a wall, bar, or bench, going to your knees, or focusing on lowering yourself to the ground, laying on the ground, and coming back up.
The key to the push-up is keeping your arms and core tight as you lift and lower your body.
Next up is the LUNGE. Like the squat and the deadlift, the lunge works the big muscles of your legs, and glutes. The lunge adds balance because you’re working one leg at a time. The best way to start with lunges are with walking lunges, stepping forward into a lunge and alternating the leg that moves forward.
An easier version of the lunge is a stationary lunge or split squat. Start by standing with your legs split front to back and lowering yourself into a lunge. This will build strength and balance and recruit muscles not only in the legs but also in the abs.
Before adding weights, it’s best to perfect your walking lunge, stationary lunge, reverse lunge, and forward lunge. You can then add weights at your sides, on your back, or overhead.
The last exercise is PLANK. If you’ve ever done my boot camp you know how much I love plank. It works your core and abs like no other exercise. When you do a plank, keep your abs, glutes, and quads tight. It doesn’t matter if you do plank with your arms extended or on your elbows. Just do plank.
Start out by holding your plank for 15 – 30 seconds and work up to at least 1 minute and 30 seconds. Once you can hold plank for 1 minute and 30 seconds with good form, you can progress to lifting one arm or leg, moving up and down with your arms, moving side to side with just arms or side to side with arms and legs.
These are 5 exercises along with a focus on better eating are a great start to working out at any age. On the days when I’m short on time these are my go to exercises. If you need instruction on any of these exercises, contact one of our Personal Trainers or me. I’m here to help you have the energy and strength to accomplish your goals.
My last bit of advice is we are all busy and carving out time in your day to exercise and prepare to eat healthy is the best gift you can give yourself. Don’t make it harder than it really is!