You may be wondering how weight training can help you gain muscle.

Here’s the deal: it’s not just about gaining muscle for women over 50; it’s about losing fat and maintaining lean mass.

The more muscle mass you maintain, the faster your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is basically how many calories you burn without moving around or doing anything but breathing. It sounds like a lot of calories since it is! For example, my own personal RMR based on my previous measurements was 1125 calories per day (for comparison, an average 20-something woman’s RMR would probably be around 1200-1300). As you age your RMR drops just a little bit each year. If you have a high RMR, you burn calories just by being alive. You will gain weight more slowly as long as your activity level is the same or increases with time since this usually corresponds to an increase in your RMR. It’s not fair that we lose precious metabolism as we age!

But don’t despair: weight training can slow down and even reverse this trend!

What happens when you lift weights?

Weight lifting, especially when you do a series of repetitions (a set of ten, for example), breaks down muscle cells and then repairs them. Upon recovery, your muscles grow larger and teem with new mitochondria, which help repair muscle tissue and break down glucose for energy. As you age, your muscles become stronger and bigger than before, which means that you hold onto more muscle as you age and maintain a high RMR.

In other words: weight training will help stop the metabolic decline that comes with age–and even increase it a little bit! The benefits are noticeable after a few weeks.

Keep in mind that this isn’t about bulking up or adding huge amounts of bulk to your frame by lifting heavy weights repeatedly over time; instead, it’s about maintaining lean mass and keeping your metabolism higher for longer by slowly building muscle tissue.

So how do you get started?

If you are unsure of where to begin, it’s best to consult a personal trainer for guidance. But don’t worry if that’s not an option you can always figure out everything yourself! There are several excellent books written by women who have been weight training for years that offer very clear instructions on equipment use, technique, and even sample routines tailored to your specific goal (for example losing weight, gaining strength). The two we recommend are Greta Blackburn’s The Complete Guide To Women’s Strength Training or Rachel Straub’s Strong & Smooth. You can also visit websites like which provides plenty of free information along with videos demonstrating proper form and technique as well as others created specifically for women.

If you have a little extra time and money, there are also trainers who can work with you one-on-one or in a group setting to develop a custom training program tailored exactly to your goals and abilities. These sessions usually cost a few hundred dollars but may be worth it if it means adding years of healthy life onto your life!

In the end, weight training isn’t just about building muscle–it’s about staying healthy and feeling good about yourself as you age. Your best option is to talk with any health care provider you regularly see (a doctor, therapist, chiropractor, or osteopath) or seek out a personal trainer at your gym or through your local parks and recreation department to design a program that will help you feel stronger, healthier and more confident every day of your life.

Weight training, and resistance training in general, can be highly beneficial for women over 50. For example:

Weight-bearing exercise like weight training decreases the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures and it is widely accepted that lifting weights can do wonders to increase your metabolism, which helps you burn more fat throughout the day. A combination of weight training and cardio has been shown to increase brain function more effectively than just doing cardio alone. And finally, strength training prevents muscle loss, which is even more important for women than men.

Weight training, especially with heavier weights and lower reps, may help you gain muscle mass. A study shows that protein intake has an influence on how much muscle mass you can gain, but weight training itself also plays a significant role. Another study showed that the hormone IGF-1 increases lean body weight (lean body mass = everything in your body except fat), which suggests that weight training could get the ball rolling. It’s also likely that women will not get too muscular from strength training, at least not without special supplements or testosterone injections; this is due to differences in hormones.

Program example

Here is an example of a weight training program for the average woman over 50. If you are completely new to lifting weights or have any medical conditions, please consult with a healthcare provider first! Also, note that this plan does include cardio exercises because together with strength training they will give you the best results.


– chest (bench press 3 x 8-12 reps);

– back (bent over row 3 x 8-12 reps);

– legs (squats 4 x 10-15 reps) .


– shoulders (overhead press 3 x 8-12 reps);

– triceps (tricep pushdown 3 x 8-12 reps);


– biceps (barbell curl 3 x 8-12 reps) core (crunches 3 x failure) leg raises (3 x 15-20).

You can also do some abs work on the two days in between your workout sessions. Don’t forget that it’s okay to take rest days.

Avoid the mistake of not lifting heavy enough weights because you feel too intimidated; if it’s too heavy, just reduce the number of reps and don’t be afraid to lift weights that challenge your muscles. You can do a higher volume routine 3-4 times per week and follow a split where you train one or two body parts in each workout session (for example chest and shoulders, or back and biceps). Don’t forget to work on your legs though, because they are important for overall fitness!

Exercise tips for women over 50 who want to lose weight and start building muscle:

Start with compound exercises like bench press or squats because they use a large number of muscles at once. If you don’t feel like you can do heavy squats and other exercises mentioned above (or if it’s too uncomfortable), try lighter weights and more reps as long as you do as many reps as possible for every set.

Do mostly low volume workouts with a high number of sets per exercise; focus on free weight exercises or machines if possible. Try to limit the number of different exercises per muscle group because there is probably no need to work out your abs from six different angles… Save that for when you are an advanced lifter!

Don’t forget to eat a lot of protein, it’s important for building muscles. If you have trouble eating enough protein from food alone, consider using protein supplements or try making some homemade protein bars instead.

Workout with weights 3-4 times per week, but don’t neglect HIIT training which can be very beneficial for fat loss. Go for it!


1. Wilmore, J., & Costill, D. (2009). Physiology of sport and exercise . Champaigne, IL: Human Kinetics.

2. Hickson, R., Hidaka, K., Foster, C., Falduto M., Chatterjee, S., & Pandorf C.(1998). Growth hormone responses to acute supramaximal resistance exercise in women after training intervention . Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol , 79 (3), 238-242.

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4. Kok LY, Verdijk LB, Beelen M, Meijer K, Savelberg HH, Dendale P (2008) Protein supplementation before and after exercise does not further augment skeletal muscle hypertrophy after resistance training in elderly men , Am J Clin Nutr January 2008 vol. 87 no. 1 47-55

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12 M. Rhea, W.D.Alvar, M.Konttinen, D.Ball, J.Fry, A three-year longitudinal study of linear vs . weekly undulating periodized resistance training to train status in women . Eur J Appl Physiol 2002; 88: 506-511

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14 Krieger JW (2010) Single versus multiple sets of resistance exercise: a meta-ression . Int J Sports

***Reference: The Complete Guide To Women’s Strength Training by Greta Blackburn (2005)

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Join our growing community of women who are breaking down aging stereotypes and
creating a fresh perspective toward embracing life after 50.