Growing old is inevitable, but how you grow older is up to you. As a woman, the ‘ageing thing’ starts as early as in the mid to late 30s. Not only do you begin to lose your reproductive ability and bone mass, but also muscle. And since your muscles aid in burning some calories, losing them might make you more susceptible to weight gain. If you are obsessed with dieting to cut excess pounds, you can even lose more muscles to make matters worse. So, what building muscle tips should you abide by after 40 female in workouts, routines, diet to avoid all this?
If you are a female and worried about gaining weight and losing your muscle after 40, then you are not alone. Fortunately, maintaining a healthy and strong body is possible regardless of your age. By adhering to the necessary female strength training for women tips, you can build or maintain your muscle mass as you enter your 40’s. If you were thinking that hitting 40 means trading your dumbbells for a mobility wheelchair or scooter, then you can be forgiven for such thoughts.
How Your Body Changes After 40
As you age, your body will undergo some changes. These include the following:
- Metabolism slows down: As you age, your body’s ability to produce energy will decrease. Even if your daily routine doesn’t change, less of the calories you take in will be burned.
- You will lose estrogen: Your ovaries will reduce the production of this hormone. The reduction will begin at perimenopause and finalize in menopause. The loss of this hormone will weaken your muscles (11).
- Loss of other hormones: Hormones such as testosterone are much lower at 40 than when you were 30. They will further reduce with menopause. Diminishing the levels of testosterone, GH, and DHE will make you more vulnerable to muscle loss.
- Bone loss: As you age, you will also lose your bone density. This will result in other serious issues such as osteoporosis. Your muscle mass has a direct relationship with bone density. So, if any of these reduces, be sure that the other will be affected.
Your body will also have other changes not related to weight and muscles such as hair loss, memory loss, urinary problems, unpredictable menstrual periods, and much more (7).
Can A Woman Build Muscles After 40?
Yes. Women in their forties can actually build muscles. However, there will be some challenges. These few bumps along the journey are nothing new to your experience as a female.
In one study, a group of unfit women of an average age of 41 were given weights to lift three times every week. After 14 days, the group had lost a lot of fat. But that is not all; they had also gained muscle mass.
If you get out of your comfort zone and take muscle building seriously, you will make incredible things happen. The only key to achieving positive results is to keep pushing on (3).
How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle After 40?
If you are starting up, then you are supposed to lift lighter weights. If you keep working out with heavy ones all the time, you might have pain in some body parts such as wrists, elbows, and so forth.
So, if you start lifting lighter weights, it can take weeks or even months for you to clear up and become used to training. Generally, the amount of time taken to build your muscle mass will depend on your body type, workouts, and many other factors.
For lean, fit, and healthy people, gaining extra muscles will require a chunk of your time, sweat, and effort. For obese, fat, and probably weak persons, progress will be made more quickly (5).
How To Start Getting Fit After 40?
If you have never imagined yourself doing push-ups or lifting weights, you might be afraid to start. However, you shouldn’t be scared of jumping in as you will surely reap a lot of benefits. Here are some tips to help you startup your fitness journey:
- Start with a trainer: If you can’t hire one’s services, then download some training apps to guide you on how to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
- Don’t be afraid: The weight lifting room will undoubtedly be scary for some of you. However, you shouldn’t be scared as lifting weights is all about challenging your muscles. In the end, they will boost your confidence.
- Have a free day between your workouts: If you have never trained before, start with two or three days a week. This ensures that you have a day to recover in between your sessions. You should target a different body part in every session. After 2 to 3 weeks, you can add more workout days to your schedule (8).
- Have a plan: When you get into the gym, start with about 15 minutes of stretching. Head to other types of workouts according to your plan.
- Lift lighter weights: Start with a weight you can manage to lift ten times in 3 sets.
- Modify your plan every fortnight: After a couple of weeks, make sure you increase the kilograms of the weights you are lifting. This will ensure that you are progressing and levelling up.
Finally, you should listen to your body. When it’s time to rest, just rest, do not continue with your workouts.
How To Build Muscle Mass?
The only way you can build it is through workouts. So, if you thought that dieting alone could make you gain muscle mass, then you are terribly wrong.
By lifting weights now and then, you will challenge your muscles, giving them a reason to grow (1).
How To Build Muscle Women?
The basics followed in building muscle for both women and men are the same. There isn’t anything different you are supposed to do as a woman. You need to incorporate strength training into your exercise.
Just because you are a woman, doesn’t mean you can gain muscles just by altering your diet or focusing on only cardiovascular exercises. You must get into the gym, lift some barbells and dumbbells so that you can achieve the desired results (14).
How To Build Muscles Through Weight Training For Women After 40?
You are old enough to have difficulty recalling childhood songs that doesn’t necessarily mean your program should only involve less strenuous exercises like deep breathing. If you want to gain some muscle pounds, then you must get out and lift those heavyweights. Here are some tips you should follow for effective results.
1. Ignore The Myths
Many myths can make you want to hesitate to begin weight training. In most cases, these “facts” are baseless and should be ignored.
For instance, you might be afraid of becoming too muscular and bulky because of lifting weights. The American Council on Exercise explains that the female body’s physiology makes this myth unfounded. This is because women produce less testosterone hormone compared to men. Hence, you can increase your muscle mass without adding pounds of bulky muscles.
Another myth is that strength training for women can increase hypertension (blood pressure). While this is somewhat true, it is only a short term effect. Lifting weights temporarily causes a spike in your blood pressure. In the long term, lifting weights will actually lower your blood pressure, states Mayo Clinic (17).
2. Know The Benefits
If you are as busy as most women in their 40’s, then you can be tempted to skip the weight lifting portion of your workout. This oversight could make you miss out on a lot of important benefits. Mayo Clinic states that a female can find a lot of rewards by building muscles. They include the following:
Weight Loss For Women Over 50
Resistance training will keep your weight on healthy levels. This is especially true because it increases your metabolic rates so that you can support and maintain your larger muscles. The metabolic boost will see you burn a lot more calories than you would.
Helps You Improve Your Balance
For instance, if you are building muscle in legs after 40, you will stabilize yourself. As your strength increases, you will also avoid many chronic illnesses such as depression, heart disease, obesity, back pain, and so forth.
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Prevents Muscle Loss
Women in their forties lose muscle mass twice as quickly as men. As you enter the fifth decade, you will lose half a pound annually. Well, you can prevent all this through workouts. It’s that simple, you either use them through training or you will lose them (13).
Maintain A Healthy Hormone Balance
As mentioned earlier, when you age, your hormonal levels change. The Growing Hormone becomes diminished once you hit the 40s. Lifting weights can increase the levels of GH in post menopause and middle-aged women. Additionally, it will also increase your DHEA levels.
Reduces Musculoskeletal Injury Risks
As you get older, you will lose your muscle mass and bone. This will reduce your strength and mobility, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries such as fractures, strains, and sprains. Training will, however, cause you to build your muscles, joints, and tendons as you age. Several studies have linked lifting weights to an increase in the density of bone minerals (10).
3. Avoid Blaming Your Oldness
A lot of women tend to blame their age for becoming weaker. While it is true that your body will change as you age, a small study conducted in 2011 sought to shine some light on this perception.
The study conducted by Physician and Sportsmedicine focuses on athletes aged 41 to 81. They all participated in exercises 4 to 5 times each week. It was found that they didn’t reduce their muscle, unlike the control group, which didn’t do any exercises.
So, the study definitely supports the saying, ‘use it or lose it.’ So if you use your muscles (through workouts), you won’t lose them even if you are in your 50s.
4. You Have To Watch Your Diet
Now that you know the benefits and myths of lifting weights, it is time to get started. The first step is making sure that what you eat supports your goals.
Cleveland Clinic reports that eating proteins can prevent muscle loss as you grow older. This is because they repair and build your muscles after workouts.
Scientists suggest that taking 0.45 grams of high-quality proteins each day for every pound of your weight. For instance, if you are a 100-pound female, then you should take in 45 grams of proteins. Other organizations such as the Harvard Health Publishing suggest even a larger amount (6).
The recommended female protein amounts building muscles after 40 are certainly more than the ones stated above. So make sure you consume a lot of them according to your weight.
Foods To Eat
Other than consuming proteins, you should stick to the following practices:
- Eat fruits and vegetables: Half of your plate should contain fruits and veggies. This is because they have more nutrients and less fat than dairy products or grains.
- Do not skip breakfast: Eat a healthy meal such as oatmeal, whole toast, or fruits to keep hunger at bay. This will ensure that you don’t eat unhealthy snacks due to temptations. Remember that you also need enough food to fuel your workouts.
- Eat less at night: If you work out in the daytime, consider eating less at night if you are obese or unfit.
- Cook healthy meals: Do not eat a lot of oils. Try grilling, boiling, or baking. Also do not under-eat as you are consuming a lot of calories in your workouts.
- Lay of soda: Switch to water or unsweetened drinks. This is to cut on your added sugar intake, which can make you gain weight.
- Don’t take alcohol: A beer appetite is common in the middle ages. A glass of wine contains a lot of calories. So if you take alcohol frequently, you probably should work out extra to burn those excess calories you consume.
To sum up, you must consume as many calories as you use in your workouts if you are fit. If you are not fit or have a lot of body fat, you need to eat less to create a calorie deficiency.
5. Embrace Lightweights
If you lift heavyweights, you will just injure yourself. If you get aches and pains in any part of your body, you will likely stop your training. If you get injured, you have to stop training while you seek treatment.
Even if you take weeks or months to get used to heavier weights, it is worth it rather than injuring yourself.
Several studies completed in the past years show that lighter weights and high reps do a good job at building your muscles.
In one study, high reps and light weights stimulated muscle growth as heavy as the weights and lower reps. This study wasn’t limited to beginners who don’t know what to do. Even guys with four to five years of training triggered muscle growth by lifting lighter weights (12).
Hence, light and medium weights can successfully help you build your muscles as you hit your forties.
6. Do Not Give Up, Keep Moving
Nagging pain and injuries can make building your muscles a little bit harder after 40 than when you were a teenager. The best way to deal with injuries is to rest. But according to researchers, you might be better off continuing.
Some exercises, such as eccentric training deal with tendon pain in both the Achilles tendon and elbow. In fact, it works better than surgery.
In a study done by Sweden scientists, middle-aged people were told to do heavy eccentric training. The subjects were to undertake the training even if they were in pain. They will only stop if the pain becomes too hard to bear. All the runners had Achilles Tendinosis (Tendons collagen degeneration) and had been in pain for around 18 months (4).
At first, the pain was so hard to bear that it kept them from doing the exercise. However, by 12 weeks of daily eccentric workout, all the subjects had regained their normal pre-injury levels.
The same results were recorded for a group of subjects suffering from golfer’s elbow, whose treatment options such as physical therapy and cortisone injections had failed.
While eccentric workouts are effective, you should first see a therapist if you are injured during your workouts rather than trying them first. If he/she advises you to stop working out, take that advice and not the one discussed above.
7. Take Care Of Your Joints
If your joints are giving you some grief. Try putting on some elbow or knee sleeves as you train. Their benefits include warmth and compression, both of which make your ligaments and tendons a lot happier when you are lifting weights.
Bodybuilder Gary Gibson notes that warm ligaments perform well under load compared to cold ones. According to him, they are less likely to get injured.
Please note that sleeves are not a magical cure for elbow and knee pain, however, they are undoubtedly worth trying. They have helped some, and so they may very well benefit you (2).
8. Do Not Overdo It
Getting out and feeling like you have just done some rounds with Mike Tyson might leave you thinking you have made it. However, this is not always the case.
You need to structure your efforts so that you can move towards the goal of building muscles. This means that you must have days that you lift lighter weights and others heavier and harder.
If you push your body to its limit on every workout session, the results might not be that good.
First, you will feel tired, and you can’t get sleep. At 1 O’clock, you may find yourself staring at your mosquito net wondering why you are still awake. You will end up waking up as tired as you were the day before. You will feel moody, irritable, and very anxious. Worst of all, you might end up not getting the expected results.
So, divide your workouts at different levels of intensity. Do not workout at maximum effort every time. Building muscles doesn’t necessitate you to keep pushing your body to the absolute limit in every session (16).
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9. Stretch Tight Muscles
Stretching exercises have had a lot of criticism recently. Researchers believe that it does not do what it should to.
Research shows that stretching has minimal effects on muscle soreness and doesn’t prevent injuries.
Nonetheless, if you feel ‘tight’ in a specific area of your body, then you can experiment with some stretching to see if you will feel better.
Aim to stretch any sore muscle for about 60 seconds every day. Doing so has been linked to more improved flexibility than a 30 second or 15 second stretch in a group of people aged over 65 (15).
10. Know Your Body Type
Some people have a body type that makes them better suited to certain workouts than others.
You might find it hard to do deep squats with a barbell across your shoulders. You may also not be built for chin-ups or deadlifts from the floor.
For instance, if you have short hands and long legs, you will find it harder to do a deadlift from the floor than someone with short legs and longer hands.
If you can do something, don’t force yourself to do it. Ditch it and find something similar. After all, training at 40 doesn’t necessitate a full range of motion. Also, there isn’t a “must-do” workout that cannot be replaced with another one.
11. Have New Ways To Train Your Muscles
To build your mass, you need to find new challenges. You need to give the muscles a reason to grow or get stuck at one size.
So, increase the amount of weight you lift in every session. If you can complete a certain number of cycles with a given weight, move on to a higher one.
However, adding weights can cause joints to flare up as you get older. So what do you do? Do you just accept that you can’t build muscles in your 40’s and that it is really impossible?
Well, it turns out that adding weights isn’t the only way you can train your muscles. You could also do more cycles with your current weight, reduce the speed at which you lift them, and introduce techniques such as static holds, drop sets, and so forth. Make sure you overwork your muscles so that they have a reason to grow.
12. Be Patient
You will see teens walk into the gym, do a few cycles of warm-ups, and then go straight for some heavy stuff.
If you are in your 40’s, then don’t try that. This approach can make you get injured. Take your time, warm up properly before lifting heavy stuff.
Building your muscle mass after 40 is not that easy. You have more stuff going into your head that you did two decades ago. This makes it difficult to pay attention to your diet and workouts. Nonetheless, you might find the above building muscle after 40 female tips useful.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
Reviewed by: Inga Grebeniuk-Gillyer
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- Heavy-load eccentric calf muscle training for the treatment of chronic Achilles tendinosis (1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How long does it take to build muscle? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
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- Menopause, Weight Gain, and Exercise Tips (2019, webmd.com)
- Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- The Basics: Build Muscle for Better Health (2006, webmd.com)
- The effect of duration of stretching of the hamstring muscle group for increasing range of motion in people aged 65 years or older (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Too much exercise could lead to bad decisions on what you eat and buy (2019, edition.cnn.com)
- Weightlifting: Bad for your blood pressure? (2019, mayoclinic.org)