If you work out with me, you know I love basic strength training. Lots of rows, with the band, the cable machine, dumbbells or a bar. Bicep curls. Tricep extensions. Squats and lunges. Hamstring curls. Shoulder fly. Plank!
These are basic strength training exercises that have been around for a long time.
There are a lot of variations on these basics, where we can add an unstable surface (using the BOSU or torture disk). We can go heavy for fewer repetitions, or we can go lighter for lots of repetitions. We can use the ball. We can balance on one leg. We can combine upper body and lower body exercises.
There are an infinite number of variations on the basics out there in the fitness world. We can train in the heat, or to choreography. We can do these while suspended in the air on a TRX, or with cardio stations built throughout the strength training for a circuit.
It's all good.
As a woman over 40, the thing to really look for is whether the workout is designed for your level. What are your needs? Do you have back, hip or knee issues? Shoulder or wrist? High blood pressure or diabetes? Or maybe a slowing metabolism?
A wild variety of exercises is really not the key to fitness. The key is consistency. We must find a way to lift weights twice a week minimum, and keep good form. There is no sense taking time to lift, if we're just going through the motions. We have to dig deep and connect with the muscles we are intending to work. We have to get intentional.
Rows are important. They help to counteract a postural muscle imbalance that is very common among women over 40, where the shoulders round forward and pull the neck out of alignment. Glute (butt muscle) work does the same to keep the pelvis aligned and therefore protects the lower back. Planks build core strength every time you do them. Squats build leg strength every time you do them. If your training has gotten to a point where it seems routine, it is time to shake it up. Not by seeking variety, necessarily, but by digging deeper. Work the heck out of those back muscles. Pump up your biceps. Dig deep and see if you can get those legs and glutes to burn a little more. There is such satisfaction and empowerment that comes from a challenging session of weight lifting. But it is up to you. You have to own your workout, and bring your absolute best to every set and every rep. I have said this for years and I still believe it to be true. Strength training is not just a workout for your muscles; it is a workout for your spirit. Let yourself soar.
Some ways to become more intentional in your workouts this week and add to your daily practice:
1. Make your warmup a serious part of your workout. Instead of watching the clock, and hopping off the cardio equipment as soon as possible, approach your workout with the intention that you are going to get your heart rate into your zone and crank out 15 minutes or a mile. That strong cardiovascular warmup will increase the intensity of your strength training and improve your results. Improve your results!
2. Make the connection between your mind and your body. Start noticing the difference you feel when you just go through the move's range of motion versus when you get to that sweet spot and squeeze the intended muscle. Work it! It isn't going to squeeze itself, you must bring that mental energy along to get the most out of each set.
3. Remember that your strength workout is just 45 minutes out of your day (3% of your total time that day) and show up like you mean business. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that the body responds when I show up. I love strength training because it is guaranteed to work. When you do it right, and with that fierce fire that I know is in you, you will get stronger, more confident, and more empowered every workout. Every single one!
Then you bring that strength, that faith, that belief with you to all your other choices and pretty soon, there's no stopping you.