How to be Strong and Lean at 40+

For women over 40, our daily need for calories drops because we lose more muscle with each passing decade after 30. We also have to deal with changing hormones, which has an effect on our emotional and physical well-being. Fitness and exercise routines that worked when we were younger, no longer seem to have an impact, especially on our bellies. Ladies, it’s ok! It’s not a hopeless situation. Once you make some tweaks in your strength training and cardiovascular activity, you’ll be on your way to developing more muscle and losing weight.

Why Is Muscle Important?

In your thirties, you start to lose muscle and bone mass. After the age of 50, both men and women may lose up to 10 pounds of muscle per decade, and bone density at a rate of 1% per year after age 40. This loss has a drastic effect on health and quality of life.

Strength-training exercises are at the heart of building bone density and muscle mass.

When you learn to include smart and effective strength training and cardiovascular activity into your life, you’ll gain:

  • higher bone density
  • improved blood lipids
  • better insulin sensitivity
  • more lean muscle
  • better metabolism
  • less inflammation
  • improved sleep

How Often Do You Need To Strength Train?

The older you get, the more important it is for you to focus on strength training. If you’re in your thirties, start to create consistency with strength training. In your forties and beyond you want to strength train at least twice a week for general health.

If you have never lifted weights then get lessons in proper technique. It’s money well spent.

Lifting light weights is a WASTE OF TIME, however, if you are new to strength training start with light weights until you build strength and learn proper technique. The amount of weight you use depends on your experience, current strength, and previous injuries.

Challenging your muscles to exhaustion stimulates more human growth factor.

How Much Weight?

The kind of strength training that will make a BIG difference is to use a weight heavy enough for you to reach muscular failure in 90 to 120 seconds. This will be a weight of around 80% of a one-time maximum lift. This is different from an approach that suggests using a light weight and completing a lot of repetitions. Using a heavier weight stimulates more human growth hormone and testosterone. You want to challenge your muscles, safely and effectively. If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire someone to teach you proper form and help you determine what weight to safely use.

To figure your maximum one-time lift, you’ll want to have a variety of weights available to establish your baseline. It’s advisable to have someone with you to help in case you need it. You want to understand the maximum amount of weight you can possibly lift in one repetition. You’ll have to establish this baseline for each type of exercise.

For example, if the one-time maximum weight you can lift for a shoulder press is 20 pounds, then you’ll use 16 pounds during your strength training for optimal muscle gain.

Here’s How To Make It Work

As the saying goes, a Sunday well spent brings a week of content. On the weekend get out your calendar and plan what days and times you’re going to strength train in the upcoming week. Keep this appointment with yourself as though your life depends on it!

It’s so easy to blow off your commitment, but remember the only person who can make your health a priority is you. This means it’s up to you to show up for yourself. And remember, it’s not any harder for you than it is for anybody else.

Plan for obstacles. If you’re a morning person, don’t plan to do your workout late in the day. Take into account your routine and your energy rhythm.

If you’re like me, you may prefer cardiovascular activity over strength training. I naturally gravitate towards aerobic activity and I would much rather be outside hiking, biking, or running than being inside lifting weights. The older I get though, the more I understand the importance of doing what I may otherwise want to sidestep and I no longer give myself the option of one over the other. When it’s a strength training day, that’s what I do.

If you enjoy going to the gym, you can use the stationary machines, or free weights. My preference is to use free weights at home. Planning to go to a gym adds one more potential obstacle for me. Having what I need at home means I know exactly how long my workout will be since I don’t have to wait for equipment at the gym, or get delayed by traffic.

The reasons you give yourself as to why you can’t stay committed to your plan are nothing but excuses. When you look outside of yourself for reasons why you can’t do something, you’re simply not taking ownership of your health. There will NEVER be a perfect time.

Some people think they have to enjoy an activity to stay committed, but guess what, that’s another excuse. You may never really like it. I’ve never loved strength training, but I keep showing up a couple of times a week. I have for 25 years.

You learn to love the results. You learn to love the process because you are showing up for yourself.

weight training for women 40 and older


Always get medical clearance before starting an exercise program.

Allow at least 30 minutes for your strength training. This includes a warmup and cool down which will help lessen your chance of injury.

You can choose to do all upper body exercises during one weekly session and lower body exercises for your second weekly workout.

Another option is to do half of the upper body exercises and half of the lower body exercises during one session, then include the remainder upper and lower exercises for your second workout. Keep track of your exercises and the amount of weight you use.

The purpose of this routine is to challenge your muscles and take them to fatigue. This means you’ll do as many repetitions as you can until you can’t lift the weight anymore. You only have to do one set of each exercise and since you’re using a heavy weight, it won’t be a lot of repetitions.


Start with a 5 minute warm-up with any exercise that will raise your heart rate. If you feel you need more time, then take it. Somedays, I don’t feel as limber and I may take up to 15 minutes to warm up.

Some options include:

  • Marching in place
  • Walking upstairs
  • Jumping rope


Work through the exercises without breaks. You want your body to work hard to stimulate growth.

WORKOUT #1 Upper Body

  1. Pushups: No excuses.

Whether you are brand new to pushups or experienced, you need to add pushups to your routine. Certain exercises give you a huge return for your effort, and pushups are one of them. When I don’t have time for strength training, I’ll at least do pushups.

Here’s a VIDEO to help guide you in technique at all levels.

Once you can do 10+ repetitions from your knees, start to add full pushups. Do as many full pushups as you can and finish the set with knee pushups. Keep challenging yourself.

I’m 62 and I can do over 50 full pushups without stopping. I challenge myself every year to match my age in pushups.

  1. Chest:
    Chest Press
    Chest Fly
  2. Shoulder
    Shoulder Press
    Lateral Raise
  3. Back
    Dumbbell rows
    Rear Fly
  4. Triceps
    Overhead extension
    Bench Dips – till you simply can’t do another one.
  5. Biceps
    Standing curl


  1. Squats with universal bar or dumbbells
  2. Lunges with universal bar or dumbbells
  3. Deadlift with universal or dumbbells
  4. Monster Walks with a band around your ankles. Move in all directions left – right – frontwards – backward.
  5. Hip extensions


Choose any activity that is less intense and allows your heart rate to go back to normal. Examples include walking and active stretching.

In case you missed it, here’s another great routine for you to follow.

Take this opportunity to commit and gain muscle. It’s never too late and you’re never too old to start. I would love to hear about your journey. ❤️

Join me on June 1 and learn how to combine the right nutrition, fitness and mindset to lose weight and feel your best. Learn what NO OTHER weight loss program teaches!

Become the CEO of your mind and body. Weight will drop, excuses will go out the door. Emotional eating will end. You will be in control! ❤️

Turn your health around in just a few weeks with expert guidance, support, and encouragement.


You won’t believe how much better you can look and feel in just 6 weeks.
Nutrition + exercise + positive psychology work wonders!

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