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Strength Training for Women 

Many women still believe that lifting weights will make them “bulky.” The truth is that we lack enough testosterone to bulk up like our male counterparts. What you will gain is a greater appreciation for what your body can do, that “toned” look we all want (visible muscle lines), and a higher metabolism. Strength training rebuilds lost muscle tissue, repairing the metabolic damage caused by excessive dieting and cardio. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends, meaning the more muscle you build, the more fat you will burn all day. This is true for women of all ages! There is no significant difference between gaining muscle through resistance training from age 21-80! In fact, lifestyle plays just as much of a part in menopausal weight gain as we age. We can greatly decrease pounds gained with age with strength training.  

My eldest personal training client is an independent 80-year-old woman who started strength training in her late 60’s, proving that it is never too late to start. I love her weekly reports of not needing a cane to walk the zoo, realizing that she no longer depends on a hand rail to go up and down stairs, and getting up and down from the floor without aid. Our eldest member taking part in our weekly strength training clinic for seniors is 82, and doing great with free weight exercises we teach.  

Added health benefits with strength training including a decrease in chronic health conditions such as: 

  • Arthritis by supporting and protecting joints, also easing pain, stiffness, and possibly swelling. Our joints do not have to work so hard with strong muscles wrapped around them 

  • Back pain by increasing core strength and correcting muscular imbalances 

  • Obesity by increasing metabolism (burn more calories daily. (when you cut calories and don’t exercise, or just do cardio, you lose a substantial amount of muscle in the process) 

  • Diabetes by increasing blood glucose regulation 

  • Bone health by rebuilding and keeping our bones strong. We start losing muscle mass naturally as early as 30, and can start to seeing signs of osteoporosis as early as age 50. Our 50+ female clients report increases in bone density with every check up!  


So, what do you need to do and how often? Studies report increases of up to 4 pounds while simultaneously losing up to 4 pounds of body fat within the first 10 weeks (about 2 and a half months) of adding weight training just twice per week. This also means that the scale will not reflect the amazing work happening under the surface. Measurements will be your best gauge of success, along with better fitting clothing.  

  • Free weights, machines, or bands can be used, on 2-3 nonconsecutive days of the week, although if you fall in love with weights as I have, your training staff can guide you in a Get Started appointment, group or personal training on how to weight train on consecutive days 

  • Perform 8-10 multi-joint exercises that target major muscle groups (the big ones) and it only takes 6 of the correct exercises to work every muscle in your body! 

  • Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with good form, in a controlled manner - 2 seconds up and down 

  • The last rep should be difficult but achievable with good form- you must put sufficient stress on the muscle to stimulate muscular growth and strength.  

  • Remember to continue to progress weight lifted to keep the results coming. It should feel like an 8 out of 10 difficulty level for those 8-10 reps.  

  • Up to 15 repetitions is recommended as we get a little older, but anything beyond that is not going to get you stronger or force muscle growth. 

When I began my weight loss journey, my goal was of course to see how “skinny” I could get. I was able to lose 125 pounds to meet my BMI recommended weight of 150 pounds, which left me thin and weak. With Strength training I was able to regain 20 pounds of muscle, and can now lift 125 pounds and more with some exercises. Now that was over a decade ago, I was not able to maintain that low of a body fat percentage and that’s okay. My favorite thing about strength training is truly the mental strength and body positivity it has given myself and so many of my female clients.  


Amber Cornist, Armbrust YMCA Health & Wellness Director

If you are interested in setting up your free Get Started sessions or chatting with a Personal Trainer to learn more about adding strength training to your fitness routine, visit the Welcome Center at your Y, chat with any of our Wellness Coaches, or contact the wellness staff via email here in the Personal Training section.,as%20lifestyle%20and%20genetic%20factors 

Category: Health & Wellness
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Meet Amber Cornist:

I got certified to become a personal trainer in 2014 after struggling with my weight for over a decade. I had developed a passion for helping others take charge of their health and knew the Y is where is wanted to do that. I've been training at the Armbrust YMCA ever since! Over the years I have added more certifications to my tool bag including a second PT certification, Small Group Fitness, Fitness Nutrition, and some of my favorite YMCA programs including Y Weight Loss, and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. As a Health and Wellness Director I am looking forward to many more years of cultivating health and physical activity in our community!