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Essentials of Female Building Muscle After 50

Building muscle mass after 50 is all down to the right training plan and a diet. Get it right and you’ll lead a leaner, healthier, happier life.

Whether you’re new to exercise, or you’ve been active all your lift, strength training is important for all females.

Lifting weights and building muscle will boost both your health and physical performance. It’s not about growing huge slabs of manly muscle mass either.

In fact, introducing hard strength training to your daily routine won’t suddenly turn you into a deep-voiced, broad-shouldered body builder – if anything it’ll help you develop a more womanly, confident, shapely and athletic figure.

Plus, you’ll improve your vascular, metabolic and functional health too.

Strength training for females over 50 is pretty much essential.

Here’s why…

Why Building Muscle After 50 Is Important for All Women

There’s been a huge shift in the way that females perceive strength training over the last few years.

Gone are the days where women focus solely on cardio as a way of keeping fit. Okay, it helped many of us get off the sofa and increase our fitness levels – but it led to frail, weak physiques with no muscle or strength.

The so-called ‘cardio bunny’ approach is dead in the water. And in it’s place has exploded the super-strong, ultra-feminine strength training approach.

When it comes to building muscle after 50, it’s all down to two things – diet and the right exercise program. Without a plan, you’re not channeling your energy and efforts as well as you could.

And that could leave you with less-than-perfect results in the long term.

Strong females lift for health, beauty and muscle build

But why exactly should a female over 50 build muscle?

Wanting to be strong, lean and athletic reaches far wider than just looking your best. The impact that strength training has on your life is phenomenally wide.

From mental health, to physical longevity. And from bone health to muscle health.

Here are the most important reasons you need to know about…

More muscle means a leaner figure and higher metabolic rate during dieting

Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more you muscle have, the more energy it needs to sustain its own mass.

When you’re muscle building through strength training, your metabolic rate increases; and this can have a positive effect on body fat levels – presuming you monitor your food intake.

A few more pounds of muscle won’t make a huge difference to metabolic rate on it’s own merit. But there’s a pretty positive correlation between women over 50 that take part in regular strength training and lower levels of body fat.

If you’re dieting to lose fat, you’re at risk of losing muscle mass too. That’s because when your body in low on energy intake, it can also choose to break muscle down for fuel as well, not just excess fat.

The best way to stop this from happening is to combine strength training with a high protein diet.

That way you spare lean muscle tissue and target fat more effectively.

And your metabolic rate will continue to tick over at a higher rate.

Muscle building reduces your risk of sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is an age related loss in lean muscle tissue and is significantly associated with elevated risk of obesity, bone health issues and metabolic diseases.

By the age of 60, you could have lost as much as 15% of your total muscle mass – that’s a huge amount. And it’ll have a drastic effect on everything from your strength to your stamina too.

It’s thought to be caused by a drop in muscle building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, but inactivity plays a large part too.

Side effects of sarcopenia include: 

  • Loss of strength and endurance
  • Weight loss
  • Increased body fat
  • Loss of balance and functional capability (walking, carrying, standing from a sitting position etc.)

From the age of 50 onward, it’s important that you train to build muscle. Risk factors for sarcopenia are higher if you’re inactive, have a bad diet and follow poor lifestyle choices.

By strength training to build muscle you can offset symptoms of sarcopenia and maintain functional health and quality of life.

Strong muscles means strong bones

Another side effect on being inactive after 50 is that your bones can become weak and brittle. This increases the risk of fractures and other skeletal issues such as osteoporosis and osteopenia.

In women, disorders such as osteoporosis are linked closely to the menopause. This is because estrogen is responsible for maintaining mineral content in bone tissue.

At 50, you’ll more than likely at menopausal age, and therefore at a higher risk of bone loss.

When you strength train to build muscle, you stimulate bone cell remodeling. This simply means that you ‘load’ your bones with a mechanical stressor that forces it to maintain its strength and integrity.

If you squat, your thigh bones remain strong. If you do press-ups it’s the same for your arms.

High-intensity muscle building training has been shown in numerous studies to help reduce the risk of bone loss in females over 50.

Older woman after 50 lifting weights for muscle building

How to Build Female Muscle Over 50

Hopefully at this stage, the benefits of muscle building in females over 50 is pretty clear.

And that’s without even touching on the fact that strength training helps with self-confidence, libido, quality of orgasms and decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But not all muscle building programs are made the same. And to really optimize results you need to cover all bases – from diet and lifestyle to exercise selection and the right weights.

Follow a muscle building diet

If you’re wanting to build muscle, it makes sense that you eat enough food to fuel your workouts. If your priority right now though is to lose extra body fat, you should spend time in a calorie deficit for the first few weeks until body fat decreases.

You can still build muscle in a deficit if you’re a beginner (your muscles respond better to strength workouts if you’re untrained), and you can definitely ‘tone up’ too, even without sufficient incoming energy.

So don’t think ti has to be one or the other.

The key thing here is that you take on enough protein to build new muscle cells. Presuming you’re fit and healthy and don;t have any kidney issues, shooting for around 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day is a good starting point.

And because protein also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, it can also help with fat loss when in a calorie deficit.

Strength training exercise for muscle building

For some reason, women over 50 are often wrapped up in cotton wool.

Workouts like ‘chariobics‘ for example presumes that just because a female hits 50 they all of a sudden become weak and fragile.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

And there’s absolutely no way you’ll build muscle and strength playing around with such an easy workout program.

You job is to work hard in the gym.

You aren’t lifting huge weights during strength training and it’s certainly not unsafe. But to stimulate muscle cells you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and push your limits.

Aiming to target your body with multi-muscle exercises that cover all of your major muscle groups is key. So is choosing weights that fatigue you within the last couple of reps.

Don’t worry about building big, bulky muscles either.

It just doesn’t happen in females, especially if you’re over 50 and your testosterone levels are running slightly low.

Sample workout for muscle building in over 50’s females:

  1. Lat pulldown – 8-15 reps x 3
  2. Leg press – 8-15 reps x 3
  3. Chest press – 8-15 reps x 3
  4. Leg curl – 8-15 reps x 3
  5. Shoulder press – 8-15 reps x 3
  6. Seated row – 8-15 reps x 3
  7. Leg extension – 8-15 reps x 3

You should follow this plan for 2-3 sessions per week for 4-6 weeks before looking to take on a more advanced strength and muscle building workout.

Where next?

There are a huge number of more advanced muscle building workouts for females over 50 out there.

We’re big fans of the advanced female training programs over at greatest physiques. They’re obviously written by experts who understand female physiology and how to write effective, time-efficient programs to get you in shape fast.

They’re definitely worth checking out if you’re already training hard, want to build muscle and develop a lean and womanly figure.

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30 Comments

  1. This was very useful. I began lifting a year ago and lost two stone and then drifted a bit ! The article has given me a sense of direction and enthusiasm to go forward.

  2. Thanks for this article. It’s very informative and I want to put it to use.
    I’m 52, I want to be more active and get my muscle tone up as I’m getting loose skin. I can’t afford a gym membership. Can you give me exercises I can do at home with dumbbells and a large ball? I have a hard time doing squats because my thighs aren’t strong enough to lift myself and I have a bad right knee. I’m over weight by about 20 lbs; and I believe I present myself better with a fuller figure.
    I don’t eat much, but I feel I don’t eat the right foods. I’m going to figure how much protein I need and I don’t enjoy eating a lot of protein meals. Ugh.
    I look forward to your suggestions.
    Thanks in advance.

  3. Great article.. I love seeing middle aged or older women at the gym killing it. It very doable and we are starting to see more women in general lifting weights.
    My story, was a runner pretty much my whole life. Did supplementary weight training when younger and then got away from it.
    Now at 50 I have spent the last 6/7 months enjoying weights with no running which i will admit was forced due to injury.
    I am very pleasantly surprised to find myself building muscle not only at this age but I had double mastectomy and chemo and radiation 2013 and then drew the short straw in 2015 and had 90 % of my stomach and omentum removed due to Neuroendocrine cancer in my stomach. I have battled back from huge weight loss and loss of muscle mass to being healthy and strong with no evidence of disease
    at 5 ft 7 my last InBody scan showed 140.4 lbs, Body fat at 17.9% and Skeletal Muscle mass at 64.6% . I think the body fat is wrong and Im carrying a bit more.
    Of interest, I am taking Tamoxifen for the last 5 years with 5 more to go and from my research i think it is helping me gain muscle !! go figure a positive to a drug that also has some horrible side effects.
    Anyway just thought I would share my story…. dont let anyone tell you “you can’t” !!!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m recovering from cancer. I had surgery 7 months ago, doctor put me on anastrozole. I start my first workout tomorrow. I stumbled upon this post because I needed a success story of sorts. I wanted to know if this was all doable. Your story proves that it is. Thanks for sharing. All the best.
      ~Sharon

  4. Informative article. As a 56 year young woman, who is a Brown Belt in Aikido Martial Art, I am slowly making the life changes and desire to build more muscles. I have no desire to hulk up, but since I don’t have a weight issues, being small bone, 5’2″ @ 120 lbs; my goal is to be solid muscle. While I do have Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, and recently had a ACL tear to my Right Knee, I have never given up on being healthy as humanly possible…

  5. Great plan been doing cardio and not loosing weight , I’m 50 so figured I needed to change my routine great tips

  6. Great plan been doing cardio and not loosing weight , I’m 50 so figured I needed to change my routine great tips

  7. Awesome article. I’m 54 and want to get into bodybuilding. Should I do several exercises targeting each muscle group? Such as, 3 chest exercises, etc.? Or would just one per group do?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks, we’re glad you like it!

      One of the best ways to build strength and muscle is to do several exercises targeting one area. To start with, we’d recommend splitting this into a push upper body (chest and shoulders), pull upper body (back and biceps) and a legs day. Aim to include around 5 exercises in each workout. For example a push upper body workout might look like this:

      Bench Press: 4 sets of 5 reps
      Shoulder press: 4 sets of 8 reps
      Chest flyes: 4 sets of 8 reps
      Lateral raises: 4 sets of 12 reps
      Tricep cable push down: 4 sets of 12 reps

      Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Lauren

  8. I need help from ladies who are going through menopause. I am 50 and I am having a hard time shredding up like I use to. What works is no longer working. I don’t want to start running that counter acts what the coo-boost is holding up..drooping butt and flabby skin is not what I am looking for and I am seeing that a lot in women that run. I run sprints when I do run.
    I use to be a bodybuilder and was hit by a forklift in February. I dropped the case because they stated I couldn’t workout and dragging out the case, I saw I was getting worst instead of seeing it as a vacation from lifting.
    The point is, I am finding it hard to lose weight and was wondering should I go back to doing two a day workouts and eat like a bodybuilder again to lose the fat and weight. This is truly drving me crazy. I have started taking soy supplements to help me and I do see a difference, I just need advice from other fit women who are over 50. I do have a little carbs in my diet (57grms) and thinking about going to strictly (25grams) and veggie and light meats.

  9. I was able to increase bone mineral density by doing Crossfit. It was my first exposure ever to weight lifting and after a year my decade scan astounded me. A medical doctor told me it is physically impossible for women over the age of 50 to build muscle. He suggested I consider mall walking. I don’t know why he has this belief (perhaps it is harder to build muscle as we age) but I’m going to prove him wrong.

  10. I’m 49years old woman , im so concerned about my health, I’ve dislocated both of my shoulders and the Doctors have to operates on them, i can’t lift heavy objects, how do i go about to do upper body weight lifting?

  11. I am 53 and have always worked out. Weights cardio everything. Early 20s started training to compete, came down very ill and stopped training for competition. The drive and determination has never gone away. At this age and 25 lbs over weight the body doesn’t respond as it use to. I want to train and get that toned, cut body back it’s frustrating to figure out what the body is doing ?? How do I get a partner as intensive as I am. The perfect partner would be Jillian Michaels.

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