As we age, many of us notice changes in our bodies, especially when it comes to muscle tone and strength. These changes become even more noticeable during perimenopause and menopause when our bodies undergo significant shifts. In this phase, understanding the importance of lifting heavy weights goes beyond a choice —it becomes a necessity.
I was just going through some old videos of myself weight training, and wow have my shoulders and arms developed since I started lifting weights systematically, applying progressive overload, and lifting heavy (for me).
I spent years in BodyPump classes not realizing that they are muscle endurance classes – not for building strength or muscle size.
And, as I went through menopause, the fitness classes offered at my gym were not enough to even maintain the muscle I had: I lost muscle tone and started looking like I didn't workout.
Have you lost muscle tone & strength with age?
If you've noticed a loss of muscle tone or in your strength as you've gotten older, you are not alone. The problem is that most women join group fitness classes (like I did) and they are not very effective because they improve muscle endurance - and not strength and power.
The thing is that your muscles are actually comprised of different types of muscle fibers. For simplicity’s sake, we usually talk about two types:
Type 1 muscle fibers
These are your endurance fibers which are the first ones to be activated when you move. They can work for a long time, and recover quickly, but don’t offer much size or strength/power.
Women tend to have plenty of these so maintaining muscle endurance is not really something you need to worry about so much as you age. But these are the fibers that are mostly trained in group fitness classes. No wonder we're not seeing results!
Type 2 muscle fibers
These give you strength and power. For example, when you twist a lid off a jar, hoist a suitcase into the overhead bin, lift yourself off a couch or toilet seat or when you step up onto a chair to reach for something in the kitchen, you need those type 2 fibers to kick in.
These are the fibers that make you stronger, and when you stimulate them, your muscles get bigger so you also look more toned and like you workout.
Type 2 fibers are the ones that we lose primarily when we age. So, these are the ones that we need to hold on to so that we can continue to function in our everyday lives and live independently.
The thing that makes type 2 fibers tricky to maintain is that they are only activated when the type 1 fibers are not sufficient to do the job. So to signal to your body that you need to hold on to type 2 fibers, you need to lift heavy weights.
How heavy? Now, heavy is relative. My heavy and your heavy and my 22-year-old don’t heavy are different. The point is to challenge your muscles with enough resistance to kick those type 2 fibers into action.
It’s different than “feeling the burn”, and it’s not going to happen by walking up hills or doing pilates.
The easiest and best way to make sure you’re stimulating those type 2 fibers is systematic weight training where you are applying progressive overload and working close to failure.
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Is weight training on your to-do list, but somehow you STILL haven't gotten around to starting?
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