5 strength exercises for women to get strong and slim in their 40s

An incredibly common misconception about strength training with weights is that it can make you look “bulky.” Sure, weight lifting can increase the size and strength of your muscles, but it’s also a crucial form of exercise if you want to lose weight and get lean. Resistance training burns calories while also helping you preserve lean muscle mass. Now that we’ve established that strength training is king or should we say “queen” we’ve spoken to Katie Kollath, ACE-CPT and co-founder of Barpath Fitness, which shares five strength exercises for women to get firm and slim in their 40s.

“Strength training targets specific muscle groups and activates a large number of muscle fibers within those muscles,” Kollath tells us. “By doing any form of resistance training, you put stress on your muscles, which stimulates them to adapt and get stronger.”

Building and maintaining muscle mass through strength training can positively impact your metabolic rate. Kollath explains that muscle is “metabolically active tissue,” meaning that it burns more calories at rest than fat tissue. “By gaining muscle mass, you increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which can aid in fat loss and help you achieve a leaner, more defined physique,” she adds.

The best thing about strength training is that you can modify your workouts to highlight certain muscles, such as your abs, legs, arms or glutes, and select specific exercises that fire up those body parts. “[This can help you] address specific areas of concern and achieve a more sculpted look, as well as address any imbalances you may have,” says Kollath.

In addition to improving your aesthetics, engaging in strength training has numerous health benefits, such as improved joint stability and flexibility, bone density, cardiovascular health, and posture. “These factors contribute to an overall improvement in your physical appearance and well-being,” Kollath explains.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the five best strength exercises for women to get firm and slim in their 40s. And when you’re done, be sure to read up on the 5 exercises women should do every day to stay in shape.

1. Squats

woman's bodyweight squat

“This is a full-body compound movement with an emphasis on the lower body,” says Kollath. “Squats are one of the most functional movements you can do and will help you build muscle more than any other movement. Perfect that squat and you’ll look damn good!”

To prepare for squats, place your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms out in front of you, keep them at your sides, or place them on your sides. Then, bend your knees and push your hips back as if you were about to sit down in a chair. Lower yourself into a squat until your thighs reach a position parallel to the floor or lower. Then, press both feet together to stand up. Start with three to four sets of eight to ten reps.

2. Deadlifts

illustration of deadlift with dumbbells, strength exercises for women

“Dadlifts are another full-body strength movement,” says Kollath. “You’ll engage virtually every single muscle in your body when you deadlift with an emphasis on your back, glutes, and hamstrings.”

To prepare, place your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your core tight, push your hips back and lower the dumbbells towards the ground. Then, press both feet to come back up. Aim to start with three to four sets of six to eight repetitions of conventional deadlifts.

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3. Print from above

woman shoulder dumbbells in the gym, strength exercises for women

According to Kollath, the overhead press is one of the “most functional” upper-body exercises you can do. Pressing the weights overhead will keep your shoulders healthy and help you achieve a rounded, sculpted look.

To start, place your feet on the ground hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and hold a dumbbell in each hand near your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward. Then, press the weights skyward until your arms are extended. Bend your elbows to lower the weights. Start with three to four sets of eight to ten reps.

4. Barbell rowers

“Barbell rows will work your lats and other back muscles,” Kollath tells us. “This will build some big muscles there which will help with the ‘V’ shape most people look for when it comes to body sculpting.”

To begin barbell rowing, place your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down to grip the barbell using an overhand grip, placing your hands wider than shoulder width apart. Make sure your back stays straight and your chest up as you lift the barbell to stand up. Then, engage your core and press your hips back. Begin the rowing motion by rowing the bar toward your belly button. Next, drop the weight. This completes one rep. Aim for three to four sets of eight to 10 reps.

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5. Kettlebell pull-throughs

Kettlebell pull-throughs conclude Kollath strength exercises for women. This exercise will activate your core muscles and increase core stability. “This will build your core strength which will improve your above main lifts, but it will also help define your core (if you’re eating in a calorie deficit!),” says Kollath.

To perform kettlebell pull-throughs, assume a high plank with a kettlebell located under the chest, near the right side of the body. Transfer your body weight to your right hand as you reach in with your left hand to grab the kettlebell and drag it to your left side. Repeat the same movement with your right hand, pulling the kettlebell to your right side. Start with three sets of eight reps on each side.

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