Strength Training Through Menopause - Foundry Personal Training Gyms

Strength Training Through Menopause

Menopause, a natural phase in a woman’s life, typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and marks the end of reproductive years through the cessation of menstrual cycles. This transition isn’t merely a hormonal shift; it involves significant changes in physical health, including decreased bone density, loss of muscle mass, and changes in body composition. These changes can lead to increased risks of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and altered metabolic rates, profoundly impacting a woman’s quality of life.

Strength training is an ally during menopause, offering benefits that extend well beyond the usual perks of exercise. For menopausal women, regular strength training can be transformative, addressing the muscle loss and bone weakening accompanying decreased estrogen levels. This type of physical activity not only helps maintain and increase muscle mass and bone density but also aids in managing weight, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and enhancing metabolic health.

Beyond these physical benefits, strength training also helps alleviate various menopausal symptoms. It can help mitigate mood swings, improve cognitive function, and boost overall energy levels, contributing to a better mood and enhanced well-being. By incorporating regular strength-based exercises into their routine, menopausal women can tackle the challenges of this life stage head-on, promoting long-term health and maintaining their independence and quality of life as they age.


Why Strength Training for Menopause

Menopause is characterised by significant hormonal changes, primarily the reduction in estrogen production. Estrogen is a crucial hormone that supports various body functions, including maintaining muscle mass and bone health. As estrogen levels decline during menopause, women often experience a decrease in muscle mass and bone density, increasing their risk for osteoporosis and muscle atrophy.

During menopause, the ovaries gradually reduce estrogen production, leading to what is often termed estrogen deficiency. This deficiency affects muscle protein synthesis and can accelerate the natural decline in muscle mass associated with ageing (sarcopenia). Additionally, estrogen plays a critical role in calcium metabolism and the formation of bone tissue. Lower estrogen levels, therefore, result in decreased bone formation and increased bone resorption, leading to decreased bone mineral density. This process makes bones more fragile and susceptible to fractures.

Strength training is effective in fighting bone density loss. Exercises that place stress on the bones, such as weightlifting and resistance training, prompt the body to increase bone formation. This response helps not only to halt bone density loss but can also lead to increases in bone mass. Therefore, regular strength training is a significant preventive measure against osteoporosis, a common condition associated with menopause that makes bones weak and more likely to break.

Menopause often brings about changes in body composition, including increased fat accumulation and a slower metabolism. This shift can lead to what is commonly referred to as “menopausal belly,” a gain in visceral fat that increases health risks associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Strength training helps counter these effects by building muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even when at rest. By increasing muscle mass through strength training, postmenopausal women can enhance their resting metabolic rate (RMR), which helps burn more calories throughout the day, aiding in weight management and metabolic health.

Furthermore, strength training stimulates the release of growth hormones and other substances that can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, contributing to better overall health and reduced risk of chronic diseases.


Strength Training Exercises Suitable for Menopause

Strength training during menopause can be adapted to fit individual preferences, physical conditions, and fitness goals. Various strength training exercises can be effectively integrated into a menopause-friendly fitness routine. These exercises help combat the loss of bone density and muscle mass, manage weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Strength training for menopausal women should include a mix of resistance and weight-bearing exercises to maximise health benefits. These exercises can be categorised based on the type of equipment used and the impact level of the activities, ensuring a comprehensive approach to muscle strengthening and bone health.

Low-Impact Strength Training:

  • Pilates:

Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and overall body awareness. It is suitable for balance and muscle coordination. It is particularly beneficial for strengthening the abdominal muscles and improving posture without putting too much strain on the joints.

  • Resistance Band Exercises:

These are versatile and can be adjusted to different strength levels. Resistance bands are effective for targeting large and small muscle groups and can be used for band pulls, chest presses, or leg squats.

  • Bodyweight Workouts:

Exercises such as push-ups, planks, and squats do not require any equipment and are highly effective in building strength. They can be modified to suit fitness levels and capabilities, such as knee push-ups or wall squats, making them ideal for beginners and those with joint concerns.

Using Weights:

  • Dumbbells:

Start with lighter weights and focus on form to prevent injuries. Exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and shoulder presses with dumbbells help improve upper body strength for daily activities.

  • Kettlebells:

Kettlebell training effectively combines strength training with cardiovascular fitness. Exercises such as kettlebell swings, squats, and lunges strengthen muscles, help burn calories and boost metabolism.

  • Safety:

Before starting a strength training session, a proper warm-up is essential to prepare the muscles and prevent injuries. Begin each exercise with light weights or low resistance to maintain the correct form. Gradually increase the weight or resistance as strength and confidence build.


Menopause-Friendly Strength Training Routine

Creating a strength training routine tailored to the needs of menopausal women can significantly enhance their overall health and quality of life. Here’s how to start, structure, and seamlessly integrate strength training into daily activities, ensuring a balanced approach that fosters sustainability and effectiveness.

  • Assess Fitness Levels:

Begin with a fitness assessment, potentially under the guidance of a health professional or a personal trainer. This assessment can help determine fitness levels, identify health concerns, and tailor safe and practical exercises.

  • Set Realistic Goals:

Setting achievable goals to maintain motivation and progress. Start with simple objectives like improving posture, increasing bone density, or enhancing overall strength. Ensure these goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  • Start Slow:

Menopause can affect energy levels and physical capability. Start with low-intensity workouts and gradually increase the intensity as your body adapts. This approach reduces the risk of injury and helps build a habit without overwhelming the body.

Creat a Balanced Workout:

  • Mix Cardio and Strength Training Exercises:

To maximise health benefits, a well-rounded fitness program for menopausal women should include cardiovascular (like walking or cycling) and strength training exercises. Cardio exercises help improve heart health and manage weight, while strength training focuses on muscle mass and bone density.

  • Regular Schedule:

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, along with two or more days dedicated to strength training exercises. Spread these sessions throughout the week to allow for recovery time.

  • Diversity in Exercises:

Incorporate different strength training exercises to work various muscle groups. Use free weights, bodyweight exercises, and resistance bands to keep the routine engaging and comprehensive.

  • Functional Fitness:

Focus on exercises that mimic everyday activities. Practising squats can make it easier to rise from sitting positions, and strengthening your arms can help with lifting and carrying groceries.

  • Stay Consistent:

When starting, consistency is more important than intensity. Regularly engaging in strength training, even at lower intensities, can improve lasting health during menopause.


Barriers to Strength Training During Menopause

Starting and maintaining a strength training program during menopause can present various challenges, both physical and psychological.

Challenges Faced by Women:

  • Physical Barriers:

As estrogen levels drop, women may experience increased joint pain, reduced muscle mass, and overall fatigue. These symptoms can make starting a strength training program daunting.

  • Psychological Barriers:

Menopause can also bring about mood swings, reduced motivation, and energy fluctuations, making it difficult to start and stick to a regular exercise routine.

Overcoming Physical Barriers:

  • Modify Exercises:

Adapt exercises to accommodate joint pain and stiffness. If traditional squats are uncomfortable, try chair squats, which reduce joint strain. Use low-impact strength training tools like resistance bands, which are easier on the joints than free weights.

  • Recovery Strategies:

Include adequate recovery time in your routine, gently stretch, and consider activities like yoga or tai chi to enhance flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness. Also, ensure you are getting enough sleep, as this helps mitigate fatigue and aids muscle recovery.

  • Professional Coaches:

Personal training coaches can provide tailored exercise plans that accommodate and target specific menopausal symptoms.

Maintaining Motivation:

  • Set Small, Achievable Goals:

Breaking down your fitness goals into small, manageable tasks can help you maintain motivation. Celebrating each achievement builds confidence and encourages persistence.

  • Create a Support System:

Join groups or find workout partners who are also engaged in strength training. Sharing the experience can provide encouragement and motivation to continue. Small group fitness classes can offer support and advice.

  • Stay Flexible:

Be willing to adjust your exercise routine based on how you feel. Flexibility in your approach can prevent discouragement and help maintain steady progress even on days when energy levels are low.

  • Focus on the Positive Impacts:

Keep a journal or log to track your physical improvements and how your mood and energy levels change on exercise days. Seeing the positive changes can reinforce the benefits of your efforts.


Strength Training Routine for Menopause

Creating a well-rounded strength training routine is vital to maximising the health benefits during menopause. Below, we outline a typical weekly strength training schedule, including gym and home sessions to accommodate different lifestyles and preferences.

In the Gym:

For those who prefer gym workouts, utilising the variety of equipment available can help target all muscle groups effectively and can be very motivating. Here’s a sample weekly gym-based strength training routine:

Monday: Lower Body Workout

  • Squats (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Leg Press (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Deadlifts (3 sets of 8 reps)
  • Calf Raises (2 sets of 12 reps)

Wednesday: Upper Body Workout

  • Bench Press (3 sets of 8 reps)
  • Dumbbell Rows (3 sets of 10 reps per side)
  • Overhead Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Lat Pulldown (3 sets of 10 reps)

Friday: Core and Full Body

  • Planks (3 sets of 30-60 seconds)
  • Russian Twists (2 sets of 15 reps per side)
  • Medicine Ball Slams (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Kettlebell Swings (3 sets of 12 reps)

Sunday: Active Recovery

  • Light Yoga or Stretching Session
  • Gentle Walking or Swimming for 20-30 minutes

Each session should start with a 5-10 minute warm-up and end with a cool-down period, including stretching to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

At Home:

For those who prefer or need to work out at home, a routine can be designed using minimal equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or body weight.

Monday: Lower Body Focus

  • Bodyweight Squats (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Lunges (2 sets of 10 reps per leg)
  • Step-Ups using stairs (2 sets of 10 reps per leg)
  • Glute Bridges (3 sets of 15 reps)

Wednesday: Upper Body Focus

  • Push-Ups (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Tricep Dips (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Resistance Band Pull-Aparts (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets of 10 reps)

Friday: Core and Agility

  • Plank (3 sets of 30 seconds)
  • Mountain Climbers (3 sets of 15 reps per leg)
  • Leg Raises (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Burpees (3 sets of 8 reps)

Sunday: Active Recovery

  • Gentle Pilates or Yoga Session
  • Balance Exercises like Single-Leg Stands or Tai Chi

This home routine begins with a brief warm-up to get the blood flowing—think jumping jacks, arm circles, and leg swings—and concludes with a cool-down period focused on stretching.


Nutrition in Supporting Strength Training

Proper nutrition is crucial in supporting an effective strength training routine, especially during menopause when the body’s needs change. A well-planned diet can help fuel workouts, enhance recovery, and ensure the body responds optimally to exercise stresses.

Balanced Diet Rich in Essential Nutrients:

  • Calcium:

Vital for bone health, especially important during menopause due to increased risk of osteoporosis. Include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods in your diet.

  • Protein:

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Consuming adequate protein from lean meats, fish, eggs, and legumes after strength training sessions is crucial for aiding muscle recovery and growth.

  • Magnesium and Vitamin D:

These nutrients are essential for bone health and muscle function. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables, while Vitamin D is best obtained from exposure to sunlight and fortified foods and supplements.

Pre- and Post-Workout Meals:

  • Pre-Workout Meals:

To ensure adequate energy, aim to eat a balanced meal rich in carbohydrates and protein about 2-3 hours before training. Examples include oatmeal with fruits and nuts, a lean chicken and vegetable wrap, or a yoghurt parfait with granola.

  • Post-Workout Meals:

After exercising, it is essential to consume protein and some carbohydrates within 45 minutes to an hour to facilitate muscle recovery and replenish glycogen stores. Good options include a protein shake with a banana, a turkey and avocado sandwich on whole grain bread, or a salad with grilled salmon and quinoa.


Proper hydration is required for optimal muscle function and recovery. Water helps transport nutrients to cells and removes waste products, which is crucial after intense workouts.

  • Regular Intake:

Aim to drink fluids consistently throughout the day, not just when you feel thirsty. Set reminders if necessary.

  • Include Foods with High Water Content:

Cucumbers, oranges, watermelon, and celery can increase fluid intake.



Q1: Can strength training help reduce menopause symptoms?

Strength training can significantly help reduce menopause symptoms. It boosts overall health, helps manage weight, and can decrease the severity of hot flashes. Additionally, it improves mood and energy levels by increasing the production of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.

Q2: Is it safe to start strength training during menopause if I’ve never exercised before?

It’s never too late to start strength training, but it’s important to begin slowly and possibly consult with a fitness professional who can provide personalised guidance. To avoid injuries, start with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness improves.

Q3: How often should I use strength training during menopause?

The general recommendation is to engage in strength training exercises at least twice weekly. However, this can vary based on individual fitness levels and health conditions. Each session should include exercises that target all major muscle groups for balanced muscle development.

Q4: What are some practical strength training exercises for menopausal women?

Practical exercises include squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses. Modified exercises like chair squats, wall push-ups, and seated resistance band exercises can be beneficial for those new to strength training or with joint issues.

Q5: What should I eat before and after a strength training session?

Before training, eat a meal or snack that combines carbohydrates and protein to fuel your session, such as a banana with peanut butter or a small yoghurt with berries. Post-workout, focus on protein to aid muscle recovery, like a protein shake, a chicken salad, and some complex carbohydrates.

Q6: How does strength training impact bone health during menopause?

Strength training is one of the most effective ways to prevent bone loss during menopause. It applies stress to the bones, stimulating the growth of new bone tissue and helping to maintain or increase bone density, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Q7: Can strength training help manage weight during menopause?

Strength training is excellent for weight management during menopause. It helps build lean muscle mass, increasing your metabolic rate, meaning you’ll burn more calories even at rest. This helps counteract the weight gain often associated with menopause due to a slower metabolism.

Q8: What if I experience joint pain during exercises?

If joint pain is an issue, focus on low-impact strength training exercises and consider working with a physical therapist to ensure proper form and technique. Water aerobics, resistance band workouts, and bodyweight exercises can be less stressful on the joints while still providing the benefits of strength training.

If you have any questions on the above or would like some advice on women’s fitness on how we could help you, don’t hesitate to visit one of our London personal training gyms – we would love to hear from you.


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