To mark World Osteoporosis Day in the 20th October, I was delighted to be asked to contribute an article to Women’s Fitness on the importance of strength training for our bone health and wanted to share it with you here on the blog.
Strength training is so important as we age; our bone density naturally decreases along with our muscle mass leaving us more susceptible to fractures and the risk of osteoporosis. This is more prevalent in women, especially after the menopause when estrogen levels decrease. It is imperative that we lay down new bone tissue and this is where strength training comes in. When we use weights, or our own bodyweight, the stress we cause by pulling and tugging on the bones stimulates new growth. The result is stronger, denser bones. As little as 30 minutes of activity 3 times a week has been shown to make a marked difference in our bone cell growth. Alongside strength training we need to ensure we have a diet rich in bone healthy nutrients – calcium, Vitamin D and plenty of protein.
As a strength training coach, I focus on devising workouts which really focus on this area both using weights and without. I have included one of my workouts below, and also in my Women’s Fitness article, which is suitable for all fitness levels and that you can do at home with dumbbells or just using bodyweight for resistance. Other examples of strength training with just bodyweight would be hill/stair walking, skipping, dancing and jogging, where the impact of movement can have bone strengthening benefits. However, if you already suffer with weak bones or osteoporosis, you need to be careful of any high impact moves or sudden twists in the spine, so do consult your doctor regarding the correct exercise program for you before you begin.
As well as being instrumental to our bone health, strength training helps us to build on our muscle mass, helping with our overall balance, reducing the risk of falls and injury but also giving us a huge mood boost along the way! It also helps with weight management, improves our sleep and our health…. the list really does go on!
Keep reading or head to Women’s Fitness for my full bone strengthening workout.
How to do this workout:
Warm-up before getting started, then perform 2 or 3 sets of the 10 exercises and remember to cool down at the end!
- Beginner – 30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest
- Intermediate – 40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest
- Advanced – 50 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.
1. Sumo Squats
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart holding the weights in front of your chest together.
- Slowly sit back as if into a chair, keeping knees tracking over the toes and back straight, chest lifted.
- When you are at 90 degrees with the floor slowly drive back up squeezing your glutes as you do so.
- Build up gradually, you do not have to go too low to start with. The key is to keep the knees out and do not round your shoulders or arch your back.
- The skater is a lateral jump where you power the body from one side to the other landing in a squat position (single leg squat) as you perform the skating motion.
- Arms alternate as you explode off of one foot and switch sides.
- If you wish to do a lower impact movement you can step from side to side instead of jumping.
3. Push Ups
- You can start a push up on your knees or on your toes (or against a wall too). Take your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart on your mat.
- Slowly bring your chest towards the floor ensuring your elbows are about a 45 degree angle to your body and your back is completely straight with your head in line with your spine.
- Come forward over your hands and when your chest comes to the point you are comfortable then push back upwards, keeping your core engaged and all in one fluid movement. Build up gradually.
- If you are doing a full push up, start in a high plank position and again lower yourself slowly to the floor.
4. Bicep curls
- Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging by your sides. Ensure your elbows are close to the side of your body with your palms facing forward.
- Keeping your upper body stationary exhale as you curl the weights up to shoulder level while contracting your biceps, taking care not to lean back or swing your arms. Keep your core engaged throughout.
- Once you reach the top slowly lower the arms for the second rep.
5. Reverse Lunges with knee drive – both legs
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart, shoulders back and chest lifted.
- Slowly take a big stride backwards bending the back knee to 90 degrees to the floor and keeping the front knee strong without caving in as you do so.
- Power yourself back to standing and swap legs.
- If you want an extra challenge bring the back knee into a forward crunch as you bring the leg back to standing to engage the core. Make sure you keep upright throughout and if you wish for extra resistance you could hold weights too.
6. Mountain Climbers
- Begin in a plank position, shoulders over wrists, core engaged and with a straight back.
- Bring one knee then the other towards your chest alternately and keep switching legs, picking up the pace if you feel able and keeping the hips down.
7. Tricep extensions
- Stand in a semi lunge position with one knee forward and bent, hinging at the hip and with a dumbbell in one hand.
- Tuck your upper arm close to your torso and slowly extend that arm fully backwards to lift the weight up.
- As you do so you contract the tricep at the top, pause then return to the start. Take care not to swing the arm and keep the back straight throughout.
- Once you have completed all the reps on this side, swap sides.
8. Jump Squats (or static squats for low impact)
- Standing with your feet wider than shoulder width apart, send the hips back as you squat, tapping the floor in the middle with your hands and then explosively jump back, landing with soft knees.
- If you would rather not jump, keep to static squats. Ensure you keep looking forwards and your back is straight throughout.
9. Shoulder Press
- Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, hold both dumbbells at a 90 degree angle at shoulder height.
- As you exhale press the weights above your head without touching them at the top. Keep looking forward.
- Return to the start position slowly and keep the elbows still at shoulder height before you repeat the exercise. Try not to lean back; tuck the bottom under and engage your abs. You can also do this seated or kneeling.
10. Plank Hold
- Begin in the full plank position shoulders over wrists and keeping your back straight and your body in a straight line from your ears to your toes.
- Hold this position while engaging your abdominals and without raising your hips. Build up slowly!
Having qualified as a Personal Trainer in 2001, Caroline has spent 20 years working directly with clients one on one or with group exercise classes and 2020 saw her launch Caroline’s Circuits, an online membership fitness platform offering live 30 minute workouts focussed on strength training.