A 30-minute bone-strengthening training program for women
Karina Inkster, MA, PTS
No matter your age, you can lower your risk of osteoporosis by increasing your bone mineral density. We show you how to build healthy bones with our 30-minute bone-strengthening free weight workout.
The not-so-good news: bone density naturally decreases as we age. Since women generally have smaller bones than men, those who have especially low bone density are at risk of developing osteoporosis, which results in brittle, fragile bones that can more easily fracture. Estrogen, which protects bones, decreases as women reach menopause, also increasing our risk of osteoporosis. The good news: women at any age can prevent bone loss—and even build new bone—by engaging in regular strength training. Aim for at least two strength workouts each week, training all major muscle groups each time.
Complete exercises as supersets: groups of two exercises performed in A, B, A, B fashion. Aim for three rounds of 10 to 12 reps, using weights that feel very challenging by rep number seven.
To have the most effect on strengthening your bones (and muscles!), use weights that feel heavy to you—but not so heavy that you compromise your form. For the 10 to 12 rep range we use here, rep number 7 should feel very challenging. A good rule: if you can perform 15 reps with a particular weight, it’s too light. For example, a woman weighing between 130 and 150 lbs would use the following weights for 10 to 12 reps of single arm dumbbell rows:
When it comes to the weights themselves, you have options. If you have gym access, you’d most likely use commercial dumbbells labelled by weight. If you’re training at home, I’d recommend a set of adjustable dumbbells, where each dumbbell ranges from 5 to 50 lbs and you can quickly change its weight.
Target: Hamstrings, glutes, low and upper back Deadlifts work almost every muscle on the back of your body.
Target: Quads, glutes In addition to strengthening your muscles and bones, this exercise improves your balance and hip mobility.
Target: Chest, shoulders A fundamental strength training exercise that improves muscle and bone density in your upper body.
Target: Back, core Rows strengthen the major muscles in your back, which can help improve your posture. As long as you maintain good form, don’t be afraid to go heavy on this one.
Target: Shoulders, core Here’s an upper body staple that strengthens the shoulders. You’ll also fire up your core, which stabilizes your body during the movement.
Target: Quads, glutes, hamstrings Research shows that squats are particularly effective at improving bone strength. Squatting is an important and fundamental movement that improves strength and has excellent carryover into daily movement patterns as well.
If you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body will pull calcium from your bones. In addition to making sure you get enough calcium (1,000 mg per day for women 50 and under; 1,200 mg per day for women 51 and older), you also need to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D (600 IU per day for adults and 800 IU per day for adults over 70). Get your vitamin D levels checked regularly, and supplement if necessary. The Harvard School of Public Health created an evidence-based food guide that doesn’t include dairy in its recommendations. It states, “While calcium and dairy can lower the risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer, high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. Plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones.” Great sources of calcium include