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Why Menopausal Women Should Try High-Velocity Resistance Training

bone health high-velocity strength training Jul 11, 2023

Picking up the pace in the weight room can improve your health and performance.


By Selene Yeager


As active performance-minded menopausal women, we have to push back on a lot of societal expectations and messages, but arguably (and truly arguably, because there are many to choose from!) the one that can be most detrimental to us long term is that “it’s time to slow down.” On the contrary, if we want to be able to continue to do the activities we love and maybe even try some new ones, we need to pick it up a little bit, so we minimize the natural decline that can come as our hormones change and with time.


This is also true in the weight room, as I was reminded recently by a piece last week in Scientific American titled How to Keep Muscles Strong as You Age. We talk about lifting heavy sh*t (LHS) a lot in this space. Another, related form of training that does a menopausal body good (and is featured in that Scientific American piece) is high-velocity resistance training, which, as it sounds, is strength training where you move a load as fast as safely possible during the concentric (lifting) phase of the exercise.  


Getting Strong & Powerful


The idea behind high-velocity resistance training is to not only build muscle and strength, but also power–or the ability to apply force or move a weight quickly. Simply put, speed plus strength equals power. So, you can be strong, but not powerful (though there’s certainly overlap when you start strength training, because your body gets better at recruiting more muscles). With midlife and menopause, we want to maintain both.


As we know, muscle declines with age, and that decline becomes more pronounced in the menopause transition. What’s more, research published in 2021 indicates that the hormonal changes that happen during the menopause transition may accelerate the decline in muscle force and motor function (i.e.,your ability to control and coordinate muscle movements). 


Decline in muscle strength, function, and power not only can hinder our athletic performance, but also increases our risk for falls, which are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults 65 and older. Though many of us might not worry about falling as much during daily activities right now, there are plenty of times I’ve been running down the trail and clipped my foot, where I’m super grateful to have muscles quick and strong enough to catch myself midair and prevent me from sprawling facedown on the ground. 


Research shows that staying generally active (as opposed to being sedentary) can help offset some of this decline. We can also dedicate some of our training to building and maintaining strength and power.


Before we go any further, whenever we publish a piece on higher-intensity type training, many will ask if it’s safe for older women. The answer here is yes. In fact, many of the studies showing the benefits of high-velocity resistance training have been done on older (i.e., ages 65+), largely female adults. This research also is often done on untrained women, sometimes even with conditions like osteoarthritis. So it’s never too late to start. 


How to Do High-Speed Resistance Training


Performing high-velocity resistance training doesn’t have to be complicated. You can get started with bodyweight plyometrics, like squat jumps. Kettlebell swings are also an excellent way to improve power


You can also try boosting the velocity of your favorite lifts like squats, deadlifts, and chest presses (note: start with a lower weight, about 50% of what you’d use for heavy lifting, and add weight as you get comfortable. The load should ultimately be challenging but manageable). Adding some explosive speed does not mean sacrificing form. Only move as quickly as you can while maintaining proper form. 


The key to high-velocity resistance training is performing the exercises as explosively as possible. Concentrate on accelerating the weight during the concentric (lifting) phase of each exercise while maintaining control. Aim for low repetitions per set (i.e., < 6 repetitions). Perform multiple sets (3 to 6 sets) with adequate rest intervals (2 to 3 minutes) between sets to allow for recovery.


As with any type of resistance training, working with a trained professional is recommended to help you dial in technique and progress safely.  

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