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Older women and strength training


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788

I'm starting to beef up, yay, but....

I want strength, not bulk, like all climbers. Just curious, as a female who is way post menopausal, with a very different balance if hormones, anyone know if that testosterone makes it more likely I'll get mass I am not after?

There. Be polite, eh? 

Best, Old Lady H (Helen)

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,006

I'm not sure what you're asking; are you considering taking hormones?   If so, I think there's probably a ton of good information from people taking T in support of their process of gender transition.

I would almost certainly look for other methods, and even supplements, for strengthening before I'd turn to hormones, myself.      

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Old lady H wrote:

I'm starting to beef up, yay, but....

I want strength, not bulk, like all climbers. Just curious, as a female who is way post menopausal, with a very different balance if hormones, anyone know if that testosterone makes it more likely I'll get mass I am not after?

There. Be polite, eh? 

Best, Old Lady H (Helen)

You could ask your doctor, who would also tell you about side effects of testosterone use.

Yardbird · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Hi Helen, 

I do not build muscle easily, in spite of various strength training efforts. In the last few years, while recovering from a climbing injury and surgery, I've worked with a skilled PT on building and maintaining muscle after alarmingly rapid atrophy post-op. He noted that it's highly likely that there is large genetic component at play - I agree.

In the past year, I've gotten bigger strength gains from focusing on nutrition - particularly pre, during and post workout. I highly recommend Stacy Sims book Roar, which focuses on nutrition and training for female athletes, incl. the impact of hormone cycles on nutrition needs and training, and propensity to injury. There is a section on menopause (as well as pregnancy, and monthly cycle). Following some of the concepts, I feel stronger than ever before, even if I do not have any noticeable muscle. Most importantly, I've avoided further injuries.

I do strength training 4x a week (2x upper body; 2x lower) just to maintain. Otherwise I recommend stabilizing core exercises, balance and technique - improvements in these areas have helped me with climbing, even if I think I'm lacking in strength.

Best,

Leah



Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Old lady H wrote:

I'm starting to beef up, yay, but....

I want strength, not bulk, like all climbers. Just curious, as a female who is way post menopausal, with a very different balance if hormones, anyone know if that testosterone makes it more likely I'll get mass I am not after?

There. Be polite, eh? 

Best, Old Lady H (Helen)

I'm reading this as asking if the normal shift of post-menopausal hormones to a higher percentage of testosterone (compared to estrogen) will lead to "unwanted bulk" if you start lifting weights. Is that correct? Not that you're taking supplemental testosterone for some reason.

If I'm correct, the answer is really simple: No. Bulking up from strength and weight training is really hard to achieve even for men, with lots of testosterone. For women, regardless of pre-or-post menopausal,  it's even more difficult.

Also, nobody just bulks up overnight. If you're that rare easy gainer and are going to bulk up from weights it's still not going to sneak up on you.

No worries that you'll become the next Aleks.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788

Oops. No, not taking testosterone, yes, just asking about the shift in hormone balance.

I'm choosing to climb at the indoor gym, rather than go to a regular gym, and I am most definitely getting stronger. But, clothes are getting tighter too. 

The climbing is akin to lots of reps with light weights, versus, few reps with heavy weights, so that is perhaps also part of the equation.

Thanks for the replies, all! It is a strange and lovely "problem" to be gaining muscle past the age of 60!

I looove inhabiting a climber body, and I intend to keep it as long as I can, and then some.

Best, Helen

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

You definitely won't bulk up from just climbing. You'll get ripped, and strong, but to put on a lot of muscle mass is really hard.

Meredith E. · · Bainbridge Island, WA · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 0

I'm firmly middle aged, but this post made me think of this recent article https://nyti.ms/2BJefoq

cragmantoo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 175

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788
cragmantoo wrote:

Not quite. My hair is grayer, now.

;-) H.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788

Thanks for the replies, I'll get after that book, Leah (I work at the library), and the article was good reading, too.

As I said, I'm not worried, but curious. Always.

Best, OLH

Maureen Maguire · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0

Here's a link to the Buck Institute. Studies on delineating the difference between aging per se and repetitive stress syndromes have been done, studies on building muscle mass and increasing cognitive functions , proprioreception etc in the older age groups are underway. 

http://www.buckinstitute.org/

Deirdre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 10

Hey

I have been going through the menopause process post surgery. I don't think (granted I am an n of 1) that menopause will lead to changes in how you put on muscle. You should expect to see a little bulking up in the arms and back. Climbing won't add bulk like power lifting but it won't give you that long, lean pilates/yoga look.

wendy weiss · · boulder, co · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 10

Based on my totally nonscientific observations, I'd say that how much you bulk out from exercise depends largely on your body type.

Carey De Luca · · Yucca Valley, Ca · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 10

I agree that a lot has to do with body type.  I have been doing Crossfit for 5 years, in addition to my climbing.  Even when I go heavy and feel my strongest, I was actually my fastest and smallest.  I can squad everyday of the week and still have stick legs. My sister, on the other hand...she thinls about lifting a barbell and gets muscular.  I love CF because it is about over all functional fitness.  Anyone who does it 3-5 days a week shpuld look the way the body is supposed to, provided they change eating habits.  When you see a bulky lifter, it is because they are spending 8 hours a day in a gym and using supplements.  That is not natural, not even for men hope that helps some.

crankenstein · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 0

Bodies naturally change depending on the activities we do.  I will chime in to support crossfit for older bodies and our activities such as climbing.  I like the focus on core strength, nutrition, and flexibility.  My 60ish friends that do crossfit all agree that we are able to do more activities and stay stronger because of it. However, it's very hard work and it's not for everyone.  Also, it's really important to avoid injury as we get older since we don't heal like we used to.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788

Ah! I'm sure you are all correct about body type.

I'm definitely not, and never could be, the long, lean yoga body (I admit I envy that, for climbing). So, I will celebrate the body I have, and enjoy being a short, little "powerhouse". Sooner or later, I'll find my "niche", perhaps literally in some OW that spanks the tall people.

I've not been this fit, ever, as an adult. Tight shirt sleeves are a plus, I guess! Maybe this will be the summer I start wearing muscle T's!

Best, OLH

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 806

First of all, if I understand you correctly, you aren't doing weight training, like lifting weights and such. You are just talking about climbing. And the muscle gain you are talking about is in your arms and maybe shoulders?

That is not a weight/muscle gain big enough to make a significant weight difference. You are not bulking up your legs, which are much bigger/heavier than arms. And the strength.weight ratio is definitely in your favor, if your arms/shoulders are getting more muscled.

The likelihood that you will start packing on muscle now, if you haven't before, is very low. Postmenopausal women lose muscle mass, and muscle gains get progressively harder with age, unless you are taking protein supplements and working out like a body-builder, I wouldn't worry.

Here's an article where they looked at a postmenopausal women doing progressive resistance training 3 times a week for 12 months.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560313/

There were strength gains, bot not even statistically significant, and no muscle mass gain. They are saying that maybe 3x week of doing 8 sets at 85% 1-RM for the muscle groups they chose (chest press, leg press, upper back, and hip abduction) wasn't enough... And maybe it wasn't. But are you doing anything approaching that, realistically? It doesn't sound like you are, from your vague description. So I wouldn't worry about gaining too much bulk, in your case.

Lori Milas · · Rocklin, CA · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 175

Just my two cents, Helen... I have taken bioidentical hormones for many years, including estradiol, progesterone and testosterone.  I cannot imagine life without them, nor climbing without them.  I was able to get to one of the best docs in anti-aging and hormones in Los Angeles (Dr. Uzzi Reiss), and I just had a visit with him while I was in town last week.  We discussed 'this new climbing thing' I'm doing... and my desire for strength, agility and endurance.  So, besides reminding me to be fastidious about diet and staying organic, he suggested I add a hormone called SARMs... transdermally.  (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) which has none of the side effects of testosterone, and can by cycled.   

 I'm about to be 65.  I do not take any drugs, not even aspirin... and I struggled for years with the decision of whether to use hormones after menopause.  My doctor said "You ladies got a bum deal from nature. You were never expected to live past 35, so everything shuts down at that point.  What you want is to restore your hormones to a youthful level."  For me, that absolutely included testosterone. (in balance with estrogen).  Any time I have tried to get by without T my gym workouts and recovery go to hell.  Skin, hair, heart, blood pressure, energy, sex drive... and now climbing... change dramatically when the missing hormones are replaced.  


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