Lifting heavy is great, but there are a lot of ingredients that go into the recipe for getting better results out of your strength training. Having a program that works for your body, and your goals, is absolutely key to long-term consistency and results.
Click play to listen right on this page, no app is needed:
Want a free week of strength workouts? Click here to get started
Watch the Episode on YouTube
If You Want to Improve Your Strength Training Program, You Should:
- Consider all of the factors that make the process complete in a strength training program
- Remember that heavy lifting is just a piece of the puzzle, especially as you train into your 40s and beyond
- Focus on consistency and having a well-rounded training program in order to reach your goals
How to Reach Your Goals
Your program is the plan that is going to take you to your goal, which takes a lot of thinking and skill. This is why it is so important to understand that training concepts are not the same thing as strength training programming, and this is why they are so much more effective than just doing random workouts.
While the ‘what’, lifting heavy, may be easy to understand, the how and why of getting there is much more complex. Creating a plan that progresses and periodizes over time will help you accomplish the best of what strength training can do.
Trust The Process
While random workouts will no doubt do something, adding muscle mass and having a well-rounded workout is essential, especially as you train into your 40s and beyond. Lifting heavy and moving your body is great, but you need a program that is suited to you and your body’s needs if you are ever going to reach your goal.
By trusting the process and following a program that is aligned with your goals, you can take the burden off yourself and focus on being consistent. By showing up for yourself, you can continue to see great results and feel supported on your strength training journey.
What is your relationship with your training program like? Share your thoughts with me below.
In This Episode
- Why lifting heavy weights over 40 is only part of the story (6:56)
- The importance of understanding the why behind your programming (11:27)
- How variables and frequency play a role in your programming strategy (16:05)
- Other components that go into a great training plan besides just lifting heavy (18:53)
- What you need to keep an eye on when you are programming for 40 and above (22:45)
“Often we hear that we should ‘just lift heavy’. But what are the things that really go into just lifting heavy? And is lifting heavy really enough?” (2:25)
“If you have a goal, you need a program.” (12:38)
“Even though I have been coaching and lifting for over 10 years, I knew I could still get better at writing programs” (20:53)
“Lifting heavy is an integral part of many great strength training programs. But it is not the only thing you likely should do, especially if you are trying to become more well-rounded and fit in your 40s and beyond.” (22:09)
“There are a lot of things that we can do differently based on going through our 40s and beyond to start working with what’s going on and working with those changes instead of saying, ‘well, it’s just pointless; there is nothing I can do about this’.” (25:32)
Featured on the Show
Get 20% off Legion Supplements with code STEPH (20% off your first order, double points on follow-up orders)
Get 10% off GORUCK with code FUELYOURSTRENGTH
Podcast production & marketing support by the team at Counterweight Creative
Why You Need a Strength Training Program Transcript
If you’re a woman over 40, who wants to get stronger, chances are you’ve heard that you should just lift heavy. But what does that really mean? And what are some of the subtleties of programming that you need to consider for getting the best results possible?
If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train and recover smarter. So you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery. And why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app, and let’s go.
Before we dive in, if you listen to this episode, and you’re like, Okay, I am ready to get to work. I want to take my strength, muscle energy, and performance and take it up a notch, I want to take it to that next level, I want to feel like a badass, but at the same time, do it in a way that works with my physiology as an athletic woman over 40 with coaching and community support and go ahead and check out Strength Nutrition Unlocked.
This is my group program, we’re going to lay out the framework for you and guide you as you implement and really customize it to all the things that you’re doing your preferences, your likes, and the places you want to go with it, then go ahead and get on board, you can start your process by submitting an application at StephGaudreau.com/apply. We’d love to hear from you and see you inside the program. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Again, on the podcast. I’m really excited to have you with me. And today we’re going to be talking about what are exactly the ingredients that you need in order to get better results out of your strength training. So often, we hear that we should just lift heavy, but what are the things that really go into just lifting heavy and lifting heavy by itself? Truly enough? We’re gonna answer those questions. And more on this episode today. Of course, before we go any further, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. And make sure you head over to YouTube and hit subscribe there as well. And make sure you ring the bell for more notifications.
Okay, so we’re going to tell a story here. And years ago, when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I worked at a grocery store chain in the northeast, it’s called Big Y. So shout out to anybody who lives in New England and maybe you shop at Big Y. Well, I used to be a cake decorator in the grocery store bakery at Big Y. And it was one of the jobs that I had in the grocery store, I actually started as a bagger, but believe it or not, became a cashier. And then I worked my way up to working in the bakery department. First I started with panning which we would just lay out all of the stuff for the morning bakers to come in at four or 5 am. And to start actually making things off. But eventually, I became a cake decorator. And it turned out I was fairly good at cake decorating, I guess I had the right combination of neatness and artistry that you really needed in order to make custom cakes for people. So it was more than just writing Happy Birthday or happy anniversary on a cake.
But actually, we were given creative freedom to really make stuff that was really cool. So when you make cakes, and when you decorate cakes, if you’ve ever done it, you know, it’s pretty easy to mess it up. And if you don’t have a lot of experience in your mind, you’re picturing one thing. And in reality, you’re probably getting something that looks a little bit closer to an episode of nailed it. So if you’ve ever seen that baking show on Netflix nailed it is basically where they take home bakers, and they put them through these different competitions. And a lot of times let’s just say the end result isn’t the best to look at, even if it tastes pretty good. There’s also another show by the way, where it’s called is a cake which they make really amazing fakes. So they take cakes, they make them into other things and then they have to decide what is cake and what is not. So that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum.
But as a cake decorator, it was definitely a hard skill to learn. And at first, it looks pretty easy because there are a lot of skills that are involved in the process of even making the case. So saying to somebody just put on the frosting is very different from what has to happen in reality so that would mean preparing the cake maybe even cutting it into different layers or assembling those layers to make sure that you have a structure that is sturdy enough, we used to do a lot of cake carving, at least I did.
So it would carve the cake into different shapes, you have to make sure that the buttercream icing is very smooth, you have to make sure you crumb coat the cake so that all the crumbs don’t just peel off and then end up showing through the frosting, you have to make sure that the frosting is very smooth, and that the edges are precise, at everything is even so you don’t want layers of cake showing through and then have thick frosting or icing on other parts of the cake, you need to make all of the decorations you have to write on the cake, if that’s the customer has asked for leaving some kind of a birthday wish, for example, and making sure it’s spelled correctly and is legible.
And by the way, you know, there’s a pressure of just making sure it’s overall beautiful because somebody is probably going to be using this cake to celebrate an important milestone or life event or a special event. So all eyes are on this cake. And a little side note, I actually made my college graduation cake. And my sister graduated around the same time as me because I was doing my teacher training. So I graduated a year later than the rest of my class. And so I actually made my sister’s and mine college graduation cake, which I’ll try to find a picture and post online.
Because I was pretty proud of that cake. It had her school colors that had UMass Amherst colors on it. So there you go. So, you know, when you think about cake decorating, as a skill, like as a highly trained skill, you can kind of make some parallels to strength training programming. And that’s where this episode is going in case you were like, what does this have to do with getting stronger, Steph? So here’s, here’s where we transition into that part. There are a lot of folks out in the world, including myself that say things like women over 40 really need to lift heavy weights. And when you hear that, you need to understand that that is only part of the story. So in reality, the idea of lifting heavy is a training concept. It is a big-picture idea.
And training concepts are not the same thing as strength training programming. And I know this sounds a little confusing. So we’re going to tease that apart in the rest of this episode. In other words, the “what” lift heavy is very different from the “how”, how we actually write out a program to get you to lift heavy similar in some ways to say, you know, do plyometrics or add hit to your training week.
Again, those are the what, right, heavy lifting, plyometrics hit, maybe you’re talking about zone to aerobic base building, maybe you’re talking about adding mobility or movement prep, maybe you’re looking at some hypertrophy programming, because you really want to build some muscle mass. So again, the “what” all of those things, are different from the “how” we actually go about creating a plan to get you there. So if you don’t have education, on how to write your own programming which the majority of the people listening to this podcast, do not, it’s, you know, and I’m going to be real, honest and blunt and frank here, it’s really easy to get it wrong. Again, it seems really easy. Just go in and pick up a heavyweight. So in in principle, it sounds simple.
But how we actually do it for long-term effectiveness takes a lot of subtlety, a lot of experience a lot of background, and understanding how to actually do those things. And so here’s where I get a little bit upfront and say, if you’re not experienced in writing programming, don’t write programming for yourself. I know it sounds really obvious, but I am making this episode because literally, and I’m not exaggerating, several times a week, I get DMS or emails from people who are talking to me about how their programming just isn’t working for them or their, their strength training isn’t working for them.
And when I ask where does the programming come from, there’s no programming. It’s something that they’re making up as they go along. And again, I’m I think that’s great that people want to take the initiative to get started. And at the same time, at some point, it doesn’t take very long for you to realize that you might be in a little bit over your head or you’re just not seeing much that’s actually coming from the programming that you’re trying to make up for yourself. So I highly encourage you if you are not trained and how to do this, that you leave it to the experts because we’re going to do all that heavy lifting for you no pun intended.
So if you are trying to write your own programming and you don’t have experience at best, it means it’s going to be ineffective, especially in the long run. Again, we’re not here to just lift weights and get strong for a season. At least I think most of the people listening to this podcast are not this isn’t like a crash. crash diet down for six weeks and try to look amazing for some crews or something like that, I mean, maybe that initially gets you in the door. But you realize after a while, like, Oh, hey, actually, I have to keep this going.
So we’re looking for long-term consistency, we’re looking for long-term results we’re looking for, you know, you staying healthy as healthiest possible throughout the process. And, at best, it means you’re not going to see the results that you came in for, at worst, it could mean injury, overuse, overtraining, burnout, and that you stopped lifting altogether. So we don’t want that to happen. All right. And I know again, it’s tempting, we think there’s so much information on Instagram, and there are so many free workouts on Instagram, and Tiktok.
And all these places. But again, just because you’re seeing a small snippet doesn’t mean it’s an entire program. And that that program is actually going to be helping you move toward your goals. So lifting heavy as a concept doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to lift to your absolute maximum capacity or intensity or load every session. It doesn’t mean never do anything over five reps, I hear that a lot where, you know, again, we’re out there beating the drum of lifting heavy weights, and people are starting to think, oh, so actually, I should only lift sets of five or less all the time ever, never lift above five reps. And I disagree with that.
And I’m going to actually tell you why here in a minute. I really liked this definition of a program from barbell logic. And they say a program is a plan for the process of strength training toward a goal. So quite often when I’ll write back to people and say, Well, what program are you on? And they’re like, Well, I’m just lifting a couple times a week, or I’m lifting five times a week. And I do you know, a few sets of this are a few sets of that I’m like, right, but what’s the program that you’re actually following? And then sometimes they’ll say, Well, I’m not actually following a program, I’m making things up on my own. So here’s what we need, what we need to know.
Programs are not random workouts, there’s nothing wrong with doing random workouts, I just want to be really clear. So for you, if you’re at a time in your life, where just getting back to moving your body is where you need to focus, and you’re just trying to get moving in general, totally fine. Absolutely fine. Nothing wrong with that. But again, if you have a goal, so I’ll read that definition. Again, a program is a plan for the process, the process of strength training, towards a goal. So if you have a goal, you need a program, the program is the plan, the plan that’s going to take you through all of the little knobs and dials that need to be tweaked in order for you to reach your goal.
So programs are not random workouts. Again, if you’re at the stage now where you’re just trying to get moving, and you’re doing random stuff. That’s okay. But most of you come to me and you have a specific goal. You’re like, hey, I want to actually get stronger. So I can do things around the house easier. I want to feel more capable, I want to go do cool shit with my family. I want to be able to XYZ you fill in the blank or I want to build some muscle, I realized I’ve started to lose muscle mass as I’m going through my 40s. And I’m going through the perimenopause transition, for example, where I’m postmenopausal, and damn, I’m like losing muscle mass. And I know it’s really, really important because muscle is an organ of longevity.
And it helps me to get around I want to avoid sarcopenia, etc. Maybe you want to improve your bone density or bone strength, right? So we realize now that certain types of training can actually assist with that. So maybe you have those goals and you’re like, Okay, I need to get focused on this, then random workouts are likely not going to get you to where you want to go. So just wanted to say that programming, then is the act of creating the plan for the process of strength training towards your goal. So it is the sitting down and constructing and writing and rewriting and adjusting potentially over time as the athletic individual the athlete goes through the program. It is the act of creating the plan. And that takes a lot of thinking.
It takes a lot of skill it takes to understand how physiology works, how the body works, how training concepts work, and how we can then understand our audience and put together a plan that will move that person or that group of people toward getting a better result toward the end goal toward the actual outcome that you want so much like decorating a cake to give a nod back to what we talked about at the top of this episode. There’s a lot of nuance and experience that goes into writing a good program.
You know, you can write a program will it be a good one, I don’t know, it depends on your experience level, how much you know about these sorts of things about exercise, about training about the body about recovery, about adaptation, and how we can start moving all those levers. So, in order to program or to write a program, one must consider things like, what are the end goals, or the end goal, what is hopefully this person going to be able to be better at doing by the time they get to the end of the program, and sidenote, we have to be reasonable with our expectations about exactly how long things are going to take us very hard to predict exact timelines, when it then comes to a real person implementing the program.
And considering all the other factors of life. So just wanted to put a little nod there, the experience level of whoever this athlete is going to be, whether it’s a recreational athlete, it’s somebody who’s been lifting for a really long time, it’s somebody who’s never lifted before somebody who’s getting back to lifting at somebody who’s been lifting for many years, and has a lot of experience, we need to consider how to progress and periodized the program over time, this is really, really, really important. And it’s one of the biggest things that people who try to program for themselves and don’t have the experience, often miss they think sometimes that are common, and I get these messages too. I just add weight all the time. And at some point, once that magical beginner’s phase wears off, you can’t just add an add and add and add a load every week.
Where do you go? Right? So there’s a lot of things, there are a lot of variables that we can tweak, or we can consider when we’re looking at programming. Things like frequency, or split, right? So how often are you going to lift? How many days a week? What is the split gonna look like? Full body, upper body, lower body, different body parts split if we’re doing more of a hypertrophy or muscle mass program, for example, and everything in between? And I think this is where it gets a little confusing as people think, well, there must just be one, right answer. The truth is you could sit down with two different coaches who both are qualified and have experience and come up with two pretty different programs that actually get somebody toward a very similar end result.
So there are a lot of differences between programs. And it’s unlikely that there’s like one, the best program in the world, and that you couldn’t get there through two different programs or two different pathways. But there are some things that are going to be considered amongst both of those programs likely right, so things like progressive overload, how are we tweaking and changing the variables over time? periodization? Like, how are we looking at the different phases of the program and helping to move people through those phases? How are we considering things like recovery, for example? So variables we mentioned right frequency, we look at things like exercise selection, reps, sets, tempo, density, in more. So there’s more than one way to progress the program, again, the load I mentioned earlier, so that’s there as well. But it’s not the only thing that we can tweak.
And we don’t want to just keep overloading, overloading, overloading, and never tweaking anything else, it’s unlikely that the program is going to be very successful. For the long term might get you to where you want to go in the short term. But there are more subtle ways to do things. And then we also want to think, like, think about additions to the program. So as I mentioned earlier, at the top of the show, sometimes people think okay, well, I’m going to I know lifting heavy is important. Okay, Steph, I’ve listened to your podcast enough to know that I need to lift heavy. And again, heavy is always relative. But there are other components that go into a great training plan. And they may include things like movement prep.
So how do you actually get ready for the workout, whether that includes mobility, or dynamic movements, that could include some connection breaths, so like getting more in tune with what’s going on with your pelvic floor, for example, that could include things like a cardio warmup, and could include dynamic stretching, passive stretching, and so on and so forth? So there’s a lot that can potentially go into, like, getting ready to lift, and that actually helps you to get ready, psychologically, to transition from whatever you were doing before into the actual workout itself. So we need to consider that right?
We have to look at things like potential stability. So how are we leaving stability into your workouts? Plyometrics. As I mentioned before, everybody’s like, okay, cool. I’m starting to get the idea that plyometrics are important and it’s not something I should necessarily or categorically avoid. As I’m getting older. Actually, I want to find a way to make this work for me where I’m at, but you don’t necessarily just start jumping in, no pun intended, to something like depth jumps or depth drops, like right away, you have to actually build up, you have to learn how to land.
Well, before you start doing a lot of jumping, especially if you haven’t been doing any jumping, stretching, as I mentioned earlier, like all of these things, your cooldown, what are you going to do, to bring your body back out of that sort of sympathetic, more stressed state, if you will. So again, we’re not going to go into like sympathetic versus parasympathetic. But what are you doing to actually kind of cool down to get your body back to baseline, before you run off to the next thing that you have to do? So just a little fun fact, I want to give a little nod to this, any other coaches that are out there.
So even though I’ve been coaching and lifting for over 10 years, at this point, I knew I could still get better at writing programs. So last fall, I enrolled in a very rigorous program about long-term programming. And this is from Annie Miller. So if you’re looking for a really great program in depth on how to program better for the long term, so anything over three months, then definitely go check out pure programming, and I don’t have a discount code or anything like that. But if you do end up enrolling, I think you can just say, hey, Steph Gaudreau sent me over here and a big shout out to me for that program was really amazing.
But yeah, a program to learn better how to be better at programming, because even a lot of personal trainers certifications, for example, there’s like a little bit about programming, but nothing that’s super, super in-depth. So just to say that even when you are someone who knows how to program, at least for me, I was like, I want to get better at this. And I want to learn different methods. And I want to learn how to program for the long term, which is why you’re seeing some longer programs coming out from me. So yes, lifting heavy is an integral part of many great strength training programs. But it’s not the only thing that you likely should do, especially if you’re trying to become more well-rounded and fit in your 40s and beyond.
And that doesn’t even really touch the cardio aspect that we could go down an entire rabbit hole about right like zone two versus hit or sprint intervals. And what do you what about the gray zone in between all of these honors, so so we’re not going to talk about that in this episode, but it is a component of your fitness? So don’t think that just because we’re not harping on it a lot that it doesn’t matter, or we’re saying it doesn’t it’s not important because it is. So when you’re 40. And above here are some things you need to keep an eye on. And we need to address through your programming, loss of muscle mass potentially.
Now, not all of these are a foregone conclusion, but they are things that increase, typically when we’re over 40, sometimes due to hormonal shifting, sometimes due to simply the aging process, and sometimes due to disuse. So there are a lot of things here that we can actually impact, right loss of muscle mass, we all know start turning 30. And then you’ll start to naturally go on a decline if we don’t actually do anything about it. And a lot of times it’s due to disuse, tissue stiffness, and you know, ligament stiffness, or joint pain, those sorts of things can certainly increase the loss of power generation, which means your ability to like to use your type two fibers. And you need to exercise those type two fibers if you want to keep them kind of fresh, and able to do their thing and respond when you need them.
Right. So moving very powerfully, very explosively Plyometrics, that sort of thing. Super, super important. And it applies to your regular life. So not too long ago. Well, it was probably a year or two ago at this point. We were walking and there was elderly housing down the street from where we live. And there was a much older woman crossing the street, the light started to change. And so she started to lose her, you know, it’s free to walk signal. And it was telling her to stop and she was halfway across the street. So she started moving a little bit faster shuffling. And then she started to fall. And it was like a scene from a movie it was she was trying to catch her balance, catch her balance, catch her balance, stumbling, stumbling, stumbling, she stumbled for what seemed like forever, although it probably was only just a second or two and then fell.
And well of course we were all rushing over there. Like are you okay, like helping her get up? She was okay. But it’s even things like can we catch ourselves if we start to stumble and fall balance issues on that note, right? So of course we have an increased risk of osteoporosis we have osteopenia, which is bone density loss. However, balance issues also play into things like our risk factors for bone breaks, right? So are we working our balance and doing it very intentionally? We may have more mobility challenges. We may need longer recovery windows, and we may just experience a positive will increase in how unpredictable we feel from day to day.
So really learning how to take in autoregulation, how to work off something like, for example, RPE that is more flexible, instead of always facing a percentage and feeling like well, I can’t hit that today. So, oh, well, like, I guess I fucked up this entire program. So there are a lot of things that we can do differently based on going through our 40s and beyond to start working with what’s going on. And working with those changes, instead of just saying, well, it’s just pointless, there’s nothing I can do about this. And, of course, as I mentioned earlier, adjusting our expectations, because I see plenty of these programs that are like you’re gonna get shredded in six weeks, or you’re gonna get, you know, like, you’re gonna have some massive body transformation in just a few weeks.
And the likelihood of that happening is very, very low. Because it just takes time. And then we also have to consider the other synergists that go into this, right, nutrition, recovery, our mindset about all of this stuff that makes the process complete, and we need all of those things to really play together pretty nicely. So hopefully, you can see that heavy lifting is just a piece of the puzzle. Okay, and by the time this episode comes out, it’ll be very, very soon that my newest strength training program is coming out in the world, I’m not going to give a ton of detail here on the podcast about it, because I don’t want to give dates. And then of course, people are gonna come across this podcast next year and think, oh, my gosh, this is just happening.
But at the time of recording this, which is August 2023, I am preparing to launch a new program that is specifically designed for women over 40 to help you feel, look, and be stronger. Simply put, right to help you be more well rounded to help you build your fitness in those ways. And so I encourage you to take a look at my website, Steph gaudreau.com. To see what the status of the program is to find out more about it and everything that you have to gain from joining a program. And that’s really the takeaway from this episode, is that random workouts, of course, will do something you are still moving your body and that is the start.
But when you start to realize that strength is important that adding muscle mass matters, because the more muscle mass we have, the more open up for us, we can lift heavier things, and we can build our capacity to store things like glycogen right in our muscles, we build a bigger glucose sink, we have some metabolic advantages, just being able to move through life more easily right activities of daily living, and also doing cool shit. Like who wants to do cool shit, I know I do. I want to keep doing cool stuff, and experiencing life more fully. As I continue to age through my, the rest of my 40s my 50s, and beyond. And I’m sure you do too.
That’s why you’re here on this podcast episode. So it’s wonderful to want to gather information and learn about all of these different aspects of programming that you probably learned from this show from Instagram from following other people in the field. And that’s wonderful. But when it really comes down to it, you want to get the best results possible. Get on a program, find someone that matches your philosophy, your ethos that you’re you really like you dig them in their approach that has a program that works for you and your experience level and the goals that you do have. And follow the program. Trust the process, especially if that person is experienced.
And they’ve been through it right, personally, professionally, they have the credentialing, they have the background, and they have the know-how. So get on that program, follow the program, and let that person do all the planning and the heavy lifting for you. It could be of course a templated program, it doesn’t have to be personalized one on one, or you know something where you do a one-on-one in-person training. It doesn’t have to be that it could certainly be if that’s something you have the resources for and something you’re really keen on.
But even a templated program can go pretty far in helping you achieve those goals that you have. So take the burden off yourself, get a program, and be as consistent as you can. But as I tell the people that follow my programs, if you can do 70 to 80% of the time, you’re doing pretty darn good. And you should feel pretty amazing about showing up for yourself and your will more than likely keep getting great results as long as you keep showing up and you don’t let that all-or-nothing mindset get the better of you. So go check out all of the options I have available for you over at Steph gaudreau.com I would love to support you on your strength training journey.
Alright, thanks for being with me on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. Make sure you subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as well as YouTube. Go ahead and ring the bell over there for more notifications. And if something about this episode stood out to you or you want to talk about programming, send me a DM on Instagram, and let’s chat about if and how I can help you. And if I can’t, honestly I’m going to send you to whoever I know is the best fit for what you’re looking for because I want you to get the best results possible. Alright, thanks for tuning in on this episode of the podcast. And until next time, stay strong.