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7 Dumbbell Exercises Every Woman Should Be Doing in Her 40s

Lifting weights can help you turn back the clock.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Most people think of their 40s as being in the "mid-life." They might picture themselves starting to slow down a bit, getting in touch with their untapped potential, and sometimes even using phrases like "midlife crisis" to refer to various big purchases or new habits. Many women also start to see physical declines associated with aging, including decreased muscle mass, loss of bone density, lower energy levels, and of course, menopause. While all of these things are a reality of life, the fact of the matter is that lifting weights can drastically offset the physical decline associated with reaching the age of 40. That's why this article is all about the seven best dumbbell exercises for women in their 40s.

Although all of us must go through the psychological components of midlife, the fact remains that resistance exercise is one of the few proven activities you can do that reliably impacts some of the quality-of-life loss you might experience as a result of aging. Dumbbells in particular are a great option for fighting the inevitable creep of time and age. They are forgiving on the joints in your body and allow a great deal of freedom for increasing or decreasing difficulty, but still give the option to challenge your muscles with an intense stimulus that drives the beneficial adaptations you want from your workout program.

The following are my top seven dumbbell exercises for women in their 40s. In fact, I use them with virtually every female client past the age of 40 I work with at some point in their program. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise. Rest for 90 seconds between sets, and complete the workout at least twice per week.

Dumbbell Lunges

woman demonstrating lunges with dumbbells to boost your muscular endurance

Lunges are a fantastic exercise to incorporate into any workout regime. Not only do they improve the muscular aspect of fitness, but they also help with balance, coordination, and other key aspects of preventing age-related loss of mobility and increased risk of falls. Lunges primarily target the quadriceps, but they also engage the hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.

To perform a dumbbell lunge, start by standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand, your arms fully extended, and your palms facing toward the body. Take a step forward with your right foot while keeping your left foot in place. Ensure the step is large enough to maintain balance. Lower your body by bending both knees, ensuring your right knee is in line with your right foot and your left knee is hovering above the ground. As you descend, rotate your left foot inward slightly for optimal biomechanics. Drive through your right foot to rise back to the starting position. Repeat for target repetitions, then switch legs.

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Dumbbell Deadlifts

illustration of dumbbell deadlift

Dumbbell deadlifts work a variety of muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, back, and core muscles, collectively helping to improve posture and increase muscle growth along your backside while preventing injury and loss of bone mass.

To perform a dumbbell deadlift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, palms facing toward your body. Hinge at the hips, and bend your knees slightly, lowering the dumbbells towards the ground. Maintain a flat back throughout the movement. Push your hips forward, and squeeze your glutes as you return to the standing position. During the upward movement, visualize drawing your lower rib toward your pelvis, and engage your abs. Pause at the top of the movement, squeezing the glutes for a brief moment before beginning the next repetition. Repeat for the target repetitions.

Dumbbell Rows

illustration of dumbbell bent-over row

Dumbbell rows primarily target the muscles of the back, including the lats and rhomboids. They also work your biceps and shoulders. This exercise can aid in maintaining good posture, a common concern for women as they age.

To perform a dumbbell row, stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the waist, and slightly bend your knees, keeping your back straight. Lift the dumbbells up toward your chest by bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. As you retract your shoulder blades, visualize crushing a piece of fruit in your armpit. Hold the contraction at the top of the lift for about one second, but avoid shrugging throughout the range of motion. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the initial position. Repeat for the target repetitions.

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Dumbbell Shoulder Presses

dumbbell shoulder press woman at gym

The dumbbell shoulder press targets the deltoids, triceps, and several muscles of the upper body. Shoulder presses, also known as overhead presses, can help maintain your ability to complete everyday tasks that involve lifting or reaching overhead.

To perform a dumbbell shoulder press, stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand, your elbows bent, and the dumbbells at shoulder height. Press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended, avoiding any shrugging motion. Hold for a brief moment at the top of the movement. Lower the dumbbells slowly back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.

Dumbbell Squats

dumbbell squats demonstration

Squats help maintain leg strength by targeting the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Along with the muscle growth benefits, maintaining your ability to go from seated to standing is a vital aspect of offsetting common effects of aging.

To perform a dumbbell squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Bend at your hips and knees to lower your body as if sitting back into a chair, keeping your chest lifted and back straight. Go as low as comfortable, ideally until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push through both feet to return to the standing position, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat for the target repetitions.

Dumbbell Bicep Curls

illustration, concept of standing bicep curls with dumbbells to tone your arms in 30 days

The bicep curl is an isolation exercise targeting the biceps brachii muscle. This exercise is great for maintaining strength in the upper body, enabling you to lift and carry items in everyday life.

To perform a dumbbell bicep curl, stand with a dumbbell in each hand, your arms fully extended, and your palms facing forward. Keeping the upper arms stationary, curl the weights while contracting your biceps. Visualize squeezing the biceps as you lift the weights. Hold the contraction at the top for about one second. Slowly begin to bring the dumbbells back to the starting position as you breathe in. Repeat for the target repetitions.

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Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks

tricep kickbacks part of bat wings workout

The last of these dumbbell exercises for women in their 40s is the dumbbell tricep kickback. Tricep kickbacks specifically target the triceps muscle in the back of the upper arm. Strong triceps can assist with any pushing movements, and help keep your arm strength balanced.

To perform a dumbbell tricep kickback, start by standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, keeping a slight bend in the knees. Keep your upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. This is your starting position. Extend the weights backward by straightening your arm, and squeeze the tricep at the end of the movement. Hold the contraction for about one second, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT
Tyler Read is a personal trainer and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. Read more about Tyler