Being “over the hill” doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel on your health and fitness—quite the contrary, as the grass can be greener on the post-40 side of the hill. However, your 40s are critical for your fitness since staying on top of it will help you remain healthy, active, and thriving well into your 50s and beyond. That’s why we spoke with Rose McNulty, CPT, NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach with Garage Gym Reviews, who’s helped us compile a list of the seven best no-equipment exercises tailored specifically for women in their 40s. These movements will help you get stronger, improve your body composition, and boost your overall fitness all from the comfort of your home (and without the need for fancy equipment or pricey gym memberships).
Whether you’re a beginner or have been active for years, these exercises will work your entire body and are suitable for women of all fitness levels. According to research, strength training exercises like the ones below are crucial for women, especially if you’re postmenopausal, in helping prevent osteoporosis and reducing your risk of bone fractures.
“Exercises that don’t require any equipment are essential to your fitness repertoire,” says McNulty. “Since they don’t require a gym or even any dumbbells or resistance bands, they can be done virtually anywhere, making them great go-to’s for any workout. Women in their 40s should aim to build muscle strength and overall stability, which start to deteriorate later in life but can be built as much as possible beforehand. The following exercises work major muscle groups that can help keep you active longer as the years go by if you consistently incorporate them into your workouts.”
Keep reading to learn all about the best no-equipment exercises for women in their 40s. And when you’re done, check out The #1 Bodyweight Workout Women Should Do Every Day To Stay Trim.
The squat is a powerhouse movement that targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. “The squat is one of the most well-known lower-body exercises, and for a good reason. The motion mimics many everyday joint movements and helps improve overall stability and mobility,” says McNulty.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees to lower your body as if sitting back in a chair, allowing your hips to shift back. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause momentarily, and push through your heels to return to the starting position. Complete three sets of eight to 12 reps.
This amazing lower-body exercise will strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. McNulty tells us, “Lunges are an effective exercise for both leg strength and overall balance, which are key as you age.”
Get started by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Take a big step forward with your right foot, and lower your body until both knees are at 90-degree angles, with your left knee hovering just above the floor. Push off your right foot to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. Perform three sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg.
The glute bridge is growing in popularity—and for good reason. This exercise is excellent for boosting lower-body strength and stability. “Glute bridges target your glutes and hamstrings, helping strengthen your posterior chain and core,” states McNulty.
To perform the glute bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Pause at the top, then lower your hips back down. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Performing exercises that isolate the triceps is essential for visibly sleek, toned arms. Tricep dips also enhance upper-body strength and increase muscle definition. “As the name implies, triceps dips target the triceps muscles at the back of your upper arms. This area often becomes looser as you age, sometimes referred to as ‘bat wings,’ so consistently training the triceps is a way to counteract that,” explains McNulty.
Sit on the edge of a stable chair or bench with your hands gripping the edge. Walk your feet forward, and lower your body, bending your elbows to 90 degrees. Push through your palms to lift your body back up. Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
“Pushups target your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core, which helps with posture and keeping chest muscles toned,” states McNulty.
Start in a high plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor, keeping your core engaged and your elbows close to your body. Push back up to the starting position. Complete three sets of as many reps as possible.
Planks are a go-to exercise for core strength and stability. They engage the abdominal muscles, back, and shoulders, supporting overall core strength and better posture. “A strong core is crucial for preventing injuries while working out and in daily life, and planks strengthen your entire core—including your abs, back, and hips,” says McNulty.
Start in a high plank position, then lower onto your forearms with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Engage your core, and keep your hips low as you maintain a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Hold this position for three sets of 30 to 60 seconds.
This unique core exercise targets your core muscles while minimizing strain on the lower back. “Dead bugs are a low-impact, effective way to strengthen your core,” says McNulty.
Start by lying on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling. Bend your knees, and lift your feet off the ground so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your shins are parallel. Engage your core as you slowly lower your right arm behind your head and toward the floor, straightening and lowering your left leg. Once your arm and opposite leg hover just above the floor, reverse the motion to the starting position. Alternate sides, keeping your core engaged throughout the movement. Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.