Written by Laura Tarbell, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Functional Nutrition Practitioner, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach, Clean Health Level 3 Personal Trainer, Advanced STOTT Pilates Instructor, IFBB Pro Bikini Competitor, and Contest Prep Specialist

Photography by Paul Buceta

Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

PART ONE of a six-part series dedicated to learning how to navigate midlife hormonal and metabolic chaos, with vitality, to live your menopausal years to the fullest.

Women reach an inevitable turning point in life—perimenopause—when the ovaries decide it’s time to retire, and begin a slow downregulation of hormone production. In this “second puberty” phase, many may feel like they’re on a symptom rollercoaster, with their bodies changing seemingly overnight, and without permission. Many will turn back to what worked in their 20s to lose weight and tighten up, only to find out that unfortunately now, that only does the opposite. Navigating this timeframe of shifting hormones requires a different approach to training, nutrition, and lifestyle. 

Through a six-part series, we’ll dive into the how and why of optimizing this phase to live your menopause years to the fullest. After all, women will spend a third to half their life in menopause and the goal is to experience this phase with vitality! This issue, we focus on one of the most important ways to do that—resistance training, and muscle. 

Why Is Perimenopause Important? 

The average adult will lose about 3 to 8 percent of their muscle mass(1) every decade after age 30—a loss that accelerates to 5 to 10 percent after the age of 50.(2) The initial years of this transition can be particularly vulnerable for females with research showing women can lose 10 percent of muscle mass during perimenopause alone.(3) In fact, the biggest body composition changes happen in the three or four years before menopause. This means you must prepare and set yourself up for success!

What Does Estrogen Have to Do With Muscle?

Estrogen specifically is the sex hormone that gives a woman her femininity but unfortunately tends to be villainized in the media for symptoms associated with estrogen dominance. However, when estrogen is at an optimal level and in a good ratio with progesterone, it does amazing things for the female body. Aside from its importance for childbearing, estrogen keeps cholesterol in control, helps protect bone health, and increases serotonin as well as affecting heart, skin, and other tissues, like muscle, throughout the body. 

Specific to muscle, estrogen supports the regeneration of muscle stem cells (also known as satellite cells, because they appear to orbit the muscle fiber cells), which helps maintain muscle. Biopsies on women shortly before and after the menopause transition show their ability to regenerate muscle stem cells drops by 30 to 60 percent. The number of satellite cells strongly correlates to levels of estrogen. When estradiol is lacking in the systemic environment, the number of satellite cells is reduced by 30 to 50 percent.(4)

In reproductive years, estrogen, or E2, is the main type of estrogen present in women. E2 has a direct action on myosin, the fibrous protein that acts as the motor behind muscle contractions. When E2 is gone, the stimulus for these strong contractions is also gone and thus needs to come from somewhere else.

As E2 declines in the menopause transition, Estrone, or E1, takes its place. Research demonstrates that E2 is 1.25 to 5 times the biological potency of E1, meaning muscle satellite cells do not get as strong of a signal to build.(5) To counter that change, you need to lift heavy enough to send a message to your brain that you need as much muscle as possible at your fingertips. This is where heavy lifting comes in. Heavy resistance training, or lifting six or less reps, creates the neural stimulation to get the muscle fibers firing and contracting strongly enough to produce the same kind of stimulation in the muscle cells that previously was driven by E2. So now is the time to embrace the challenge of heavy lifting, not shy away from it!

What About Cardio? 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT) can support building speed, power, and cardiovascular fitness as well as improve blood glucose levels. Plyometrics and sprinting are classified as weight bearing exercises and thus also strengthen bones, ward off osteoporosis, and protect balance and coordination. Plus, it’s much more time-efficient than low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio for busier days. Aim for 5 to 7 minutes of all out work once or twice a week. 

Heavy lifting is also important for endurance athletes. A study in European Journal of Sport Science in 2021 analyzed three groups of long distance runners who lifted twice a week for six weeks using either heavy, low rep training, heavy training plus plyometrics, or with endurance, high rep training. The result was that those who lifted using the heavy or complex training programs had significant improvements in maximum strength, running economy, and velocity at VO2 max while the endurance training group did not.(6)

When it comes to aging, perception matters. How you view aging can have a direct impact on how you experience it. “Pro-Aging” recognizes aging as a blessing and aging with vitality as a gift! It’s not about being 25 again, but instead being the best version of yourself at 40, 50, 60 and beyond. This requires caring, loving, and nourishing yourself both internally and externally in a way that aligns with your current physiology. This year, follow along right here for more ways to upgrade your training, nutrition, and lifestyle to master midlife!


Your Pro-Aging Training Plan

Aim to start with 2 heavy lifting days per week on non-consecutive days. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

1. Lower Focus

Warm-Up: 5-10 min light cardio of choice 

Dynamic Stretching:
3 x 10 each: High Knees, Butt Kickers, 90/90 Degree Hip Stretch

BB Hip Thrust
12, 8, 5, 5, 5

DB Deadlift
12, 8, 5, 5, 5

DB Reverse Deficit Lunge
12, 8, 5, 5, 5

Core: Ab Roller, Alternating Leg V-Up, Bicycle, 30 Sec Plank 
3 x 10-15 each

2. Upper Focus

Warm-Up: 5-10 min light cardio of choice 

Dynamic Stretching:
3 x 10 each: Arm Circles Forward and Backward, Hand Release Push-Ups, Cat Cow

Pull-Up (band assisted or machine if necessary)

BB Incline Press
12, 8, 5, 5, 5

Cable Seated Wide, Low Row
12, 8, 5, 5, 5

Core: Cable Crunch, Roman Chair Leg Lift
3 x 15 each

Double Down with a Dutch?
The Dutch test is an at-home, dried urine test showing an extensive profile of sex and adrenal hormones, including the various estrogen and androgen metabolites, to identify symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Results analyze 35 different hormones, daily free cortisol patterns, nutritional organic acids, neurological-related markers, melatonin, and oxidative stress markers.(7) Most primary care providers are not looking at this comprehensive hormone test, but if you’re struggling to put on muscle, lose belly fat, or feel like you’ve lost your mojo, you can order one directly at www.nutritiondynamic.com, using code: STRONG.


1. Volpi E, Nazemi R, Fujita S. Muscle tissue changes with aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004 Jul;7(4):405-10. doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2. PMID: 15192443; PMCID: PMC2804956.

2. Isenmann, E., Kaluza, D., Havers, T. et al. Resistance training alters body composition in middle-aged women depending on menopause - A 20-week control trial. BMC Women's Health 23, 526 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-023-02671-y

3. Ko J, Park YM. Menopause and the Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women. Iran J Public Health. 2021 Feb;50(2):413-414. doi: 10.18502/ijph.v50i2.5362. PMID: 33748008; PMCID: PMC7956097.

4. Collins BC, Arpke RW, Larson AA, Baumann CW, Xie N, Cabelka CA, Nash NL, Juppi HK, Laakkonen EK, Sipilä S, Kovanen V, Spangenburg EE, Kyba M, Lowe DA. Estrogen Regulates the Satellite Cell Compartment in Females. Cell Rep. 2019 Jul 9;28(2):368-381.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.06.025. PMID: 31291574; PMCID: PMC6655560.


6. Li F, Nassis GP, Shi Y, Han G, Zhang X, Gao B, Ding H. Concurrent complex and endurance training for recreational marathon runners: Effects on neuromuscular and running performance. Eur J Sport Sci. 2021 Sep;21(9):1243-1253. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2020.1829080. Epub 2020 Oct 19. PMID: 32981468.

7. Dr. Carrie Jones

STRONG Fitness
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