10 Fitness Mistakes Most Women Over 50 Make

Fitness mistakes are a total bummer! You can be exercising for months or years doing it wrong and unintentionally be sabotaging your results. It doesn’t have to happen! Most of the fitness mistakes here feature exercises that use machine weights. Whether you use them in the gym, or have a multi-station at home, these flips I inserted can make your next workout more effective. It’s like this, your exercising, that’s hot. What’s hotter? Getting better results in less time. So here we go, with hot vs hotter fitness moves.

If you’re exercising at home, you may get some reinforcement that sometimes the best exercise is an easily done home exercise. I’m a fan of a small handful of machine weights for bone density benefits they offer. To safely lift as heavy as you can, machines are your BFF. If, you’re looking for the real truth on osteoporosis prevention, or exercise for treatment after diagnosis, my mini course is almost finished. Join our community insider list for the announcement and first access to a special rate during the first two weeks. Got aging parents? or young girls? They need to hear this too! Sooner is better than later.


There are two fitness mistakes made with the lat pulldown. Well, three, if you count that many assume “lat” is short for lateral and will refer to this as the lateral pulldown. Just so you sound a little more savvy in the locker room, “lat” is short for the major muscle in the back it works: latisimus dorsi. Now you understand why it’s shortened.

The biggest lat pulldown mistake is pulling behind the neck. The correct way to do the exercise for optimal benefits and reduced risk to the neck is to pull to the collar bone. Avoid pulling down to the point you’re forced to bend at the wrist and or you’re pushing down.

The second mistake with this exercise is avoiding it! This is an excellent exercise for working muscles that benefit posture as well as metabolism. Women often avoid it if they’ve been told in passing by a physician not to do any overhead exercise. Usually that statement is about pushing up which can increase risk of injury to the shoulder. Pulling, though it requires action at the shoulder is a back muscle exercise.

Hotter: Lean back slightly and pull to your collar bone. Imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together and expanding your chest.

leg extension fitness mistakes FITNESS MISTAKE TWO: Leg Extension

This exercise done with full range of motion can increase sheer forces to the knee joint. You’ve potentially been reminded to use full range of motion for all exercises, so this may come as a surprise! If you opt to do the leg extension the biggest benefit is for strength around the knee joint at the last 20-to-30 degree of motion. Significantly reduce the weight since you’re using a small area of the muscle. Just to give you an idea, I use 12-15 pounds most times as I’m doing this single leg exercise.

Several adjustments on a leg extension mean getting fit right can be confusing at first. If you don’t match your knee joint with the axis of rotation of the machine, and make the common error of having your knees too far forward, you place a significant amount of stress on the joint rather than strengthen the muscles.

If you’re doing leg press, or leg squats, and or lunges regularly in your routine there may not be a good reason to include the leg extension. You’re already getting adequate stimulation of the quadriceps.

Hotter: Limited range of motion leg extension if you have a “niggle” here and really need to focus on strength surrounding the knee joint. Otherwise, leave this one out. Hottest: Picking the weight up, use both legs, drop one down to do the exercise, and then bring both back up to return to start. It IS the details that matter.

leg press fitness mistakesFITNESS MISTAKE THREE: Leg Press

This exercise is so important yet there are a few fitness mistakes made here – ones that might make you think you can’t or shouldn’t do it. This exercise is a definite “do” however, the risk is doing it wrong in a way that there is too much emphasis on quadriceps and too little on the glutes. This exercise is the #1 best way to improve hip bone (femur) density and muscle strength to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and fractures that result from falls.

Be sure you place your feet high so your weight is primarily on your heels rather than the balls of your feet. Err on the conservative side and start with your legs more straight. Bring the platform and seat closer to each other approaching 90 degree angle at the knee as you can tolerate it.

Hotter: Heels high on the platform to help you keep the focus on the bum and not stress and strain knees. Find the sweet spot for range of motion with no knee pain but adequate overload for the bum and hips.


The biceps curl machine is the biggest mistake for most women because of the ill fit of the machine. Build for an “average” size person, short levers of the arm don’t match up with the machines rotation point for the majority of people that aren’t “average”. That can mean a lack of results at best and risk of injury at worst.

The answer is use free weights (dumbbells) for the safest bicep work. Free weights will also allow movement that’s more beneficial to daily activities of life. Even if you’re a newbie to weight training, skip the machines in the circuit that you do need for safe heavy lifting on leg press, chest press, and seated row or lat pull down and do bicep curls and triceps exercises (see below) using dumbbells.

Hotter: pick up some dumbbells.


The machine triceps press exercise is also a poor fit for most women. Using dumbbells or a cable push down are good solutions. One warning on free weights though, is to keep elbows near your body during the triceps kickback. Often this requires lighter weight. Done right with light weight is better than incorrectly with heavy weight.

Hotter: Use dumbbells or a cable machine (see image).

fitness mistakes shoulder press FITNESS MISTAKE SIX: Military Press

Military press (or overhead shoulder press), whether machine or dumbbell exercise carries more risk than rewards for most adults. Overhead shoulder exercises put considerable stress on the shoulders.

The alternative safer exercises are lateral raises, front raises, and rear raises all done to strengthen the shoulders but below shoulder height. If overhead shoulder press is a must keeping the elbows directly in front of the shoulders in a 90 degree angle when beginning is a must. Do them one at a time and you can reduce a secondary risk here that is the tendency to arch the back.

Hotter: Leave out overhead shoulder presses altogether if you’re vulnerable to injury already. Use light dumbbells from a front hold position and press one at a time.

crunches fitness mistakesFITNESS MISTAKES SEVEN and EIGHT:

Crunches/Sit ups and Abdominal Machine

I’ve lumped together these abdominal-targeting exercises for one reason. These forward flexion exercises cause risk of impending disk damage. What’s unknown for each of us is how soon. We have a limited amount of forward flexion and we don’t feel the damage when we’re doing it. Crunches, sit ups, and forceful forward flexion against resistance with an abdominal machine accelerate the risk of disk problems.

With dozens of alternatives for bracing the cores muscles in a way that both gets better aesthetic results (flatter belly) and reduces risk of injury, leaving these out of your routine could rapidly accelerate your fitness level.

Hotter: anything not crunches/sit-ups and the abdominal machine has less chance of injuring you. Do stabilization favorites like the plank as well as fitness activities like boxing and swimming that require you to brace.


Inner and Outer Thigh Machine

This area of the gym is a hot spot for fitness mistakes. The last two moves for opposing muscle groups are here because they often fail to deliver what the user really wants. These two machines provide a way to work the muscles surrounding the hip joint but they’re each often done with weight too heavy to emphasize this area. The hope for most women is that they will reduce the inner and outer thighs. The reality is to do that best lunges are your answer. The hip adduction machine (inner thigh) and abduction (outer thigh) machine can put stress on the lower back.

Given that lateral movements in real life are done one leg at a time, using these two machines that use both legs simultaneously (if you have a machine that allows independent use: better) don’t have a great benefits for daily activities of life. A standing multi-hip machine where you’re standing on one leg and moving another either away from or toward your center is more applicable to real life if lunges aren’t available. For an economic and effective hip and glute substitute, use a band for side stepping, lunges, and wide squats .

Hotter: Lunges, either stationary or moving actually streamline thighs better. Can’t do lunges? Try side stepping with bands, single leg yoga poses (that shaking is your inner and outer thighs waking up) or boxing kicks.

There are two more less specific FITNESS MISTAKES women make I want to share.

  1. Failing to realize that it all counts. If you go to a group exercise class (aka Body Pump, Group Strength, Total Body…. ) or even to a class that includes 20 minutes of conditioning at the end, you’ve “lifted weights.” You may or may not have reached fatigue. There are two hidden mistakes here. You don’t want to go the next day and strength train on your own or with a trainer. You’d be making the fitness mistake of allowing no recovery. It would be better for you to prioritize. If you love classes and want to have that as a staple then slip into the weight room after class and get your heavy weight training on the same day. It can take minutes to make that day a solid and effective strength training day. Then you would skip two days before doing any (class or otherwise) resistance training again. Or, do the class up to the conditioning segment and then bow out and do your own cool down so you’re fresh for your weight workout day.
  2. Doing a lot of exercise, but not a lot of effective exercise. It may seem to you (in the above example) that if you’re not sore, or you didn’t work that hard, so it would be fine to do something in the same domain again. But even a less-than-ideal workout taxes your body and breaks down muscle preventing recovery. Similarly, factor in your activities of daily life. Say you had to shovel the entire driveway after a heavy snow. Your strength training workout schedule may need to change that week.

Flip your home exercise and avoid fitness mistakes with all the right moves and the instruction for results not injury with DVDs or digital solutions. 

Do you need nutrition, exercisecalendar, and lifestyle habit support? The October 28 Day Kickstart is your answer. Last chance to register is this Wednesday. Miss it? Reach out about other support options.


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Circumference outside of both arms, at the armpit

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