I have heard from so many of you recently that you are getting back into the workout swing again, but you are feeling that your body isn’t responding how it used to.

Specifically, many women I hear from tell me that they are always feeling injured from their workouts.

They hear me talk about the idea of needing to lift heavy weights to promote bone density and to do high-impact training to build stronger bones, but they are fearful because their light weights and low-impact workouts have left them feeling lousy.

So the big question that keeps coming up is, “Julie, how can I lift heavy and do high-impact training without hurting myself??”

Here’s the secret ladies–it is never about the exercise you do… it is ALWAYS about how you do the exercise.

For over a decade now I have been working with women in their 50s and beyond helping them to build stronger muscles and bones and we often come across exercises that have hurt them in the past. However, with some simple tweaks, they are able to do the exercise to get all of the muscle- and bone-building benefits, but stay free of injury.

What I am about to share with you has helped so many women build their strength and health over the last decade when they follow the advice consistently, so I want you to pay close attention.

There are four things (and one bonus tip) that I want to share with you to help you build the strength of your muscles and bones and feel great while doing so…


Let’s dive in!

1. Use Your Symptom-Free Full Range of Motion

The first thing you need to do is make sure the range of motion you are using when you exercise is completely symptom-free. This means no pinching, no pain, no popping, no zinging, and NO stretching feeling. That’s right. You should NOT feel a stretch when you do an exercise. The ONLY things you should feel are your muscles squeezing and (eventually) fatiguing.

2. Control Your Moving & Non-Moving Segments

The second thing you need to do is make sure the parts of your body you want moving while you do an exercise are the ONLY parts of your body that move. Everything else needs to be kept perfectly still like a statue. This will minimize the risk of compensating or cheating while doing the exercise, which will lower the chances of getting injured or sore from your workouts.

3. Move Slowly

I CANNOT emphasize this enough. You need to move SLOWLY. Be the slowest person in the gym. 100% absolutely the slowest no questions asked. This will help you stay within your symptom-free range of motion and make sure you are only moving the parts of your body that you want to move.

When the ladies I talk to are most sore and achy from their workouts, it was after trying to use too much motion and moving too fast during the workout. Slow things WAY down and both of those issues will be resolved.

4. Focus On Squeezing Your Muscles

Ladies, I know your workouts are time for you. You get to throw on your music and move your body how you want. But I need you to hear me on this…you need to focus on squeezing your muscles when you lift weights.

Distracting yourself with your music or the choreography or TV shows is a recipe for injury. Yes, you can still do the classes and the cardio and everything like that. But, when you lift weights, you need to be focused, and specifically you need to focus on squeezing your muscles.

This will keep you in tune with what is happening in your body AND help you get better strength-building results from your workouts. It is massively important, so do not neglect this final step. In fact, if there is only one step to follow in this entire process, it is this fourth one. Following the other three steps will become much easier once you do.

5. BONUS–Get Muscle Activation Techniques® Regularly

If there is one additional thing you can do to keep you injury-free and feeling great, it is add in Muscle Activation Techniques®, or MAT®, into your weekly routine.

One session of MAT® a week will completely transform how your body feels and functions and allow you to be MUCH more consistent with your workouts. It will keep your muscles firing correctly, allowing your joints to stay safe and mobile while making sure your ligaments, discs, and cartilage are protected while you workout.

MAT® really is a game-changer for everything you do.

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to try MAT®, you can schedule your initial assessment with me here.

Lifting weights is an absolute must for all women, and especially for those of us who are wanting to build stronger bones and muscles. While lifting heavy weights can seem scary, following the four steps I listed out above and keeping your body functioning well with MAT® can have you feeling like the strong, confident woman you are every time you go to workout.

In strength and health,


Julie Cates

Julie Cates is an experienced, certified, and insured National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer and mastery level Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) Rx Specialist (MATRx). She is one of 88 certified mastery level Resistance Training Specialists® (RTSm) in the world. This combination makes her style of training impactful and still preventative and restorative of joint and muscle issues and pain that are common with exercise. Julie specializes working with women 50 and over. Specifically, her main focus is working with women with bone density loss, muscle loss, Osteopenia, and Osteoporosis. Julie has incredible experience working with brand new exercisers. Very specific types and styles of exercises are needed for restoring and maintaining bone density, and Julie guides her clients through these in a pain-free way. She is also well experienced in helping women exercise even with various joint, bone, systemic, and neurological diagnoses. Julie is definitely your go-to personal trainer for women with Osteoporosis! Julie graduated cum laude from the University of Florida. She earned her degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a specialization in Exercise Physiology. Julie is the co-owner of Muscle Activation Schaumburg in Schaumburg, IL. She is a wife and mother of two. Julie can be reached via e-mail at Follow her on Instagram at @julcates!