Weightlifting isn’t just the preserve of musclebound hulks. Now women of all ages are increasingly turning to barbells as a way of staying healthy and warding off the effects of getting older

Any woman can be strong. I don’t just mean strong in the metaphorical sense – I mean simply being able to exert force against gravity. You may think that strong women are born, not made. You may be thinking of Olympic weightlifters straining to clean and jerk dozens of kilos over their heads, or of bodybuilders in bikinis posing and flexing. Several of the women I interviewed for this article thought that way before they started to lift barbells. “I thought women who lifted were Amazons,” said one. “People who did stuff on TV, who were bulky. And I wasn’t interested.” Another remarked: “I couldn’t see a reason to build up all that bulk.”

But strength is not just about appearances. It is a requirement for everyday life. Strength is what you need if you are hoisting your carry-on luggage into the overhead compartment on a plane. You need to be strong to be able to pick your screaming toddler up off the floor and not hurt yourself. And, most of all – especially as you get older – you need strength simply to be able to stand up without falling over.

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