How to Train Older Clients (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Train Older Clients (Step-by-Step Guide)

Training older clients can open up a new client base for a personal trainer. But, it’s important that you have the proper tools to train older clients effectively. Using certain personal training software features can help you train older clients. Find out how to train elderly clients and learn about what tools you’ll need to train older clients in this guide by Exercise.com

  • When learning how to train older clients, you’ll need to find modifications to common exercises that could create too much stress on bones or joints.
  • Older adults can have drastically different abilities which can be determined using Exercise.com’s fitness assessment software.
  • Creating workouts for senior clients can be more effective with workout software that allows you to program and display exercises with corresponding modifications.

Breaking into training special populations, like training older clients, can be a rewarding way for personal trainers to add a new stream of revenue to their fitness businesses.

To train older clients, it’s important that you’re not only well-versed in geriatrics, but that you have the tools in place to make your training as effective as possible; that’s where personal training software comes into play.

By taking advantage of the features that the top personal training software has to offer, you can train older clients in a way that works for them, not against them.

Jimmy Myers Relentless Sports Performance
If you want to offer an elite service for the end user you need to get with the times and use elite level software that is intuitive, visually appealing, and effective. That is exactly what Exercise.com delivers to its clients.
Jimmy Myers
Owner/Trainer, Relentless Sports Performance

To learn more about the Exercise.com personal training software platform, book a demo today!

Learning How to Train Older Clients

To learn how to train older clients, it’s imperative that you have a thorough understanding of what an older client is and why it’s important to offer specific training practices with them.

What is an older client?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), an older client is an adult over the age of 65. Many sources, including the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) provide separate exercise and physical activity guidelines for older clients.

In short, older clients tend to be at an increased risk for chronic diseases, conditions, or other ailments that could be considered contraindications to specific training modalities.

Do you need to be certified to train older clients?

Training senior citizens comes with greater risk and thus greater responsibility for trainers. Trainers should be certified when working with any client but especially older clients. A basic Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) credential can help trainers establish safe workout regimens while reducing liability if something goes wrong.

There is a handful of certifications that could enhance your understanding and preparedness when learning how to train older clients. Some examples include:

  • ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)
  • ACE Medical Exercise Specialist
  • NASM Senior Fitness Specialization (SFS)

Overall, the above certifications will help trainers learn the appropriate training intensities and exercises to accommodate a variety of conditions common to older clients. What are the considerations for fitness testing and programming for older clients?

There are many considerations when working with older adults. For example, one of the primary concerns for training older adults is decreased bone mineral density which could eventually become osteoporosis.

Due to this decrease in bone mineral density, older adults typically can’t handle the same loads on their bones or joints. Examples of excessive stressors include high impact (jumping) and heavy resistance training. Heavy is a relative term, but usually, anything over 80% of a client’s one-repetition maximum is considered heavy.

In this case, some exercises to avoid could be box jumps, power cleans, or other ballistic exercises. Although it is important for older adults to maintain power, there might be better alternatives that could reduce the impact on their joints.

For starters, it helps to understand that training senior clients require more planning and consideration. Normal exercises often require modifications, depending on how able a senior client is. Some seniors can run marathons while others struggle to roll out of bed.

A common exercise like the squat can be exceedingly difficult for some older clients, so offering modifications is paramount to a client’s success if they can’t adequately perform the exercise. No success leads to diminishing motivation. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help trainers prepare to coach cardio or strength exercises for older adults.

In today’s fitness industry, there is a growing demand for trainers who specialize in working with older clients. As the population ages, it becomes increasingly important to understand the unique needs and considerations when it comes to training seniors. We will explore various aspects of training older clients, from understanding their unique needs to designing safe and effective exercise programs.

Understanding the Unique Needs of Older Clients

Older clients often have different goals and limitations compared to their younger counterparts. It is crucial for trainers to be well-versed in the physiological changes that occur with age, such as decreased muscle mass, loss of bone density, and reduced flexibility. Understanding these changes allows trainers to tailor their approach and provide effective and appropriate workouts.

Furthermore, trainers must also be knowledgeable about common age-related health conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases. This knowledge enables trainers to modify exercises and design programs that are safe and beneficial for older adults.

In addition to physiological changes and age-related health conditions, trainers working with older clients should also consider the psychological and emotional aspects of aging. Many older adults may experience feelings of self-consciousness or insecurity about their bodies and abilities. Trainers should create a supportive and non-judgmental environment to help older clients feel comfortable and confident during their workouts.

Another important factor to consider when working with older clients is the potential impact of medications. Many older adults take multiple medications to manage chronic conditions, and these medications can have side effects that may affect their exercise performance. Trainers should be aware of the potential interactions between medications and exercise, and work closely with clients and their healthcare providers to ensure safe and effective workouts.

Importance of Exercise for Older Adults

Regular exercise is essential for maintaining health and well-being, regardless of age. For older adults, exercise offers a myriad of benefits, including improved strength and balance, increased bone density, better cardiovascular health, and enhanced mental well-being. It can also help manage chronic conditions and reduce the risk of falls and injuries.

However, it’s important to note that older adults may have concerns and uncertainties about starting or continuing an exercise regimen. Trainers need to address these concerns, provide reassurance, and emphasize the positive impact of exercise on overall health and quality of life.

One concern that older adults may have is the fear of injury or overexertion. It’s important for trainers to educate them on proper form and technique, as well as gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts to prevent injuries. Additionally, trainers can incorporate exercises that focus on improving flexibility and mobility to help reduce the risk of strains and sprains.

Another important aspect to consider when designing exercise programs for older adults is their individual abilities and limitations. Trainers should take into account any pre-existing medical conditions or physical limitations and tailor the exercises accordingly. This may involve modifying certain movements or providing alternative exercises that are more suitable for their specific needs.

Tailoring Workouts for the Aging Population

When designing exercise programs for older clients, trainers should prioritize functional movements that enhance daily activities and promote independence. These may include exercises that improve strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility, as well as activities that mimic real-life movements and tasks.

Additionally, trainers should consider the individual needs and preferences of older clients. Some may enjoy group classes or outdoor activities, while others may prefer one-on-one sessions or low-impact workouts. By tailoring the workouts to each client’s specific needs, trainers can ensure a personalized and enjoyable experience.

It is important for trainers to also take into account any existing medical conditions or physical limitations that older clients may have. This could include modifications to exercises or the use of assistive devices to ensure safety and prevent injury. Regular communication with healthcare professionals may be necessary to ensure that the exercise program is appropriate and beneficial for the client.

In addition to physical exercise, trainers should also emphasize the importance of incorporating other aspects of a healthy lifestyle into the daily routine of older clients. This may include recommendations for proper nutrition, hydration, and adequate rest. Encouraging social engagement and mental stimulation can also contribute to overall well-being and quality of life for the aging population.

Assessing Fitness Levels and Health Conditions

Before starting any exercise program, it is crucial to assess the fitness levels and health conditions of older clients. This assessment helps trainers identify any potential limitations, risks, or contraindications. It is advisable to conduct a comprehensive fitness assessment, including medical history review, body composition analysis, strength and flexibility measurements, and cardiovascular endurance testing.

Trainers should also collaborate with medical professionals when necessary, especially when working with clients who have chronic conditions or complex health issues. This collaboration ensures that workouts are designed in a way that complements medical treatments and provides the best possible outcome for the client.

Designing Safe and Effective Exercise Programs

Once the fitness assessment is complete, trainers can proceed to design safe and effective exercise programs for their older clients. It is crucial to focus on gradual progressions, starting with appropriate intensity and volume and gradually increasing as the client becomes more comfortable and proficient in the exercises.

Trainers should aim to incorporate a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups and movement patterns. This helps prevent muscle imbalances, promotes overall strength and stability, and ensures a well-rounded workout experience. Additionally, exercises that target balance, coordination, and flexibility are vital for maintaining independence and preventing falls.

Incorporating Strength Training for Older Clients

Strength training is a crucial component of any exercise program, regardless of age. For older clients, it becomes even more important as it helps counteract the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. Trainers should prioritize exercises that target major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, chest presses, rows, and deadlifts.

However, it is essential to choose appropriate resistance and modifications tailored to each client’s capabilities. Trainers should carefully monitor form and technique to ensure safety and effectiveness. Strength training can be conducted using free weights, resistance bands, machines, or bodyweight exercises, depending on the client’s preferences and abilities.

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Aging Individuals

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for maintaining heart health, boosting endurance, and improving overall fitness levels. Trainers should incorporate cardiovascular conditioning into exercise programs for older clients, considering low-impact options like walking, cycling, swimming, or using elliptical machines.

It is crucial to emphasize proper warm-up and cool-down routines, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of cardiovascular exercise, while monitoring heart rate and perceived exertion. Trainers should encourage interval training to challenge cardiovascular fitness levels while allowing adequate recovery periods.

Flexibility and Mobility Exercises for Seniors

Flexibility and mobility exercises are vital for maintaining joint health, preventing injuries, and ensuring functional movement patterns. Trainers should incorporate exercises and stretches that target major muscle groups and address common areas of tightness and stiffness, such as the hips, spine, and shoulders.

Static stretches, dynamic stretches, and mobility drills can all be incorporated into workouts to enhance flexibility and joint range of motion. It is important to pay attention to proper form and technique, encourage proper breathing, and avoid excessive bouncing or aggressive stretching.

Balance and Fall Prevention Strategies for Older Adults

One of the significant concerns for older adults is the risk of falls and subsequent injuries. Trainers should prioritize exercises that improve balance, coordination, and proprioception to reduce the risk of falls and enhance overall stability.

Balance exercises can include various activities such as single-leg exercises, standing on uneven surfaces, or utilizing balance boards or stability balls. Trainers should gradually progress the difficulty of these exercises, ensuring the safety and comfort of the client at all times.

Modifying Exercises to Accommodate Physical Limitations

As trainers work with older clients, they may encounter physical limitations due to injuries, surgeries, or age-related conditions. It is crucial to adapt exercises to accommodate these limitations and ensure a safe and effective workout experience.

Modifications may include reducing the range of motion, using assistive devices like chairs or stability bars, or finding alternative exercises that target the same muscle groups. Trainers should also provide clear instructions and cues to help clients maintain proper alignment and form throughout the exercises.

Using Functional Training to Improve Daily Activities

Functional training focuses on exercises that improve strength, mobility, and stability specific to daily activities. Trainers should incorporate functional movements like squats, lunges, pushing, pulling, and rotational exercises that mimics everyday tasks like getting up from a chair, carrying groceries, or climbing stairs.

By incorporating functional training into workouts, trainers can help older adults maintain their independence and improve their quality of life. Additionally, functional training can also contribute to better balance, coordination, and neuromuscular control.

Nutrition Guidelines for Older Clients’ Fitness Goals

While exercise is an essential component of healthy aging, nutrition also plays a vital role. Trainers should provide basic nutrition guidelines to their older clients, emphasizing the importance of a well-balanced diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Additionally, trainers should educate clients about the importance of staying hydrated, especially during exercise. They should also address any specific nutritional needs or concerns that may arise due to age-related conditions or medications.

Motivating and Encouraging Older Adults in their Fitness Journey

Motivation and encouragement are key factors in any fitness journey, including that of older adults. Trainers should take the time to understand their clients’ goals, interests, and challenges to provide personalized support and motivation.

Positive reinforcement, goal-setting, and progress tracking can all contribute to older clients’ motivation and adherence to their exercise programs. Additionally, trainers should create a supportive and inclusive environment that fosters camaraderie and social connections among older adults.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Workout Plans as Needed

Regular progress monitoring is crucial for ensuring that older clients are making progress towards their goals and staying on track with their exercise programs. Trainers should implement regular assessments to evaluate strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness.

Based on the assessment results, trainers can make necessary adjustments to the workout plans to continue challenging and progressing their clients. Modifications could include changing exercise selection, adjusting intensity, or introducing new training methods to prevent stagnation and ensure continued improvement.

Addressing Common Concerns and Questions from Older Clients

Older clients may have specific concerns and questions related to exercise, such as possible risks, discomfort, or uncertainty about their capabilities. Trainers should create an open and safe space for clients to communicate their concerns without judgment or fear.

By addressing these concerns through open communication and providing education and reassurance, trainers can help older clients overcome barriers and approach their fitness journey with confidence and enthusiasm.

Tips for Building Trust and Building Relationships with Older Clients

Establishing trust and building a positive working relationship with older clients is essential for a successful and enjoyable training experience. Trainers should prioritize active listening, empathy, and respect when working with older adults.

Regular communication, providing clear explanations, and giving positive feedback are effective ways to build trust and rapport with older clients. Trainers should take the time to understand their clients’ individual needs, preferences, and goals, tailoring their approach and coaching style accordingly.

Working with Age-Related Health Conditions in the Gym Setting

Older clients may have age-related health conditions that require additional attention and caution in the gym setting. Trainers should educate themselves about common conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

By understanding these conditions, trainers can modify exercises, monitor responses, and provide appropriate guidance to ensure the safety and well-being of their older clients. Collaboration with healthcare professionals, such as physicians, physical therapists, or dieticians, can provide valuable insights and guidance.

Enhancing Mental Well-being through Exercise for Seniors

Exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but also plays a vital role in enhancing mental well-being. Trainers should emphasize the positive impact of exercise on mood, cognitive function, stress reduction, and overall psychological well-being.

Encouraging older clients to engage in activities they enjoy, such as group classes, outdoor workouts, or social activities, can contribute to their overall mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, trainers should promote mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and stress-management strategies as part of their exercise programs.

Celebrating the Achievements and Success Stories of Older Clients

Finally, it is essential to celebrate the achievements and success stories of older clients. Trainers should acknowledge milestones reached, personal records broken, or specific goals achieved.

This celebration can help motivate clients to continue working towards their goals and inspire others in their age group. Sharing success stories can build a sense of community and encourage camaraderie among older adults in the gym.

Training older clients requires a unique understanding of their needs and considerations. By implementing the strategies, guidelines, and adjustments discussed in this article, trainers can provide safe, effective, and enjoyable workouts that ultimately contribute to their older clients’ health, well-being, confidence, and quality of life.

What is the key focus when training older adults?

The key focus when training older adults is to maintain or increase strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. This helps to improve overall functionality, independence, and quality of life. Programs should be tailored to the individual’s capabilities and health status, with an emphasis on gradual progression and safety.

How do you strength train older people?

Strength training for older adults typically involves light to moderate intensity resistance exercises. This can be done using body weight, resistance bands, or light weights. The training should target all major muscle groups and be done two or more days a week. It’s crucial to focus on form and control to minimize the risk of injury.

What is the best strength training for a 60 year old woman?

The best strength training for a 60-year-old woman might involve a mix of resistance exercises targeting all major muscle groups, along with balance and flexibility exercises. This could include leg lifts, light squats, seated rowing, chest presses, bicep curls, and stretching exercises. As always, any new exercise program should be started under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

What are the four main types of exercise that seniors need to stay healthy?

The four main types of exercise that seniors need to stay healthy are strength training, balance exercises, flexibility exercises, and endurance activities. Strength training helps to maintain muscle mass and bone health, balance exercises reduce the risk of falls, flexibility exercises enhance joint health and range of motion, and endurance activities improve cardiovascular health.

What encourages elderly people to make their muscles stronger?

Education about the benefits of strength training, personalized training programs, and regular feedback can encourage elderly people to make their muscles stronger. A supportive and social environment can also motivate continued participation.

How many reps should seniors do?

For strength training, seniors should generally aim to complete 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. The resistance or weight should be heavy enough that the last two repetitions are challenging but can be completed with good form.

How many times a week should seniors do strength training?

Seniors should aim to do strength training exercises two or more days a week, according to the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

Should elderly people perform strength training?

Yes, strength training is beneficial for elderly people. It can help to maintain muscle mass, improve balance and coordination, enhance bone health, and promote overall functionality and independence. However, any new exercise program should be started under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

What is the most important exercise for seniors to master?

Balance exercises are crucial for seniors to master, as they can help prevent falls, a common cause of serious injury in this age group. Exercises like heel-to-toe walking, leg lifts, and tai chi can improve balance and coordination.

Which is the most common barrier to exercise in seniors?

The most common barrier to exercise in seniors often includes health issues and fear of injury. Other barriers can include lack of motivation, belief that exercise is not beneficial, lack of social support, and environmental issues such as lack of access to safe places to exercise.

What are three ways exercise can benefit elderly people?

Exercise can benefit elderly people by improving physical strength and endurance, enhancing balance and flexibility, and promoting better mental health through the release of endorphins. Exercise can also help manage chronic conditions, improve sleep, and boost overall independence and quality of life.

What are the benefits of training for older adults?

Training for older adults has numerous benefits, including maintaining muscle mass and strength, improving balance and coordination, enhancing bone health, promoting cardiovascular health, improving mood and cognitive function, and supporting overall independence and quality of life.

Software Tools for Training Older Clients

There aren’t any rigid rules for training older clients, but there are some suggestions. With so much variance from client to client, it’s important to accommodate each client individually rather than having a generic routine. This is why your initial fitness assessment is pivotal.

Fitness Assessments for Older Clients

Fitness assessments are crucial to creating an appropriate program for your clients. You’ll want to create an assessment that addresses several fitness-related components to find your client’s strengths and weaknesses.

A good assessment will cover balance, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, and body composition. When working with older adults, you might want to have progressive assessments to get a better idea of each client’s movement capacity.

Unilateral (single arm/leg) movements can challenge a client’s balance and strength, however, not every client will be able to perform a lunge. You’ll have to use the appropriate judgment when assessing each client.

With Exercise.com, you can capitalize on health and fitness assessment software by generating customizable assessments catered to each of your clients’ needs. You can include the necessary modifications to promote your clients’ safety.

Using this software, you’ll be able to conduct and track assessment results to monitor the progress of any parameter you choose. From there, you’ll be able to start building exercise programs for older adults.

Customizable Exercise Library for Older Clients

Offering exercise modifications for senior clients is important for their safety and satisfaction. For older adults who haven’t performed resistance training in many years, they may be lacking some neuromuscular skills and ultimately, coordination.

One of the most important basics of training older adults is being prepared with exercise modifications. This is increasingly important when creating strength workouts for older adults. Exercise.com’s customizable exercise library can help you build a strong visual for your older clients.

When creating workouts for older clients, you’ll be able to provide them with a visual aid that shows them exactly how to perform an exercise the way you would want it done. You can also include any special cues or notes that might help complete the exercise safely. 

In addition, your exercise library will be custom-designed with your brand, colors, and even your employees. You can feature your company employees throughout your library videos to provide your clients with a familiar face while directing their movement. This is an optional feature if you don’t find it necessary.

Your customizable exercise library is convenient since you can add NASM exercises for seniors, TRX senior exercises, or anything else you find appropriate. This exercise library is always accessible to your older clients, so they’ll be able to refer back to it if they decide to train without you.

Workout Software for Senior Clients

Older adults often need additional guidance when starting a new fitness program. During this time, it’s important that you emphasize your specific training protocols when training older clients. Once your clients have been familiarized with your exercises, training parameters, and expectations, you can be more flexible with training.

As your clients become more adept, you’ll be able to let them work more independently. Exercise.com’s workout software can help you and your clients by offering them increased freedom while maintaining high-quality programming and accountability.

This software will allow you to send your clients workouts that they can log on the go. They’ll be able to contact you with any necessary questions about the workouts as well as access the exercise library you’ve created.

By logging their workouts, your clients will also have access to workout analytics to ensure that they are progressing with different exercises. As a trainer, you’ll be able to automate workouts so you can create them any time of day while delivering them at a convenient time for your clients.

Training Older Clients: The Bottom Line

Training older clients requires a lot more than just general knowledge. It requires education, empathy, and a host of software tools built with customization and adaptation in mind.

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“Working with Exercise.com and their team has been an amazing experience and a dream come true in terms of accomplishing a vision! Their workout technology has helped us effectively engage our community, and I highly recommend Exercise.com to grow your business!”
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Co-Founder, AMPD Golf Performance

To learn more about how Exercise.com can help you train senior clients, book a demo today!


  1. https://www.aha.org/news/chairpersons-file/2020-08-24-chair-file-working-create-age-friendly-health-systems
Thomas Barnett is a writer for Exercise.com and a Professor of Exercise Science at Keiser University. He has over eight years of experience working in rehabilitation, personal training, and strength and conditioning. Additionally, Thomas holds a Master's Degree in Human Performance, a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), a Certified USA Weightlifting Coach, and holds the ACSM Exercise is Medicine Credential. When he isn't working or training, he enjoys a good game of rugby or can be found fishing and/or exploring the Florida coast.
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