Training the Obese or Overweight Client

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Every night I come home from work where I usually sit down, make a protein shake of some sort, defrag my brain for 20-30 minutes (ie: put some light jazz or classical music on the radio), and chillax.  Afterwards, I’ll pop open my laptop, procrastinate, read some miscellaneous stuff, and then start sifting through emails and respond to queries from distance coaching clients and such.

After that, I’ll play catch up on any other “project(s)” I have in the works:  articles, programs, or future blog ideas.  Yes, my life is that exciting.

The latter, however, is what got me last night.  Sometimes I’ll think of a good blog idea from a conversation I had at the facility, or I’ll read something in an article or book and want to elucidate my own thoughts on the matter. Or, much like last night, I’ll draw a blank, start hyperventilating into a brown bag, and ask for help on Facebook.  Before I hit the hay last night, here’s what I left as my status update

Quick, give me an idea for a blog post!

I woke up this morning still not really sure what I wanted to write about, but thankfully, a few “friends” came to my rescue.

One idea in particular which a handful of people suggested – and it’s actually something I’ve been meaning to write about, but just never got to it – is the whole concept of how to go about training obese clients.   Given the popularity of shows like The Biggest Loser (and the inevitable face palm I give myself everytime I watch an episode), I thought it would cool to jot down a few ideas.

The Anti-Biggest Loser Approach

Since this is a pretty heavy (ha, no pun intended, sorry) subject, and one that could easily turn into a full-length article, I’m going to instead write this post in list format and use more of a bullet-point approach.  Basically, all I want to do here is

  • The most important thing you need to remember when training an obese client is that you can throw the rules out the window.  I remember an article that Mike Boyle wrote on the topic not too long ago where he stated that, much to my surprise, there are a few things that he WON’T do with an obese client, namely:  foam roll, static stretch, core work, and single training.

What the What???

  • I know it sounds like blasphemy to say the above should be omitted, especially given that they’re pretty much the staples of any well-rounded program, but here’s some rationale.

Foam Roll:  for many, this will be a workout on it’s own, and will undoubtedly affect the rest of the training session moving forward.  Getting up, down, then back up again is going to be cumbersome for the obese client.  Moreover, and this is something I didn’t think of until Mike pointed it out, it could very well be embarrassing for the client – and that’s something you want to avoid at all costs.

Static Stretching:  much like above, stretching can be problematic.  And, to be honest, as much as I feel that tissue quality and health IS important – when you’re dealing with someone who’s upwards of 100+ lbs overweight, there are more pressing issues to be dealt with and prioritized.  You know, stuff like not having a heart attack.

Core Work:  here is where I kinda disagree with Mike (to a degree).  I think much of the “core” work that obese clients will receive will come from the training in general, so there’s no inherent need to include a lot of isolated core work.  That said, I do feel that exercises such as standing band pallof presses (and the like) are a valuable addition, and provide a lot of bang for their buck with regards to training obese clientele.  Planks, on the other hand, not worth it.

Single Leg Work:  under normal circumstances, I’d place single leg work as arguably one the most important components of a well-rounded program.  But here, not so much.  Think about it, if you’re working with an individual who’s 300+ lbs, that’s A LOT of weight to place on the knee joint, and it’s something that’s going to be far too challenging for them to do – maybe even dangerous.

  • Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, it’s about showing them SUCCESS and not making them feel like a walking ball of fail! The last thing you want to do is have him or her perform exercises that are too hard or just plain impossible to do, because the likelihood they’ll come back is slim to none.
  • On that note, please, for the love of god, stop with this whole “functional training” mumbo-jumbo.  Having a client juggle oranges while standing with one leg on a BOSU is NOT functional.  It’s dumb, and a complete waste of time.

  • In its place, I’d focus more on basic movement patterns.  You know, things that they’ll actually use in every day life:  squat pattern, hip hinge, upper body push, upper body pull, etc.  Too, it probably wouldn’t hurt to include some basic dynamic movement drills into the mix as well.

So, using a few examples, it may look something like this:

Squat Pattern:  Bench of Box Squat using bodyweight only to start.  In addition, don’t be too concerned with attaining proper squat depth here.  Surprisingly, some obese clients will demonstrate great hip mobility with the squat; but for those who have a problem, just use a ROM that they’re able to achieve and work off of that.

***Of note:  I’ve found that the TRX is a FANTASTIC tool to use when teaching an obese client to squat.  By un-loading their bodyweight, you can easily “groove” an almost picture perfect squat pattern with the TRX.

Upper Body Push:  Preferably, I like to use a push-up pattern here where we elevate the client on the pins of a power rack; or by using the wall.  Whatever works

Hip Hinge Pattern:  Depending on how kinesthetically aware they are, you can use an elevated trap bar, or, go straight up dowel rod against their back to groove the proper deadlift pattern.

If the former, again, use an elevated setting with the trap bar.  If the latter, simply place a dowel rod against their backside, and make sure that they maintain all three point of contact (band of their head, middle of shoulder blades, and sacrum) as they practice the hip hinge pattern.

Alternatively, exercises such as pull-throughs and maybe even kettlebell swings – done correctly – would be an ideal option here.

Upper Body Pull:  Again, this is where the TRX becomes a valuable piece of equipment as it uses their own bodyweight as resistance and can easily be adjusted to fit their current strength levels.   And, of course, we could also implement exercises like standing 1-arm cable rows or band rows here as well.

Dynamic Movement:  Here, we can possibly incorporate simple movement drills like high knee walks, or maybe even something like a modified yoga plex.

Also, you can include things that are more metabolic in nature like med ball circuits, or even the airdyne bike depending how much you want them to hate life (and you).

Putting it all together, a workout may look something like this:

Warm-Up:  walk on treadmill for 5-10 minutes

Pre Work:  X-Band Walks 2×10/leg, Band Pull-Aparts 2×10

A1.  Bench Squats x 8
A2.  Push-Up – elevated on pins x 8
A3.  Pull-Through x 10
A4.  TRX STEEP Inverted Row x 10
A5.  Band Pallof Press – alphabet (see video above) x 1/side
A6.  Overhead Med Ball Stomps to Floor x 10

Perform above circuit for 4-5 rounds (taking as much time between exercises as needed), with 90-120 seconds of rest between each round.

Follow this with either a circuit of Kettlebell (of DB) Farmer Carries, Prowler, or airdyne work for 5-10 minutes.

I could easily keep going, but this is already getting long enough.  And all of this isn’t taking into consideration the diet side of things.  That’s a whole nother ball of wax.

In a nutshell, though, it pretty much gives you a basic idea of how I would go about designing a program for an obese or overweight client.  It’s pretty much the polar opposite of what The Biggest Loser portrays – but I’d be willing to bet that my way will yield better long-term success without pounding people into the ground.

Have any of your own nuggets to share?  Feel free to comment below!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Karl Gellert

    Fantastic post as usual Tony!

    May 19, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • JB

    Great stuff tony. Bands are also great for deloading movements for less athletic clients (looped over a chin-up bar, and then under the armpits of the client). I hope you don't mind but this reminded me of a bunch of stuff I wanted to write about.. so I piggybacked:

    May 19, 2011 at 8:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Gray

    I love MB circuits for obese clients. They provide great movement patterning as well as some good ol' fashioned butt kickin'

    May 19, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Joaquin G

    this sounds kinda lame but it does work with a few of my heavier clients: incline treadmill walking. most obese/very overweight clients don't do any real moving outside of what they do with me, so usually before or after their work outs i want them to stay an extra 10-20 minutes of a steep incline walk (i usually start them at 5% and work our way up to 15% over the course of a few weeks). why do i do this? just to ensure that they're actually doing the work. heavier clients either bust their butt and don't complain or look for every excuse in the book to either not take blame or look to play victim to their own decisions. it wasn't my choice to have you eat half a dozen doughnuts at work daily for 5 years....jeez. oh and obese children are the worst to work with especially when they think nothings wrong!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:10 am | Reply to this comment

    • Myrrhis

      Hey, Joaquin? I'm going to play grammar Nazi, since you seem to want to play the fitness counterpart. Oof, I take it back. Too many errors. Hey, it wasn't my choice to have you zone out in class for 12 years.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Chantel Hyatt

      I'm sorry but I just have to say something and it may be blunt but by the way you can talk I'm sure you can also take it. So WOW if you are a personal trainer of any sort I don't imagine a very successful one. My son happens to fall into the "oh and obese children are the worst to work with ESPECIALLY when they think nothing is wrong!" category, I knew that I had to figure away to fix this before it gets to out of control. So I start to research and find places and people who are trained in this to help as I'm also overweight and I need to change that for my own health and for my sons. And I get discouraged and lose any confidence I had once I read crap like what you have wrote. If you really don't help build the person up from the inside you will never see results on the outside and that comes from the many years of being judge by people such as yourself with assumptions that we obese folk are just looking to "complain or look for every excuse in the book to either not take the blame or look to play victim to their own decisions." With you just affirming all of my insecurities how would I still have motivation or drive to even try why bother right all I'am doing when I leave my training with you is "eat half a dozen doughnuts at work daily for 5 years." If you can be this cold and inconsiderate of the fact that obese people have been told their whole life that they were fat and have had their self esteem shattered. If a person doesn't have self worth in themselves then they will never succeed and I would hope that a personal trainer of obese clients would have the decency to do whatever they could to motivate and boost their self confidence and encourage them and assure them that up until now they were unable to succeed but with a strong support they will accomplish this goal. It's not about making them stay extra to do a workout to prove to you that they actually managed to do some sort of exercise. Very rude and unprofessional and to think the actual blog was written for people with workout lingo knowledge and not very learner friendly for beginners taking steps to become healthy. With your ignorant post I have most certainly had all my thoughts confirmed that a trainer isn't interested in doing anything but collecting cash. Sad very sad I will pray for you to find the will to love yourself enough so that you can maybe spare some on your clients and really become a champion.

      March 22, 2014 at 5:27 am | Reply to this comment

      • Rachel

        I just want you to know that not all personal trainers have this point of view. Some personal trainers genuinely want to help people and make a difference. An intelligent personal trainer would know that everyone has a past and makes mistakes and would look to helping you obtain your future goals. Having someone to motivate and support you can be an amazingly powerful thing. I think you just need to find a trainer who does care about more than a pay check. They are out there! Also kudos to you for deciding to make a change in your life please don't give up!

        April 19, 2014 at 11:02 pm | Reply to this comment

        • Ginger Snyder Morgan

          Rachel, how heartwarming to know that people like you are out there! It is my fault that I'm overweight -- I realize that -- but I have had "help" with my weight gain with 2 transplants, a stroke, and chronic vertigo (try doing ANY workout with that!). So I, too, don't appreciate the snarky tone. I'd love to have a PT like you who would work with and encourage me! I'm in it for the long haul.

          February 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Reply to this comment

      • sallie

        Maybe you should re-read what they wrote.... "Heavier clients either bust their butts and don't complain OR ..." You seem to have ignored the first part of the sentence.

        July 5, 2015 at 8:27 am | Reply to this comment

      • Harland

        I concur Chantel. I feel too that comments such as those feed into a self defeating behavior that comes from many years of emotional abuse by others and a very selfish society. Hence the prayers that I would also offer. We don't go to trainers to basic or for a lack thereof. We go to trainers because they have been in our shoes before.

        January 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Faith

      The way you refer to obese people you should not be a personal trainer for them. Not all obese people eat large amounts of bad food like you insinuated, They way you spoke was horrendous and I hope you do not train obese any longer.

      April 6, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Lori Reaves

      That attitude can't help but come through to your clients. It's like when my doc says, "You're fat." No shit, Sherlock. I can't believe I paid my co-pay to have you tell me something that basic. If they're coming to you, they're trying to change their lives. They already face the insecurity of walking into the gym to begin with. They look around at sleek, strong, young, healthy bodies dressed in the scantest of clothing. If they don't bolt, they deserve your respect. NOT because they "ate 1/2 a dozen donuts at work daily for 5 years," but because they're WORKING at CHANGING. And, by the way, you have no idea how they got that fat. Sure, it's likely they have a fork issue. But what about the widow who lost a husband and is working like mad to help her kids through their grief ahead of her own? Instead, she gets them to bed and falls apart over 1/2 gallon of Breyer's ice cream. Or maybe he's like the student I have right now who was hit by a semi 2 years ago, died 3 times in ICU, has had 34 surgeries in the last 2 years, and is terrified of the minimum of 4 more he still faces. Or... or... or... there is so much more to people than their fat. Do they need to lose weight? AB-SO-DAMN-LUTELY. But they deserve - they NEED - they ONLY have a chance at SUCCESS - if they have someone on their side, cheering them on every step of the way. They don't need anyone else taunting them with, "You're only getting what you deserve." They do it enough to themselves. Go back to your skinny clients in spandex. You don't deserve a precious obese client.

      March 17, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Andy

    This is an interesting and timely blog post as I have started to wonder how to train my obese (50 lbs over ideal weight) mother. One question I have though is how does what you said above change when dealing with older-obese clients (over 60)? Would you implement what listed above with this population or change it? If so, how? Many thanks, and great blog post!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:11 am | Reply to this comment

    • mom's to muscle

      I am also a personal trainer and have worked with all sizes and ages.. Yes the older adults are the same as anyone else.. In fact depending on the level the older adult may have more challenging workouts than someone10 years younger!

      May 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kashka

    I have always seen pictures and videos, but the other day for the first time in real life I saw a trainer teaching body squat on swiss ball at 24 hr fitness. But I gotta say instead of being disgusted, I was kinda impressed, because I have tried it before out of curiosity, always fell on my butt.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:01 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rees

    Interesting. Good stuff. Most of the people I've worked w/ could barely walk whether they had 200+lbs or not due to their ankle and hip mobility. So I use the stick, some ankle mobility and thomas test as a stretch quite a bit....just saying.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike A

    So, are you saying that Jillian Michael's habit of standing on obese peoples legs while they do wall squats is a bad thing?

    May 19, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris Olmstead

    That program looks curiously familiar to what I wrote the other day Tony. After the first session with a new obese client I tore it up and went to the veeery basics. I'm familiar with Boyle's take on training the obese clietn and ended up pretty much mimicking the exact same thing. No rolling, no ground work, a short walk after each set and modified everything. Worked like a charm.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Lewis

    Nice post tony very helpful just atarted training 2 heavily obese (320pounds plus) individuals and needing some ideas. I'm glad to say I didn't foam roll but have incorporated some single leg step ups. Needless to say backs and knees were hurting. Farmers walks they love though! 5 pounds lost last week. thanks for posting this. good to know I'm on the right lines...

    May 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ JB: I don't mind at all - thanks for sharing! @ Joaquin: that's not lame at all my man. Under normal circumstances, I think it's a complete waste of a client's money to have their trainer watch them warm-up on a treadmill. But, in the case of working with an obese client, it's more often than not EXACTLY what a warm-up should be.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Andy: of course, everything is going to depend on a proper assessment. That said, much of what I touched on in the blog post pertains to most individuals regardless of age. But, of course, having the ability to REGRESS exercises as needed is important. @ Chris: great minds think alike, eh? Boyle definitely hit the nail on the head with his original article, and I saw no need to re-invent the wheel. @ Lewis: glad the post was of some help! Thanks for the kind words.

    May 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mark Young

    "it wasn't my choice to have you eat half a dozen doughnuts at work daily for 5 years....jeez" Is this guy freaking serious? He trains obese clients?!? I hope they read this comment demonstrating his obvious weight bias prior to hiring him.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    Great post. I pretty much followed the same line of thinking when I trained larger individuals. I did a lot of push-ups in the rack, cable pushes and cable rows, neutral grip seated rows, lat pulldowns, 1-arm pulldowns with a D-handle, etc. For the lower body, I'd actually begin with a "sit-to-stand" as my initial squat progression. I picked this up from a research study that I helped with data collection on. It's very common protocol used in knee replacement research to assess functionality. So, essentially, I'd start from the bottom and progress to performing a squat from the top down. In terms of single leg work, I'd use a modified split squat. I'd often take two bars, set the pins to an appropriate height, and create my own set of parallel bars in the rack. Then I'd have the person hold onto the bars and lower a knee down while using the bars for assistance. I did this a lot with elderly clients, too. I'd just modify the ROM by placing a mat under the down knee depending upon the client. I'd also do a modified, body weight only single leg RDL by making is more of a "functional reach" exercise. So, I'd have them stand just far enough away from a railing or maybe a bar in a rack and reach to it on one leg and then stand back up. Of course, I was spotting them entirely and following them through each rep. This is also great for older folks and ultimately just helps them to improve their coordination, stability, and general movement. I also used suitcase deadlifts a lot, but I'd use a very light dumbbell and often stack the weight up high enough to keep the ROM of manageable for them. Again, this also works very well for older individuals, too. Often, they have no idea how to hinge and bend down properly. Honestly, I think with obese people, it's a matter of just following the principles of good movement and making modifications. The same is true for the elderly. They are always so amazed when they go..."When am I going to do some real exercises?" and then I show them the advanced versions of what they are really doing. The art of progression is such a beautiful thing!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Reply to this comment

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  • jem

    I think some people try to be all like oh biggest loser does this wrong and that wrong but if you actually watch it from a persons point of view that is or has been in this situation eof being obese you may see things slightly different. I have and watching this show you can gillian and the other trainers push the contestant but then those contestant start to trust the trainers, start to let barriers down and the realization of why and how they became overweigth is revealed. These barriers overweight people have are so hard to break and pushing them until they breakdown seems harsh but tthese trainer care and are prepared to say and do what their loved ones aren't to help them change their lives. Dont judge if you haven't gone through the weight loss journey!

    October 13, 2013 at 5:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jovan

    Great read! I will be training an obese client for the first time and I found this very useful.

    October 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jen Williams

    Hi Tony. I am a obese person and will soon be looking for a trainer. I started at 373 and with nutricion alone I am now down to 340.6. I am eating at about 95% clean and I am very motivated and feel it is time to start a training program. With that said what tips do you have for the obese client when choosing a trainer who will use the methods described in this post? I would like a combo of cardio but more focus on lifting to increase muscle mass for more fat burn overall. I am female and 5'8. Any advice is welcome and appreciated with the exception of the guy who made the doughnut comment LOL. Thank you in advance for your time.

    February 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hi Jen - Thanks for reaching out and CONGRATS on your success! It seems like you've already gotten some good momentum moving forward. I don't feel there's any real criteria here, although I do have some candid thoughts: You should interview THEM. Ask them questions like are they certified, how long have they been training people, do they have experience training someone with a similar background as yourself? Do they actually take you through an assessment? Tell them what YOU want - you're the one paying for their services, and if their philosophy doens't match yours, can they refer you to someone who's a better fit? Good luck!!

      February 21, 2014 at 7:32 am | Reply to this comment

  • Carla Sizelove

    Great article! I really like how you put the client emotional, physical health in consideration. I have seen so many, push clients thru impossible workouts that tore them down, instead of lifting them up.

    March 7, 2014 at 1:09 am | Reply to this comment

  • FitLadyDi

    I only began to read this when I saw you use the word "retarded" as a negative adjective. Please try not to do this, as it really doesn't serve any good purpose to put down a population of mentally handicapped people when you are trying to help physically challenged folks...

    April 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      You're right FItLadyDi....and not that it's an excuse, I did write that article 5-6 years ago. Admittedly I was a lot more immature then. I didn't even know how to use a salad fork then. But you're correct. It hasn't happened since, and your note serves as a nice reminder that I need to go back and change that.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:12 am | Reply to this comment

  • Beth Curtis

    I'm a certified trainer through ACE and I agree about biggest loser lol. Thanks for the article. Came on to get some fresh ideas for a client I'm working with. My complication is that my client is pretty fit but she has diabetic neuropathy in her feet. One thing i do implement as well are the weight machines. they have been a good way to incorporate strength training with her limitations (ex nautilus leg and chest press). Thanks for the ideas.

    July 29, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michelle Rose

    I am an obese client and this has helped me tremendously. I used to be in excellent shape but over exercised (8 miles a day/12 miles on the weekends and ended up with 2 knee replacements. Due to a job commitment for the last two years I wasn't able to exercise or do much physical activity and put on over 80 pounds and am now tipping the scales at 300. Four years ago I had a fall that tore four of my hamstrings and am still struggling with that. I recently switched jobs and rejoined my health club and have been working out with a trainer for the last two weeks but after yesterday's training I was in extreme hamstring pain; and hand pain (i have arthritis in my hands) from doing planks. My brother wants me to put training on hold and get into the pool for a month or two before resuming. I feel as if my trainer takes me from 0 to 60 when I see him and my body is paying a price: PAIN. It takes a long time to recover, too. I see him at 5am and when I get home I have to sit for at least 30 minutes to recover. We are going to talk about it tomorrow but reading your article has helped prepare me for that talk. Thank you!

    April 6, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jill

    Great post. I have my first client as a trainer starting in a week No exercise ever 295lb. This give me a little more confidence going into our first session.

    November 5, 2016 at 5:49 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jill

    Great post. I have my first client as a trainer starting in a week No exercise ever 295lb. This give me a little more confidence going into our first session.

    November 5, 2016 at 6:49 am | Reply to this comment

  • Melissa Ruth

    I'm little late to this conversation but I'm curious.....why not planks? And... do you still feel this way?

    July 19, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      Yeah, I wrote this something like 7-8 years ago. I think planks are "okay." However, with the obese client, who likely already has a hard enough time as it is getting up and down off the floor, I'd rather focus on things that don't shed the spotlight on that so much. Farmer carries, Pallof Presses, anti-rotation chops and lifts (which can all be done standing) will almost always be a better way at demonstrating success and are better than planks if you ask me.

      July 20, 2017 at 7:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Louisa

    Great article. I agree with the part you say if one is training an overweight/obese person the goal should be to show that person some success rather than make him or her feel like a failure. I also agree with the workout examples you've listed above. Bench squats, TRX pull ups and using the med balls would be my favorite. I also came across an article talking of cardio machines (stationary exercise bike) that an obese person can use, . I kind of tend to agree with the writer since these machines would be comfortable enough for a heavy person. I'm afraid that it might be too comfortable for one to not to push themselves sufficiently.

    February 14, 2019 at 7:36 am | Reply to this comment

  • Christine

    Hi, I am actually an obese woman who is almost 50. In my younger years I was an aerobic instructor but after multiple injuries and a horribly abusive marriage I put on over 100 pounds. So here I sit, wanting to get in shape more than anything but I honestly have no idea where to start. I do have quite a bit of muscle mass I think and don't feel like I am starting at ground zero however I do have a couple of leg issues, minor but tissue pain. Overall fairly healthy. I read through your article and it all makes sense. Trying to do what regular people do just does not work for me. Any advice? Thank you! Christine

    January 24, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ed Louw

    Hi Tony, Well written article. My wife and I have trained clients for many years and currently train a number of morbidly obese clients - we have found that respect and empathy for the client and their specific needs will always win the day and help instil confidence in the client.

    January 31, 2020 at 6:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tiggs

    As someone who is obese, I totally disagree with removing foam rolling, statics stretching and core work. My fitness level is well above what people think it is from looking at me. I have a serious amount of muscle mass as well as the fat. Many obese people do (and by the way, many pro athletes are obese going on BMI). For an untrained obese client, yes, you may want to hold off on the foam rolling for a little bit, but don't assume that fat people can't get up and down easily. Assess your new clients abilities first before judging them by their appearance. As muscle building is one of the best ways to boost one's metabolism, looking after those muscles and improving the range of motion is essential. Yes cardio helps, but cardio alone won't make someone very overweight into a svelte supermodel. Also many obese people have gained weight due to chronic pain issues, especially chronic back pain. Building the core is essential to prevent back injuries (or the recurrence of them) in day to day life, especially with people who are otherwise inactive.

    March 20, 2022 at 5:55 am | Reply to this comment

  • OC

    I know this is an old article but I wanted to thank you for writing it. I am a 47 year old former lifter that has now hit middle age and with it comes a gamut of problems. The weight balloon from a svelte 195 to 298 over the course of a decade, metabolism and energy slowed like it does in middle age and came with some foot, ankle, hip and circulation problems as well. I am back to training now and lost quite a bit of weight but here's the thing: A lot or trainers and exercise programs (the vast vast majority) dive in whole hog as if everyone is a 20-30 something person that needs to lose 10-20 pounds and has boundless time, energy, and enthusiasm for lifts. That's just not reality for the average person over 40, even the formerly fit ones. I gleaned some REALLY GOOD tips from this article and the comments as well. I just wish more trainers were grounded in reality, instead of the 20-something gym rats that want to go go go. There are a lot of problems with this approach: injury, overtraining, and being unable to balance your work with fitness because you are too tired to recover. Anyhow, food for thought. I think there's a niche market out there in fitness and training for all people just like me, and it starts with patience and working up to something from almost nothing. Thanks again for the great tips!

    October 26, 2022 at 10:07 am | Reply to this comment

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