Strength Training for the Older Client—A Blueprint for Program Design

by Robert Linkul, MS, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D
Personal Training Quarterly June 2017
Vol 5, Issue 1

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This article provides a blueprint and “mini-macrocycle” that will assist the personal trainer in creating a program design for older adults by offering organized templates, direction in selecting exercise components, and the creation of volume controls specific to the client’s needs.

Strength training for the older client (defined as persons 50 and over) can be an intimidating and challenging process for the inexperienced personal trainer for three common reasons (3):

  1. 1. The older client demographic is often untrained or lacking training experience
  2. 2. The older client demographic is fearful of injury or looking foolish in the weight room
  3. 3. The older client demographic possibly has a physical limitation(s) to consider when creating their program design

 

Keeping these concerns in mind, the personal trainer obtains information from their client during their initial interview and consultation, and moves to the task of creating a program design for their first workout. The intention of this article is to provide a blueprint and “mini-macrocycle” that will assist the personal trainer in creating a program design for older adults by offering organized templates, direction in selecting exercise components, and the creation of volume controls specific to their client’s needs.

“In some cases with older clients, a time frame for achievement may not exist at all due to the type of goal set."

The six components of the blueprint include balance and implement tracking, hinges, rows, presses, split stance, and weighted carries. These six components have been selected as they address each major muscle group and include movement patterns and/or skills that are often utilized on a daily basis (3). Each component is broken down from its most simple (auxiliary) movements, progressed to mid-range, and concludes with its most complex (compound) movements. It is the intention of this blueprint to assist the personal trainer in building their client’s ability to perform all of these movements (pending physical limitations) on any given day in any given workout.

“Implement tracking gives the older client the opportunity to practice and improve this skill, along with improved coordination and agility, collectively assisting them in improving their balance and spatial standing.” 

Table 1 provides a “mini-macrocycle” detailing volume controls (e.g., repetitions, sets, load, tempo, recovery, etc.) and further programing details specific to working with older clients. Typical macrocycles outline a year or more of training details ending in a culminating date or event (1). However, in the author’s experience, the older client is often lacking a specific date or event in which they wish to train. For the purpose of this article, a 12-week mini-macrocycle has been created to offer direction on volume control, training themes, and areas of focus for the personal trainer working with an older client.

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »

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Robert C. Linkul, MS, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D, RCPT*D, FNSCA,

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Robert Linkul is the National Strength and Conditioning Associations (NSCA) 2012 Personal Trainer of the Year and is a volunteer with the NSCA as thei...

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