I teach older adult resistance training and this is the class I enjoy most. I sometimes do a functional training class where we try to find a function for every exercise. Some things I do are bench sits with a weight simulating sitting with a tray of food or the hammer curl drink lift. I also agree with the previous response about providing different options. The older adult population can be incredibly diverse in abilities.
Assuming that your group does not 1) have balance issues or 2) have limiting orthopedic injuries I always go with function specific, multi-joint exercises for strengthening with this population. Exercises should be in weight bearing positions whenever possible to train for various functional problems that the older adult may encounter as he or she ages – getting on/off the floor, sit stand, stair climbing, etc. Add hand weights, vary the surface if tolerated. Modifications can be made to accommodate injuries but you should still push for max fatigue for the best results.
The key, IMO, to small group training is planning the exercises to that everyone has an option that’s challenging for them, even in partner work. I understand and respect the feelings behind Janet’s last sentence, but there are NO dud partners in my class. The moment we make someone feel like they’re the weakest person or an undesirable partner, we’ve lost them.
I teach primarily with the CrossCore180. I strongly prefer it to the TRX because of its pulley at the top that engages core more effectively (stabilizing transversely), identifies imbalances quickly (they will pull unevenly and it’s very easy to see), and has more exercise possibilities. But regardless of which tool is used, I can put clients of very different levels of fitness on the same move, at the angle that challenges them, and both feel a safe and effective workout.
When I plan partner work, I make sure that the exercises will work if the person with the strongest targeted muscle pairs with the person with the weakest targeted muscle. Most of the time, this means changing their base of support and/or increasing or decreasing lever length. So if I’m doing a stationary warding drill with no equipment, hand to hand, I’ll have the partner with the stronger core stand feet together, or even lifting their inside foot. Additionally I’ll have them extend their arms long. The partner with the less strong core will stand with wider feet and/or they’ll bend their elbows a bit, so the distance between their core and the lever arm shortens.
Multi-level exercises are key (actually, they’re key in any group-ex class, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic that I could hop on a soapbox about). It’s not just with the CrossCore, but with every exercise I do. If I can’t provide a safe option for that exercise for EVERY CLASS ATTENDEE, it doesn’t go into my class plan. OR, I’ll make up an alternate exercise for the one or two people who have injuries and I’ll show them before class, “I made an exercise just for you because I know your shoulder is still hurting. When we do X, your exercise will be to do Y so you can keep your arm below shoulder height.”
There are many partner exercises that work great with bands: ie: facing each other rows, back to back chest press. My student (who are in that age group) also enjoy warding type drills for the core: One example; 2 partners share one band, each holding a handle, they keep the lower body still and do arm circles. There are numerous variations you can do with this including keeping upper body still and lunging or tapping feet back or sideways.
As Nancy suggested it is a good idea to switch the partners around. No one wants the dud partner!
What equipment do you have?
Small-group training is one of my specialties, and although I accept clients of all ages and fitness levels, I tend to get a lot of Boomers who fit into the fitness category you describe – good cardio and general health, looking for more strength and function for daily life.
I do a lot of partner work. My classes are usually 4-6 people, so we’ll start with one pairing and then switch partners several times to encourage community / social / friendship / retention / fun.
1) Lebert Buddy Strap partner bicep / tricep
2) Partner-resisted obliques using CrossCore 180 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFAy9FN7iV4&list=UUMRkhpJ5n03DDlfrxQM58k…
3) Partner-resisted obliques / chest / bicep using bodyweight only https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5rrmJVY-0E&list=UUMRkhpJ5n03DDlfrxQM58k…
Partnering isn’t the only thing I do, but that might give you some ideas.