I just started training my first client at my new job. She is a 50 y.o. female who is overweight and undertrained. I met with her last week and took her through a 20 min walk w incline on the treadmill, followed by some basic body weight exercises. I had her do 6 lunges on each leg and afterwards she said her quads were cramping so bad that she couldnt walk or stand. I wasn’t sure what to do so I had her just sit and do some bicep curls. Later we did some crunches on a large ball and she said her abs were cramping the same way. I guess I’m not really sure what to do in this situation… I find it hard to believe that such little movement could cause such a negative reaction. I’m drawing a blank about what to do the next time we meet because I don’t want to overwork her, but she wants to lose weight and get in shape so she’s going to have to do SOMETHING. Like I said, she’s my first client and I’m used to training myself… so any advice for training super beginners would be great! Thanks!!!
The simplest way I can explain this is as follows: without knowing much about your client’s situation, fitness level, health history, etc., I would suggest for you to have her keep moving for as much as possible. By moving I mean walking outside or on the treadmill or even on the bike. With clients like yours, I almost never have them perform any kind of squats or lunges in their first few sessions until I have a better idea about their condition and I have gain their trust. Keeping them on the move as much as possible would be enough to get their heart rate up. I use bands for their upper body by performing a few simple pull/push moves. In her mind taking the first step and start working out is a big one. So you need to make sure you don’t make it a negative experience for her because she could very easily shut down and get withdrawn. Diet plays an important role in her plan to lose weight, so make sure she has one that is simple to follow (talking to a RD would be highly recommended).
I’m sure other trainer here would give you some very good advice for you to consider.
I agree with what Harris said. With a new client, always “dip your toe in the water”, until you know what they can & cannot handle. Her muscle cramping could have been due to dehydration, so make sure she knows to drink water throughout the day and during her workouts. Make sure she also knows to have a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before her workout. Sometimes people who are trying to lose weight skip meals, thinking they’ll burn more fat during their workouts; they’ll sometimes get lightheaded or nauseous, so be sure she’s eating, too.
Some things I’ve found *most* deconditioned clients can do:
Squats (or half or quarter squats) with a stability ball behind the back *or* holding TRX straps (TRX preferred; sometimes new clients are scared the ball will roll out from behind them)
Wall push-ups or TRX chest press (from an easy position)
Resisted torso rotations on a cable station (or with a resistance band)
Rows with a cable station or resistance band or TRX
Lat pulldown (to the front only)
Bridging on a mat or BodyWedge
Dumbbell Hammer Curl with overhead press
Step-ups on a low aerobic step (4-6″)
“Pointer Dogs” in all-fours position, if knees aren’t an issue
Always give your client the option to veto any exercise that doesn’t feel right. (She may not be ready for it yet, but in 2-3 weeks will be fine with it.) Don’t try to train her the way you train yourself; always remember, you are not your client, and this client needs to start from Square one.
One thing you can try: Do tri-sets, where each group of exercises has one for the lower body, one for the upper body, and one for the core. While one body area is resting, she’ll be working something else. Circuits also work well for deconditioned clients if the moves are alternated in like fashion.
Good luck, Randi. Your asking the question today shows that you care, and you’ll be a great trainer.
Harris and Linda gave you some great answers. It is very hard for those of us who are fit to understand how hard it is for the overweight and sedentary to do “anything”. As Harris said a recumbent bike is great for those who are overweight, I would not start someone sedentary with inclines on the treadmill either. Crunches on or off the ball are problematic as well, as they can put stress on an already stressed lower back. Linda had great ideas with the circuits and TRX assisted work. I would add that bird dogs can be hard for the sedentary. You might want to start with a modified bird dog; just have her move her arms or legs making sure she can keep good form before adding both together. Talk to her, ask her how she feels throughout the workout, it may be easy to you, but she may feel maxed out. Be encouraging; just showing up is an achievement, make sure she feels that.
I must confess I was not surprised that your new client’s body reacted this way. You call her ‘overweight and undertrained’, and the exercises you picked were way too much for her.
There seems to be a notion that ‘basic body weight exercises’ are things everybody can do. But there is nothing basic about a lunge. It is a highly complex move that I personally to not do with any client on the first workout. Please consider that her excess weight adds a significant additional load to every movement.
She has recognized that the needs to lose weight and get in shape but it does not all have to happen in the first two weeks of working out.
In a case like hers I start with stabilization exercises to work her core and make her feel successful with some exercises. The others already gave you good pointers.
You have not completed your profile but I assume that you have a certification during which you have learned about fitness assessments which are the base for any exercise program.
I concur with the others
It’s very important to start out with exercises that fit your clients’ level of fitness.
I would concentrate on a circuit type of workout, not over doing anything in particular but moving from one body part to the next, until she becomes confident and stronger.
Lunges are very difficult to teach and very difficult to execute properly.
its important to make exercise fun!