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The Trouble with Trainers

I am a Senior Strength & Conditioning Specialist. I graduated with a B.Sc. in Physical Education way back in 1971. I started training clients in 1969 at a local YWCA in Ft. Worth, Texas. I have built over 20 fitness facilities across Canada and was certified as a trainer by BCRPA, ACE and received my Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist from the NSCA all back in 1995. I am 65 years old; I’ve trained with the best of the best and I have been around.

Training seniors can be a very lucrative and rewarding business. Problem is all young trainers want to train athletes or specialize in “sports specific” exercises. The older generation usually get passed onto some young novice trainer who took a weekend course called “Third Age” on how to deal with the older generation.

Well, listen up, I AM the older generation. I train them and I work out myself. I know from what I speak. We are not all old “geezers.” Senior clients do not appreciate male trainers wearing muscle shirts to show off their bulging tattooed biceps, nor scantily dressed female trainers. Remember trainers, it’s not about YOU.

I currently live and train clients in Ajijic, Mexico, which not only has one of the best weather systems in the world but a huge population of expatriates from everywhere. My clients range from 55 – 85 years of age. These people do not want to be old. They want to stay young and vibrant and aesthetics as well as health are important to them. Strength training will also keep their brains in tip-top shape.

I do not condone machine training; in fact I have but two pieces of machine-type equipment.

I have a chin/dip assist (two of the best upper body exercises) and a dual pulley, multi-positioned cable-crossover. It takes the place of a dozen different machines, but all in the standing position.

I deal in dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. Bands, balls, gym rings, power rack and kickboxing make up the rest of my arsenal. With kickboxing, and they love it, clients don boxing gloves on their hands, bare feet or shoes, and punch and kick into my relatively soft Thai pads which keeps their joints from over-extending and straining and adds a dimension of realism to this combat sport.

All other exercises performed are functional, and by that I don’t mean kneeling on a Swiss Ball, curling a dumbbell with one arm and overhead lifting simultaneously with the opposite hand. That is neither functional nor strength building but simply a circus act directed by an inexperienced trainer.

Seniors love to feel the empowerment of strength training, combined with kickboxing, and yes they can rise to the occasion. We perform body-weight deep, full squats and dynamic lunges. All my clients do one-legged split squats as well as one-legged dead lifts to balance out the lower body. Dumbbells and kettlebells are used to eliminate muscle imbalances in the upper body. Everyone starts out with a 10 lb. kettlebell for overhead lifts even if it’s with both hands on one bell. Go heavy or go home.

Heavy pulling or rowing exercises are best performed on a pulley machine from a standing position to spare the low back from having to stabilize in a bent-over position. Inverted rows on gym rings are ideal. Gaining senior strength is paramount. Rather than just going for maximum weight, we use a system of tri-setting, where a muscle group is hit three times from different directions with little rest between sets. This works the muscles but spares the joints.

As I am also a senior, my clients feel comfortable discussing their personal problems with someone they can relate to. It is necessary to be light on your feet and change hats on a moment’s notice. I deal with housewives, former CEOs of large corporations, self-made individuals and retired bus drivers. We kibitz, gossip, curse, tell inappropriate jokes and say politically incorrect things. I become their friend. They do appreciate hard workouts though, and will give it their all.

Don’t baby them.

They need to be challenged and will love you for it. I am always being referred to as a “slave driver” or my gym as a “chamber of horrors,” but they keep on coming back.

By the way, I charge 2-3x what other local trainers do and my gym is always busy.

If you decide that training seniors is your market niche, treat them with respect, yet have fun with them and you will get maximum performance from their endeavours. They have done things and been places and experienced events you have yet to learn. Listen to them, sympathize with them, but kick their butts in a safely prescribed manner. You will both profit.

For further information visit: to see how the older generation trains.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2012 at 3:13 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.