9 Tips To Put In Place When Personal Training Overweight Clients

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As part of your personal training, you will have overweight clients and obese clients coming to you for help on a regular basis.

Whilst you will have some of the fundamental skills to do this, our guide will tell you the best ways to do this to ensure optimum results and high client satisfaction!

Before we start, the best way you can learn the vital skills is with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. By developing your health & fitness knowledge, you can offer expert nutrition advice alongside providing tailored training programmes.

Find out more by contacting us today or download our course prospectus here.

9 Tips for Personal Training Overweight Clients

#1 - Create An Encouraging Environment When Training An Obese Client

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When you’re a personal trainer for obese clients, your clients will possibly have body issues and be incredibly sensitive about their abilities and appearance. 

If you’re aware of the right interpersonal skills to focus on, and how to put them at ease, you will build rapport with them quickly and make them feel comfortable.

When you’re doing personal training for obese clients, the quicker you can ease any embarrassments, the more likely you’ll get long term results. This will help both the client and your reputation, allowing you to make money as a personal trainer as more current clients will direct others to your service.

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Focusing on these things will not just make your client feel more comfortable around you but, as a result, will be:

  • More open and honest about their progress and limitations
  • Trust you and be more likely to come back and invest in more of your services
  • See better results as they will want to put effort into sessions

Most importantly, if you can focus on rapport building as a PT, and create an open line of communication, your clients won’t feel pressured to push themselves too far, risking injury.

When you’re a personal trainer for obese clients you need to make sure you focus on several interpersonal skills for putting clients at ease:

  • Be compassionate and understanding
  • Be encouraging
  • Be mindful of their limits
  • Be sensitive to any embarrassments they might have

In the first stages of your training with obese people, you’ll get an opportunity to do some initial assessments and ask some questions. 

This is where you can display your sensitivity and establish a comfortable environment for the client! 

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In this initial personal trainer consultation, you can focus on using language to ensure the client knows you’re there to support them throughout the sessions and beyond.

Another great way to do this, and become a successful personal trainer for obese clients, is to maintain contact between sessions. 

You can remind clients of what they did well and encourage them to maintain good habits outside of the gym! 

You can use personal trainer software, such as PT Hub, for this as most apps and software options will have a built-in messaging feature!

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By maintaining open channels of communication, you’re making yourself available and easily contactable. This is hugely helpful when training overweight clients if they’re uncertain or lacking in confidence. 

#2 - Know The Weight Limit Of Equipment When Training Overweight People

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It’s incredibly important, when personal training obese clients, to be aware of the weight limit of individual machines you’ll be using on the gym floor.

This is because your clients will already most likely be nervous using equipment, and exercising in general, and this will be made much worse if they break or damage what they’re using!

This means being mindful of the programme you design for clients to make sure you’re optimising results without compromising safety.

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Whether it’s your own equipment (if you’re an independent or mobile PT), or it belongs to the gym you work in, it’s your responsibility to be aware of this before you design sessions for overweight clients.

Training with overweight people, as we’ve already mentioned, involves being sensitive to any potential shame or nervousness they may feel.

If you’re aware of which machinery is safe for use when training overweight people, then you’ll avoid embarrassing them, contributing to the safety and comfort of their sessions.


Become a Level 4 Nutrition Specialist with OriGym

Develop your nutrition knowledge to help overweight clients with our Sports Nutrition Course!

You’ll also be protecting them from injury because if the break or damage occurred whilst using the machine they could seriously hurt themselves. 

Some of the machines that are best suited for training overweight clients include:

  • Treadmill
  • Recumbent exercise bike
  • Rowing machines
  • Elliptical trainers

Another thing to remember when training overweight people is what you’re going to advise outside of your sessions, as most home machines will have a far lower weight capacity than their gym equivalents.

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This means you should be wary of advising clients to use machines they have access to outside of the gym.

You might want to avoid some of the other, lighter equipment depending on the weight of your client, but this should all be managed in a safe and sensitive way.

For example, you may want to avoid using aerobic steps if a client weighs over 200lbs because most of this equipment can only take this weight before damaging. 

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However, you can encourage clients to use the aerobic stepper machine as this will exercise the same muscles and avoid any awkwardness or discomfort! 

This way you’re avoiding any uncomfortable, and potentially offensive, conversations, whilst still getting the most for your client and your sessions!

#3 - Avoid Exercises That Involve Getting Up And Down Off The Floor

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If you’re training overweight people, they might struggle to get down to the floor and back up again when exercising.

They may also suffer from joint problems, making movements and exercises like this not only potentially embarrassing but unsafe too.

If you’re aware of these limitations, then you’ll help the client to feel more confident and comfortable during your workouts.

Ultimately this works for you too, as they’ll be much more likely to return and keep using your services if they feel safe and at ease!

One of the easiest ways you can do this is to swap out floor exercises with standing or sitting alternatives.

For example, you could replace a leg lift, usually done on the floor as so, with an alternative:

With a standing equivalent (demonstrated below), you’re making it easier when training overweight clients!

Doing this is a great way to track progress too as you can incrementally change your exercise programmes with clients as the following improve:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility

Once you start to see results, including things that were previously blocked off is a great way to boost your client’s confidence and show them how well they’re doing!

#4 - How To Train Obese Clients: Offer Training Outdoors 

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As with standard PT clients, the more variety your workouts have, and the wider range of services you offer, the more attractive you will be to potential clients.

It’s the same for training an overweight client! If possible, a great way to boost client’s confidence and get some added benefits to your exercise programmes is to offer an outdoor option.

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This is a great way to help clients if:

  • They’re feeling intimidated on the gym floor
  • They want the option to have more privacy
  • Walking is going to be a prominent part of their fitness programme

Outdoor training can easily be mixed with training in the gym, and the ratio of time spent in each can be adapted and changed as your client’s confidence grows!

There’s a huge range of exercises you can do outside when training an overweight client including:

  • Walking
  • Gentle cardio exercises (such as modified jumping jacks or marching in place)
  • Circuit training

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Your circuits can include a mixture of:

  • Low-impact cardio
  • Some strength training
  • Aerobic exercises

This way you can make sure you’re helping to improve overall fitness rather than just weight loss!

This is also another great way to help your clients progress as you can increase the timing of each slot, and reduce the length of breaks, incrementally as your clients improve!

#5 - Include Nutritional Advice In Your Personal Training For Overweight Clients 

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As you will already know, one of the most important things for maintaining weight loss is adapting your diet as well as your lifestyle. 

This is especially important when you’re training overweight people because you want to help them beyond just your sessions to change their habits and see long term results.

This will help your clients to keep the weight off and maintain healthy lifestyle choices when they leave you, or even just outside of your exercise sessions. 

By combining nutrition with your personal training for overweight clients, you’ll be offering the whole package! 

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Not only will this help your clients more but it will give your services the edge, and attract more clients, with an all encompassing and bespoke service.

So, can personal trainers give nutritional advice

With a standard Level 3 personal trainer course, you unfortunately can’t give the specific, medically informed advice that somebody like a dietician could.

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This is because ‘dietician’ is a term protected by law and there are very strict parameters about the kind of qualification and experience you need to be able to call yourself that.

However, don’t despair! This doesn’t mean that you can’t provide in-depth, informative meal plans for your clients or pair your training for obese clients with dietary advice.

With a Level 4 Advanced Sports Nutrition course like ours, you’ll be expanding your knowledge and improving the quality of advice you can give when personal training obese clients.


Become a Level 4 Nutrition Specialist with OriGym

Develop your nutrition knowledge to help overweight clients with our Sports Nutrition Course!

The general rule is that personal trainers can give advice based on nutrition so long as it’s not prescriptive or given as a supposed “cure”.

One of the best ways to avoid any potential issues, and make sure you’re always acting within your role, is to ensure the language you use frames your advice as a recommendation rather than a prescription.

Examples of this include:

I would recommend cutting down on your carbohydrate intake

I recommend including more protein rich foods in your diet going forward

I suggest the following meal plan to supplement your workout and help you achieve your goals

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With a course like ours you’ll be able to provide more in depth information for your clients as well as developing your knowledge and expertise in providing this nutritional support!

A great example of somebody incorporating nutrition into their personal training with obese clients is Mark Ludlow!

He combines the two to achieve for his clients what he achieved for himself when he lost a whopping 10 stone!

He often prefaces this, with images like below, on his social media pages:

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As he explains on his website, shown below, exercise is only part of the equation when you’re training obese clients as it can often be a lifestyle overhaul that’s needed to help them!

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As you can see from Mark’s USP, and his own success, adding nutrition to your list of qualifications is a great way of learning more about how to train obese clients.

If this is a path you’re particularly interested in, check out some more of OriGym’s articles on nutrition and PT nutritional advice:

#6 - Boost Your Knowledge And Qualifications So You’re Prepared For Training Overweight People

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Obviously, when you become a personal trainer your qualifications and experience will provide you with some of the essential skills and components of fitness you’ll need to train overweight people.

However, you can boost your knowledge and your expertise by taking an advanced course like OriGym’s Level 4 Obesity & Weight Management.

This will not only help to prepare you better for personal training with obese clients but will also make your services more attractive and encouraging to potential clients.

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You will be provided with significant practical skills that will help you directly with the demands of personal training obese people. These include:

  • Designing and delivering weight loss plans - here you will learn how to design plans specifically for overweight individuals and groups, making your service more thorough and effective for clients
  • Measurement and assessment of obesity - you’ll study the most effective methods of measuring and assessing obesity. This will not only help you to be as accurate as possible, but also help with tracking progress by being able to measure improvements!
  • Treating obesity - you’ll learn the most effective treatments for obesity as well as the precautions you should take. This will help with designing programmes to ensure safety and results with your clients!

Lauretta’s Full Figured Fitness, a specialist in personal training for overweight people, showcases this qualification on her website for potential clients to see:

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This has not only added to an impressive roster of qualifications, legitimising her service, it’s qualifications like these that mean she can promote herself as a specialist!

Her whole website and personal trainer mission statement centres around training obese clients:

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So, as you can see, not only will a Level 4 personal training course lend reliability to your services, when you’re training obese clients, but also opens the door for you to make it your niche like Full Figured Fitness!

#7 - Avoid High Impact Cardio When Training An Obese Client

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It’s also important to be aware of how intense the exercises you include are when you’re training an obese client.

This is because higher intensity exercises, such as HIIT or CrossFit, tend to put more pressure, and have higher impact, on joints, which are already at risk in an overweight client.

Being wary of this will mean designing an impactful programme without risking injury. 

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It will also show your client that you’re aware of their limitations, and sensitive to their particular needs, by showing you’re dedicated to their safety as well as maximising results.  

Despite their low intensity there’s huge advantages in including these when training an obese client. 

This is because they will be working a lot harder to perform these exercises, ultimately burning more calories and fat, than average PT clients!

For example, using a walking calculator you can see that a female obese client, weighing 200lbs, only has to maintain a 2mph speed to burn 122 calories for each mile they walk!

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This is why it’s an ideal choice for low intensity exercise to include your sessions when you’re training overweight clients.

Another one of the benefits of walking in a programme for overweight clients is that they can easily swap out some short car journeys to replace them with walks, or use walking apps, to exercise outside of the gym!

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Other low impact exercises you can use in your programmes include:

  • Swimming (engages muscles in upper and lower body whilst being supported by the buoyancy of the water, which reduces stress on the body and fluidity of movement)
  • Rowing machine 
  • Elliptical trainer
  • Riding a bike/using bike machines in the gym

So, make sure to include plenty of these low impact exercises when you’re training overweight people!


Become a Level 4 Nutrition Specialist with OriGym

Develop your nutrition knowledge to help overweight clients with our Sports Nutrition Course!

#8 - Include Plenty Of Body Weight Exercises When Training Obese People

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Just as you should avoid certain exercises, you should also make sure to supplement them with a variety of effective alternatives!

It’s important to include plenty of body weight exercises when you’re training overweight people because they’ll be lifting more, and working harder, due to their size and body composition. 

One of the other reasons body weight exercises are great when you’re training an obese client is that they’re easily replicable at home!

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You can ease the client’s transition from the gym to home and encourage them to do some of the easier exercises, that don’t require any equipment, outside of your sessions to hold them accountable.

This is another one of the ways, too, that you will make clients feel accommodated and like their needs are being met.

You will be helping them with their fitness goals without putting them in danger by putting unnecessary pressure on their joints and lungs.

Some of the exercises you can include in your sessions include:

  • Lunges
  • Knee lifts
  • Arm circles

You can start to include more cardio exercises, and exercises with weights, as your client’s abilities improve!

#9 - Include Modified Versions Of Common Exercises When Training An Obese Client

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This is another really important thing to remember when you’re designing your programme for obese clients.

You will need to consider the following when you’re deciding which exercises to include:

  • Medical history
  • Particular size/weight of the client
  • Their abilities

As we’ve already mentioned, many obese clients will have problems with their joints and mobility and so some of the standard exercises may be difficult for them, or even dangerous, to master.

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By bearing this in mind, and modifying exercises so that they’re more manageable versions of the ones you’re familiar with, will exercise the same muscles without risking strain.

Some of the exercises you can modify, to build strength and lose weight without putting stress on your client’s joints, include:

  • Modified squats (with or without small free weights or dumbbells)
  • Modified push-ups
  • Knee lifts instead of high knees (with or without a ball or small weights)

These will work with your standing, or seated, versions of floor exercises to create a programme that will ease clients into fitness! 

Before You Go!

Boost your knowledge and have more bespoke expertise for training overweight people with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. You can then combine your nutrition knowledge with tailored training programmes to help clients lose weight at a quicker rate.

Learn more information about all the courses we offer by downloading and browsing our course prospectus.

Written by Jessie Florence Jones

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Jessie has a 1st class honours degree in English Literature from University of Leeds and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Naturally Jessie has a real passion for writing especially about film, culture and wellbeing. Outside of writing she loves hiking, country walks and yoga, which she has been doing religiously over lockdown.

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