There are certain points that need to be kept in mind when training obese people. Or, if you’re obese, this is how to train yourself. There are protocols to follow. It’s not complex, there are just a few things to know.

What Do We Mean by Obese?

While some high-brow fitness trainers would like to say that there is a… “Higher calculation we do to make sure that the sphygmonometer reads 12% above the chrovalent synapsis…”

We really just look at you and go, “Okay, I gotta be careful with this one.”

And careful we are. I am aware that you, as an overweight individual, have to spend more energy to walk 10 feet than I do in 30 feet. This is because of the excess weight that you are carrying and the lack of muscle with which to carry it.

I’m not picking on anyone, these are the facts: excess of weight and a deficit of muscle. Usually there are several medical conditions – hypertension and diabetes (or at least pre-diabetic) to name a couple.

An experienced trainer would look at you and know that any excess strain put on the back or knees could end the training session and, possibly, the person’s hopes of making progress for an entire year.

So, we take it easy on you.

Obesity is somewhat of a “dirty” word but many more people are obese than you think. There are now four out of every ten adults in the United States classified as obese.

Being Overweight Is Already a High Gradient

As I said, you are working harder. It takes much more energy to move 10 feet for you than it does for me.

I’m not trying to make myself feel better, I can just do basic math. You’ve got an extra 70 pounds of weight that’s just along for the ride. I’ve got a lot of weight, but most of it is actively working for me.

There is a difference between weight that is working for you and weight that is just along for the ride. A fitness trainer who can’t make this distinction won’t be in his job very long.

A fitness trainer should take the time to notice that an obese individual already has weight added to every exercise.

The art of training an overweight person is finding the right gradient – the right undercut – for every exercise. For example, if they can’t do squats, have them sit and stand from a bench using assistance with their upper body. The assistance could be a pole right in front of them that they are pulling on.

Every single exercise has to be worked out to its lowest, tiniest gradient, because this person is already starting out on a high gradient with the amount of weight that needs to be moved. Kind of throws your brain through a loop.

What It Means To Go Easy on an Overweight Person

An overweight individual is one who already carries a large amount of added resistance.

This just means that the earth is pulling harder on their 250-pound bodies than it is on your 170-pound body.

A squat, therefore, is 32% harder for them to do than it is for you. That means that you’ve got to think that for every 3 squats you can do, they are able to do 2 – and they are just starting out. And that really isn’t any gradient to start a person out on, so you need to lower the gradient even more.

For many trainers, it is difficult to do this type of mental ninjistics and lower the gradient to the appropriate level.

I’m not even going to provide any “exercises for overweight individuals” list because it could be used dangerously. With bad judgment, the squat that I mentioned above could be dangerous if the person can’t even get out of bed assisted. The right gradient for someone who is bed-ridden would be to clap their hands for a minute.

Their heart rate will soar.

Everyone Handles Diets Differently

The gradient approach also needs to be applied to dieting.

So, here’s what I’ve found to be beyond successful. This is a super secret that I tell everyone I can. It’s so obvious that it hides in plain sight, yet goes unseen as the solution.

You need to have the obese individual write everything down that they eat for one week.

Understand that this is not complete until you get a full report. I’ve had people do this and gotten some wild diet logs back. But I can tell right then what kind of work a person needs on this front.

If I get back a scribbled diet log, the weight loss program is going to be rough. If I get back a detailed report with pictures, specific amounts and side notes with questions – you’ve got the ideal client.

The difference between those two people is that one can confront the subject of food and the other can’t. One of them goes blind and deaf and the other doesn’t. The person with the nice diet log can answer a question of “What did you eat last night?” without any hesitation. The person with the scribbled (or nonexistent) diet log will think, and think, and then list off a couple of items, but forget the massive dessert at the end.

These two people are both obese. They may have the same levels of balance, coordination, accuracy, agility and everything else. BUT, they are two completely different people when it comes to their ability to look at what they eat.

This is an important distinction to make in someone you’re training because you can write out a simple diet plan for one person and they’ll follow it. The other person may just ignore it completely, but be too embarrassed to tell you the truth, and ultimately end up lying about it.

You’re often dealing with people who have a lot of heavy emotion connected to this subject. Lying can occur, but it is often because they don’t want to disappoint you, not because they are really trying to get away with anything. This is where a trainer should not be Mr. Tough Guy, he’s got to be the guy that someone can level with and speak openly and honestly to.

Most people don’t respond to a trainer who rips their head off for not following the diet. It may work for a very, very short period, but it’s not sustainable.

So, for the person who can’t even look at what they eat. All efforts are put into educating them.

Diet Education

Here’s another one of my secrets.

For those who can’t even sit down and write out what they ate, you’ve got to educate them. The education consists of the basics. Ask them questions such as:

  • What is protein?
  • What are fats?
  • What is a carbohydrate?
  • What is sugar?
  • What is the difference between carbohydrates and sugar?
  • Why does sugar make people gain fat?
  • Can you give me three examples of a food high in protein? Fat? Carbohydrates?

Don’t be stupid and do it in a way that makes them feel dumb. That’s not what they pay you for.

But it is your responsibility to get all of the above knowledge (and much more) in their heads so that they aren’t totally dumb on the subject of food.

Get creative about it. Here is an example of something I’ve done:

Find something that they need help with, then the next time they show up for a training session, have a YouTube video set up for them to watch while they are on the bike warming up. Then during the session ask them about it.

If you do this for each of the questions that they messed up on, and you talk to them about it afterwards to make sure that the information made it home, then you’re earning your pay.

I have found out that people don’t overeat because of some really sick desire to do themselves in or anything weird like that. They are just in a state of confusion on the subject of food.

So start with the key words like protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fat, then make your way up to bigger concepts.

Medical Concerns in Training Obese Clients

Any time I train an obese person, I get them checked out by a doctor, first. I get a medical okay to train the guy along with any written directions or parameters I need to follow.

If the written instructions are vague, I get them clarified. If the instructions involve seeing a physical therapist, I get them to a physical therapist.

Sometimes, this may involve you going with the client to the physical therapist. If there are specific things to be done, you need to see for yourself if it is within your capabilities or scope of knowledge. I have been to several physical therapists with several clients and the physical therapist has always been completely blown out of his/her mind that I would show up and be THAT involved with my client’s overall health.

You’re training obese people. This is a riskier demographic than a 22-year-old girl who wants to slim her waist.

The amount of knowledge you need to have is about 10x compared to how much you need to know to train a totally healthy person. The risk of injury is much more than 10x.

So write a letter to the doctor or physical therapist or go see them with the client. Tell the medical professional that you want to help this person, but you want to make sure that we don’t hurt them. Ask for written instructions and you’re covered legally, ethically, technically and you’ll be able to sleep at night if you don’t stray from them.

Oh yeah, and your clients will love you forever for the miracles you pull off by just following protocol.


It is nothing short of amazing when you take an obese person and help completely turn their life around.

Tears of joy, happy handshakes from family members, gift baskets and amazing word-of-mouth reviews are just the start of it.

Your willingness to go above and beyond to help people is what makes a fitness trainer great. An ability to see precisely what needs to be corrected is what you should strive for.

It is no small feat to help someone lose 100 pounds. For each person you help, you’ll get thanked hundreds of times by them, their families and their friends.

And as far as jobs go, few other jobs give you such a sense of satisfaction. You might even end up looking back at your accomplishments in life and seeing these points as the highlights.

Leave A Reply