Strength Training For Women Over 50 | A Client Case Study

The following is how I might approach a personal training client in her mid-fifties.


NLP – Novice Linear Progression. Keeping exercises constant while increasing weight each session.

3×5. In this article, the first number represents SETS, while second number represents REPS. 

HLM – Heavy, Light, Medium. An intermediate program which rotates session intensities, allowing for optimal recovery, especially in older adults. 

Client: Sue

Sue is 54 years old, 5’6” tall, and 170 lbs with bodyfat around 25-28%. She works as a teacher, and is married with adult-age children. She has never trained with weights but does go on walks at lunch with co-workers 2-3 times a week, and spends lots of time in the garden and doing yardwork in the warmer months. Her goals are to get leaner and relieve chronic back and knee pain. Also, she’s rather nervous about lifting those big scary looking barbells!

Coaching Plan:
From a coach’s perspective, Sue is a straightforward client to program for – as her outside activities and physical limitations are minimal. We will run a standard 3x per week NLP for Sue, and eventually switch to an HLM with the introduction of conditioning at that time. We will explain that barbell training will be beneficial for back/knee pain, and we would expect a modest decrease in body fat at first, but the
increased strength will drive further weight loss as we introduce conditioning and dial in her nutrition later. We will assure her that we won’t immediately jump to the big bar/weights until her form and strength are adequate. This may mean starting with a training bar to perform box squats and presses, and progress from there. We may also introduce lat pull downs or banded chins, depending on her level of strength. We will also drop to 3’s after a few weeks. We will then run an advanced LP to begin the transition to HLM.

Weeks 1-3 (rotate A/B sessions for 3 sessions per week)
A) Squats 3×5      B) Squats 3×5
Press 3×5              Bench Press 3×5
Deadlift 1×5          Deadlift 1×5

Weeks 4-10
A) Squats 3×3      B) Squats 3×3          C) Squats 3×3
Press 3×3         Bench Press 3×3          Press 3×3
Chins                Deadlift 1×5                  lat pull downs 3×8

Weeks 10-?
A) Squats 3×3      B) Light Squats 3×3          C) Squats 3×3
Press (cycle)        Bench Press (cycle)           Press (cycle)
Chins                     Deadlift 1×5                        BB Rows 3×8
(attempt without bands)

An HLM transition will include cycling of rep ranges on Heavy day, and introduction of higher reps and exercise variations on light/medium days. I will advise the prowler as a conditioning intro, but will allow her to choose another method if she wants. My nutrition advice will focus on adequate protein, carbs grouped around training sessions, and healthy choices/habits to reach her lean goal. The main lifts will continue to be the focus, and there will be one Heavy exercise each session throughout the week, in order to distribute the intensity.
• Sue’s LP squat ended at 130 lbs, so her first heavy session will be 130 lbs for 1×5, followed by 2×3 back off sets at 117 lbs (10%).
• Sue’s press and bench press ended at 55 and 90, respectively, and will be started in the same manner as squats.
• We will keep the deadlift as a heavy 1×5 for as long as possible, then we will begin cycling rep ranges.

Squat (H)
Incline Bench Press (M) 2-3×8
SLD’s (L) 2-3×8

Squat (M) 3×3
Press (L)
Deadlift (H) 1×5

Squat (L) 2×3
Bench Press (H)
BB Rows (M) 2-3×8
Prowler pushes, rower, bike, etc. (we will move to twice a week once capacity is built up).

Sue’s progress will be monitored to ensure her goals are being met, and she stays enthusiastic about training.  Changes to exercise and programming can be made based on this, to ensure she continues to enjoy training.


Discuss your goals with your Kalamazoo personal trainer to see how I can incorporate strength training into your lifestyle.

Categories: Coaching