T Nation

How Would You Train Me?


No, not me, but a hypothetical person(s).

I thought it'd be interesting to see how the different members here would approach training certain individuals, and how our methods would all differ.

So what about:

Person A - Skinny teen, average height, underweight as fuck, typical bro in the gym.

Person B - Overweight chick, not morbidly obese but really fat, no gym experience other than the occasional zumba or thaibo class with her mates.

Person C - Old dude, 60+, skinny-fat, history of back pain, looking to maintain or improve mobility and strength in his twilight years, some gym experience when he was younger, mostly cardio.

We've some pretty knowledgeable people on here, so it'd be cool to get input from all over.



Duh, high-rep front squats for all of them.


Person A - compound lifts, more food, more protein, more competition, make sure he squats to depth

Person B - take her food away

Person C - steroids


what some of you fail to realise, is that you need to be a mega uber hardcore motherfucker to be able to do a front squat properly and I'm bigger and stronger than all of you so I'm obviously correct


A- Mostly something like Big Beyond Belief, higher frequency with big compound movements and teach them to push themselves. Teach them to count protein and cals, make sure they eat 18+ times their BW in cals. Have them do push-ups and goblet squats daily.

B- Focus on diet, learning to count macros. Maybe 2 days of more general fitness stuff with cardio, two days of TBT lifting.

C- Probably lots of mobility work, 3-4x lifting with nothing but dumbbells and cables. Would rec TRT, and I'm not entirely sure how I'd structure diet, as I don't know if age changes much and breaking 60+ yrs of habits seems difficult, though I would be more about 'micro-nutrients' just from a health perspective.


Food, protein, Starting Strength but with extra volume including arm work at the end to get him some external validation (mirrors, girls) to keep him motivated.

She's going to equate a good workout with sweating and feeling tired, and probably won't want to life weights so she doesn't get all "muscley". Start with bodyweight circuits, moving to DB and BB complexes as her aptitude increases.

Has he been cleared to exercise? Refer him to local PT to design a workout. Or Pilates instructor.

Depending on his abilities, I'd probably have him doing weighted walks and carries as well as mob drills.


Got that right ya old puff.


Good thread.

One of Dan John's bulking programs. http://www.T-Nation.com/training/10-secrets-to-building-mass I'd make sure he was eating 3 actual meals a day, plus an afternoon snack if possible and protein shakes with peanut butter and whole milk and maybe ice cream for dessert.

Daily walking, starting with 15 minutes, or whatever she can tolerate, and working up to 45 minutes. I agree with Chris Colucci that his Teaching a Kid to Lift Phase 1 program is great for this type of person http://www.T-Nation.com/training/teaching-a-kid-to-lift Modify the pushups and pullups and sub an easier version of the burpee or just omit it entirely. Do that 3x per week and gradually work in more difficult variations adding weight as appropriate.

This lady has also been on every crazy diet known to woman-kind, so I would emphasize food QUALITY over QUANTITY at this stage. Just switching from packaged food to rice, lean protein, and vegetables can induce a lot of fat loss at this stage. I would approach this change very gradually, probably starting with an easy breakfast meal she can eat every day for a month basing it on foods she likes or at least finds palatable.

This one also comes with huge psychological baggage, so we would have to work on self image and building success little by little. Again, small habits would help with this.

I know this guy. I live around about 1,000 of him. If he's a former 1980's endurance guy, I would address diet, shifting him away from carbs to more protein, and limiting alcohol to 2-3 drinks, 2-3 nights per week. Once he's got diet more dialed in, getting bloodwork might be appropriate.

In terms of training, basic movements like in Colucci's routine linked to above and a daily mobility routine such as Limber 11 or Maxwell's daily dozen for a month or so. We would learn how to fall using patterns from Aikido or Judo. For cardio, two times a week of low impact stuff - bike, walk, swim. Whatever he likes.

This guy will probably be able to advance to back friendly weight bearing exercises including weighted single leg work, goblet squats, heavy carries, trap bar deadlifts. I'd have him buy some rings/TRX and work up to bodyweight circuits 2x per week and weighted work 2x per week.


For all of them, make sure they can do a decent below-parallel goblet squat, and use that both to teach a decent squat movement pattern, as well as assess some basic mobility, balance and pain issues (ankles, knees, hips, lumbar, thoracic). Use whatever is learned from that and work on it concurrently with whatever else.

Also work on thoracic and shoulder mobility with everyone, just a quick couple stretches over a foam roller, and some band dislocates. All of 2 minutes.

Assuming he wants to be "bigger and stronger".

Find him a whey shake that he likes and some creatine, so that covers his need to be using a supplement. Teach him the value of protein and calories, but since he's eating at home and school, he probably doesn't have too much control. He can at least have his whey shakes 2-3x a day.

Lifting, GreySkull LP 3x weekly. Squat 2x a week, Deadlift 1x. Alternate Benching and Overhead Pressing. 2 sets of 5, and 1 set of 5+ on everything. Add 5lbs a session on the squat/deads, 2.5 on the pressing. Get him started setting PRs every session, either increasing the weights or increasing reps at each weight.

Finish with a few sets of 10-15 weighted straight-arm pullaparts on a pulley machine, and then whatever bicep work he wants to do. Avoid tricep work until you know how it affects his pressing.

Encourage him to actually get out and play outside. Ride bikes, climb things, explore places, build things.

If/when he starts to worry about his abs, add in some HIIT work every couple sessions.

Assuming she wants weight loss and to "feel better".

Encourage her to find some group class she likes to do, and do that at least once a week. And encourage her to get her friends to do the same. Use the "community" aspect of all of it as motivation.

Incline walks for 20-30 min, 3-5x a week, while on Facebook or whatever. Keep heart rate in the 120-130 range.

Preach the value of meat and vegetables. Have her find a few things she likes, and ways to cook them that she'll eat. If she likes to snack, I'm not exactly sure how to deal with that; "just don't buy it" doesn't seem to work too well in my observation.

Have her drink plenty of water, 3L+ a day, flavored if necessary.

Also get her to track her food honestly, just so she knows what she's eating and when, and can be actively involved in "problem solving" any diet issues.

As for lifting, start with DBs/KBs and move to barbell lifts over time. Stick with a similar format as Greyskull above but start with goblet squats (eventually back squats) and sumo/semi-sumo deadlifts. Finish the deadlift session with a set or two of 10-15 RDLs. Same idea, set PRs every session, either weight, or reps at that weight.

I think this is a great candidate for kettlebell work.

Start with very light kettlebell swings and turkish get-ups, and progress the load over time. Use both with enough weight to build mobility and stability, not to be used as "cardio". Just start light to assess his response to it, pain and weakness-wise. Decompress the spine with some hangs at the end of each session. Have him do that daily if possible, but 3x a week minimum.

2x a week cardio. Cycle him through different options, and use the variation to keep things interesting as he slowly improves with the TGUs.

If he's interested a bit more in the strength side, incorporate kettlebell snatches and one-arm KB clean and press for awhile, and then move toward the barbell. Mostly adjust this based on his preferences; the core should still be the swings and TGUs.

Assess his dietary preferences/biases, and adjust to make sure both meat and vegetables make it into at least 2 meals a day. Supplementation, as necessary: Vitamins B5, B6, B12; Vitamin C (always, and megadosed, min 2g a day); Vitamin D; Magnesium; Potassium; Zinc; Selenium; Omega 3s (always). And lots of water.


Foam rollers for everyone


I'll second the recommendation from LiftingStrumpet for some kettlebell work in here, as well, if KBs are available in the hypothetical facility where this hypothetical person is being trained.

My GF (not fat; a runner/yoga chick) wanted to add some element of "strength" training, but fits the first sentence here to a T; she equates a workout with breathing hard and sweating and feeling tired, and doesn't want to lift heavy weights...so I bought her a 20-pound kettlebell and now she's using the thing three days a week.

KB squats, swings, deadlifts, rows are all fairly easy movements to learn and feel enough like strength-work-disguised-as-cardio that the inner cardio-bunny will be satisfied. Mind you, this is a girl who won't pick up a dumbbell heavier than 10 pounds for anything, but she'll swing that 20-pound bell all day, and she's even started using a 35 for squats and DL variations.


Awesome thread idea!

I personally think these types of guys can handle a lot of frequency and volume, especially initially. That was certainly the case for me when I started. I'd get them doing compound lifts - probably upper-lower-uper-lower-rest. I'd keep reps low until they could handle acceptable weights and throw in some more bro exercises like curls.

These people are difficult. If she was motivated I'd get her to do a combination of complexes and various types of cardio. But just taking up a new hobby might be more appealing, getting her into dancing or whatever she might be interested in. Also of course diet is the most important thing, but I don't much about that lol.

I'd probably start this guy on really low-impact exercises. I think back extensions are probably the best exercise to strengthen the posterior chain without risking further injury. I'd go with back extensions, goblet squats, push-ups and some row variation. After that I'd start working in slightly more advanced kettlebell exercises (particularly the one-arm swing, which I think is incredible).

I think the most important thing in all of this is motivation. Got to get them to do something that they'll want to keep doing.


Squats w/ very thorough spotting


For A and B teach food choices. For B slow transition to better choices for A teach them how to do more and consitently. For B slow progress to healthy food and teaching some cooking. Same lifting for both 4-6 days of lifting upper lower. Based on some big lifts. Both with some walking post workout or fasted morning which ever works better. i wouldnt mess with C myself


lol that thread seems to have got under your skin. relax its the internet


I'm perfectly relaxed, mate.

Anyway, back to the thread idea. My first thought was NOT about what I would have them do, but rather an honest assessment of their ATTITUDE to the whole idea of training. The attitude is about doing the shit that needs to be done & being honest about where they are and what they can do or not. If they don't have that I wouldn't even bother with them. And chances are that they don't have it.


This was my first thought too, especially with case B. Un-fucking yourself mentally is a huge hurdle to clear. Not everyone is emotionally equipped to take an honest look at their choices in life. Hell, not everyone is emotionally equipped to even acknowledge that a choice was present, and instead blame others for their predicament.

Ice that cake with grossly distorted notions of what constitutes "hard work" and an array of deeply-ingrained, horribly misguided ideas about health and fitness and you, the hypothetical trainer of this hypothetical fat gal, have your work cut out for you.

The best trainer with the best training plan in the best gym in the world will not get anywhere with someone who does not believe that change is within their power.


I'm no expert at all, but I'll play.

A - I'd get him on 5/3/1 for the long haul, if he'd commit. Alternatively, there are some Waterbury programs too. I'd also make sure he had some basic nutrition education and was eating a moderate calorie surplus.

B - Thib's "Hard Body Training for Women," if she'll commit, along with cleaning up the diet to focus on lean proteins, complex carbs and moderate amounts of balanced fats (e.g., poly, mono and sat.)

C - Reg Park's 5 x 5 or a total body 10 x 3 template, along with necessary manipulations to diet. I agree with above sentiments about carb sensitivity probably being even more crucial here, too. Unless he's had a specific injury or just wishes to avoid doing one of them for personal reasons, I don't see a reason to shy away from compound lifts due to age alone, as you can always start quite light, focus on form, and work from there.


what are each of their goals?

Its a bit hard to develop a plan to get from point A to point B when you don't even know where point B is.


I'm gonna assume that this guys goal, for the sake of this thread, is to look good nekkid. I would allow him to continue to keep training his way for the first six weeks, with the only caveat being that before his normal "curls for the girls" workout, he does Dan John's "learn to squat" goblet squat program. After this initial period, I would probably move him to either Mass Made Simple or Starting Strength, depending on his aptitude.

With this client, motivation is the key, she's spent her whole life putting off diets til monday and generally persuading herself that she is trying, honest. I would find a specific and defined goal or deadline for her to hit that's so serious she'll jump through fire to get there. If it doesn't exist, make one. Make her book a photo shoot, enter a race or whatever it takes to motivate her. The training would be based around one heavy lift (probably the trap bar deadlift, being able to lift numbers that sound big helps make her feel strong), which I'd hope to really push the numbers on to keep her motivated. The remainder of her training would consist of metabolic conditioning work, like Crossfit but better planned.

Honestly? Probably wouldn't touch him with a barge pole. He has issues that are way above my pay grade to deal with. If pushed, I would do a large amount of mobility, particularly around the hips, followed by some moderately heavy squats and hinges to make sure those motor patterns are nicely ingrained and to keep some muscle mass.