Training My Mom

Hello all. I figured this would be the best section to ask for some advice on how to introduce my mother to weight training. Up until recently she has been reluctant to lift worrying that she would hurt herself, thinking it is not something she can do, etc.

She has agreed to start lifting with me to try to lose some weight that she hasn’t been able to take off with diet alone. A little background information; she is not completely out of shape as she is fairly active and walks 1-2 miles a day.

She is also completely new to weightlifting. She had a slipped disc in I believe junior high school which hasn’t bothered her recently, but is something I need to consider when designing her program.

As I am a younger male, I realize the training I do and what I will have her doing will be quite different. If anyone could offer some advice on how to start her off/keep her interested I would really appreciate it.

It has taken a lot of work for me to convince her to even start so I would really like for her to stay interested. Thanks for the patience in reading the long post.

Also, only have access to free weights/power rack.

Well I finally got my wife to lift. So Im going through the same thing. She is finally making some progress. She has gone from almost total immobility to actual lifting. The main thing I can say is dont push to hard.

Light weight, lots of reps at first. Do the basics, nothing fancy i.e. bench, pull downs, squats, simple tricep work, curls. I like 3-4 working sets. You know the KISS method - Keep It Simple Stupid! Thats what my Prof always said anyway.

I guess I should have asked how old you Mom is, I may have to take some of this back! Anyway Im sure the guys are going to jump in and help out. God Bless Lonnie

IMO, it doesn’t matter what her age is, as long as her general health is OK and she’s not grossly out of shape I’d start her on a full body routine three times a week. I’m with Lonnie: get her going on the basic stuff: chest press of some sort, (flat or incline) OH shoulder press, rows, squats or DL, SLDL, abs. That’s all she needs for now. You could throw in a little bicep/tricep work for fun. Keep the reps around 8-10 for everything except abs and legs, which I’d bump up to 10-12 reps. I’d shoot for 2- 3 sets of everything for now. Women often start with poor upper body strength (relative to men), so If you have dumbbells I’d use those for chest, shoulder and rows until she can handle the weight of a full sized bar.

I’d use double progression and pass on the ISO exercises (except maybe something simple for arms) until she’s made decent progress in all her basic lifts. Start light so she doesn’t get so sore that she gets discouraged. Lifting three times a week and walking every day should help avoid excessive DOMS. This sort of routine may sound boring, but IMO this is the most important phase of training. Yes, progression is important, but for now you mostly want her to learn to proper form. Show her how to keep a journal and encourage her to do some stretches every day.


The only reason I asked her age is to get an idea of where to start on sets and reps. If shes 40 and in pretty good shape I might go with 3 sets and work up to 4 sets, if shes 50 Id start with 2 and work to 3 sets. You know, training should be tailored to the person. Just dont push too hard.

Unless she has some sort of prob that needs attention just remember: chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms. I use all kinds of exercises to get there ( not all at once ) In other words Im not married to any particular exercise. Keep it fun. If I find an area thats real weak I give it attention.
Not sayn I disagree with Cappy I dont. Just trying to clarify what I was saying.

[quote]63Galaxie wrote:
The only reason I asked her age is to get an idea of where to start on sets and reps. If shes 40 and in pretty good shape I might go with 3 sets and work up to 4 sets, if shes 50 Id start with 2 and work to 3 sets. You know, training should be tailored to the person.[/quote]

I disagree. As a total rookie the number of reps and sets really doesn’t matter that much. A beginner simply needs to get enough repetition to get their form down and their CNS firing so they can begin to use progressive loads. So one more (or less) set isn’t really going to make a buttload of difference until she’s capable of using challenging weights, which shouldn’t even be an issue for at least a few months.

I don’t agree that a beginner needs to use all kinds of exercises. At that stage they need lots of repetition to build a solid base of strength, core stability and the mental confidence to push when the going gets tough, not a bodybuilding buffet of different exercises. A beginner has plenty of time to introduce new stuff or swap out variations later.


Keep it simple and make it fun. Find out what makes here excited and play to that. Isolation is fun but not productive. Depending on her mindset look to what makes her happy and place those exercises at the end of the workout. Complex movements are the best but make sure the movement is sound before adding weight.

Tell her why certain exercises make sense.

Take notes when you help her - you will need them.

I have edited my original post. Sorry. God Bless Lonnie

[quote]RWElder0 wrote:
Keep it simple and make it fun. Find out what makes here excited and play to that.[/quote]

I’m sorry, but why does it have to be “simple, fun and exciting” for an older woman to learn how to lift weights? Isn’t learning something new fun? Isn’t strength, empowerment and doing something good for yourself exciting?

Let’s not dummy it down for the old coot! Sheesh!

Lots of luck! I’ve been lifting for almost 28 years and some of this still doesn’t make sense to me. But for the most part it ain’t rocket science. All she needs to know for now is how to do a few basic things right. One small step at a time … Paralysis by analysis is the last thing she needs.

Actually, for some goals it is productive. Of course, you have to be at the right stage for it to contribute much. For a beginner it’s pretty unproductive. Why do unproductive stuff at all?


Thanks for the replies so far everyone, advice is pretty much what I had planned. I’ll probably go with a a few full body workouts sticking with compound movements. I will post as she progresses.

Like Cappy says, sometimes women have pretty low upper body strength, when my wife started there was no way she could bench the bar (it came down on her like a rock) now she can bench 90lb! Should have mentioned Its ok to use a lot of BW exercises to start.

Again when we started she couldnt do a BW squat. Now she can DEEP squat 20lb for 5 sets of 15 (now its time to move to 3 sets, 8 - 10 reps w/more weight) and partial 225lb!

If shes reluctant to start with, Keep it were she can stay motivated. If she can see progress it really helps.

Good advice so far. I’ll just add my experience with my mom. She was worried about the whole “weight lifting” idea so I told her that she was right to feel that way and shouldn’t lift weights. But since she already used a broom around the house she could do some broom lifting with me and we could enjoy the time together.

So I started her out with a broom. Literally. I never pushed, I just said stuff like “good set.” We did full body workouts. After a couple of weeks of broom work, she tells me she wants to try the metal bar. A month after that, she wants some weight. And so it goes.

She has since moved to a different city and so we don’t workout together anymore but she still works out and has convinced a couple of her friends to join her.

The bottom line is that even if she never gets past body weight work, she’s still being active and spending time with someone she cares about. It’s all good.


Good story! Bottom line, you need to meet a rookie where they are. Gender is more or less a moot point. Yes, some women will have a lot of social conditioning and baggage to get past, but you can get the ball rolling and let them work that stuff out on their own time. Believe me, most women will! And then? Watch out!


So hows it going?