Got Baby Boomers in Your Bootcamp? Read this first…
by Art McDermott
Is allowing clients over age 50 into your boot camp appropriate?
The short answer? It depends. I know, that’s a terrible answer, but let’s look at all sides of this question.
First of all, we all know one or more people who are over age 50 and could easily hop into ANY boot camp program out there without any real safety concerns. These are the folks who have kept themselves in great shape are familiar with metabolic resistance training. Here’s the problem. If someone walks into your facility and tells you what great shape they are in – even if they look the part – are you betting your reputation on it?
Of course not. You must know your clients before allowing them to take on significant physical challenges. Asking them to fill out a PARQ and a Waiver is not enough.
Most individuals over age 50 need a structured process for safe implementation of a fitness program. The sad part is, the majority of people over age 50 lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle. A traditional interval based ‘boot camp’ will push the safety limits of most of these clients.
Furthermore, if I walked into your boot camp and you did NOT thoroughly test my physical capabilities this would raise a serious red flag in my brain! Baby Boomers are looking SPECIFICALLY for programs designed for them and their unique needs.
Their egos may push them to hop into your high-end programs, but it’s your job to make sure it is done correctly.
Here is a more viable approach:
- A Complete Assessment. Each facility may have their own assessment involving input from the Functional Movement Screen, ACSM, the FAI Assessment or even the Boomer Decathlon©. No matter what the testing protocol, it must be completed prior to any form of training, no matter what.
- Completion of a Base level or Introductory program. This might be a bare-bones strength training program, mobility & flexibility program, and introductory cardio-vascular program; usually a combination of all of these. This helps both you and the client feel comfortable they are ready for the next level.
- Modified Boot Camp Training. This means have MULTIPLE regressions and progressions in place for each individual addressing their unique “areas of weakness” as determined from your assessment. For example, we required older clients to arrive early prior to any group training sessions in order to complete a specific training routine designed for their needs. A better solution would be a group training program limited only to clients over 50. This would allow the trainer to control each movement without singling out any individual.
- Full Boot Camp Program: Eventually, most individuals who do not have significant orthopedic issues should be able to ‘graduate’ to your higher end programs. As a general rule, I never had clients over age 65 in our group training sessions unless we had extensive knowledge of their abilities as determined by our progressive programs.
Modifying your program to suit clients over age 50:
According to Dr. Dan Ritchie of the Functional Aging Institute, one of the most troublesome parts of the body effected in order clients is the hip joint. Age related limitations in movement here MUST be addressed in prior training, but once this is done, hip mobility limitations can be addressed fairly easily by minimizing the height of the movement involved or the flexion in the hip joint.
For example: Using and elevated step for the completion of a movement like burpies or minimizing the range of motion required for squatting movements. Many older clients will attempt to force these ranges of movement in order to keep up with the group. This can lead to poor technique in dangerous movement patterns resulting in injury.
As suggested above, providing a class option design only for clients over 50 also provides a marketing advantage as well. Once the community at large sees a facility addressing the needs of older clients, it is possible to position your facility as THE place to go for professional attention to the specific needs of older clients.
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