Q&A: How Hard Should You Train Beginners?

Last week I got an email from Ben Hidalgo. He’s a new trainer, although not new to training and was curious how to relate his expertise to a group of beginners. Here is his email:

Hey mate, I’ve read plenty of the blog and love your workouts, I’m just starting out running my own bootcamps and want a few tips on training beginners. I’m a well seasoned athlete and traiinng 5-6 days of the week, I’m concerned that I may over work my clients, but at the same time I don’t want them to be bored. Any help would be great.

Here was my response:

Hi Ben,

I get your conundrum, when I started running bootcamps I trained most days too so the idea of only training people 3 days a week didn’t seem like enough.

However you will find that for most average Joe’s three sessions a week will be plenty to get them feeling fitter and heathier. If you wanted to offer more options you could run 4 sessions per week (MWFSat or MTTF) and then give people the option of signing up for 2, 3 or 4 sessions per week.

But to get to your question about overtraining or undertraining, it’s really going to depend on your group. If you have a couple people with ankle injuries then you are going to have to be careful of including a lot of running. On the other hand, a group that has a few shoulder injuries would probably end up doing a lot of hill runs and adventure runs. Keep an eye on them, if they look like they are getting sore or injuries are starting to appear, pull it back a bit for a week or two with some longer warm ups, more core work and longer cooldowns.

With your actual workouts, focus on drills rather than exercises at the start. You have to remember that for someone who hasn’t really done any exercise before, push ups, lunges, squats and planks are all very new and exciting to them. Those exercises with a variety of drills (like rep challenges, circuit variations, ladders and partner drills) will be enough to keep them interested for the first couple months. From there you can introduce new exercises and pieces of equipment.

I hope this helps you, let me know if you have anymore questions.

Your Turn

What’s your advice to Ben, what tips have you got for him in starting his bootcamp? Share your answers below.


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  • Niki Torres

    Not an answer, but may I expand the question? As a trainer new to bootcamps as well, my challenge has been how to deliver a challenging workout to campers at all levels. In my last session, I had just one camper with very bad knees and hips…everyone else was in good health and basically on the same level. I really tried to make sure I was offering strong workouts without leaving her in behind or feeling left out, but it was definitely a challenge. I would love to hear suggestions that address this as well!

  • Jamie

    The issue of what works for beginners is customized for the individual group. I have a mixed class of fit 30 somethings and sedentary 60 year olds with health issues. My solution (which has worked so far) is to make sure I offer stations that are time-based verses rep based. That way the focus is completing the task verses, ‘oh I didn’t do it all’. Also, options, options, options! Instead of run stairs, walk them, 5 lb weights instead of 10 lbs. Keep it busy so they don’t get over-exhausted too soon…short bursts of intense activity. They walk away worn out but successful!

  • brad

    I second Jamies comment, further more, the talk test works well for cardiovascular activity. They should be winded and have a tough time talking, but shouldn’t be vommiting either :).

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nourishing-the-Shoalhaven/399286000145694 Moo

    Funny! I just wrote about this the other day too. I don’t think she’s ever coming back…

  • catalina

    amazing blog love love love it thanks guys for all the tips you are the best xxx