Try These 6 Exercises for Obese Clients

Training obese clients can sometimes seem a little daunting, especially if they also have reduced mobility. Thankfully, if you are a committed trainer who is looking to improve your coaching and learn how to master your craft, coaching obese clients is not only achievable but can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our job training clients.

6 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
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In This Resource
  • Focus on Non-Weight Bearing Exercises
  • Use Bodyweight Exercises With Great Consideration
  • Use Non-Weight Bearing Machines for Cardiovascular Development
  • Try These 6 Exercises for Obese Clients
  • Sample Circuit for Obese
  • What Not to Do

Focus on Non-Weight Bearing Exercises

Obese or morbidly obese individuals need to perform exercises using external loads from free weights or weight machines. These enable obese clients to develop high levels of strength prior to moving to bodyweight exercises.

Use Bodyweight Exercises With Great Consideration

Bodyweight exercises can still be used to great effect, but they need to be selected with caution. Every time we give a client that i too difficult for them it can be extremely demorsalizing and give them a sense that they are either not progressing fast enough or they are not “good enough” for the gym environment. Although these are both very unlikely to be true, failing at an exercise can create these sentiments and therefore they should be avoided at all costs. Our jobs as personal trainers is to provide exercises that are both challenging yet achievable, so pay attention when selecting your exercises for obese clients.

Use Non-Weight Bearing Machines for Cardiovascular Development

Just a note on cardiovascular development for obese clients, using machines like concept 2 rowing machines and concept 2 bikes. These styles of machines are completely non-load bearing allowing obese clients to develop their cardiovascular systems with no hinderance.

Try These 6 Exercises for Obese Clients

The high box counterbalance squat is the easiest squatting variation in our exercise library. For obese and morbidly obese individuals, squatting can be very challenging due to the extra load the individual carries. Starting with a very easy variation will enable you to see where they are at in terms of their squatting ability. Remember, use these as a guide, if this seems far too easy maybe consider using a traditional counterbalance squat .

Banded deadbug pulses will be a great way to use an external resistance to stress the abdominals without too much interference from the clients bodyweight. Traditional deadbugs for very obese individuals and be too challenging as the load will prevent good positions. This style of functional core exercise that isn’t weight bearing will always be a great option for obese clients.

It may seem a little obvious, but using exercises like the bench press, where there is no weight bearing activity is by far the best option when the movement pattern allows (all except the squat, unless you have access to a leg press). This allows individuals to build strength, which can eventually transfered into bodyweight exercises when they are able. So the bench press or the DB bench press would be perfect options for horizontal pressing for obese and morbidly obese individuals.

The DB single arm low is another excellent upper body strength exercise that we can use to develop strength in overweight individuals. I use this exercise extensively along with other load bearing pulling variations before moving onto ring and TRX horizontal pulling variations.

The top of ring row isometric hold exercise would be one of the first bodyweight exercises I attempt with an obese client. Usually it will be very easy and allow them to build confidence taking and controlling their own bodyweight. Only do this exercise if your certain that your client will be able to perform it and do not forget the importance of foot positioning, this exercise can be made difficult for many people if we advance the feet far enough, so ensure you have placed their feet in the correct position.

The alternating KB strict press is an excellent exercise you can use with obese clients. This is the third example of an upper body exercise where the clients weight has no implications on the difficulty of the exercise. This exercise will be very effective at developing upper body strength.

Sample Circuit for Obese

Complete 3 rounds

1. Bench Press

Complete 10 repetitions

2. High Box Counterbalance Squat

Complete 8 repetitions

3. Banded Deadbug Pulses

Complete 8 repetitions

What Not to Do

Complete 3 rounds

1. Box Jump

Complete 6 repetitions

2. Chest Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust

Complete 8 repetitions

3. Press Up

Complete 8 repetitions

I thought I would add this in, just because it may seem obvious to many of us that this would be a terrible circuit for an obese client with limited training experience doesn’t mean personal trainers are not consistently making these mistakes. Why is this poor training? It’s all bodyweight exercises that the client will likely not be able to perform. If you have any other questions on how to programme for specific clients feel free to email me at my email

If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein


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