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How to design a workout plan for a client with Parkinson's

Jan 03, 2023


How to design

a workout PROGRAM

for a client

with Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, often resulting in peripheral and total body tremors. Parkinson's is named after James Parkinson who, in 1817, described the shaking palsy (paralysis agitans). For more information, read about the history of Parkinson's disease here.

If you were to have an inquiry from a potential client who has Parkinson's, how would you train them? First things first, start with the assessment. Someone who has a special condition, IS IN FACT STILL A HUMAN, so make sure to treat them the same as everyone else! Smile, shake their hand, be professional and learn about the condition so you can help them. Active listening is one of the most important aspects of the assessment, practice it carefully. With any unique condition like this and/or metabolic, cardiac, pulmonary diseases, it's important to refer out to get the proper documentation and contraindications from the medical professional. I take these opportunities to network with the physician (neurologist in this case) to explain to them that you are a qualified trainer. Here's how that conversation would look:

“Howdy Doctor Smith, my name is Chris Hitchko and I'm a personal trainer at Show Up Fitness. We have a mutual client and I wanted to get medical clearance to make sure that my training will be appropriate. Are there any contraindications for Ms. Jones due to her Parkinson's? Who are you currently working with right now as your personal trainer? I would love to have you come to my private facility to show you how I work with my clients. I'm not sure if you know this doc, but the average trainer gets certified by reading a textbook and has rarely experiences hands-on learning or any critical feedback. This is why so many trainers have a bad rep because they incorporate intensities that are too high and inappropriate exercises resulting in injury and even death. I want to personally show you how I train so we can eliminate these misconceptions. Normally my rates are $150/ session, but I will comp your first one. If this is something that you see beneficial, which I 100% know you will, I'd like to arrange a deal with training sessions and client referrals. What days do you have off? Let's schedule you in.”

Notice how I establish myself as a fitness professional and not the average textbook trainer? I educate the medical professional and then set the tone for getting him/her into my arena to show them how great of a trainer I am. The best-case scenario, you get a client out of it (we all know Dr's can afford training) and also a network funnel that will set you up for years of success.

How to design a workout program for a client with Parkinson's

Barring any contraindications, of which I wouldn't expect much outside of appropriate intensities,

here is what the first workout would look like:

1- Core Movement Pattern – Squat (body weight – goblet)

a- Core Movement Pattern – Push-Up (wall – ground – band push)

b- Accessory – Upper body reactive (laser pointer, balloon taps)

Finish 1-3 rounds and then move into the CCA-2.

2- Core Movement Pattern – Pull (bands or dumbbell)

a- Core Movement Pattern – Vertical push (bands, med ball or mirroring)

b- Accessory – Lower body reactive (soccer ball sicks seated, fall forwards, leg lifts)

Finish 1-3 rounds and then move into the CCA-3.

3- Core Movement Pattern – Uni or hinge (Step-ups – bridge)

a- Core Movement Pattern – Transitional (suitcase walks, use caregiver as needed)

b- Accessory – Pallof variations

Remember, your client is HUMAN, treat them no different than you would your mother. Ask them great questions. Learn about their childhood. What is their favorite sports team or whiskey? Connect with them and you'll be able to help them live a more fulfilling life.

Sets: 1-3 pending on condition (1 for more severe, 3 if more capable)

Reps: 6-8 (I would be expecting less muscle mass, so less reps with low weights to limit *DOMS. do not go to failure 3-5 *RIR)

Rest: As needed. There is no rush between exercises or circuits. Make them feel comfortable and in control. I would anticipate some anxiety with going to a gym, so make the experience as joyful as you can.

The key components in designing a great program are:

Specificity, Individuality, Overload and Variation.

We have a professor address these topics individually in our SUF-MP (Mentorship Program).

Month two, the client would be expected to be doing similar exercises with a higher intensity, for example:

Day 1 Day 30:

Body weight squats x6 Goblet Squats w/ 15lb dumbbell x6

Red Band Press x6 Black Band Pressx10

Rows w/ Red Band Dumbbell Rows w/ 10lbs

Step-ups w/ no weight Lunges w/ no weight

Bridges x10 Bridges x20 w/ a band

We are not delicate organisms. We will adapt no matter the condition. Granted there are immune diseases where we need to be careful (HIV or Cancer, where we wouldn't want to be pressing the envelop with duration and intensity of the workouts) but outside of unique populations, EVERYONE will benefit from resistance training if implementing the fundamentals of programming as mentioned above.

If you're looking to become a successful personal trainer, SUF-CPT is the world's best personal training certification.

*Vocabulary words:

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – mechanical and chemical damage due to exertion.

Reps in Reserve (RIR) – a guide for determining how hard you should lift a weight.

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