How to Scale Workouts for Seniors

One core benefit of functional fitness is it can be scaled according to the needs and fitness levels of the athlete. Being a sport that aims to better equip you for day-to-day life, functional fitness is an ideal activity for seniors who want to live a long, healthy life. Many gyms have a program for people who are age 50 and above. This kind of programming should be focused on helping older athletes with their form, taking extra care to avoid injuries. If you’re planning programming for an older crowd, how can you scale workouts for seniors?

Scaling a workout isn’t about making it “easier”; it’s about making it more manageable. It should still be challenging. The point, though, is that what’s challenging for a 20-year-old could be totally unreasonable for a 50-year-old. It’s fully possible to scale down a WOD while keeping it tough. Without a little resistance, a workout can’t really do much for you.

Here are some ways you can scale certain workouts in a way that is still challenging for seniors.

Scaling Pull-Ups

One of the fundamental movements that athletes need to know is the pull-up. A full pull-up requires the athlete to lift their chin over the bar, starting from a dead hang. However, even for younger athletes, this is not something everyone can do from the onset.

Try scaling pull-ups with bands. Bands come in different sizes, offering varied levels of resistance. Once a band is tied over a bar, the athlete can step into it to help lift themselves over the bar, taking away some of their own body weight.

The bands also provide resistance on the way down. As the athlete develops shoulder and arm strength, they can slowly scale up by using thinner bands that offer less resistance.


Squats are one of the fundamentals of fitness, and they require mobility, balance, power, speed, and strength. Squatting onto a medicine ball is a great way to train form and balance while minimizing the risk of injury and allowing one to do several reps in a row.


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Weightlifting is for everyone! The goal is not to lift heavy weights, but to have awareness of how the weight feels in their hands. This helps seniors learn how to use their body better and acquire kinetic awareness.

To scale, seniors should first consider spending significant time mastering empty bar technique. Start with lighter weights, focusing on quality of form. Never sacrifice quality for reps. If lifting weights from the floor is too demanding, you might consider lifting from the blocks or hang lifts, which shorten the range of motion and allow you to work on a specific segment of the lift.

Remember to rotate between light weight, high volume and heavy weight, low volume. Both offer their own unique benefits.

WODs in General

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There is always a way to scale WODs — whether that be lightening the load, reducing reps or rounds, or including extra rest periods. The goal, again, should be correct form, to reap the maximum benefits.

Every athlete at any age can find a way to make functional fitness challenging while keeping it safe. Talk to your coach, never train without supervision, and find the right scaling that works for you.


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