Basic Progressive Resistance Weight Training Program

For Home Exercise with Minimum Equipment

I have to give a weight-training workshop for Kansas Extension Agents (mostly middle-aged women). This is supposed to be (1) a practical demonstration of lifting techniques and also (2) covering the benefits of resistance training (for muscular development and strength) - about 60 minutes.

I'd like to give them a simple weight-training program that is:

  1. "minimal" but following ACSM guidelines
  2. something that they can adapt for home use and
  3. uses either free weights or just their body weight.

I don't think most of them have access to a gym since most are from western Kansas. I'll feature your website if we can get internet hook-up, but would like to do demonstrate the minimal program above. Do you have any suggestions?

Push-up on kneesThanks for consulting me and including as a reference. Here is a basic run down of the benefits of resistance training compared to cardio training. Certainly, they should see their doctor before increasing their activity, particularly if they have health issues or orthopedic concerns (see ERQ and Risk Class Form). Obviously, certain exercises may not be recommended if they have orthopedic problems or experience joint pain during a particular exercise. Although full range of motion is suggested for healthy individuals, ACSM suggests elderly trainees should perform the exercises with the maximum range of motion that does not elicit pain or discomfort. For example, the depth of a squat will be dependent upon the health of the knees. If they are just too weak to squat their body weight, they may initially either perform a half squat or assist by pulling themselves up with their upper body.

Calisthenic Program

Here is an scalable full body calisthenic program that requires minimal equipment, each with a progressive resistance method as strength increases. This program develops functional strength and endurance for either men or women beginning an exercise program. It can either be done at home or outside. Many local parks have calisthenics stations around a walking trail where these exercises can also be performed.

This program should be performed in 3 non-consecutive days per week (e.g.: Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and can later be reduced to twice a week. Walking can be performed on alternative days (3-4 days per week). After taking the Rockport Walking test, this calculator can suggest a walking program based fitness level.

Basic Full Body Workout with Minimal Equipment

Once they have proven to themselves that they can adhere to this program for a couple of months, I would suggest they invest in at least an assortment of dumbbells and an exercise bench or exercise ball. Also see home gym equipment. Some may find they have too many distractions at home and may need to seek out local gym facilities. Also see suggestions for exercise adherence.

Pick one exercise per muscle group(s). A weight training log (Excel or HTML Document) should be encouraged to record progress. Consider changing exercises in a month or two to see continued progress. Most exercise may be initially performed without weight, with light dumbbells or a barbell, or exercise bands. Some exercises may be a bit challenging for some or too easy for others who have only lighter weights. It is best to experiment with different exercises until a suitable one can be found. See Exercise Directory for more options.

Choose one exercise per muscle group. Eliminate or skip optional exercise(s) to abbreviate workout.

For more exercise options, choose one of the full body workout listed, then choose one exercise per muscle group. Exercises requiring no to minimal equipment are listed in right column under each muscle group.


Flexibility exercises can be performed at the end of the program. Although a flexibility prescription should be based upon an individual assessment. Here are three stretches that concentrate on the major muscles that cross the hip, muscles that are commonly in need of more flexibility in most people.

Let me know if you have any other questions. I'm glad I could help. Sounds fun, good luck!

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