Intermediate Programme Guide

This is your guide to go alongside the 6 week intermediate strength programme for older adults. We recommend reading this guide before starting to ensure you know what you are doing and you make the most out of it.

For explanations and videos of the exercises included in the programme, click here.

If you have already completed our beginners programme, some of the exercises in this routine are similar, with increasingly challenging variations, and some are new. 

The beginners programme is a great start for those who haven’t had previous experience in resistance or strength training; it works through the basic movement patterns and increases your confidence in performing these exercises.

The intermediate programme is for those who aren’t completely new to resistance and strength training, and who are looking for a new challenge. It assumes some knowledge of the key basic movement patterns and assumes you are ready to start adding a little bit more resistance or weight. 

If you would like to build up a bit more confidence before starting, why not try our beginners programme first? Once you have done this, you are ready for this intermediate programme! 

If you already feel confident – Let’s get started! 

The programme

The programme sets out two strength training days per week over a 6 week period. The two sessions have a slightly different focus with two different compound exercises per session, which remain the same throughout the programme. The compound exercises are those that work multiple muscles and joints at once. These are your key exercises that will get progressively harder throughout the programme. The other exercises are accessory exercises, which rotate throughout the programme.

Each exercise has various levels of difficulty which you can choose from, and use to progress. You are in charge of determining where you are currently at, and then ensuring you progress when these are getting easy! 

The key difference with the intermediate programme is that in this programme we are working with repetition numbers, rather than performing the exercises to a time limit. This means when you are easily able to perform the recommended number of repetitions (8-10 for the compound exercises, 10-12 for the accessory exercises), we recommend that you progress to a more challenging variation – either adding weight or resistance. It is important that you do keep progressing these in order for the programme to be effective in challenging your body. 

The programme has been designed with two sessions per week to align with Public Health Guidelines, which recommend that adults should be performing resistance or strength training at least twice a week. A frequency of 2-3x per week is currently considered to provide the optimal stimulus to maximise strength and muscle size in older adults. 

However, if you feel able to add in another session (or even two) per week on this intermediate guide, please pick a mixture of the exercises from across the two sessions. As long as your body has adequate time to recover (we recommend 1 recovery or rest day in between workouts), you are likely to only see added benefits from an extra session! 

The sessions

Each session starts with a short warm up to get you moving, get your muscles working and increase your heart rate. 

Each session has 4 compound exercises (in bold), and 4 accessory exercises. 

The compound exercises should be performed for 8-10 repetitions, for 3 sets. When you first start on an exercise, try performing 8 repetitions, x3 times. Once you are easily reaching 8 repetitions, go for 10 repetitions. Once you are easily reaching 10 repetitions x3, this means you are ready to move on to the harder variation of the exercise, or add more weight or resistance. You are in charge of this. 

The accessory exercises should be performed for 10-12 repetitions, for 4 sets. There is an increased volume of the accessory exercises, so they will be harder to progress in terms of adding weight or resistance. But when you are easily performing 12 repetitions for 4 sets of an accessory exercise- this means you are ready to move on the harder variation of the exercise! 

Any exercise performed on a single leg, needs to be repeated on both! 

The rest period lengths are up to in the intermediate programme. A good general guide is that your increased breathing and heart rate has settled, and your body feels ready to go again. Don’t be tempted to skip through all the exercises as quickly as possibly. Rest periods are important for your muscles to be able to perform functional optimally. Although resistance exercise works your body very hard and will increase heart rate, these sessions are not designed to be cardiovascular workouts. You are looking for every exercise to be performed in a controlled manner, to the best of your ability. 

The sessions should take you roughly 30 minutes, but don’t worry if they are taking longer as you are progressing through the exercise variations and you need more rest. 

The two sessions have been split to largely focus on different areas of the body with the compound exercises, with a mixture of accessory exercises. 

Session one has push compound exercises – you use multiple muscles to perform a pushing movement. They are a squat movement, a chest press movement, a shoulder press movement and a lunge. 

Session two has pull compound exercises – you use multiple muscles to perform a pulling type movement. They are a glut bridge movement, a deadlift movement, a rowing movement and a plank. 

The other exercises in each session are the accessory exercises which rotate throughout the sessions.

Variations of each exercise are detailed in the sections below. Each can be performed with minimal equipment, or even household objects. However as your confidence increases, you may feel ready to purchase some weights and resistance bands to use with these workouts.

The variations of the exercises which use weights have options for progressions. Your initial progressions should be focused on adding weight to the exercises. However with home workouts you may be limited with the weights you have available, therefore alternate variations of making the exercises more challenging are also included. These often include a slower eccentric part of the exercise, or an added pause for example. 


The basics: your bodyweight, some floor space, a wall, a chair, a step or something to step on to, two weighted objects (water bottles, tins etc) will do at the start. As you progress, some weights would be very useful for this programme, in order to keep providing your body and muscles with enough challenging stimulus. A range of light dumbbell weights would be recommended (some lighter ones for the upper body exercises, and slightly heavier to hold for the lower body compound exercises), as well as a small resistance band.