Individualization/Personalization. What does it mean
We all know that different people should train differently. This seems like a simple concept but How to implement programs to individuals may not be quite what some think. As more and more trainers talk about their “personalized” programs,” it’s important to take a step back and break down this concept.
The idea of personalized training has becoming somewhat overrated. There are things just simply work and things that don’t. That doesn’t mean that the concept doesn’t still hold merit. What we want to avoid is blindly prescribing different random exercises simply because they are different than what the next guy is doing. Personalized training programs are less about specific exercise selection and more about the broad concepts they entail. Let’s view the pieces and parts of making a program truly “individualized”
Frequency and Duration
Frequency, referring to how many days per week one trains, and duration, referring to how long each training sessions lasts are dependent on several factors, and will affect how the entire program is designed. The most obvious factor effecting frequency is a person’s schedule throughout the week. Very busy people may only have 2-3 days available for training, while others may have 5-7 days available. A person with an availability 2-3 days per week would be more likely to have a full body split template where as a person with 5-7 days per week may have more of an isolated split.
Another factor that effects determines ones duration and frequency is a trainees experience and motivation level. If I’m writing a program for a novice lifter who seems luke warm about starting a routine, I’m not going to start them on a 5 day per week program. This is a good way to set them up to get frustrated and overwhelmed.
Goal based intensity/volume
Once we have a “skeleton” for the program, now we need to determine what goal we are pursuing. The goal will decide the degree of intensity and volume. Strength based athletes will have a more intense program with higher weights and less volume, whereas those with physique goals with want to implement higher amount of volume for muscle growth.
Experience level will also determine intensity and volume. Novice lifters will of course start with less of both volume and intensity, and slowly add both as one progresses.
Specificity vs Variety based on goal.
Specificity of a training program refers to how closely the training mimics what a trainees goal is. Those with physique based goals will have low levels of specificity since the ultimate goal is how they look and not based much on performance. Those training for some type of event will have higher levels of specificity. Typically, the training more closely mimics the end goal as the contest/event approaches. An example of an athlete that would need to adhere to specificity closely would be powerlifters, as the standard bench press, squat, and deadlift are what they are required to perform.
Here is where exercise selection starts to come in. Before we can plug in specific exercises, we need to see how an individual can perform a basic movement pattern. We’ll view the squat as an example. Here is an image of our standard progression for the squat.
At the beginning of a program, we will start an individual at the top of this flow chart. Some trainees may quickly display that they are able to perform a barbell back squat while others my need to master the goblet squat before progressing to any barbell work. Therefore, there may be two different trainees at different levels with the same template. Here is an example.
1A) Squat Variation
1B) Vertical Pull Variation
2A) Horizontal Press Variation
2B) Horizontal Pull/row variation
Person A(Football Player) Person B(General Pop Health Client)
1A) Barbell Back Squat 3x3@90% 1A) Dumbbell Goblet Squat 3x12
1B) Chin Up 3x4-6 1B) Lat Pulldown 3x10-15
2A) Bench Press 3x3 @ 90% 2A) Push-Up Variation 3xmax
2B) Inverted Ring Rows 3x5-10 2B) Chest Supported Rows 3x10-15
As you can see, these two trainees follow the exact same template, with an exercise selection that fits their capability and goals. The template can be followed because movement patterns that make up a program are mostly universal. They are fundamental human movement patterns that benefit EVERYONE.