‘Cookie-cutter’, ‘one size fits all’ type programmes might work for beginners, but as you progress through your training career, you’re going to need to increasingly alter your training to reflect your own personal strengths, weaknesses and goals. This guide walks you through why the principle of individualization is important, how to correctly apply it, and some potential downsides to avoid.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Why Is The Principle of Individualisation Important?
Human beings might have a lot in common, but they also have a lot of differences from person to person, and these will affect their training. Some of these differences include…
- Training History
- Body type and limb lengths
To use the simplest example possible, we cannot give the same programme to a 70-year-old and a 20-year-old. (Well we technically can, but only if you want to see an elderly man get injured or a 20-year-old perform the least challenging workout of their life)
Individualising your training allows you to perform workouts that are adequately challenging and appropriate for you, which does two things…
1) Increases your rate of progress
2) Reduces the likelihood of you getting injured
How Do We Apply the Principle of Individualisation?
The shortest way to put this is that we manipulate training variables based on the information we have about the individual. That might mean…
- Different exercises
- Different numbers of sets
- Different rep schemes
- Different training frequencies
- Different intensities
And the reality is that there are entire books written on the topic, far more than I could possibly hope to cover within a single blog post. What I can do instead is offer you some general rules for applying some individualization to your training…
1) If you’re younger, injury-free, have trained for a number of years, and have a body type that well suits your sport, then you can probably tolerate a significant amount of training. More sets, reps, intensity, frequency etc.
2) On the other hand, if you’re older, new to training, dealing with an injury and have a body type that doesn’t well suit your sport, then you can probably tolerate a much smaller amount of training. Less sets, intensity, frequency etc.
Potential Downsides of Training Individualisation
Individualising your training might generally be a good thing, but it does still comes with some drawbacks.
Training templates and programmes have been tried and tested over time, so we know that they do in fact work for most people. The further you remove your training from these templates, the more risk you have of creating an ineffective training programme.
So how do we prevent this?
By remembering that any change we make to an established programme must still follow the other principles of training (specificity, variation, overload etc)
When you do that, you’ll begin to see that the spectrum of acceptable changes and modifications becomes quite narrow.
You might add or remove a set of an exercise, or you might be able to substitute one exercise for another biomechanically similar one. But you can’t just scream YOLO, throw the whole programme out and start experimenting with random crap.
> Benefiting from small changes that account for your personal strengths and weaknesses – great idea.
> Violating scientifically proven training principles because you’re a super special snowflake – very poor idea.
That’s all for today. If you’ve enjoyed this article feel free to check out the rest of the principles of training series.
Part 1: Specificity
Part 4: Variation
Part 5: Individualisation (You’re here)
Part 6: Reversibility
And as always, if you’re looking for coaching and programming to improve your own performance, you can book a quick chat with right here.
‘Til Next Time
MSc Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor/Educator