T Nation

Training Individualization?

In articles, books, forum suggestions and elsewhere advice abouts that argues for “individualization”. “Don’t train like Ronnie Coleman, because you’re not Ronnie Coleman.” “Don’t attempt a training regimen that Marius Pudzianowski, because he can do things that you can only dream of.” “Cookie-cutter workouts don’t work, you have to do what works best for you”.

I’m not a complete idiot in regards to weightlifting; I have a sports medicine minor and passed a proctored CSCS exam. However, with the small exception of Thib’s ‘Black Book of Training Secrets’, where he explains how to evaluate your fiber standing, I have never seem a systematic treatment of how to figure out “what works best for you”. It seems just assumed that people will do this.

I have always followed the rule of “figure out what works best and stick with it” for doing things. I apply all I know regarding weight training science. Still I am left with vague suggestions that I should “customize my programs for what works for me.” Advice is even given that “advanced athletes should do X, while beginners should do Y” yet guidelines are never given as to what constitutes an advanced athlete or how you might determine that a person is an advanced athlete.

I hope to purchase “Practical Programming” by Mark Rippetoe when I return to the states, and maybe he will answer my questions. However, I thought I would pose it to you first.

I think it involves finding something that

  1. Gets you results, or your wasting time.
  2. Is fun for you (It should still be tough), If its not you’ll quit or miss to many days.
  3. You believe in, cause if you don’t then you may half-ass it.
  4. Can handle, or it will murder you.
    Maybe this should of been in outline format, because 2,3 and 4 kind of are responsible for 1.

The difference between a beginner and an advanced person is the time they take to make gains.

A beginner will plan his “program” around two workouts in which he will both “load” and “progress” and will function best with programs that do this. A famous one is seen in starting strength.

As you get more advanced you will need to go from two workouts to a week to a month etc. Basically, it takes longer to increase your lifts.

As for individualization, an individualized program will at least:

  1. Be designed for the shortest cycle you can progress on.

  2. Use your leverages and fiber type (often different per muscle group) etc

  3. Address any imbalances you might have.

So obviously if you get an “individualized” program after one session you are obviously getting owned, because how can anyone really know your shortest possible cycle without testing.

So, if your shortest cycle is 3-4 weeks then your are in luck because most “cookie cutter” programs on T-Nation use 4 week cycles.

I think the people who blast “cookie-cutter” programs the most are the people who are trying to sell something.

The majority of individualization, to me, comes with looking at imbalances and/or injuries that may cause certain exercises to be harmful or slow down progress. Also it comes over time, I don’t think you can just individualize right away. I think you have to start with a cookie-cutter program and work through it for a while until you start learning what works for you and what doesn’t.

Look at WS4SB, that is a cookie-cutter program that yields great results because it addresses the deficiencies that almost all athletes have.

I like Thib
Of all the coaches I feel he tries to help his clients achiever their goal not his. If you follow thib you should notice one thing. He gives you a wealth of knowledge but he always connects it with extremely applicable solutions and exercises.

In your quest for individualization I think you are skipping step 2.

sometimes you just have to skip the science don’t worry about all your misgivings and just ask the girl out. I mean exercise

[quote]jtrinsey wrote:
Look at WS4SB, that is a cookie-cutter program that yields great results because it addresses the deficiencies that almost all athletes have.
[/quote]

WS4SB is also a great program for athletes and beginner lifters because it uses 1-week cycles. Take a look at this quote from the article:

[quote]Defranco wrote:
Whether you shoot for a 3-rep max or a 5-rep max, the goal is to break your previous record every week!
[/quote]

This “cookie cutter” (I really don’t like that term) program will fulfill all the criteria for individualization for ALOT of people.

[quote]Cesium wrote:
Defranco wrote:
Whether you shoot for a 3-rep max or a 5-rep max, the goal is to break your previous record every week!

This “cookie cutter” (I really don’t like that term) program will fulfill all the criteria for individualization for ALOT of people.

[/quote]

See, but what about overtraining, neurological overload, recovery, etc.

I realize that over analysis might be a problem here, but it seems like a legitimate concern.

Periodization strikes me a crucial, but periodization routines are advocated either as individualized or percentage/linear oriented.

[quote]Fiction wrote:
See, but what about overtraining, neurological overload, recovery, etc.

I realize that over analysis might be a problem here, but it seems like a legitimate concern.
[/quote]

Those are legitimate concerns, however they aren’t something you can just plan out. You might be able to break records for 2 or 3 weeks in a row or 7 or 8 weeks in a row. It also changes. Using the example of that template, somebody may find that rotating the exercises every three weeks works well for them but a year later it is not working so well and they might need to start switching every two weeks or every week or maybe they need to train the same exercises four or five weeks in a row but not work up to a max every week.

This is why training is an adaptive process, the coach and the athlete must be in tune with each other and observing what works well for that athlete and what they need to make progress. What the other poster said about “shortest cycle needed to make progress” is a pretty good comment. Also on the front of Kurz’s “Science of Sports Training” it says something to the effect of, “Training is efficient when the maximum result is attained with the minimum training stress.” That’s why I like the conjugate method so much because it allows you to work cycles within cycles. The base cycle is just one training week but you can link that into 3 or 5-week cycles with dynamic-effort work or with how frequently you change max-effort lifts. Your assistance lifts might have even longer cycles. Individualization comes about when you start to understand all of these pieces and know when to stay the course to keep making progress and when to change the stimulus for a new adaptation.

Individualization comes through training advancement. Anyone who doesn’t have 5 years or so of experience (mine stops at around 5, so it may even be more) can run a BASIC training cycle and get powerful results.

In fact they would be better off not trying to tailor their programs to perceived weaknesses but rather keep to basic training methods, because they WILL end up making less progress, if any.

My experience tells me so, and many logs on the internet are evidence of this. It’s sad because we all make the error of trying to “find what works for us” when we already know what works for everybody. I guess it’s part of the learning process.

[quote]Fiction wrote:
Cesium wrote:
Defranco wrote:
Whether you shoot for a 3-rep max or a 5-rep max, the goal is to break your previous record every week!

This “cookie cutter” (I really don’t like that term) program will fulfill all the criteria for individualization for ALOT of people.

See, but what about overtraining, neurological overload, recovery, etc.

I realize that over analysis might be a problem here, but it seems like a legitimate concern.

Periodization strikes me a crucial, but periodization routines are advocated either as individualized or percentage/linear oriented.[/quote]

Stop thinking so much and go pick up something really heavy. You don’t need to worry about “overtraining, neurological overload, recovery, etc” at this point in your lifting. The problem that most trainees face is that they don’t know how to train hard enough. Stick to the basics and lift heavy. Deads, Squats, Bench Press, Cleans, Snatches, and Overhead Presses. Get good at these lifts and you will be strong. Work in some dips, pull-ups, pushups, single leg work and you will be balanced and athletic. Work out in the 3-6 rep range, keep adding reps until you can add more weight then drop the reps down and repeat. Always be adding weight or reps to your program, always focus on progressing. Don’t make weight training too complicated, just move lots of heavy weights.

Jtrinsey is absolutely right here. Being able to really individualize requires a competent coach, a competent athlete, and good communication from both. It takes a while to learn to do well.