But I’m not training for the Olympics or for the CrossFit Games or anything. I’m a general population client, so why do I need to be on an individualized, periodized training program?
Regardless of whether or not you’re training at a high level, or for a specific sport, we all have our own unique needs, goals, wants, priorities, training history, injury history, schedules, lifestyle habits, etc. And all of these factors are as important, and possibly even more important, than the level you’re training at when it comes to determining the need to be following a program designed for you.
Read on to learn why individualization and periodization training is for everyone, not just athletes.
Allows For Appropriate Movement Selection
Following a generic program generally makes it difficult to cater to a person’s limitations, be it their inability to put their hands over their head, poor ankle mobility, or a nagging shoulder injury they’re dealing with.
Individual design, on the other hand, allows the coach to assess the way the client moves, as well as their current fitness capacity before designing a plan that includes appropriate movement selection to provide them results long-term.
For example, if someone’s assessment exposes that they’re seriously deconditioned and have poor shoulder flexion, it would make little to no sense to include high-rep thrusters and burpees in a conditioning piece for them. Instead, the focus should be on less technical ways to improve their aerobic base, such as logging volume on the Assault bike or rowing machine.
Learn how OPEX Coaches use principles of assessment and periodization training to design individualized programs in this free course.
Helps Consider Priorities, Lifestyle, Goals
Let’s say a generic group class 6-week programming cycle with a squat focus is designed for athletes to come in three or four days a week, but your client is a full-time mother with a full-time career, who travels for work, and can only make time for two training sessions a week.
This person wouldn’t get much bang for their buck following a program that essentially expects clients to come in three or four times a week.
The bottom line is that an effective program must consider various factors in a person’s life, including their schedule, their priorities, their fitness goals, their sleep and nutrition habits, and on and on. And while it might seem that a twice-a-week program for the 40-year-old mother with a full-time career just isn’t enough, it might be the best realistic, doable option, which is always better than the best theoretical program but results in poor compliance.
Respects the Periodization Training Principles to Produce Best Results
In short, training, be it for the elite athlete or the general population, shouldn’t be designed in a way that tests the client each day. That’s the quickest way to burn out. Instead, an effective training program that will deliver consistent, long-term results should have a certain degree of periodization.
Periodization considers things like volume and intensity, to help keep clients consistently moving forward in achieving their specific goals, which may or may not involve peaking for a particular competition.
With that being said, periodization can be broken into five very distinct phases: accumulation, intensification, pre-competition, competition, and deload.
When we consider these traditional periodization phases, it becomes clear that most of these phases don’t actually apply to the general population client, as they’re not training for a competition, so it makes little to no sense for the coach to use this model the same way as they would for an elite athlete looking to ramp up for a particular competition or event.
The general population or novice client should spend most of their time in the accumulation phase, which is mostly about volume building, and doing it safely over time. This creates a foundation on which to build upon.
The second phase—the intensification phase—on the other hand, is where intensity increases but volume and time under tension will decrease. The intermediate or advanced general population client can spend some time here. However, as training age increases, very advanced athletes will only need small touches of intensification as they are able to dig so deep and need plenty of time to recover.
And finally, the last three phases—pre-competition, competition, and deload—are largely irrelevant for a general population client, unless they’re training for a particular event.
That being said, deload tends to happen naturally for general population clients, such as a vacation with their family, or their child is sick and they can’t make it to the gym for a week.
The point is: While individualization is important, following the traditional five-part periodization model for an individualized program isn't all that relevant for a general population client. Periodization training should be implemented for both athletes and gen pop, but remember that the end result will look a little bit different for each.
Sign up for our free Fitness Coaching Course and learn the OPEX Method of personalized fitness program design.
In this free course you’ll see the five steps of programming in action: consultation, assessment, priorities & periodization, exercise prescription, and nutrition & lifestyle prescription.