Personalization vs. Hyper-Personalization in Programming

Personalization vs. Hyper-Personalization in Programming


Drinking too little water can decrease energy and brain function, have a negative impact on digestion, and decrease physical performance. 

Drinking too much water can lead to hyponatremia and subsequently, death. 

Drinking enough water can increase energy and brain function, aid in digestion, and improve physical performance. 


This is an example of the polarization paradox, or how the right answer is usually somewhere in the middle of two extremes. 

We would all agree that drinking 0 ounces of water per day is not good for someone’s health and that drinking 1,000 ounces per day is also not good. The answer is somewhere in the middle. 

This is the same when it comes to the idea of personalization and hyper-personalization in fitness. 


Let's start by defining these terms:

Personalization is the action of designing or producing something to meet someone's individual requirements.

Hyper-personalization is the action of exceeding the necessary levels of personalization needed to meet an individual’s requirements, usually ending up in diminished returns.

At OPEX, we honor the individual, so personalization in fitness is something that we stand behind. 


The Case for Personalization


People should do only what they are capable of doing. This seems obvious but is often overlooked. 

There is no such example of a good exercise, rep scheme, nutrition prescription, or piece of advice if the person on the receiving end is not capable of executing it. It is important to identify each person’s capabilities prior to any prescription.



I look at this as “the reason for doing it.” If there is no connection between the intention (reason for doing), action (what is being done), and the outcome (what it will lead to), the prescription will fall short over time. This can only be identified through questioning and ongoing conversation.



Who doesn’t like to get results? Personalization allows for pivoting when the prescription is not working and staying on the path when it is. 

If the goal is to lose 5% body fat and the prescription is to eat at a 10% caloric deficit and the client is not seeing movement over a month, the prescription and execution of the prescription need to be looked at and shifted. 

If the goal is to gain motor control in the squat pattern and the prescription is goblet squats 2x per week at slow tempos and high volume, and the client is not seeing motor control improvements, the prescription and execution of the prescription need to be looked at and shifted.


The Case Against Hyper-Personalization


It is easy for a coach to fall into the trap of feeling like their coaching needs to be so clearly personalized for the individual that it cannot look like anyone else’s program, even if that is what the individual needs. 

An example of this would be if a coach has two clients who both have similar training ages and capabilities. These two clients’ personalized programs might look the exact same! I know, crazy right? 

There are coaches that will give one client something different just for the sake of being…different. This is an example of hyper-personalization and it is not helpful for the coach or the client.



This is when we take personalization too far. I am a firm believer that the right prescription executed over a long period of time will lead to the best results. I am skeptical that nuanced prescriptions done to appease or entertain over any period of time will lead to the best results. 

A lot of coaches (including myself) have taken a client through a movement screen, looked at movement through a microscope, and have prescribed the smallest, most inconsequential prescription. In practice, this over-complication just took time away from solid training and was done to feel good about ourselves or to make the client feel like they were getting the most personalized prescription to “sure up that imbalance.”

Instead, we should take the approach of minimum effective dose. Most of the time a back squat would have solved the bracing issue we spent countless hours doing dead bugs and breathing drills to fix. 



Using solid, tried, and true principles will net the most results for the largest group of people. 

There is a case for stepping outside of the simple principles when you are working with someone that’s been doing it for a decade and needs a different dose-response. For example, putting 5 lbs on the bar in the strict press just ain’t going to cut it anymore for this person. 

With that being said, simple resistance, aerobic, and anaerobic progressions done consistently will work for a large percentage of people forever.


Let’s stop feeling like prescriptions must be different than what others are doing, making things overly complicated or nuanced, and veering away from simple principles without having to. 

Instead, let's focus on giving people what they are capable of, what is aligned with their outcomes, and what continues to move them forward.


The team has just released 10 free program design templates in CoachRx that you can access here. The intention of these isn’t to give you a one-size-fits-all design for your clients. It’s to show you resistance and energy systems principles that you can apply to your clients. The value of resources like this are a great case for personalization, not hyper-personalization.

Fitness Assessments for New Clients