The word individualized is arguably the most overused term in the fitness industry. We’re guilty of using it too much. But who doesn’t like to use this exhausted term? It’s a fantastic attention-grabber announcing to the prospective trainee that they will be receiving special attention by way of some customized workout plan that is made just for them. But customized in what way? And what in the heck does customized mean to begin with? Is personal training the same as walking into a suit shop to get measured for a custom tailor-made jacket? Is it a set of reps and sets on an exercise that’s never been done to another individual ever before in the history of mankind? Is it a special order of workouts that’s never been recommended on any other client before?
I can argue the word individualized is a completely misunderstood and absolutely useless. It should be banned from use in the fitness industry. I say this with all the right intentions. I don’t believe the fitness industry understands the use of this word the way they are advertising it. And I don’t think that prospective clients are understanding the word the way they ought to understand it. Are we individualizing a custom program for the client because we in this country believe in the power of individualism; that every human should be different because we’re taught in school that different is good and monotony is, well, monotonous and boring?
The end goal of every human in this world with regards to physical movement — whether it’s a professional athlete, a client for rehabilitation, a senior who wants to prevent falling, a client for weight-loss, or the average weekend-warrior who does Crossfit workouts — is to be strong. To be strong means you’re pretty stable and have less of a chance of falling (the senior client). To be strong and stable means you’re able to lift things correctly (the weekend warrior client). To lift things correctly means you’re pain free (the rehab client) and building a bunch of muscle (the weight-loss client). To be pain-free and building a bunch of muscle means you’ve paved the way to become explosive (the athlete client). We just covered 99% of all clients right there in one end-goal: To be strong. So why in the world is everything individualized if the end product is to be strong?
Why preach customization and individuality if the end goal of what you’re trying to achieve is absolutely the same for everyone: To be strong.
Yes there are different progressions to achieve this end product based on different goals. The football linebacker won’t be doing a body weight hip-hinge all season long and chances are the 81-year old won’t be doing much hang-cleans. But the end result is achieving movement of the hip because frankly, humans have hips and they need to be moved.
I fully understand the importance of quality exercise design based on the individual’s goal, but these programs aren’t just being randomly pulled out of the bag. They are being programmed because a bright coach somewhere realized it simply worked. A set of standards and guidelines setting forth a foundation for progression based on previous knowledge, testing, and coaching experience. But is this what we call individualized? If so, then we better change the term because it sure isn’t individualized in the way a prospective client thinks of the word. To them, they view individualized as something that’s different from everything else. Something that is made just for them and no other human being on this planet. A workout that is so special and secret that the trainer spent hours creating the perfect program just for them and nobody else.
But we know that’s complete bullshit. No trainer goes out there creating a special program for anybody. There are general guidelines that are followed with general progressions, but the difference is finite and barely justifies the overuse of the word individual when selling fitness. Why preach customization and individuality if the end goal of what you’re trying to achieve is absolutely the same for everyone: To be strong, stronger, or simply regain the strength you once had to overcome injury or prevent falling.
To put this in perspective, clients don’t purchase P90X because the workouts are individualized. It’s the same DVD for every single person in every single household being played over and over again for 90 days all across America. What’s so individualized here?
What Crossfit program is individualized? Every single Crossfit member joins Crossfit to perform a set of exercises based on recommended or gold-standard requirements of reps, sets, and time to get strong and get in shape. Crossfit doesn’t come in and individualize things promising a custom approach. Participants succeed with the help of the coach by learning the movement pattern and executing it until they’re a master because the end goal is to perform a movement with more weight than before. And then more sets. And then more reps. And then they’ve lost some weight. And then they’re happy. Now rinse and repeat over with somebody else. And again. And again…And if they can’t deadlift correctly, you bring them back to the ground. Then stand them up. Then try again. And again. So is this individualized?
Why in the world is the personal training industry still holding onto old gimmicky phrases like a tacky used car salesman? And why in the world are customers so upset when they realize there’s no such thing as individualized training? What’s been done for hundreds of years is still the best, most effective way to strength train, be explosive, or lose weight: Get strong by lifting weights using very simple, large movements: Push, pull, squat, and deadlift. That’s it.
Customers should be happy the program isn’t individualized. A program that has been tried and true through thousands of subjects over the course of several decades can be far more effective than a brand new, custom approach that somebody just created in the name of individuality. Your hips are too tight? Stretch them. Your ankles are stiff? Do some ankle mobility. You have a weak butt? Strengthen it with weights. You can’t touch your toes? Practice. You’re arms are too small? Pick up some dumbbells and curl more. Yes, it is as simple as that because it’s time tested and done millions of times. There’s nothing custom or individual about it.