The Dirty Secret of Individualization

Individualization has become somewhat of a buzzword in the strength and conditioning/personal training realm. People are flocking to the interwebs and trying to drop knowledge bombs about how they've reinvented the wheel and come up with this new system that's going to allow you to write the perfect program for an n of 1. And I get this. When I first started, I was OBSESSED with the concept of assessments and individualization, and to a certain extent, I always will be. I'm a very cerebral person who enjoys (and frankly thrives) off going down rabbit holes. For example, right now I'm spending a lot of time thinking about bioenergetic limiters and the oxygen cascade. Is it intellectually challenging? Yes. Do I enjoy putting together the puzzle? Yes. Does this mean all of my clients should go through intensive bioenergetic evaluations? Probably not.

In fact, I think individualization and these so-called "special programs" are one of the biggest jokes on the internet, and here's why:

  1. Individualization is expensive, overrated and only matters for 1% of the population. If you're trying to be the top 1% in the world at something, then yes, you will need a coach who obsesses over every detail of your training, nutrition, and life. Also, if you are in pain, then you'll need special one on one attention with a true deep dive on potential drivers. Pain is an incredibly complex phenomenon, and you'll need someone (maybe even a team) in your corner who can appropriately steer the ship. If you are not in one of those categories, individualization will not be the essential variable dictating your success.

  2. Very very few people are truly innovating and bringing new information to the table. The vast majority of what's taking place in the strength conditioning world is the regurgitation of old information. Thus, there are many people out there who can write you an outstanding program. Anyone who says otherwise is a bombastic ass. Are certain people better for certain tasks? 1000%. If you're interested in competing in strongman, then Andrew Triana will write you a better program than I ever could. If you're interested in the hypertrophy/bodybuilding game, then someone like Ryan L'Ecuyer is who you should turn to. If you're interested in more hybrid strength outcomes, then that's where I like to live. BUT, if you gave each of us the same person who has generic outcome goals (generally get stronger, more jacked, better conditioned etc.) then I know 30+ plus people who can all crush that. What matters more is the BELIEF in what they are doing as opposed to the specific split squat variation you choose.

Now before you lose your mind hear me out. I'm not saying the journey or desire to write individualized programs is a waste of time. In fact, I think it's something every coach needs to do. It's a path every coach should travel because it (1) gives you lenses through which to view the world and (2) gives you a more extensive toolbox. And those are the big players. Once you've assessed and worked with hundreds of different people, you begin to see the commonalities of what's walking in the door. You can start to make assumptions that'll hold 90% of the time. For example, I just flat out assume any new client of mine sucks in the sagittal plane. Will I be wrong sometimes yes. But I'll be right and have been right, the vast majority of the time.

So, what's the point of this minor rant of mine? Well the point is this: while everyone is flocking to individualization, I think we need to bring the focus back to what truly matters:

  1. Doing real work and not spending preposterous amounts of time on fluff: that's a beautiful banded glute walk you're doing, but can you pick up something heavy off the floor?

  2. Accept that the VAST majority of people will benefit far more from being on a generic well-designed program done in a killer ENVIRONMENT as part of a TRIBE than riding solo on some "perfect" plan. In the words of Sebastian Junger: "Humans don’t mind hardship; in fact, they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end." And in my opinion, the quickest way to address this is via building communities of like-minded, supportive individuals all striving towards similar goals.

Anyways, just wanted to throw that out there. Post any comments or feedback you have below.

P.S. This is the framework and thought process behind why we created Operation Silverback, and thus far I think we hit the nail on the head:

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We are currently accepting applications for the next round of Operation Silverback starting in June, so click below to apply today if you're ready to take things to the next level: