Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts pop up on social media–many from within my inner circle of “industry” friends–insisting that if your personal trainer doesn’t completely individualize your training program, you should run in the opposite direction.
In other words, a trainer that doesn’t customize your program for you specifically either 1) doesn’t have your best interests in mind, or 2) isn’t qualified to train you.
While I understand this sentiment, and concur to a degree, I think it’s a little short-sighted and a rather extreme point of view to take.
Let’s face it: there is a lot of competition in this industry, and there’re a lot of people competing for your attention.
As trainers, we want to stand out. We want to be memorable, and we want to be likable.
We want you to want to work with us, not only because you like us, but because you can see how we’re not like every other trainer out there.
We want to have some novelty about us, and sometimes that means we have to draw a line in the sand.
And by that I mean make bold statements that differentiate us from those who’ll give you a cookie cutter training program and exploit every opportunity to take the easy way out.
Now this is all well and good. In fact, I like to take a bold stance, which is why I’m going to come out and say this:
Most people don’t need a customized, individualized, personalized training plan, and if your trainer promises you this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a better program–or trainer.
And here’s why.
As much as we all like to think we’re unique snowflakes, we’re not–at least in terms of what we need from a training program.
In terms of the movements one should master, imbalances one may display, and other limitations in terms of balance and stability (most notably with regards to single leg exercises), most people require–and will benefit from–the same, old prescription!
Of course, there are exceptions. I would be remiss not to mention the folks who hire trainers to achieve a specific goal, for instance those training to 1) qualify for a marathon; 2) compete in ice hockey; or 3) rehab an injury, to give three examples.
But even considering those specific circumstances, I can think of several exercises off the top of my head that all three could–and should–include in their program for best results.
I think we do our industry and our prospective clients a disservice by promoting the idea that everyone is completely unique and therefore needs a unique program.
While it’s true that not everyone has the ability to do the same exercise as the person next to them, almost everyone can do a version of that exercise.
As far as I’m concerned, the measure of a good trainer is in how he or she can assess the needs of a group of people and take them through the same workout, modifying and progressing exercises for individuals, as needed…and not in how specific a program he or she can write for a single client.
This shouldn’t just make trainers breathe a sigh of relief, but those who are considering hiring them, too!
Isn’t it nice to know that with few exceptions, you should be doing the same workout as an Olympic athlete?!
I think approaching fitness in this way helps to make it more accessible; it democratizes fitness so that it no longer seems so out of reach.
When fitness is less individualized, there’s a greater capacity for community-building and empowerment among athletes…
…and yes, every one is an athlete!
I take pride in the fact that as a trainer, my priority is as much about empowering people to understand movement, mechanics, and modifications as it is to make sure they are seeing results.
So while you are a unique snowflake in many ways, in terms of what you need to achieve your health goals, you’re actually pretty generic (and I say that with love!)!!!
But listen: generic is good! It means that you are more capable than you’ve probably allowed yourself to believe, and you can work with that!
A little confidence goes a long way when it comes to improving your fitness. There are no milestones you have to hit before you can get started, either. In fact, jumping in before you *think* you’re ready is not only going to help increase your competence, but help you get more results, too!
I know it can be challenging to just overcome the inertia of getting to the gym. Add to that the confusion of not being sure what to do when you get there, and it’s no wonder folks give up before they’ve even started!
But my *free* blueprint, #StartWithSix, breaks down exactly what you need to to know to design an effective, total-body workout for the gym. It simplifies the exercise-selection process and makes things much more accessible.