Individualizing your training program

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

One of the things that matter the most as you get more advanced is to start individualizing your training program. At first, the cookie cutter approach is acceptable, but as you progress your training should adapt to your uniqueness. Today I’ll wanted to give you some thoughts on how to do that.

What you need to figure out are your goals and your weak links. Let’s see these two things:

Goals: I really like Dan John’s explanation about this. You have point A (where you are) and point B (where you want to go). Most people know very well their point A (I am fat, weak, inflexible and all long list of maladies), but have no idea idea about point B. For them, it’s just a matter of “I want to stop being A”. With athletes, they have point B clear in their mind, but they usually can’t know for sure what’s their point A. “How close am I really to getting into NFL?””Am I strong enough to win the championship?” They are willing to do the work and even sacrifice for their goals, but they need to know exactly how much is required. For other people, they know neither A nor B, so they just come saying “help me”. And finally some may know A and B, but don’t know how to go from one to the other. If you know all of the above, you are focused on your training and probably don’t need a coach.

So to start tailoring our program to our individual needs, we need to know A and B very well, and the way to connect them will be our program.

Weak linksThese are the weaknesses that you have, and they can be either on a general note (like “too much weight”) or specific (these are related to specific goals, so an example would be more pancake flexibility to do a press handstand). One thing about this is that even though a million thing can be thought as weaknesses, you need to focus on the things that’ll make a difference 10 years from now. Come with the minimum pieces that need to be addressed for you to succeed, the 20% investment that gives you 80% return.

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The way to put this together is:

  1. To figure out A (where you are) you need either good self-knowledge or assessments done to you. The russians have a lot of standards, but also does Dan John, Gray Cook, Elliott Hulse, Ido Portal, Charles Poliquin, and a hundred more, so I would just pick one and stick to it. This is an example of some of these standards:
Basic strength standards (by Dan John)
x2.5 bw back squat
x1.5 bw front squat
x1.5 bw bench press
x1 bw overhead press
x3 bw deadlift
x0.5 bw chin up

Remember that each sport may have its own standards but, looked closely, everybody is focusing on very similar things. The take note is this: you need standards to know where are you. I personally divide these between 5 areas I believe are important, which are Strength, Flexibility, Joint health, Posture and Movement. The surprise is that most people will have the same problems, like kyphosis, poor hip extension and so on. The more you know what human beings are living right now as a species, and how that affects our bodies, the more you’ll know what lacks individuals may have.

Once you know A (how you measure up to standards), the general weak links will be exactly those points that prevent you from getting better at them.

2. To know point B, follow the guidelines in the Bodyweightfitness reedit page, where it says that good goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-constrained. Goals like “I want to loose weight” are inferior to “I want to loose 20 pounds in 6 months”. The more specific, the better. Be accountable!

Once you know B (your goals), the specific weak links will be the things that you need to focus on the most for you to attain them.

And once you know point A and B, with their respective weak links, you are ready to individualize your training program. You now know that, in order to move A closer to B, you need to include those things in your training. How to do this is a whole different topic. I personally like to divide my training into warm-up (general weak links training), training (working for your goals), and cool down (specific weak links training), but focus on the grand picture: you need to work on this, no matter how, when or where.

Let’s see this example:

A (where you are) B (where you want to get)
Standard Weak links (General) Goal Weak links (Specific)
Rest on a squat for 5 minutes (cannot get into a proper squat)  Ankle and thoracic flexibility, knee integrity.  Full front lever by december 2017  Scapula retractors, hollow body position and front lever more!
 Touch my toes (can only touch my knees) Hamstrings flexibility, tightness in the plantar fascia.  Standing backflip by september 2017  Standing jump height and fear.
 Hang from a bar for 7 minutes (cannot hang at all) Grip strength, Lat tightness.  Loose 30 pounds by summer 2018 Stretch the ankles to be able to properly do kettlebell swings.
 Front and back rolls on the floor (can only do them on my shoulders)  Fear and upper trapezius tightness.  Run a 5k by january 2017  More aerobic capacity and running technique.

That’s it! This is a big topic that I believe is the meat and butter of training and coaching. The beauty is that, seen like this, physical development depends completely on self-knowledge and the courage to follow your own path, that is, on your development as a connected but individualized human being.

If you’d like to know more about these topics, I recommend the work of Dan John and Ido Portal


Kinema Project products

Pliable body (Get flexible fast!)

The Dynamic Structure (Bulletproof your joints!)

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