I got the feed of Patrick Ward’s blog yesterday and read his summary of some rugby research and it made me ask some questions regarding how much individuality is enough? Every time I hear about different training facilities not being cookie cutter carbon copy cloned cats I wonder how much do we really need to adjust the athletes and how much adaptations the body should be doing. Should everyone have their own program down the last rep or should it be grouped so that we get everyone on the same program? Like most I individualize the program as much as possible but realize limits exist to what we can do versus what we need to do. How special are we?
One consideration is the fact we have constraints of how much we can practically do. One one one personal training is great, but team settings and facilities are different. The main constraint is the fact teams and sports have a schedule that demands people be ready like it or not. Not much wiggle room right now and the Olympics will be coming like it or not. Individuality comes in different flavors, here are my ways to make the cookies more special!
Adapt or Die- I like a lot of what Tony Wells does and I am a believer that adaptation can happen with everyone provided it’s gradual and sane. Precision becomes more important as the athlete advances, but the body can adapt eventually. When I was reading the Eddie Reese ASCA lecture his quote of how athletes can adapt moved me as he paused before he said what he truly believed. He pushes the body as athletes can adapt.
General Preparation Phase- The reason it’s not an individual preparation phase is because general needs are important this is not to say put a square peg in a round hole but sometimes individuality is not necessary. I believe intensity will dictate how much adjustments are necessary and the specific environmental context is necessary. How far away from competition is another thing, as a professional team is going to need to get specific rather soon as their offseason is so short.
Tweak- Sometimes a small adjustment is all that is necessary. During a bout of 5 x 5 hurdles one athlete could be getting a whole different range of demands on them than the training partner. For example I have had athletes drill over with 5 steps instead of three and another flat out sprint one. Sometimes 4 x 3 squats is front for one side of the gym and back for another side. Similar theme or motif but different execution.
Sick, Dying, Dead- Gross changes like a day off, recovery workout, or solid effort versus going for a PR is all you you need. If the athlete can do the planned session it’s easier to give a template stye adjustment that is universal rather than dealing with 20 individuals at the same time because nobody was prepared to handle the adjustments.
Compromise- Sometimes the benefits of perfect workouts need to adjust to facility and equipment limitations. Sometimes a good coach tweaking a program is better than and individualized program without supervision. Often one simply has to compromise for safety and workflow.
The sweat spot is to individualize as much as humanly possible, but only what is necessary. Many times athletes don’t respond well not because the program was not tailored to them, it was just not a good program for everyone and only the super talented survive.