The Importance of Individualisation

Desert Barbell Strength Coach and Dubai based Personal Trainer, Chris, shares his views on the importance of individualization and provides some factors to consider when choosing an online program or when deciding to work with an online coach for powerlifting.

Programming and online coaching for powerlifting and strength training is a topic that can cause a lot of debate within strength sports and training in general. In the first 6 months to 2 years of training, the fastest progress will be seen in most athletes. A definite highlight in the beginning of any strength journey is that regardless of what protocol you are following, you will see progress.

Because of this, many new trainees will follow generic cookie cutter programs, making varied amounts of progress. Depending on genetics and execution, progress may continue for a varying length of time. Normally, the decision to switch to an individualised program is motivated by a progress plateau. This is perfectly understandable but, in my opinion, not optimal in terms of long-term training progression. If you wait until progress stalls, you may enter a future coach-athlete relationship feeling negative about training due to stagnating gains.

The first 3-6 months of individualised coaching involves a great deal of trial and error. The coach tries to figure out the optimal training approach for the athlete, while the athlete tries to understand and adjust to the coach’s style and approach. For this reason, it is never too soon, and you are never too much of a novice, to start working with a coach on a one-to-one basis. If you start working with a coach whilst in the period often referred to as the “newbie gains phase”, your coach can start to learn what works best for you whilst you are still progressing. This will result in a far more positive experience for both the coach and the athlete.  

Having a coach work with you on a one-to-one basis becomes extremely important leading up to competitions. Whether Olympic lifting or powerlifting, coming up with a game plan in the months before competition can be critical to success on the platform.

As always, there are pros and cons to all decisions. Below are listed the common factors that may influence an athlete's decision to hire a coach.




  • Designed for you!



  • Higher Cost



  • External drivers for accountability.



  • Variance in quality



  • Opportunity to monitor fatigue and make adjustments based on lifestyle changes.



  • Can cause over-reliance on the coach.



To summarise, if it is financially viable, hiring a coach to help guide you through the process of gaining strength or improving specific skills is a no-brainer. The tricky part becomes selecting a coach that is right for you.

Some of the important considerations when selecting a coach are;  

  • Experience level (are they currently working with someone who has the same or similar goal as you?);
  • Individualization (is the program going to be truly individual or do they use templates?);
  • A sense of immediacy (are they easily reachable?);
  • Connection (do you have rapport?);
  • Emotional investment and passion (do they seem genuinely invested in your training?).

At Desert Barbell, all our coaches are available to receive individual programming requests from any level of athlete. Many athletes report the decision of getting a coach to be the best decision they have made as a trainee in the iron game.

*Disclaimer: the author of this article has a severe bias towards the encouragement of individualised coaching services.

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