Personality and Program Design

One of the most important variables to consider when designing a successful program is the personality of the trainee. It’s important because designing a program to fit the likes and dislikes of an individual trainee could mean the difference between your trainee following the program to a T or them half-assing it. In this article I’ll discuss several programming variables that might need to fluctuate based on an individual’s personality traits.

Exercise Variability

This is a variable that can be very useful for individuals who find that training quickly becomes boring if the workouts are the same every week. By rotating the assistance exercises the trainee can encounter an almost entirely new workout each week. It also allows for the coach to work on several different aspects of the lift: technique one week, weak point the next, etc. On the other hand, you may find that the trainee does not enjoy much variability at all and prefers consistency and familiarity. In this case it’s probably best to vary exercises very infrequently perhaps only with the mesocycle or less, depending upon the individual.

Some considerations to keep in mind: It’s probably still a good idea to train the competition exercises in addition to any of the variations introduced. This will ensure the movement pattern stays fresh and that transference is high. The trainee should also be sure to push the variation to the level of intensity prescribed and not to low-ball it due to novelty.

Emotional Variations

I’ve written about psyching up in the past and how there is spectrum of lifters from emotional to analytical. A coach should consider the effect a trainee’s psyche-up routine might have on their overall level of fatigue.

I’ll admit this is mostly just a hunch as I don’t have much data on it but I believe that emotional lifters would do better with sets across (or repeats, in RTS parlance) with maybe working up to one heavy set a week. Although, one could also make the case that I’ve got it flipped and that analytical lifters should use more sets across while the emotional lifters are more adapted to getting psyched up and can more readily dissipate the fatigue. As I said, need more data here.

My reasoning for using more sets across as opposed to working up to a topset is that you’re less likely to get amped for multiple sets across. Even if you’re an analytical lifter and don’t intentionally get hyped for a PR, it’s still probably going to have a psychological impact on you. I can say from experience, if I work up to a PR I’m less likely to get as many dropsets as I would had I worked up to the same RPE but not a PR.

Opportunities for PRs

One big factor that can affect motivation is the opportunity for breaking personal records on a regular basis. Motivation can be an important variable to monitor and drive as a coach and a lifter. It can affect adherence to a program and, I have a feeling, it can subconsciously affect how hard we work during training.

Depending upon the trainee they might be ok working in at a lower percentage of their max building up volume until they display that strength at a meet, like in a Sheiko-style program. Conversely, other lifters will need to be breaking some sort of personal record at an often enough frequency to feel like they’re making progress. The best approach is probably somewhere in the middle (as usual).

The trainee’s personality is only one variable the coach needs to take into account but it’s just as important as any other.


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