We are all unique, which is why we absolutely have to individualize our training program, lifestyle, diet, etc., to have the best possible results.
This is also why the generic workout programs and meal plans that some people sell are probably not the best for YOU, because they are, at best, made to suit the majority of people. Yes, you will probably share a few traits with the majority of people, but you will also have differences, which will make the program/meal plan not optimal for your progression.
There are a lot of variables, but here are the main variables that can have an impact on your training, nutrition and progression, and therefore which must be taken into account when you want to individualize your program/diet:
Men and women do not have the same physiology, the levels of sex hormones having a great influence on the majority of tissues in your body.
The older you get, the less you will recover, the less you can tolerate high intensity / heavy loads / high volume training, the less hypertrophy capacity you’ll have. You will still be able to progress and gain muscle at 50 y-o, but not in the same way as at 20 y-o. You just need to factor it into the program and be aware of it when setting your goals and monitoring your progression.
Years of training
Someone who has just started weight training is not going to have the same needs as someone who has been training for 15 years.
Our bone structure differs, the length of our limbs, different angles and ratios, different skeletal widths. You must therefore adapt your technique to your structure (location of the hands/feet, spacing of the hands/feet, angles, etc.).
Some can tolerate high training volume, others don’t.
We all recover at different rates, some people recover very quickly, others don’t.
This is the ability to maintain the same load and number of repetitions over the sets. Some people can maintain everything the same (3×10,10,10reps at 100kg), others will experience a decrease in reps while keeping the same load over the sets (3×10,8,6reps at 100kg).
Adaptation to a stimulus
The faster your body adapts to a stimulus (number of calories, training method, etc.), the more quickly this stimulus will become ineffective or sub-optimal and you will have to vary it in order to keep progressing.
For example, if your metabolism adapts quickly, “thrifty metabolism”, you will end up with a very big deficit at the end of your cut because you will have to decrease your calories frequently to maintain weight loss at the desired rate. A poorly adaptive metabolism, “spendthrift metabolism” is not going to require dropping your calories that low because you can keep losing weight with the same number of calories for several weeks.
Proportion of muscle fibers
If you have a majority of type II fibers, you will benefit from a training biased towards “heavy” loads and low repetitions (5-10reps). If you have a majority of Type I fibers, you will benefit from a training biased towards “light” loads and high repetitions (15-30reps). There is obviously a huge variation in the type I / type II ratio within an individual but also within each muscle.
Shape of your muscles
The shape of your muscles, determined by your genetics, will define your physique and the shape it can take. Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle mass, but there is no change in the shape of your muscles.
Response to hypertrophy stimuli
Your muscles may respond better to mechanical tension and/or metabolic stress, orient your training according to the result you get after using different hypertrophy stimuli.
Rate of muscle gains
Some people can gain muscle very quickly, for others it is a long process.
Our progress is not infinite, unfortunately there is a limit which is higher or lower depending on the person.
Initial muscle mass
If you already have a significant muscle mass before you start weight training, you will probably be more muscular than other people with less muscle initially, assuming that you have the same training and the same rate of muscle gains. This is the main reason for the difference in muscle mass between men and women, because the average rate of muscle gain is similar, it’s just that men have more initial muscle mass.
We do not all have the same goals, some want to gain muscle, others want to lose fat or compete, or be healthier, or just train to let off steam without a particular physique goal. You have to adapt your lifestyle according to your goals, a program made for a Mr. Olympia will not be suitable at all for an overweight person who is just looking to be healthier.
Depending on whether you are in deficit/maintenance/calorie surplus, you will not have the same recovery capacities, not the same general energy, hypertrophy capacities etc.
Stress has an impact on water retention (which affects visually your physique), recovery, your training progress, your focus etc.
Someone with a sedentary job (ex: office work) should not have the same diet and the same training as someone with a very active and intense work (ex: construction worker).
If you move a lot and are very active, you will burn a lot of energy, which should be taken into account for your diet, recovery and training.
If you have disease(s), it can interfere a lot with your diet / training / recovery, depending on the effects the disease is having and the treatment you have.
PEDs (performance enhancing drugs)
The consumption of performance enhancing drugs will change your physiology, and the diet / training / progression / recovery of someone who uses drugs will not be the same at all as a natural , although the basic principles remain the same.
Here are the main factors, but I’m sure you can still find more.
This long list underlines the importance of individualizing your lifestyle (program, diet, etc.) to obtain the best possible results but above all, to be able to maintain this lifestyle over the long term, because it is enjoyable and 100% suitable for you.
Author: Eleonore Vatin, bodybuilding coach