Understanding Personalized Training Responses: Can Genetic Assessment Help?

Craig Pickering1, 2, *, John Kiely1
1 Institute of Coaching and Performance, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
2 Exercise and Nutritional Genomics Research Centre, DNAFit Ltd, London, UK

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Creative Commons License
© 2017 Pickering and Kiely.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Institute of Coaching and Performance, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, UK; Tel: +44(0)1772201201; E-mail:



Traditional exercise prescription is based on the assumption that exercise adaptation is predictable and standardised across individuals. However, evidence has emerged in the past two decades demonstrating that large inter-individual variation exists regarding the magnitude and direction of adaption following exercise.


The aim of this paper was to discuss the key factors influencing this personalized response to exercise in a narrative review format.


Genetic variation contributes significantly to the personalized training response, with specific polymorphisms associated with differences in exercise adaptation. These polymorphisms exist in a number of pathways controlling exercise adaptation. Environmental factors such as nutrition, psycho-emotional response, individual history and training programme design also modify the inter-individual adaptation following training. Within the emerging field of epigenetics, DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNA allow environmental and lifestyle factors to impact genetic expression. These epigenetic mechanisms are themselves modified by genetic and non-genetic factors, illustrating the complex interplay between variables in determining the adaptive response. Given that genetic factors are such a fundamental modulator of the inter-individual response to exercise, genetic testing may provide a useful and affordable addition to those looking to maximise exercise adaption, including elite athletes. However, there are ethical issues regarding the use of genetic tests, and further work is needed to provide evidence based guidelines for their use.


There is considerable inter-individual variation in the adaptive response to exercise. Genetic assessments may provide an additional layer of information allowing personalization of training programmes to an individual’s unique biology.

Keywords: Inter-individual, Exercise, Adaptation, Genetics, Epigenetics, Psycho-emotional, Personalized.