Does Personal training work?
Knowing that I am a fitness professional, you might be inclined to think that I’m an exercise guy. That I’m married to the notion that all life’s problems are prevented and cured by exercise. That the path to all that is good runs through a gym filled with iron, free space to move, and knowledgeable professionals to guide you along.
The truth is, I’m not an “exercise guy”. Nor am I a nutrition guy, a rehab guy, or an interval guy.
Rather, I’m a results guy, and secondarily a research guy and real world guy. That means I follow what works, what is substantiated by the rigors of the scientific method, and its application to the real world – (the one which in which you have to figure out how to sleep, attend to your family, work, community, and social obligations, and don’t forget some time to exercise, prepare nutritious meals, and have some downtime for mental health!).
So if there was a preponderance of evidence supporting guzzling whisky while hanging upside down for positively affecting just about every aspect of human functioning, well then, I’d be operating a Jack Daniel’s distillery and selling inversion tables. You could then call me an “inverted whisky guy”.
Coming back from the absurd, it is fair to ask, as I have often done, does personal training really work? You see, that is actually a great question, because it is clearly different than asking, “does exercise work for ______” The evidence is clear that exercise improves every aspect of the human condition, some more so than others. But what about personal training?
As we amass more and more success stories at Spectrum Fitness Consulting, it becomes abundantly clear to everyone here that personal training works, especially our approach. And given that we work with a broad spectrum (there’s that word) of clientele –in contrast to most population specific training centers – it is clear that it works well in the real world.
But what about the research? Surprisingly, few studies have been done. But the ones that have been done are excellent studies, because they involved excellent programming and highly educated trainers allowing for a true investigation of personal training. Also, they all involved a “control” or a group doing the exact same thing as the experimental group (those with a trainer) except they were on their own – without a trainer
So here is some of what was found
Mazzetti , et al. The influence of direct supervision of resistance training on strength performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jun;32(6):1175-84
Two groups performed an identical training program. One group saw a personal trainer once, and were given a workout log. The other group saw a personal trainer 3x/week. Those who worked with a trainer achieved 30-45% more strength, and achieved their results 30% faster. They also lost significantly more fat and gained more muscle
McClaran THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PERSONAL TRAINING ON
CHANGING ATTITUDES TOWARDS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2003)
Researchers found that one-to-one personal training caused a significant progression through the Stages of the Transtheoretical Model, a valid model for measuring perceptions and attitudes that correlate with decisions and beliefs. Thus, one-to-one training positively changed people’s attitudes about activity and health.
Coutts AJ, Effect of direct supervision of a strength coach on measures of muscular strength and power in young rugby league players. ,J Strength Cond Res. 2004 May;18(2):316-23.
16-year-old athletes were divided up into a supervised training or unsupervised group. They performed the same program for 12 weeks. The supervised group demonstrated greater adherence and strength gains compared to the unsupervised group.
Higher supervision ratio results in greater lifting intensity and greater strength gains
Gentil, P. Bottaro, M. JSCR 24, 3, 2010
These researchers compared a group of untrained exercisers supervised in a ratio of 1:25 (one coach, 25 subjects) to a group supervised in a ratio of 1:5 (one coach, 5 athletes). They wanted to see if subjects worked at different intensities and achieved different results based on how much supervision they received.
Not surprisingly, the high supervision group achieved better strength gains at the end of the study. Also, over 50% more of the subjects in the high supervision group trained at maximum intensity compared to the low supervision group. Several studies have shown the same effect in the past.
Just imagine the differences clients in our small group programs (1:3 supervision ratio) or one-to-one training programs experience compared to low supervision (i.e. boot camps and body pump classes) or no supervision!
Factor in a properly designed program, better assessment, teaching, and nutrition, and that explains the huge difference in results our clients experience when they train with us versus on their own or in some class.
Better results, faster. Sure, exercise works, but it works better with a trainer.
Why? Certainly the program design is key, but these studies show that this isn’t the only factor. Is it the motivation, the accountability, the feedback about form and technique?
I believe it is all these things, and more… like management and prevention of injuries, proper nutritional guidance – the whole “shebang”. Which is precisely why we support a comprehensive approach, whether it is in dealing with our young athletes, or retirees looking for the fountain of youth.
Although the answer seems clear that personal training works, it doesn’t stop us from constantly search for ways to make it work better, for more people, and not for 12 weeks, but forever. That is our mission.
Guess that’s why you can call me the comprehensive health and fitness guy – doesn’t have quite the ring as the inverted whisky guy, huh?