Personal Training Enhances Performance: Why Unsupervised Exercise Could Be Holding You Back
You've been exercising for months and after seeing some initial results you've hit a plateau and can't quite figure out why. You've tried to increase the weight of the exercises, you've tried to change the exercises that you are doing or the order of your workout, you've even tried increasing the amount of times you are working out in a week but nothing seems to help you break through that pesky plataeu. Maybe you get so discouraged that you even stop working out as much and eventually stop altogether. If this sounds like something you are experiencing or have experienced in the past you certainly are not alone. Unfortunately this is the story for many exercisers. Exercise research suggests the problem might not be your exercise choice, exercise frequency, or load that is being lifted but rather that you are not being supervised in your workout!
When people think about a personal trainer or exercise physiologist their first thought is that they are just for people who are unsure about what to do in a workout or don't know how to perform certain exercises. The role of a Personal Trainer is so much more than just designing the workout routine and showing you how to execute the exercises properly. Personal Trainers hold you accountable to show up regularly to your workouts even on days that you don't feel like completing your workout. Personal Trainers will also make sure that while you are in the workout you are adequately pushing yourself to the right level of intensity so that you are maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of your workout. This accountability to show up consistently and push yourself in a workout is the key to sustained success in any workout program. You may think that you are consistent in your effort in your workouts but inevitably over the course of several weeks, months, or even years there will be many workouts that you don't push yourself hard enough. Exercise research shows that no supervision in your workout can have the same effect as not even exercising at all!
The value of a Personal Trainer is outlined very effectively in a research study by Storer et al. titled "Effect of Supervised, Periodized Exercise Training vs. Self-Directed Training On Lean Body Mass and Other Variables in Health Club Members." Participants with an age of 30-44 were divided into two groups. One group was exercising with a Personal Trainer while the other group participated in self directed exercise training. The objective for both groups was to increase their muscle mass over the course of the 12 week long training study. Secondary outcomes that were assessed included muscle strength and aerobic capacity. The group that was working with a Personal Trainer performed a workout regimen that was developed by Expert Exercise Physiologists, Personal Trainers, Physical Therapists, and Athletic Trainers. This included strength training and short duration (30 seconds or less) interval sprints throughout the 12 weeks. The self directed group was permitted to use training methods of their choosing but with the understanding that the main goal was to increase muscle mass. Records of the work performed by the group with Personal Trainers was logged by the Personal Trainer and the self directed group kept a log of work performed on their own.
After 12 weeks of this exercise program the subjects were assessed once again. The principle finding of this study was the significant increase of 1.3 kg of muscle mass found in the subjects that were exercising with the supervision of a Personal Trainer while there was NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE in the self directed group. Meaning if the self directed group did not exercise at all there would be no difference in their results! While there were significant increases in strength amongst both groups in the 12 week long study the group exercising with supervision from a Personal Trainer increased their strength outcomes by an average of 38% while the unsupervised group increased their strength by 24%. In addition to having a larger increase of muscle mass and strength in the supervised group the supervised group also showed greater increases in aerobic capacity shown with a VO2 max measurement. It is notable that nearly half of the trained subjects showed a DECREASE in VO2 max. Meaning over the course of the 12 week long study subjects who were exercising 3 times a week showed a WORSE aerobic capacity than they had prior to the study.
In conclusion this 12 week long study comparing individuals who exercise with the supervision of a Personal Trainer to individuals who participate in self directed exercise shows that people who exercise with a Personal Trainer show significant increases in muscle mass, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity over people who participated in self directed exercise. In addition the study showed that the individuals who participated in self directed exercise showed no significant change in muscle mass and aerobic capacity and in many cases showed a decrease in aerobic capacity. While both groups showed increases in muscle strength the group who exercised with the supervision of a Personal Trainer showed a significantly higher improvement in muscle strength.
The researchers suggest that the differences in the outcomes between the two groups in the study came primarily from the overall intensity of the workouts. They suggest that the self regulated group was not pushing themselves hard enough in the workouts which led too little to no improvements in muscle mass, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity. In addition to the lack of intensity in the self directed group some subjects were performing a workout routine that was not conducive to building muscle and strength adequately.
This study does a great job of simulating what happens in a real world setting and relates to the situation many exercisers find themselves in. After 12 weeks of diligent exercise they see no results, they get discouraged and unmotivated by the lack of results so they stop exercising altogether. Whether you have noticed this happening to you or not you are likely not maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts if you are not training with the supervision of a Personal Trainer.
If you are interested in starting an evidence based workout program with 1 on 1 guidance from an Expert Exercise Professional then sign up for a Free Introductory Workout with Reformed Fitness. The workouts can be completed anytime in any setting by exercisers of all experiences. We look forward to helping you maximize your workout routine!