The Hawthorne Effect of Personal Training

If someone watches you while you train, your performance will improve. This is known as the Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect), and it’s one of the benefits of personal training. Check out this study:

The influence of direct supervision of resistance training on strength performance. Mazzetti SA, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Duncan ND, Ratamess NA, Gómez AL, Newton RU, Häkkinen K, Fleck SJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. June, 2000. 32(6): 1175-84. [Abstract]

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare changes in maximal strength, power, and muscular endurance after 12 wk of periodized heavy-resistance training directly supervised by a personal trainer (SUP) versus unsupervised training (UNSUP).

Methods: Twenty moderately trained men aged 24.6 +/- 1.0 yr (mean +/- SE) were randomly assigned to either the SUP group (N = 10) or the UNSUP group (N = 8). Both groups performed identical linear periodized resistance training programs consisting of preparatory (10-12 repetitions maximum (RM)), hypertrophy (8 to 10-RM), strength (5 to 8-RM), and peaking phases (3 to 6-RM) using free-weight and variable-resistance machine exercises. Subjects were tested for maximal squat and bench press strength (1-RM), squat jump power output, bench press muscular endurance, and body composition at week 0 and after 12 wk of training.

Results: Mean training loads (kg per set) per week were significantly (P < 0.05) greater in the SUP group than the UNSUP group at weeks 7 through 11 for the squat, and weeks 3 and 7 through 12 for the bench press exercises. The rates of increase (slope) of squat and bench press kg per set were significantly greater in the SUP group. Maximal squat and bench press strength were significantly greater at week 12 in the SUP group. Squat and bench press 1-RM, and mean and peak power output increased significantly after training in both groups. Relative local muscular endurance (80% of 1-RM) was not compromised in either group despite significantly greater loads utilized in bench press muscular endurance testing after training. Body mass, fat mass, and fat-free mass increased significantly after training in the SUP group.

Conclusion: Directly supervised, heavy-resistance training in moderately trained men resulted in a greater rate of training load increase and magnitude which resulted in greater maximal strength gains compared with unsupervised training.

To understand why supervision can have such a positive influence on novices and experienced lifters, read Will I get a better workout if I hire a personal trainer? by Alex Hutchinson.

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