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Supervision in the gym: don't underestimate the coach effect

Newcomers to strength training make more rapid progress if they receive intensive supervision, write sports scientists from the University of Brasilia in an article published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. The main effect of supervisors is that they motivate athletes to train with sufficient weight.

Previous research
Supervision in the gym: don't underestimate the coach effect
The Brazilians' findings are not completely new. American research has already shown that beginners in the world of strength training have a tendency to train with too light weights. Even trained women, researchers from the College of New Jersey discovered, make better progress if they have a personal trainer who encourages them to add a little more weight. [J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):103-11.] The same is true for experienced athletes - in American studies they make faster progress if a trainer works with them to do something about their innate laziness. [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jun;32(6):1175-84.] [J Strength Cond Res. 2004 May;18(2):316-23.]

Supervision in the gym: don't underestimate the coach effect
So it's not that difficult to conclude that trainers will also have a positive effect on beginners, but nobody had ever researched the matter. And that's what the Brazilians did in their study. They took two groups of one hundred male students. One group trained three times a week in a gym where there was 1 coach present for 25 subjects [LS]. The other group trained in a gym where there was 1 coach for every 5 subjects [HS]. According to the experts, the optimal ratio between the number of clients and supervisors in a gym is somewhere between 6:1 and 10:1.

Before the experiment started and again after 11 weeks, the researchers measured the weight at which the test subjects were capable of making just one rep for bench presses and leg extensions.

The researchers noticed that the subjects in the HS group made more progress than the ones in the LS group.

Supervision in the gym: don't underestimate the coach effect

Supervision in the gym: don't underestimate the coach effect

The subjects in the LS group made 1.5 percent progress with the leg extensions and 10.2 percent progress with the bench presses. The figures for the HS group were 11.8 and 15.9 percent.

Supervisors have no effect on whether people visit the gym or not. The participants in both the LS and HS group missed the same number of training sessions. There was also no difference in the number of sets the groups did. The motivating effect of the coaches consisted above all of the fact that they advised their trainees to put on an extra weight.

However great the supervisors' effect seems to be in this study, on reading the article by the Brazilians you can't help wondering if it couldn't be bigger. "It was estimated that 74.19% of the subjects in the HS and 36.07% of the subjects in the LS groups trained with maximum intensity on the bench press exercise", the researchers write. "In the leg press exercise, 17.74% of the subjects in the HS and 9.68% in the LS trained with maximum repetitions."

J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Mar;24(3):639-43.

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