The Benefits of Supervised Strength Training


Supervised Strength Training is More Effective, Swedish Study Finds, is an article from  Science Daily.  What does it tell us?   It turns out that supervision and personalization is an important component of an injury-prevention (prehabilition) workout–at least when it’s performed by Swedish volleyball players.  This information probably isn’t a huge shock but the implications are worth considering not only for injury-related issues but also for any fitness or sports performance goals.

The study surveyed 158 elite-level volleyball players by way of a questionnaire.  The answers indicated that almost all the players performed some kind of injury-prevention program yet almost half of the players had been injured.  Most of the players exercised without supervision.  Further, two groups of players were given exercise programs.  One group was given a personalized program and was supervised by a physiotherapist.  The other group was given a non-personalized program and they were not supervised during workouts.  The supervised group both improved their performance more than and had a lower injury rate than the unsupervised group.

Now, from the description of the study, there are several weak points that we could discuss: small sample size, physiological differences in the groups that might predispose or protect the players from injury, effect of the supervision vs. the effect of the personalized workout in the results, validity of the questionnaire.  What’s more important though is that even elite-level athletes might benefit from a personalized, supervised conditioning program.

“I have a feeling that more athletes really stick to the program and focus on the task if there is a coach present. Many players may feel that the strength and conditioning training is the boring part of their sport, which makes it tempting to ‘cheat’ when nobody is watching,” says Sofia Augustsson, author of the study.

These are people for whom their sport is a major focus of their lives to the point that they may be earning a living from volleyball, so we might expect very strict adherence to any exercise program given to them.  However, the behavior of these athletes and the results of their exercise programs confirms something I learned in graduate school: personalized programs and close interaction with individuals has impact.  The more a fitness instructor or coach can work with one person or a small group the more likely that person or group will adhere to a program and succeed.

Does this sound like an argument for hiring a personal trainer?  Well, yes, absolutely it does!  Obviously I’m biased here but at the same time, there seems to be just a little bit of science to back up the idea.

To take it a little further, what I often see in the gym are people exercising but putting forth little effort.  They’re often doing the same workout over and over.  They may be neglecting their needs in favor of their “wants.”  (“I want bigger pecs,” or  “I want washboard abs” for example but what he or she may need is more hip or spine mobility, better shoulder stability or better nutrition.)  So often these folks are putting in the time but they’re not getting the most value for their time–but at least they’re doing something in the way of exercise.   Many more gym goers will give up altogether.  They’ll spend some time exercising but never knowing the important whys and hows of getting to their goal.  They’d stand as good a chance of getting a college degree without a degree plan.  (BTW, here are some interesting stats on Americans’ exercise habits…  Had to throw that in somewhere.)

It’s entirely likely that some time (and yes money) spent with a trainer could improve things dramatically.  Just about anyone will benefit from a different set of eyes to look over their goals and their methods to achieving those goals.  Even the most dedicated gym rat works harder when someone else is pushing him or her.  Getting in shape and staying healthy is more than just reading an article or doing the workout you did in high school.  So if you want to get the very most out of your time in the gym, or on the road, or on the track, the pool, the basketball court–wherever it is you exercise, seek out professional advice and you may achieve more than you ever imagined.