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Personal Trainers in the Gym

None of the 46 women in the study was a competitive bodybuilder—they were recruited at local health clubs.


A recent study examined how having a personal trainer influences the training of women. None of the 46 women in the study was a competitive bodybuilder—they were recruited at local health clubs. The women self-selected what they considered to be the optimal weight that would let them complete 10 reps on a few basic exercises, including the chest press, leg press and seated row. They were then tested on their one-rep maximum for each exercise. One group of women trained on their own, and the other trained under the supervision of personal trainers.

The women who trained on their own selected weights that were lower than optimal for promoting muscular gains. The women who trained with trainers selected weights that were about optimal for muscle gain purposes—60 percent of one-rep max. Questioning revealed that the women who trained themselves were afraid of getting big muscles, which explained why they opted to lift weights that would produce no gains. Their major goal wasn’t gaining muscle but toning. Those training under the guidance of personal trainers were more aware of the truth, which is that lifting weights alone isn’t likely to produce pro-female-bodybuilder muscularity.

The usefulness of any personal trainer, however, depends on his or her level of experience and knowledge. I’ve observed people who train under a personal trainer’s guidance and show no apparent changes at all, year after year, yet never seem to question the trainer’s competence. In such cases, the personal trainer serves as a paid friend instead of an actual trainer. When you think about it, that’s not much different from hiring a prostitute, although I’d venture that the prostitute is a lot more fun and probably provides more effective exercise. IM

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