Preprint / Version 1

The role of supervision in resistance training

An exploratory systematic review and meta-analysis


  • James P. Fisher
  • James Steele Solent University
  • Milo Wolf
  • Patroklos Androulakis-Korakakis
  • Dave Smith
  • Jürgen Giessing



Supervision, strength, muscle, training


Background: The body of resistance training literature appears heavily focused upon investigating efficacy of interventions by dint of most incorporating supervision (SUP). Authors have suggested that a lack of SUP within strength training results in inadequate workout quality and diminished results yet, since many people choose to perform resistance training unsupervised (UNSUP), it seems important to understand effectiveness of resistance training under such ecologically valid conditions. That is, the extent to which SUP might impact adaptation. Objective: To collectively explore the effects of SUP upon performance/function and body composition outcomes. Design: Exploratory systematic review and meta-analysis. Search and Inclusion: A systematic literature search using a Boolean search strategy was conducted with PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, and CINAHL in December 2020 and was supplemented with additional ‘snowballing’ searches. To be included in our analysis, studies had to be experimental trials including at least one performance/functional measure (e.g., strength, speed, power, function, endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness) and/or body composition measure (body fat percentage, fat mass, and fat free mass). After search and screening, 12 studies were eligible for inclusion including 301 participants in SUP groups and a further 276 participants in UNSUP groups. Results: The cluster robust main model for all performance/function effects (57 across 12 clusters [median = 4, range = 1-12 effects per cluster]) revealed a small, standardised point estimate favouring SUP, though with relatively poor precision for the interval estimate that ranged from a trivial to a moderate effect favouring SUP (0.28 [95%CI = 0.02 to 0.55]). For sub-grouped outcome types there was very poor precision of robust estimates for speed, power, function, and endurance, with all ranging from large effects supporting UNSUP to large effects supporting SUP. However, for strength there was a small, standardised point estimate favouring SUP though with moderate precision for the interval estimate that ranged from a trivial effect favouring SUP to a moderate effect favouring SUP (0.40 [95%CI = 0.06 to 0.74]). The cluster robust main model for all body composition effects (18 across 6 clusters [median = 3, range = 1-6 effects per cluster]) revealed a trivial standardised point estimate favouring SUP that was relatively precise in the interval estimate ranging only trivial effects in either direction (0.07 [95%CI = -0.01 to 0.15]). Conclusions: The results of the present systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis suggest that, broadly speaking, SUP resistance training might produce a small effect on increases in performance/function, most likely in strength, compared to UNSUP, and has little to no impact on body composition outcomes. However, the lack of role and purpose within supervision as well as the lack of parity in UNSUP exercise interventions make providing a conclusive and overarching recommendation difficult.


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