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Personally designed workouts create a placebo effect that yields better results

The University of Agder has published results of pilot study into the impact of the placebo effect on personalised training programmes
Believing a training programme is bespoke yields benefits
Individuals are likely to train more and with higher intensity
Improved muscle thickness was one of the results
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Believing your training programme has been personally optimised just for you creates a placebo effect that leads to better results.

In a Norwegian pilot study, called The effects of being told you are in the intervention group on training results: a pilot study, published in the journal, Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Agder found the placebo effect, which is common in medicine, holds true for exercise as well.

“If you believe the training programme you're following has been optimised for you, that in itself will have an effect, regardless of the content of the programme. It is exactly the same as the placebo effect we know from medicine,” says research fellow Kolbjørn Andreas Lindberg.

The University of Agder study involved 40 individuals who underwent physical tests in a laboratory and were then given very similar training programmes.

Half of the group – the intervention group – were told the training programme had been specially adapted for them based on the tests. The control group did not receive such a message.

The groups were tested again after eight to 10 weeks of training and it turned out that those who thought they had received an individually-adapted training programme had achieved better results on average than the control group.

The main differences were with regards to squats and general muscle thickness.

Lindberg says this may seem surprising, but there are reasons why believing your training programme has been personally adapted for you could yield better results.

“The intervention group may have felt that they had to perform, since the programme was supposed to give them results,” he says. “Also those who thought they were following a personal programme trained a little more and with a higher intensity. Many such small factors can affect the results.”

Find out more about the research here.

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