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eeping Fit

Effects of Exercise Focus on Strength Training Performance

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

It may be that high levels of exercise focus challenge new participants in a way that increases their training effectiveness but decreases their training enjoyment. Whereas highly motivated athletes may want as much exercise focus as possible, new exercisers may feel more comfortable with infrequent exercise-related interactions.

While more research needs to be conducted on this topic, we suggest that fitness instructors provide new exercise participants with moderate exercise focus. For example, two or three pertinent and positive feedback statements per training session may be sufficient to enhance clients' exercise effectiveness without altering the psychological benefits associated with self-directed physical activity.

We further recommend that the majority of focused instructor interactions address the major aspects of proper exercise performance, without being too technical during the first few weeks of training. We also believe that better results may be attained from exercise-focused comments that reinforce the participants' training efforts. Finally, we believe focused statements that do not disrupt the clients' exercise flow are probably more effective from both a physiological and psychological perspective. Because clients are individuals, some may respond positively to high-focus exercise environments and others may not. Be sensitive to each exerciser's response to the teaching technique and do your best to instruct accordingly.


  1. Annesi, J. (1999). Evaluating ability to support client adherence. Fitness Management, 15(11), 36-38, 41. Also available:
  2. Annesi, J.J. (1999). Relationship between exercise professionals' behavioral styles and clients' adherence to exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 89, 597-604.
  3. Annesi, J. (2000). Hiring trainers who motivate clients. IDEA Fitness Manager, 12(1), 5-7.
  4. Annesi, J.J. (2002). Relationship between changes in acute exercise-induced feeling states, self-motivation, and adults' adherence to moderate aerobic exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 94, 425-439.
  5. Annesi, J.J. (2002). Self-motivation moderates effect of exercise-induced feelings on adherence. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 94, 467-475.
  6. Annesi, J.J., Westcott, W.L., Loud, R.L., & Powers, L. (2002). Effects of association and dissociation formats on resistance exercise-induced emotion change and physical self-concept in older women. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Table 1. Mean pre-training and post-training fitness scores for high exercise focus and low exercise focus groups (71 subjects). ______________________________________________________________________________ Association Group Dissociation Group Variable Pre Post Change Pre Post Change ______________________________________________________________________________ Bodyweight (lbs) 180.0 178.9 -1.1 197.0 196.1 -0.9
Percent Fat (%) 30.4 27.7 -2.7 *E 31.7 30.0 -1.7 *
Fat Weight (lbs) 56.1 50.9 -5.2 * 64.9 61.6 -3.3 *
Lean Weight (lbs) 123.8 127.8 +4.0 *E 132.2 134.4 +2.2 *
Strength (lbs) 46.0 55.0 +9.0 *E 48.2 50.6 +2.4 *
Flexibility (in) 30.1 33.4 +3.3 * 38.2 40.6 +2.4 *
Systolic BP (mmHg) 136.3 130.9 -5.4 130.4 127.7 -2.7
Dias. BP (mmHg) 76.5 68.5 -8.0 *E 73.1 74.6 +1.5
* significant within-group change (p <0.05)

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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