Over the decades in which I’ve been hitting the iron, I’ve trained alone for stretches but mostly I’ve trained with a lifting partner. The faces have changed over the years, but I’ve always consistently gotten my best workouts with a partner. Why do many people get their best results from training with a partner? Here are my top four reasons!
Accountability: There are days when most people don’t feel like working out. Maybe they’re tired, or upset about something that happened at home or at work. Maybe things are hectic, and the time could be spent elsewhere. Maybe they’re just lazy that day. Regardless of the reason, sooner or later most people will have a day when they physically could go to the gym, and could make time for it, but choose not to. The occasional missed workout won’t hurt you in the long run, but once it starts happening regularly your results will stop … or go in reverse! Consistency is the key to progress, and lapses in workout discipline can lead to lapses in diet as well. That’s where a lifting partner can help. A partner can hold you accountable. If you know there’s someone who’ll be waiting for you at the gym, you’ll be much more likely to put on those sneakers and get your butt in gear! After all, what did you spend all that money buying expensive workout clothes for? Actually, if you shop smartly, you’ll be able to find some great discounts on quality products from popular brands like Nike by using coupons found online on sites such as Raise. Accountability works both ways: on the occasional day when your training partner can find ten million excuses not to get to the gym, you can be the opposing factor to get your partner going! This week we had a huge blizzard here in New York and one of my training partners texted me, “I’m snowed in. I haven’t left the crib.” I texted him back, “Cribs are for babies. Are you a baby?” He showed up that night. Of course, there has to be balance; if your partner needs frequent cajoling and threats to get to the gym, you need a new partner.
Motivation: Accountability can get you to the gym, but motivation can make your time there most productive. A partner who pushes you and makes you want to do your best is what we’re talking about. My partners laugh that one of my favorite sayings while spotting is to growl, “You’re stronger than that!” It invariably produces an extra rep or two at the end of a set by reminding them that we are all capable of so much more than we momentarily think. A good training partner learns over time about your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can be pushed to the limits of your capacity but not so far beyond those limits that you risk injury. A good training partner cares about your workout as well as his or her own. I’ve found that when two partners push each other in a mutually supportive way, workouts are more fun and productive than training solo.
Safety: If you’re going to handle the big weights on certain exercises, especially free weight ones, a spotter is a necessity. Trying to go heavy in flat barbell bench presses or squats without a spotter can be disastrous. On certain heavy dumbbell exercises, there’s a benefit to having the dumbbells handed to you. A young guy at my gym was regularly using 130 pound dumbbells on the flat bench, and I’d seen him manhandle them without a problem. Then one day as he was lifting them to get them onto his thighs he felt a searing rip in his lower back. He had to be carried to his car and was soon under the knife for lumbar spine surgery. Don’t be a hero: lifting one heavy dumbbell into position and having your training partner put the other one onto your thigh is simply good sense.
Competition: Most guys who train hard are competitive by nature. It just goes with the territory. Those competitive fires can be stoked into a burning inferno by a good lifting buddy. There’s nothing like going rep for rep with a worthy adversary of equal strength. I’ve been lucky to have had a number of partners who were of equivalent strength and power and of the same “won’t back down” mindset. Those are incredible workouts! But your training partner doesn’t have to be your exact strength match. Training with a partner who’s even stronger than you are can help you push past your personal bests. Training with a partner capable of handling lesser poundages can be awesome, too; you just have to adjust for the strength differential by picking respective weights that will keep you both in the same rep range.
So, if you’ve been training like a lone wolf, try training with a partner and see if you get more from your workouts! It’s a great way to start the New Year!! And please keep us posted on your progress!