Throughout decades of unwavering dedication to the iron, I’ve worked with countless assistance tools and techniques in an attempt to improve my training performance and safety.
I’ve used belts, wraps, straps, pre-workout drinks, caffeine, stimulants, psychological strategies, etc. You name it, and I’ve tried it! Some helped, some provided a short-term placebo effect and then petered out, and some flat out sucked.
There is one “assistance tool,” however, that consistently ensured a better workout—a solid training partner. A training partner can be a coach, a buddy, or even better, a combination of the two.
NOTE: At my training center, I fully utilize this “combo” approach. I coach clients in groups, and inside those groups I pair trainees up as partners. In other words, I create the programming and large picture technical coaching while partners work together and coach one another.
This is an awesome way to put your learning on the fast track and truly stay engaged in what’s going on. If you have an opportunity to train in this manner, I strongly suggest you take advantage of it.
There are so many benefits of having a training partner, it’s hard to know where to begin. But I will list some of my favorite perks:
1) Safety- A watchful eye and an appropriate “spot” from a partner can, quite frankly, save you from getting injured. In fact, there are some exercises that shouldn’t even be attempted without a spotter. Failing to follow this advice can lead to countless avoidable injuries, so don’t do it!
2) Motivation- We all set limitations upon ourselves. Breaking through these limitations are difficult but necessary in order to make progress and accomplish worthy goals. A good partner can be indispensible in this process.
A great example of this phenomenon is the one-mile run event. There was a time when no one thought it possible to run a mile in under four minutes. Then, on May 6th 1954, Roger Bannister broke this supposedly impossible barrier. A little over a month later, Roger’s time was beaten. After that, sub four-minute miles were run at just about every track and field event with regularity.
I’ve seen this type of scenario happen many times when people are training with partners. Once your partner achieves something impressive, you become highly motivated to do the same. This motivation breaks down your self-imposed limitations. Your desire to fight and keep up with the pack will make you accomplish things you thought you could never do. It’s pretty awesome stuff!
3) Increased rate of technical learning- One of the fastest ways to learn is to teach. By assessing someone else’s form, you’re helping them while putting your own rate of learning into overdrive. This truly creates a win-win scenario.
4) Accountability- There are plenty of times when your inner voice will cop out and say, “I’ll get to the gym later.” Unfortunately, even if you have the best of intentions, later often never comes. The people who do the best in the gym typically show up at the same time and are accountable to a partner or coach who is waiting there for them.
5) Fun- Training with a partner or a group can give you the feeling of playing a team sport. Socializing before and after training, getting better results more safely, and “going into battle” with your peers all make training more memorable, more inspiring, and more fun.
I hope this list inspires you to train with a partner. It has the potential to improve your training experience and results like nothing else can. The key, however, is finding a good partner. And that starts with being a good one yourself. Here’s how:
1) Be punctual- and by punctual, I mean 10-15 minutes early. Not only is being late annoying, disrespectful and inconsiderate, it also robs you and your partner of the critical time you need to communicate to each other. This is when you discuss if anything is sore that may need to be worked around, as well as what type of spot you’ll need and what your goals are for the day.
2) Be consistent- Luckily, this is a self-correcting behavior. If you don’t show up consistently, you’ll be dumped by your partner. But before you do, you’ll be letting your partner and your “team” down—again and again. This is unfair and selfish. If you have commitment issues, if you’re flakey, or if you just lack the self-discipline to stick with something, leave everyone else out of it and get your shit together.
3) Leave ALL negativity at the door- For most people, training represents recreational, goal oriented, de-stressing, fun. Bringing any negativity into the gym from your personal life is an absolute no-no.
Like a dark cloud, negative energy can affect the entire vibe in the gym. And trust me, even if your partners are your best friends, they don’t want to be brought down by your negativity during training.
If you need to have a heavy talk, call your partner after training is over. The middle of a squat set is not the time for a therapy session.
4) Be focused- lack of focus means lack of both results and safety. You must stay engaged with what’s going on. Have a genuine interest in the success and the well-being of your partner. This includes: Making sure the weight is evenly loaded on the bar. Assessing and correcting your partner’s positioning. Never attempting to engage your partner in useless irrelevant conversations. Not talking with your partner while they are doing a set. Not walking away from them to check your phone when you should be spotting. Not daydreaming. Etc.
5) Learn how to spot- your ability to spot correctly is absolutely crucial to your partner’s safety. Any high performance exercise brings with it an element of risk. That risk is minimized, or in some cases eliminated completely, with correct spotting. If you and your partner don’t work with a coach regularly, at least hire one for a few sessions to learn the basics of this important skill.
6) Lead by example- You want a great training partner, right? Someone who believes in you, pushes you, never accepts anything but your very best, watches out for your safety, and has a positive can-do attitude day in and day out. Well, guess what? Your partner wants a great partner too!
If you want a great training partner, BE a great training partner. Make sure that you embody every single quality you want your partner to have. That way, you’ll be sure to attract exactly the same thing.
The road to fitness is rewarding, but it is paved with sweat. It is not meant to be walked alone. So go find a partner who is willing to go down that road with you. Trust me, you will be glad you did!
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