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The Need For a Training Partner
by Anthony Millar of dotfitness.co.uk

One of the points I often overhear being discussed in the gym, particularly by beginners, are the advantages or disadvantages of having a training partner. As a competitive bodybuilder I have had many years training both solo and with a partner or partners. I like to think that I have achieved a certain amount of success using both methods. It is not really so much a question of having a training partner or partners as much as deciding one’s own personal requirements. The point to remember always is that training is very much an individual sport and training must be tailored to meet each individuals needs. A training partner is just another piece of training equipment to be used in the gym to your own best advantage.

One of the points I often overhear being discussed in the gym, particularly by beginners, are the advantages or disadvantages of having a training partner. As a competitive bodybuilder I have had many years training both solo and with a partner or partners. I like to think that I have achieved a certain amount of success using both methods. It is not really so much a question of having a training partner or partners as much as deciding one’s own personal requirements. The point to remember always is that training is very much an individual sport and training must be tailored to meet each individuals needs. A training partner is just another piece of training equipment to be used in the gym to your own best advantage.



Having decided on the need for a training partner, how is s/he to be selected? It is really an issue of availability, you can only have what is there and of course who is willing. People training together must have common objectives i.e. bodybuilding, strength set, keep fit or whatever. My own personal preference for a training partner is someone bigger and stronger but I have trained with people of all sizes and strengths. The ideal situation is to try to introduce some element of competition into the workout. There are several good reasons for having a training partner. The main reason must be safety. To the solo trainer several exercises are at the best awkward, at the worst dangerous. The dangerous exercises that spring readily to mind are of course: Bench press, any kind of heavy dumbbell pressing and squats. Some awkward exercises that can be difficult to manage alone are: Any type of heavy dumbbell pressing, tricep curls and preacher curls.



It is possible for good training equipment to eliminate these risks, especially squats. Although all heavy pressing movements should have someone in attendance to assist. This is one of the advantages of belonging to a well-organised gym where assistance is always available. However, it is necessary to point out that friendship with a training partner can be a definite advantage, but should be secondary to the promotion of one’s own targets. Another important function of a training partner is that of encouragement. Bodybuilding is full of ups and downs, both of the mental and physical types. Periods when training seems hard, poundage’s drop off, even going to a gym can be too much effort. A good training partner can help to overcome these sticking points and help put training right back on track. Praise from a training partner is a good source of encouragement because s/he is in a good position to evaluate progress. Objective criticism is always useful whatever the stage of physical development.



It could be argued that the finest incentive of all is the mirror, particularly for bodybuilders, but competing in a gym against a well-trained partner does provide a great incentive to improve. Last on my list but by no means least is the companionship that often occurs between training associates. It must always be remembered that training is a very single minded pursuit and as such requires maximum concentration. However having said that, it is nice to hear the odd joke and have a laugh or two. Aiming to fulfil you potential is a very demanding goal, so it is absolutely crucial that you enjoy your training. An ultra serious attitude is only required during the last stages of preparation for competition. Having said that, I do not agree with wasting time in the gym.



The disadvantages of having a training partner, again depends on the people involved. The biggest disadvantage of all is the amount of time involved when training with one or more training partners. Having one partner means that on the whole there is a significant amount of time spent hanging around. In theory this should not happen but in practice it nearly always does. More than one partner means even more time wasted. Intensity can be increased using a variety of techniques (see article on training intensity) such as supersets but it’s a difficult programme to keep up for any length of time. If heavy poundage’s are being handled or power/weight lifting is involved, time is not quite such an important consideration because of the need to recover for longer. In general training solo is the best way of using time in a gym, particularly for the bodybuilder.



Another problem that often arises with training partners is the planning of a routine. Very few people are similar enough to require exactly the same schedule for training. It is of great importance to arrange training programmes for your own individual needs, although obviously a little give and take is necessary. Although training schedules should be of a general nature, one’s own individual weak points should be catered for. This schedule planning is often the most difficult problem to overcome between two or more serious trainers. One way to overcome this particular aspect is as follows. Plan a routine agreeing on the basic requirements and types of exercises, sets, numbers of reps etc. For example heavy squats for thighs, even various ‘finishing’ exercises as needed, e.g. thigh extensions, leg curls, hack squats etc.

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