by Robert Maxwell
Recently I was reminded of a workout truth that I’ve known for a long time, but pushed into the back of my mind. What truth? That a good training partner can vastly improve your strength training performance. When I first heard this from athletes more experienced than me, I had a tough time swallowing it. That’s because for the most part, I trained alone, and still do. At least 90 percent of my workouts are performed solo in my small basement gym. Even though there’s a commercial, industrial-sized gym just a couple kilometers from my house, I’ve opted to train at home for a few reasons: less noise and distraction, no sharing of equipment, no travel time, and no membership fees. That said, training solo has its disadvantages. The first one that comes to mind is no training partners. As some of you know, recently my younger brother Joseph returned from university for the summer. This has given us the opportunity to train together for a couple months, and it’s been good for both of us. Beyond the obvious benefits of camaraderie and mutual encouragement, there are some definite positives to having a good training partner that you might not have thought of.
You Perform Better
Although I usually work out alone, I’ve exercised with dedicated training partners often enough to know that there’s a mystical performance improvement that happens in the presence of someone just as dedicated as you. Challenging each other is certainly part of the reason, but it goes further. Not wanting to be the weak one in your duo drives you on to greater feats of strength than you would’ve been capable of on your own. Maybe it’s the spirit of competition between the two of you. Maybe it’s elevated testosterone from being in the same room as another strength training enthusiast, or maybe it’s a combination of both, and other factors too. In any case, it’s been well documented by lifters and athletes of all sorts that training with someone like-minded beside you, going through the same workout you are, has a huge positive effect. If you’ve spent most of your training sessions alone, as I have, you might not realize this. In my own training, I’ve lifted as much is 30 pounds more than my previous personal best due to the presence of a training partner. Bad training partners will pull you down, but good ones definitely help you.
You’re Held Accountable
As everyone who’s trained for more then a few months knows, even the most motivated person runs out of drive eventually. If you can stick with your training regime through this period of low motivation, you’re much more likely to enjoy long-term success in your strength and fitness quest. Trouble is, sticking with your training when you don’t feel motivated is hard. Weights that seemed light a few weeks ago will feel as if they’ve doubled their mass, and the same workout that left you feeling energized a month ago will make you feel like a wet paper bag when your well of motivation is dry. That’s where your training partner comes in. When you’re enduring a motivational dry spell, they’ll be there to kick you into gear, and help you push through feelings of dread and weakness. Also, because you and your training partner are different people, you’ll be able to return the favor when their motivation has run dry. In this way, you’ll buoy each other up, and help each other maintain a consistent fitness and strength training schedule, even when both of you suffer decreased motivation. If your training partner is worth their salt, they’ll mercilessly push you into action on the days you’re feeling down and out. If you’re a good training partner, you’ll do the same for them.
You Learn From Each Other
No matter how interested you are in a particular subject, if all your study and experience is solitary, you won’t reach your full potential of knowledge and abilities. This is another area training partners help. Having someone who shares your passion to compare and contrast experiences along your fitness journey, and offer suggestions on dealing with problems can help advance your strength training career far more efficiently than if you go it alone. Even if the two of you have the same focus, there’s no doubt your experiences will differ slightly. These shared but different experiences can help you overcome individual problems. Learning from each other’s successes and failures can help you tremendously, and do the same for your training partner.