Sunday, 25 July 2010

Training partner chemistry



Today I was speaking with a friend about a mutual friend of ours and he said,

"I don't want to train with him. I don't want to personal train someone for an hour when I'm trying to train."

Now, while this may sound a little cut-throat to some people, it's a fair point. It got me thinking about training partners, the chemistry between two training buddies, successful training relationships and the other side: arrangements which have a negative impact on training and results.

I see all combinations, two best friends training, large groups working together, solo-trainers or friends who became friends through the gym. However.. some are more successful than others.

Here's a few tips when picking your training partner:

Train with someone who brings something to the table...
Everyone has their first visits to a gym, and we're all constantly learning. No one knows EVERYTHING about working out, but the relationship needs to be a two-way street. It's one thing lending someone a hand, pointing them in the right direction, sorting out their program etc, but it soon wears thin when you need to spoon feed every part of the session.

Find someone that has prior knowledge or a different sporting background to yours but similar goals. For instance, as a rugby player I enjoy gym training with other rugby players but also fighters, sprinters and other power related athletes. Take a break from your usual routine when it's offered. Learn about flexibility from someone, move to a more cardio-based session if someone offers to show you a few bits. Approach sessions with an open mind and be willing to learn.

Big groups don't always mean big results...
I see it LOADS.. big groups of guys and girls who go to the gym together. It probably started as a pair and someone invited someone and so it went on. Bad news.. these aren't great for the gym.
More likely than not, these will be the groups who spread their time between working and chit-chat. For large groups doing weights based exercises, it's going to be a pain adjusting weights to suit everyone; an even bigger pain waiting around for your second set and getting cold while the other 4 do theirs.

As for peak time training, good luck finding 5 treadmills together or enough dumbells and benches for you and your pals.

Last but by NO means least, it's pretty unlikely you're going to find a group of friends all with similar goals. Which leads me to my next point...

Train with people who have similar goals...
Sessions can become HUGELY unproductive if time is spent arguing over exercises, repetitions, order of session etc if partners have different objectives. It's ESSENTIAL to find someone who wants the same thing. True, there's more than one way to skin a cat, but if your goals are poles apart the session is going nowhere.

Working hard... or hardly working?
Make sure when you pick a training partner it isn't someone who is more intent on catching up with you, telling you about their day, their family, their life and every other detail that isn't going to benefit your gym session It's fine to train with a friend but keep the social time and gym time seperate. If your gym partner is a talker or is spending their time trying to look good in the gym and attract members of the opposite sex, then change them. Or, explain your situation and ask them to change themselves. You'll bot benefit from it as the intensity of your sessions will increase so don't be afraid of offending them - it's for their own good.

Get pushed...
A little competition in the gym is always healthy. While I always use the old saying "train your body, not your ego", competition from your friends can improve the intensity of a session. It may be difficult to find a partner of equal size and strength but you may compete in other ways. For instance, weights wise use a percentage of your body weight as the scale for strength. Can you both bench press 100% of your own body weight? What about chin-ups and dips?

With regards to cardio, why not race? Give the less fit person a head start then let them try to not get caught while the fitter person tries their hardest to make up lost ground. Think laterally and introduce competition for the sake of improvement, not for the purpose of an ego boost, embarrassing your friend of to show how big and clever you are.

Without this level of competition and someone pushing you on, it's easy to get complaisant that you are the bigger or stronger or fitter person and if this continues, progress in the gym will be seriously damaged.

Listen up and be open minded...
You may be bigger, faster, leaner, fitter than your training partner, but you don't know everything. If they have an idea, go with it. Variation is key! Likewise, you see something you like that someone in the gym is doing, don't be afraid to ask. We're always learning so if you can get a little something from another gym goer then soak up all you can. I know I said to train with people similar to you, but if the opportunity comes to train with someone new as a one-off session go for it. If you trained with a gymnast and a powerlifter on two separate occasions, you may hate it but if you can take away just one thing from each session then it's been productive. Learning what you don't like and what doesn't work for you is just as important.

One-man(or woman)mission...
To the solo trainers. These guys have it in their favour in terms of time spent in the gym. I myself am usually a solo trainer most of the time and like that I don't need to wait for friends to finish sets, explain an exercise or adjust weights for other people and I can be done with a session quicker than most partners.

However... there are some things you don't get training alone. No spotter for heavier sets, no "let's do one more set" on the day you're feeling tired or even more essential for some people, "we ARE going to the gym - don't be lazy" discussions.

Most significant in my mind, is that unless you consciously aim to do so, sessions will become formulaic and stagnant. Without variety, suggestions from a training partner, tweaking of exercises and new approaches, most people will plod through the same sessions week after week and seriously compromise results.

Don't forget, you can follow me on: http://twitter.com/MichaelD_PT

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