The Many Benefits of a Training Partner - Great Results Together

Benefits of Training Partners

A Spot is a Valuable Benefit in your Training

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Arnold was a user. Yes, a big-time user. I mean, of course, the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. He used up training partners as fast as some people use up facial tissue. I'm not implying that Arnold was cruel, greedy, uncaring or insensitive. He simply used the energy and enthusiasm of many training partners to help push himself through all the grueling workouts required to turn a skinny Austrian boy into the seven-time Mr. Olympia champion "Austrian Oak" Arnold was smart enough to know the value of a good training partner Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Ed Corney, Kent Kuehn, Rick Drasin and Frank Richards were but a few of the many who had a hand in creating one of the greatest physiques the world has ever seen. Training with a partner is as essential to bodybuilding success as a good lifting belt and knee wraps. It's as important as taking a quality protein supplement and following a proper diet. It's as necessary as the routines and exercises themselves. Winning a bodybuilding contest is always due to the effort of a team-the champ who wins the title and the training partner the unsung hem who has pushed the champ hard in their workouts together.

There is a Swedish proverb that goes like this: Shared sorrow is half sorrow - shared joy is double joy. There are many excellent reasons for having a training partner, but the emotional support of a Mend who understands what you are going through is one of the best. A training partner should do more than just count reps, help change the weights, and act as spotter. He or she should be a loyal Mend and a committed, supportive confidant. Misery loves company, and knowing that a partner is there to take you through the grueling forced reps with a few well-chosen words somehow makes the pain more bearable.

A training partner can give you positive feedback and keep your spirits up by - commenting on your gains. You don't want a brown-noser who won't give an honest appraisal of your physique. Ideally there should be a balance. Weak points should be pointed out in a positive way, in a "can do" spirit. "Your quads need a little more sweep, but we'll squat our brains out for the next six weeks and they'll be great by then", not "You don't have the genetics for great thigh sweep. Forget it, man."

Friendly competition makes workouts fin and more of a challenge. Hey, nobody likes to be shown up. If your partner does 10 reps with x amount of weight, damn it, you want to get 10 reps too - maybe even 11. It can add spice to an otherwise dull workout. Challenge your partner to see who can curl the most reps with 85 pounds - and the loser buys lunch.

When you're going to absolute muscular failure with a heavy weight on your back, or going for the final rep of bench presses, without a training partner the situation can be life or death. If you're all alone with several hundred pounds stuck at your neck, it could be hasta la vista, baby. In fact, a good partner who knows how to hand off a weight properly and spot correctly is invaluable. No powerlifier or bodybuilder can go for max attempts by himself.

We all need a spot from time to time, but having a regular training partner is not the same as just asking someone to spot you on the occasional heavy set of benches or squats. It's like a marriage of sorts. You count on each other, rely on each other, support each other, trust and respect each other, care for each other, and pursue a common goal. There's no doubt that a partner can push you to train harder. He can help you train more regularly and consistently. Just knowing your partner is there at the gym waiting and counting on you is usually enough motivational push to get you off the couch, into the car and to the gym.

Not only are partners great for emotional support and security, but they also make training more effective. Let's face it. Having someone lift the properly balanced bar into place so you can bench press it can be a big help. And at the end of the set, when you're staggering around trying to find the supports of the squat racks, a guiding hand can be like a bridge over troubled water, If you suddenly feel a painful muscle twinge in the middle of the set, a partner can rescue you by grabbing the weight, preventing possible serious injury.

Heavy dumbbell shoulder presses, flys, incline presses, single-dumbbell French presses, and cross-bench dumbbell pullovers can often be very difficult to perform on your own, Just getting the dumbbells into place puts real strain on your wrists, and becomes a chore in itself. For a safer, more simplified workout, have a partner help you get the dumbbells into place to start the set, and then take the dumbbells from you when the set ends. Then you help him. It's a mutual affair.

Some methods of training are impossible without the assistance of a partner - forced reps, for instance. Sure, you can do forced reps by yourself on one-arm curling and extension movements, and you can cheat out extra reps by yourself, but unassisted forced reps are physically impossible on most conventional exercises. Why? Because you can't lift more weight than what an exhausted muscle can lift. When the muscle is fried, you need the supporting hand or fingers of a partner to give you just enough help to make another rep possible - not easy.

Your partner's voice can help you get those painful last reps. When you hear "Come on, two more!" shouted out at you Bilko-style, the adrenaline kicks in and more often than not you find the strength to somehow get those two extra reps- reps that you would not have gotten by yourself.

A good training buddy knows how much assistance to offer and when. If he touches the bar too soon, he can actually reduce the effectiveness of the set. He helps you only when you can no longer move the weight on your own, not before. The last rep of the set can sometimes take an extra 10 seconds to complete, but if you keep on pushing as hard as you can, the weight will slowly but surely go up. Only when your partner senses that the weight has truly stalled should he intervene with a little assistance. Too much help makes the rep easy; too little means the rep won't be completed. Forced reps are always better with a regular partner than with some stranger who just happened to be walking by.


There is no way to do negatives without a partner (or preferably two) to lift the weight into place for you. Since you can lower 40 percent more eccentrically than you can lift concentrically, you tend to handle very heavy weights when doing negatives - especially negative-only reps. When you find partners who are willing to lift hundreds of pounds so that you can lower it to receive the benefit of negative resistance, you know you have two friends, indeed.

Heavy partials and 10-second supports in the power rack - fantastic for building strength - are much more effective with a partner. The weight is almost impossible to get into position by yourself. It is just too heavy, and the risk of straining or injuring a tendon, ligament or muscle is too great. Even on supports where the weight doesn't actually move, the steadying hand of a partner can be a great benefit and make the set much safer.


While triple-drop techniques and stripping the bar can be done on your own, they really do work much better with the aid of a partner. On machines with weight stacks the pin can be dropped faster and more safely. A partner can help you do forced reps each time you hit failure for the ultimate in intensity. Stripping plates from a bar - especially on squats, bench presses, behind-the-neck presses, incline presses and barbell curls - is safer when two partners remove plates at the same time because the bar stays in balance.

One of the most effective and intense ways of using the stripping technique on barbell movements is to try to make every repetition a maximum effort. This method requires that the reductions of each drop be very small. It works best if the bar is loaded up with a lot of small plates, such as 5s and 2-1/2s. Let's say you are going to do barbell curls with 110 pounds, which is your one- rep max (two-rep max with some cheat and the help of one forced rep). You stick a couple of pairs of 10-pound plates on the bar and make the rest 5s and 2-1/2s. Using this example, a bodybuilder would do 1 or 2 reps with 110. As soon as he fails, one pair of 2- 1/2-pound plates is removed from the bar. This is only 5 pounds, but it should be enough to allow one more rep. Your partner should stand by in case he has to assist you with that one rep. If one is all you can get, have your partner remove another pair of 2-1/2-pound plates. Gut out another rep, or another rep plus one forced rep - whatever you can get. Keep removing plates in this fashion until all the small plates have been taken off the bat At this point you will have done between 6 and 9 reps. When you get down to 65 pounds (just the two pairs of 10- pound plates on the bar), rep out till failure. Have your partner remove one pair of 10's. Then rep out till failure again. Believe me, you won't need too many of these sets to hilly stimulate your biceps.


You can do negative-accentuated training by yourself on one-limb movements (one-arm curls, one-arm extensions, one-leg presses, curls or extensions, or one-leg calf raises). Just lift the weight with two limbs and lower it with one. A training partner, however, can turn any exercise into a negative-accentuated movement by pushing down on the bar to increase resistance. Your partner can, in effect, make any weight you are lifting seem much heavier than it really is.

For example, say you are doing 45-degree leg presses with five plates (about 495 pounds). When you push the weight up you are lifting 495, but as you lower it your partner can push down on the sled, adding another 100 pounds of resistance. In fact you are pushing up 495 pounds and lowering 595. This extra resistance obviously increases intensity in a big way.

As your thigh muscles fatigue during the set, your partner lightens the negative accentuation accordingly. By the end of the set he may not have to push down at all. He may have to pull up on the sled to lighten the load and help you do forced reps. What about positive accentuation? It is exactly like negative accentuation. As you push up on a weight - be it a bench press, leg press, leg extension, barbell curl or shoulder press - your partner pushes down to make the weight feel heavier. Let's say you are bench pressing 225 pounds. Your partner might push down with the force of 25 pounds, so in reality you are pushing up 250. As you start to lower the weight he continues to push down, but harder - say, with 50 pounds of force. For rep number one you raised 250 pounds and lowered 275. That might make even one rep a maximum effort. By pushing down according to your strength, your partner can make the positive (concentric) and the negative (eccentric) lifting of the weight a maximum effort each rep.

This is a very grueling, intense way to train. Think about it. Every rep is an absolute maximum effort. Each rep takes you to muscular failure. If you do 6 or 8 reps, you have 6 or 8 growth reps - the hard reps that normally occur at the end of a set, inducing growth stimulation. Positive- and negative- accentuated training is not for the fainthearted, but if you have a training partner who is a glutton for punishment, you could push each other so hard that you might end up making the best gains of your life!


Another advantage of training with a partner is the good tempo of the workout which helps you to time your rest between sets. As soon as your partner finishes his set, you begin your next one. You can't wait too long, and you can't rush too early. The pace is usually just about right.

Training partners can be an excellent source of information. They may know a certain exercise or technique that you don't, or vice versa. You really can learn a lot from a knowledgeable partner. Some trainers have different partners for different bodyparts. That's the way Arnold did it. He'd find the guy with the best legs in the gym and train legs with him. Then he'd train back with a guy who had a great back, and so on. He figured (correctly) that he could learn something useful for building his own body by training with bodybuilders who had outstanding bodyparts.

Another reason to train with a partner is to give yourself a change. Say you're a heavy- duty guy but lately you've plateaued out. You could stimulate new gains by training for a while with a bodybuilder who does a lot of supersets, trisets and drop sets. Or if you're a pumper who does a lot of high reps and supersets, you might benefit from training with a bodybuilder who uses heavy weights, low reps, and lots of basic movements. The heavy training could complement the muscle you've built through pumping and high-rep methods by way of extra density and thickness.

The power trainer, likewise, could benefit by training for a couple of months with a bodybuilder who does lots of supersets, trisets, high reps and drop sets. He could improve his shape, increase muscularity and vascularity, and improve neuromuscular and blood pathways to the muscle fibers.

Follow your partner's lead sometimes. By letting him choose the exercises and make up the routines, you get a different type of workout from what your body is accustomed to. This variety keeps training new and exciting, and helps to prevent plateaus. We all get into ruts doing the same thing all the time. Input from a partner can keep training fresh and different.

Find a partner who trains at a different gym. By sometimes training at his gym you get to experience a different atmosphere, different equipment and different people. Such a change can help prevent you from sinking into a rut.

A training partner can be invaluable when you're doing stretching exercises. Stretching can raise the threshold of the Golgi tendon organs, improve flexibility, improve performance, relax the body and improve circulation. It aids recovery, and even increases a muscle's ability to pump for greater strength and mass potential.

Although stretching by yourself is very useful, there is no doubt that partner-assisted stretches can be much more intense and effective. The type of fascia-stretching that John Parrillo advocates to his athletes is a good example.

Interestingly, most champs prefer to train with bodybuilders who are not at their level of development. It's an honor to be asked to train with a champion, and few intermediates turn down the opportunity. Invariably what the champ gets is youthful enthusiasm, passion, drive and excitement. What the invitee gets is an opportunity to talk, watch and learn from someone better than he is.

The champ gets to choose the routine, the exercises, the style of lifting, as well as the time to train. It's his way or the highway. The arrangement is good for both parties, but because a training partnership is like marriage, it can often end in painful divorce. Differences in lifestyle and poor chemistry can bring a quick end to an agreement to train together. So can laziness or a negative attitude. Being constantly late and causing stress, anger and negative emotions (envy, greed) can also quickly put an end to a training partnership - even a friendship.

If two people are to train together properly, there has to be some kind of positive chemistry. You don't necessarily have to like each other (although that definitely helps, since you're going to be spending a lot of time together), but each should respect and admire the strength, intensity or enthusiasm of the other. You should be compatible personality-wise. Both should bring some positive qualities to the table. Maybe you're more experienced and can help him get ready for a competition, or you're stronger and can push him to use heavier weights. Both parties have to gain from the relationship or it's not going to work.

If you're lifting more weight than your partner can properly spot, you need a different training partner. You can get extra assistance when doing heavy compound movements like bench presses and squats. If you're benching 500 pounds and your partner can't even deadlift 400, you've got a potential problem if you ever get stuck with a heavy weight on your chest. On the other hand, a training partner who is very strong mentally, and can take the kind of intensity and pain necessary to promote good gains, can still be good for you even if his strength level is not up to yours.

Most of all you want a partner who is reliable, trustworthy (is he watching the weight as he spots you, or is he watching some girl's ass across the gym?), who is going to show up on time (he's committed to the program), has a positive mental attitude, and brings a lot of enthusiasm and intensity to the workout. Can he adapt to your time schedule? Will he be at the gym come hell or high water, even in bad weather? On those days when you're dragging your butt, a good training partner can be worth his weight in creatine monohydrate powder He can inspire you and bring out your best when you can't find it yourself He knows what buttons to push to make you mad enough or excited enough to get in a good workout. "Hey, it's only six weeks till your show and you're fat:' or "Man, you're six weeks out and looking amazing already. Imagine how good you'll look in another month."

Just remember there is no law that says you have to train with an incompatible partner. If he wants to quit because he can't take the physical and mental stress, move onto another partner. That's what Arnold did. He sometimes burned out several partners in a month.

Maybe your partner is getting ready for a show, but you still want to train heavy and bulk up. Then it's time to back off and let him go his own way. Your needs are incompatible. You can always get together at a later time when your goals are similar.

There are pros and cons to having a training partner, but for most people the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses. You can train heavier, harder and more intensely with a partner than without one. That has to add up to better gains. If your training is going nowhere, find a good partner and hitch your wagon to his. You might just be pulled along in the slipstream of his workouts and end up making the best gains of your life. The bottom line is that mutual motivation builds bigger and better muscles.

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