How to Choose the Perfect Training Partner in the Gym

Perfect Training Partner

There are Multiple Advantages to Finding the Right Training Partner

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When you've got a training partner bubbling with encouragement, gains can go through the roof-for both partners; positive encouragement is infectious and stimulating. On the other hand, if you've got a bad partner, the desire to train can leave you faster than a falling 45. Who wants to train when you've got to listen to whining Mr. Negativity for an hour straight? If you're dealing with Mr. N, you may be better off training alone.

The die-hard, home-gym trainee is used to training solo; that's probably a good description of 90 percent of those reading this column. You've probably realized that partners can be difficult to come by when you tend to hit the weights on a when-time-permits basis-before work, after work or whenever a session can be squeezed in. Training can be sporadic at times, and that means you have no choice but to get used to loner workouts. Right? Well, maybe not.

The Obvious Choice

If hermit training chills you rather than thrills you, there's one solution that's staring you right in the face-or is at least within shouting distance around the old homestead. The solution is your spouse.

Schedules permitting, tandem training can give a couple that strong team spirit-a boost to any relationship. They may not have the same goals when it comes to working out, but the one who isn't striving for maximum muscle mass can simply use less intensity and go for muscle tone instead. The workouts will still be tremendously productive for both parties; just because goals are different doesn't mean the critical partner qualities will be lacking, like that all-important positive reinforcement. Well, on second thought, if it's been a rotten day at the office, a positive attitude might be hard to come by. This takes special consideration from both spouses.

The Growling Spouse

If you've had any experience at all being a husband or a wife, you know firsthand how difficult a positive attitude can be to maintain, especially at the end of a long day. When you've held your chin up for eight hours straight at work, it can be tough not to let it all hang out when you get home. Putting up with a spouse's periodic growling comes with the marriage territory; it's almost an art form, and understanding is the key.

On the other side of the coin, if you're the roaring lion in the family, do your spouse a favor: At least wait until after your training session to grumble. If you're lucky, pushing the weights around will relieve much of the workday stress, and the growls will turn into minor mumbles or may even disappear altogether.

Patience Please

Each member of the husband/wife team must also be brimming with patience. This is another one of those qualities that's tough to muster if the office has been a bear; just try to remember that different goals can mean different priorities. You may be fired up at almost every workout, while your spouse leans toward the skipping mode now and then. If this is the case, do your best to talk him or her into training (c'mon now, use positive reinforcement: "Summer's almost here; sure you don't want to do at least a little toning?"). If it doesn't work after a few minutes, go it alone-no anger, please.

If you do end up getting mad, be prepared for the consequences: You'll probably make your spouse feel terrible, or worse, get him or her mad too, in which case you might end up ducking plates, glasses or even a loaded barbell bar or two. (Try to explain the bruise on your forehead that reads "Olympic 10 lbs." to the guys at work-talk about embarrassing.)

Solid Support

Whatever you do, support your spouse's goals-as long as these goals are realistic, that is. (If Don Knotts chucked everything to become Mr. Olympia, his spouse would have to tell him that 10-inch arms on a grown man rarely become 20-in-chers, no matter how much training is done.)

And support doesn't mean to inflict your goals on your spouse. You're not going to force your partner to be a competitive bodybuilder if that's not one of his or her burning desires. It simply can't be done- well, it can, but the relationship usually goes down the toilet faster than you can say "domineering machismo." (In other words, you could be ducking dishes again or find your suitcase packed out on the front lawn.)

The lesson here: Encouragement is excellent; forcing your goals on someone else is a definite threat to your well-being, not to mention your china cabinet.

The Perfect Partner

If you're interested in being the perfect partner, you should strive for the aforementioned qualities-be positive, patient and supportive-as well as a few others.

Focus. Try to pay attention not only during your sets, but when your partner is repping out as well. The entire set can be blown if your partner hits a sticking point and you're not there to help with a forced rep or two.

Energy. Don't lollygag. Hustle to get the poundages changed, breathe deep between sets and give your partner some spirited encouragement, not monotoned B.S.

Praise. No, not syrupy, patronization, but a real compliment here and there: "Your arms are looking good," "Nice set, you really worked," etc.

Honesty. Constructive criticism like, "You could've had a few more reps on that set," "Try and even out the bar; you're lagging" and so on is a plus. Be sure your comments are honest appraisals, and they'll help your partner in the long run.

Once both partners start putting a little effort into helping one another, the gains will come rolling in. Be a team player, especially if you're training with your spouse, and reap even bigger and better rewards from your home gym.

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