Training Partners - Mind And Muscle

fit couple posing
Training Partners
by: Jim Ganley

In many ways taking on a training partner is a lot like finding a spouse. The right one will be of tremendous benefit in staying motivated as well as in achieving both of your goals. Choose the wrong one and, well…that’s another story for another day, but for now let’s just say it could be a disaster.

By its very nature, weight training is a solitary activity. This feature is probably what attracted so many of us to the iron game in the first place. When we achieve victory in the gym, lifting platform, or stage, we don’t have to share the glory with anyone else. We can keep the limelight all to ourselves. On the other hand, when we fail to achieve our goals, we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves, although I’ve personally known many bodybuilders and competitive lifters who blame the judges.

So where does the training partner figure into this equation? More than thirty years ago Muscle Builder/Power Magazine ran some feature articles on the training partnership between Dave Draper and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was the photos taken by ace photographer Artie Zeller more so than the prose, which told the story. Pictures at the original Gold’s Gym in Venice of Dave squatting with a poundage so ponderous that the bar bent over his traps as he squatted rock bottom and then came back up only to go back down and come up again while Arnold, standing off to the side critically observing and shouting words of encouragement, anxiously waited for his turn with the iron.

Squatting partnership with Arnold in Joe Gold's original gym

Squatting partnership with Arnold in Joe Gold’s original gym

The same series of articles ran a photo of David doing behind the neck presses, grimacing in all out effort with Arnold spotting for him and urging him on to the highest levels of athletic achievement. Both men played off each other in a form of symbiosis enabling them to reach the top of their game. Suddenly gym rats around the world figured that having a training partner was the ticket to increased strength, larger muscles, fame, and fortune. Maybe, maybe not. First let’s look at the benefits of having a training partner.

Overhead presses
 Having a focused, knowledgeable workout partner is better than having a personal trainer. The price is right for one thing. Plus you will be able to push limit poundages for maximum reps, something that someone training by themselves ought not to attempt. This works particularly well when both lifters are fairly evenly matched and can benefit from the friendly competition. I can recall working as a laborer while in college during the summer of 1969. After having spent eight hours in the sun digging ditches, moving boulders, chopping wood, and moving logs…I dare say there were days when going to the gym may have been the farthest thing from my mind. That is until Chuck, one of the guys on my work crew, would say, “C’mon, Jim! Let’s go to the ‘Y’ and blitz our muscles when we get off work!” So we did. No air-conditioning; no carpeting; no juice bar, or chrome…just basically barbells and dumbbells and a few other hard-nosed guys who loved to train in the heat. We never had a bad workout because, as far as we were concerned, any workout we could walk away from was a good one.

Having a training partner can be a genuine hindrance if your are constantly waiting for him or her to show. The safety factor may be seriously compromised when for example you are in the middle of your heaviest set of squats, but your partner is tied up scoping out the babes in the aerobics class. Even worse if your partner is continually discussing politics, economics, or how drunk he got last night. Hopefully you will never be paired with the ‘hit or miss’ training partner. Sometimes he shows, most of the time he doesn’t. And when he doesn’t, you had best not ask one the gym regulars for a spot. Most haven’t a clue here and you could very well wind up wearing the bar. Been there; done that. A training partner is one thing. A training gang is an altogether different matter. Today it’s not all that uncommon to see a group of 3 to 6 college-aged guys in the gym ostensibly to workout but in effect just hanging around tying up the equipment and talking about whose team is going to do what. The same goes for all of those middle aged women who sit on the inner/outer thigh machines talking about food and how they hate to exercise.

So what’s the solution? We need to find a training partner in whom we can believe; someone who will be there when we need him; someone in whom we can have confidence. Phrased this way, perhaps the best and most reliable training partner we’ll ever find is the one staring back at us from the other side of that ten yard expanse of looking glass. When all is said and done, we need to think for and believe in ourselves.

Keep on pumpin’!

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