I am sure that you, just like me, on and off, search for good training partners. Who is suitable (or compatible) or not depends on several factors. Suitability also changes with circumstances. You could be good friends but it just wouldn't work training together. Alternatively, you might not get along very well on a personal level, but when it comes to training in the gym you still do wonders together, at least for a time. It is quite hard, if not impossible, to outline a universal standard for what a good and compatible training partner is over a longer time period. It is possible though, to outline the characteristics or attributes of what is very likely to constitute an optimal training relationship in the gym; one which will support your endeavours and make you even more effective.One obvious first question is whether or not a training partner is necessary or not. It depends! First of all, I dare say that no successful bodybuilder developed and became successful in total social isolation! But that is not to say there is always one or several more or less permanent training partners around. We need the input of others, and we get it too - in various ways. We have preferences. Some prefer to train mostly alone, using the odd spotter when needed. Others do best work with a permanent training partner. There is one issue here that is important, and that is why bodybuilders seek to co-operate with others in the gym. In my experience most seek a training partner for all the wrong reasons! "I need someone to motivate me", the say and go on "and I need some one who is more advanced than I so I can learn". To put it somewhat harshly perhaps, but and individual basing his or her needs on such arguments do usually not need another bodybuilder to train with, They need a parent or a babysitter to take care of them! A training partnership that works optimally must by necessity consist of individuals who are independent, more or less self-sufficient in their training and have an inner motivation to pursue their goals. If not one training partner will gain tremendously and the other be at a loss after a while, because there is no in-put. Only out-put! Needless to say anyone can train together for whatever purpose they see fit, but if we are talking effective training for both, with definite competitive aims, then what I just wrote invariably applies!
You've Met The Bad Ones You are certain to have asked someone to spot for you now and again. With some it works really well. Others you quickly learn never to engage again. Even if they were advanced, capable even successfully competing athletes, they could not "read" you. They seemed unable (or maybe unwilling) to understand when you needed that extra push and encouragement to finish your set. Instead they routinely shouted "Come on" after your first rep and screamed "Ten more" when you had already reached near-exhaustion. In other words, they were hardly of any help to you. On the contrary, they made it more difficult for you by lack of sensitivity to what you were in need of.
Spotting, or assisting one another as training partners, is a skill! It takes learning to develop it. We know when we have encountered a bad spotter or joined with a hopeless training partner. It is frustrating and it feels unproductive and uninspiring. But when we have the fortune to meet the good ones, we tend to stop thinking why it is they are so good. The reason is that when things work well, we relax. We simply enjoy "the good times." However, we would be wise when this happens to actually reflect on what it is with some spotters and/or training partners that makes them so exceptional. We can learn a lot from it. What works well or not so well in training is very often a matter of the mind; or if you will - it is a matter of training psychology.
Now, Meet The Good Ones A training relationship usually works best when there is a give and take to and from both athletes. To train with a beginner may well be rewarding for a time, but the minute you actually need some input and assistance (and sooner or later you will) there is none to be had. So, the best training partnerships are the ones between equals, at least with similar determination, dedication and goal-setting. The characteristics and attributes of a good training partner, therefore, are the following:
? He or she is reliable. If you decided to train at , your training partner will be there and ready to go (unless something unforeseen and urgent has happened). ? He or she is attentive and focused on you. A training partner does not let the mind wonder as you are performing your set. ? The training partner is effective and does not waste time during the workout. He or she drives you on on the basis of knowing what you can and cannot do and what you need to do to reach a certain goal. ? He or she gives constructive criticism when needed. It is better to say "You need to improve this" making a suggestion how to do it, rather than to say "You look like shit" or "You lift like a moron" and then say nothing about how to improve and make it better! ? A training partner does not help you unnecessarily! For example, if you need substantial help to finish a set, you don't need a spotter. You need less weight! A good spotter understands when you need a steady hand for support to bring the set to a conclusion. You should both learn the skill of spotting, and you will need to ask each other how you both like to be assisted! Always ask how many reps are planned for.
? He or she does not scream at you indiscriminately. You would be surprised if you knew how often shouting in the gym is jargon, playing a role, rather than an actual sound of exhaustion and exertion. If you as a spotter or training partner shouts as someone is starting out with the first reps, your timing is really bad and possibly quite disturbing. If you actually want to assist and help your partner do his or her utmost by boosting their performance, you shout for example "One more!" at the end of a set. That is, when you see that your partner is very close to collapse. Further, you must give feasible instructions. If you know your training partner needs further reps and he/she has almost exhausted all available energy, you cannot shout "Ten More!" and expect that miracles will suddenly occur. You have to consider what is actually possible. ONLY then will your shouting actually have an effect.
Strategies: have some! Occasional training partners might sometimes be a good idea, for the simple reason that you will always try to impress the other, unaware, thereby putting an even greater effort into it! You will possibly lift more than you knew you could or engage greater stamina than you knew you were capable of. Also, the more you respect this temporary training partner because his or her achievements, strength, body type and so on, the greater also the attention you will pay to excelling when training with him or her! It's a well -known phenomenon in any context where achievement and evaluation - real or imagined - is an issue.
However, even if you do decide on and off to train with temporary partners, you still need a strategy - a long-term strategy, which is worked out between you and your more permanent training partner. It should contain both short -term goals and long term goals. To train without a plan and goals of a defined kind is equal to limited success! When you discuss and plan you both need to be able to compromise. You might have to give up your pet-routines just because they do not fit your partner. Flexibility is essential in any relationship. When plans and goals falter you have your training partner to discuss them with. Two minds sometimes think better than one. However, my own experience in Bodybuilding is that almost all athletes ask everyone they can find all the essential questions. No surprisingly they receive different answers from each one they ask. The end result is that the bodybuilder in need becomes even more confused. Answers always differ for mainly two reasons:
1) Most importantly, the means by which we train successfully are to a considerable degree individual. That which works for one bodybuilder does not necessarily work for another. You usually receive the solution to a problem that helped the individual you asked. But that is not to say it will also work for you. You can always try, but never take what is suggested as an absolute truth!
2) Bodybuilders (and some other athletes) often have favourite procedures or routines, which are more supersticious than functional with respect to achievement and development. When I began in Bodybuilding many years ago, to grow muscle a bodybuilder had to eat raw eggs, yolk and all, red and raw meat and strange tablets of desiccated liver. Today we know better, thankfully, and stay away from poultry-carried disease. We see little value in eating raw meat and ingesting liver tablets as a source of mysterious muscle building supplements.
Currently, however, harassed by the supplementation industry's aggressive campaigning, some bodybuilders have become more or less obsessed with supplements, which as far as Science goes either has an effect that is doubtful or sometimes no proven effect at all. Supplementation might benefit you, but you need to know how and why. You need to be able to separate between what actually is of value and what is probably a waste of money, and never take at face-value what the supplement industry or other bodybuilders tell you. The reason is simple - we still believe there is "magic in bottles and pills" found the nutrition store.
These are some issues, among others, to be discussed between training partners. Experiment by all means, but don't forget to also evaluate! Few are more suited than to evaluate progress and strategy as more or less equal training partners!
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