by Christian Duque
This article will more than likely rub a few the wrong way, but certain things simply can’t go unnoticed any longer. There’s some practices I’ve seen far too much of to simply keep biting my tongue and saying nothing. The gym is a great place to reduce stress, get in shape, and even let off some rage – I totally get all of that. Some people love the social aspect as well, while others choose to go at 4AM simply to avoid traffic, maybe even to avoid as many people as possible. Others, I find, may have a love/hate reality of having to wait for machines, having to deal with people texting instead of lifting, and choosing to subject themselves to this punishment, weekdays from 5:30PM – 7:30PM. Anyone who goes during peak hours, by choice, clearly lives for the drama and the aggravation. Who knows, they might feed off of that tension and redirect it towards lifting better.
One thing’s for sure, there’s all sorts of folks in the gym. There’s folks who bring their own music, others who train in silence and solitude, and others will talk your ear off. A great many, simply take procrastination to max overload. There’s a limitless sea of social behaviors and quirks at play, but the one institution that that just escapes me, is workout partners. It’s the whole emphasis on finding and training with another person, consistently.. It seems people look for all the worst qualities and sometimes who you train with, can have a very bad reaction on what comes of that training. So let’s talk about who you should be training with, some of the blunders which have become commonplace, and, if possible, maybe I’ll shed some wisdom for anyone who cares enough to read about someone else’s view (besides their own).
The quest for a gym partner should be one that’s both thoughtful and strategic. For example, spotting is huge, so if you expect to do any kind of serious lifting, you want to find someone whose strength is on par with yours and who is educated on how to spot. One of the most difficult exercises to spot is squats. Be sure that your training partner is clear on how to do this, don’t wait until you have 405 on the bar and hope your workout buddy has your back. Don’t you be the first lifter this person spots – for the first time ever. The same goes for bench. Say you’re benching 315 and you’re training to failure. If your spotter can’t deadlift 315, he/she shouldn’t be spotting you on bench for that weight. What happens if you’re training to failure and – you fail?!? If you’re lifting on your own, the bar could damn near crush you, but if you have a spotter who isn’t nearly strong enough to lift the bar, then you won’t be much better off than if you were on your own. I’ve seen situations where the spotter can barely hold the bar, much less lift it off, so they hold it as best they can and the lifter squirms out from under it. Once the lifter is safe, the “spotter” eases the bar back to the bench. That’s a clear-cut example of someone who has no business spotting.
To reiterate, your spotter should be someone who is on par with your strength or stronger. You should both know how each other lifts and how each other likes to be spotted. Another thing to look for in a workout partner, is goals. You want to work with someone who wants similar outcomes as you do. If you’re working out with a powerlifter, they won’t be lifting for looks. In other words, if a powerlifter is aesthetic or balanced, that’s not going to do anything for him/her breaking through a PR. Similarly, a bodybuilder who trains with a powerlifter, who can break through records and has meet-worthy posture and range of motion, won’t be winning any prejudding rounds based on just that. The ultimate goals are key because they will have an impact on how much is lifted, for how many sets/reps, and how many times a week the pair (or team) goes to the gym. You also want someone that is serious about the workouts. If you’re going to go through the headache of finding a workout partner, coordinating on a schedule, to then only get stood up at the gym – then why bother?
For those who see the gym as just one more key component towards building their physique, the decision to train with someone effective, over say their best friends or significant other, is a no-brainer. For those who see the gym as a social experience, they will often find themselves put in harm’s way. We’ve discussed the dangers of training with someone who may not be as strong as you, but what if you train with someone considerably less strong? What if you’re on an advanced level of training and you decide to train with your best friend, who’s never so much as looked at a weight in his/her whole life. On the one hand, you get to lead him on his journey and you guys get to share some laughs, but on the other, your workouts will suffer, your gains will suffer, and you will be greatly increasing your odds of getting injured.
In the end, you have to make the decision on who to train with, based on common sense, practicality, and reason. Many times, if you pick the right workout partner, a friendship will more than likely blossom from it, and you will find that you will challenge each other to lifting better, looking better, and feeling better. The more serious you both are, the more punctual you’ll be, the more organized you’ll be, and the longer you’ll both work together. One of the most important aspects to training, particularly in training with someone else, is stability and longevity. Muscle-building is a selfish quest that requires a lot of time and energy. Consistency is absolutely key.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article at Iron Magazine. I look forward to reading your comments – here – or wherever you may see this article.