Good Training Partners Make for Great Training
Written by C.J. Martin

Training should be fun. Of course, it should be safe and effective in helping your reach your goal as well, but the importance of having fun shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Keeping training fun improves consistency and makes exercise something you look forward to, rather than view as an obligation. That said, one of my greatest pet peeves is walking into a gym and seeing individuals alone on the squat rack.

In 2009 I wrote “Don’t work with strangers” highlighting how awkward it feels to walk into a GloboGym where everyone actively avoids social interaction. We set out to be different at Invictus – and in the CrossFit community as a whole. So why would I ever walk into a gym and see several athletes, all doing the same training, working on separate racks and barbells?

Always Partner Up!

If your training session has a dedicated strength or skill portion – anything that is not a timed conditioning piece – and you are not the only person in the gym, you should have a training partner. Yes…every time! Even if you have a 10,000 square foot gym with 20 squat racks, and there are only two of you in the gym, don’t squat alone!

Strength and skill training requires some sort of rest period in order to maintain the intensity and quality of work. At least half of the time in a normal strength/skill session you will be resting rather than working. You can make the most of that time by serving as a good training partner – and of course, you should expect the same in return.

Training partners serve four primary purposes during a strength or skill training session:

Help Keep You Safe – Good training facilities put a strong emphasis on quality movement mechanics. But unless you’re working one-on-one with a coach, there will be times that you will be expected to move well without a coach’s trained eye on you. A good training partner can help. Allow me to provide an example; since we opened Invictus we have had a training rule when it comes to deadlift: (1) you don’t lift without a partner watching; and (2) you drop the barbell immediately if your training partner yells “drop!” The training partner’s job is simple, they’re looking for any deviation of spinal mechanics – if they see their partner’s lower back round, they yell “drop!” Even if the lifter thinks they’re holding perfect positioning, they must drop the barbell if their partner tells them to. Yes, the training partner might be wrong, but we’ll err on the side of caution and then ask a coach to come to check out the movement.

Provide Feedback – You don’t have to be a world-class coach to provide a training partner with feedback. Simple observations like, “it looked like your hips shifted to the left when you started out of the bottom of your squat,” or “your first four reps all looked the same, but the fifth rep didn’t look as good,” don’t require a ton of coaching experience. As a training partner, you’re not required to suggest why it happens or how your partner may go about fixing the issue, but by at least creating awareness your partner will know to seek the advice of a coach – who should be able to make suggestions.

Help You Stay Focused – When you’re exerting yourself, the last thing you want to do is count. Partners can help you stay focused on your mechanics or your training goal by doing the more mundane things, like counting your reps. They can be especially helpful if you’re doing tempo work by counting your seconds and telling you when to move into the next phase of the lift – “one-one thousand, UP!”

Support and Motivate – Good training partners aren’t off getting water or sipping aminos while you’re lifting; they are near you, watching your set and supporting your effort. We all know how much easier it is to push for an extra rep when you have a friend encouraging you, so utilize your training partners to get more out of your training session.

Finally, partnering up has a significant and important side effect, it helps to transform your gym into a community. Human interaction, support, encouragement, and friendship are among the chief reasons why Invictus has been so successful in helping individuals change their health and happiness. Don’t miss an opportunity to meet someone new and to help each other move toward similar goals of improved health and fitness.

Next time your workout doesn’t call for a timed, all-out effort, pair up with someone and be a good training partner. They’ll do the same for you, and you’ll both walk out of the gym a lot happier with your training session.