MEN ARE HURTING for friends, or so we’ve been told. But if you walk into just about any gym, you’ll see tons of guys sweating it out together, serving as each other’s trainer, hype man, and sounding board wrapped all into one solid package. For many men, working out is just as much about socializing as it is about staying healthy. Exercise is one of the few activities we have left that can’t be done with your phone in your hand, so it’s a prime opportunity for interaction.
But there’s more to being a good workout partner—and certainly to being a good friend—than standing behind a buddy to lend a spot on their heaviest lifts. Anyone with a pulse can do that. Like the digital world of video games, the real relationships that develop through the shared trials of sweat and exertion take work, commitment, and time to build. You have to know how to go about it.
We reached out to some of the top trainers and strength coaches in the fitness industry for their best advice about training with a buddy (or buddies). Their tips are wide-ranging, but they all get at one fundamental point: If you value your workout partner, you’ll have an even better experience than you ever would on your own.
Gym owner, strength coach, former UFC fighter
I believe with all my heart that you become who you hang around. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Your “friends” will either elevate you or drag you down. So choose your workout partners carefully. Choose a person who pushes you, keeps you accountable, and challenges you to be your best. At the same time, choose a person you have good chemistry with and who you can do the same for. If you’re serious about your training, you’ll be selective. And don’t just assume you can “transform” your friend into the workout partner of your dreams. Sometimes you just can’t turn shit to gold.
MH Try Her Move trainer, Le.Sweat owner
Practice to each other’s strengths. Let each person bring their strengths to create a collaborative workout that is not only effective, but fun.
Celebrity trainer and Hemp Hydrate Director of Health
Always make it a competition. Iron sharpens iron, so if you’re working out with a friend make sure it’s someone who pushes your competitive drive and who is committed as well.
Train with someone better than you. It will help to push you to new levels, teach you another training style, and can help you break through plateaus.
Strength coach and BarBend editor
Be mindful of your body cues. Stressful day? Don’t show it. No heavy sighing, no negative talk, just put the work in, encourage your friend, and appreciate how your body moves. If you focus on encouraging overly negative self talk, then you’ll naturally end up feeling better and your friend will benefit.
Trainer and powerlifter
My best 3 tips for working out with a friend are:
Celebrity coach and Drive495 owner
It’s important to me that I leave every workout feeling successful. A good training partner has the ability to see when you are off that day. And help assist in hitting your emotional triggers. It’s less about how physically strong the training partner is. I rarely have bad training sessions but a few a year when I’m exhausted or dealing with shit. A good partner has recognized that and gets you going.
Strength coach and CrossFit athlete
Work Rest Ratio = 1:1
Issue – When we workout alone and do our conditioning, it is easy to either rest too long between exercises. You get distracted, pick up the phone to text or check Instagram.
Partner Fix – 1 to 1 work rest with your partner. Use the partners work time as you rest and vice versa. Commit to each other that you will NOT take any additional rest until you finish all your sets.
Example – 3 Set Superset
Men’s Health fitness director
The problem with training with a friend is, very often, the workout gets too relaxed. You talk and you want to catch up or get to know each other, and the intensity of the workout suffers. And because you’re both “friends” nobody wants to be the aggressor and drive the workout harder. To insure you’re still getting a quality workout out of the experience, you need to be the one to push the tempo. One way I love to do that for conditioning workouts is to use a relay format; that’ll force my partner to push hard, because I’m pushing hard, too. For example, we may row 2,000 meters in 100-meter increments. My partner will see I’m taking things out hard, and know to go hard too. And I’ll start the experience by laying down a benchmark time we have to beat, that way my partner knows that we’re going max-effort and can’t take it easy.
Think about your training partner, because not everyone works. You need to be somewhat on the same training level. The best training partners are people who are better than you at certain things, but not as good at some others. That way, you can push each other.
Use friends as a way to create accountability. After a long work day, it’s hard to find the motivation to train sometimes. But it’s much easier because I don’t want to let my friends down when I invite them.
Celebrity trainer and coach
Buddies are there to break you down because they love you enough to act as coaches to build you up. Also, as a father, a lot of my focus has been on being the best workout buddy for your children.
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