There are loads of reasons for wanting a workout partner when you make the commitment to lose weight, get in shape, or even take on a significant goal like training for a competition. Ideally, a workout partner would make the experience more enjoyable, keep you accountable, push you to break through plateaus, and be there to spot you when you’re lifting to failure. The truth is that not just anyone will consistently meet those criteria, and you’ll have to be as discriminating when choosing a gym buddy as you would interviewing for a roommate.
The Argument Against
Having someone to talk to in the gym may be a nice little bonus a workout buddy can offer but, ultimately, it’s not a good idea to get hooked on working out with a partner. If their dedication wanes, your workouts and goals will suffer. Too many people bag it when their workout partners don’t show up or call at the last minute to beg off. Even if you can find someone who keeps you accountable and gets you into the gym, you still won’t get the most from your regimen if their goals, workouts, and strength don’t match yours. You’ll be using different equipment or have too much downtime between sets because you have to keep changing out weights. Plus, the stronger out of the two of you won’t be able to max-out on lifts because the other one may not be able to provide a safe and proper spot.
Experience is another issue that keeps people from being effective workout buddies. If one of the partners has a significantly higher skill level, that person may end up spending valuable time explaining fundamentals and demonstrating proper form instead of getting a good workout.
If You Must
The strikes against having a workout partner don’t mean that it’s impossible to find someone you can work out with–but, typically, you have to hire them, and they are called personal trainers, not gym buddies. I kid, but if you’ve decided that you absolutely must have a partner to work out with, don’t become so dependent on them that you can’t exercise without them. Also, take your time to make sure you end up with someone who will help you reach your goals rather than hinder you.
First, look for a partner who has similar goals, experience, and strength, so that you can avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. Double-check your schedules to make sure that you can both consistently work out at the same time on the same days so no one gets stood up. Also, you should both be flexible and open enough to be able to make changes when needed, even if those changes mean moving on to working out alone or finding a different gym partner.
Tips for Being the Ideal Workout Partner
This can be hard to accept, but it’s not all about you. If you are set on finding a good workout partner, you need to be a good workout partner. That means doing unto the other person as you expect them to do unto you. Muscle and Fitness came up with a list of rules of being an excellent workout partner including keeping your workout dates and showing up on time, knowing how to coach without over-coaching, and knowing when your partner needs a spot so you can offer help when necessary, but don’t end up robbing him of a rep he could have pushed through.
Also, do your workout partner the courtesy of not bringing personal problems to the gym. You both look to each other for motivation and encouragement; if you hit the gym feeling down, you’ll bring your partner down, and both of your workouts will suffer. On the other hand, generating excitement and motivation will benefit the both of you. Forbes reported on research done on the effects of pasting on a fake smile. The results showed that even if a smile is forced rather than sincere, not only will your mood improve, but so will the moods of those around you–including your gym buddy’s.