Many people first experience the gym through a friend.
A friend brought me to the gym when I was 14/15 years old and over the years I’ve introduced dozens of friends to their first gym sessions.
Some do a few sessions and never return, some stick to it but choose to train alone, and some become long-term training partners.
What is a training partner exactly though and do you need a training partner when going to the gym?
Read on to learn:
– What a training partner is
– What the benefits (& drawbacks) of training partners are
– Whether or not you need a training partner
Table of Contents
Do You Need a Training Partner
A training partner, or “gym buddy” is something that both beginners and the most experienced gym goers will look to utilize at some point during their training journey.
Exercise is a very personal thing for most people.
There is usually a specific reason for wanting to work out in the first place and because this is such a personal reason, many, many people will work out alone.
I am one of these people.
I’ve trained since I was 15 – in my bedroom as a teen – and 16 years later I’m still training. The thing that has stayed consistent over all this time is that I do it for me.
I’ll train when no one is watching because working out is my hobby, it’s something I love to do and it’s also something I do for some alone time to decompress and relax.
Yeah, not everyone can relate to this but pushing your body to physical limits or just lifting some heavy weights up and down can definitely be meditative!
Therefore, the honest answer is that you do not need a training partner to workout.
Many people like to train alone and sometimes, working out with someone else can be distracting and can negatively impact your training, especially if you’re both not on the same training vibe…
With that said, I’ve had countless training partners over the years and even writing this, I train with my brother for about 50% of my workouts now and have been doing so for the past year.
This is because even though you don’t necessarily need a training partner to work out or see results, there are countless benefits that come with having a training partner.
What Does a Training Partner Do
Training partners can serve multiple purposes, both for someone who has never set foot in the gym before and also for the highest caliber of athlete.
The purpose of a training partner will often vary – especially depending on your training experience – but for most people a training partner will either act as company in the gym (for beginners), be a mentor (meaning they are more experienced than you), or be someone to push you during training sessions (friendly competition).
Usually a training partner will fall into these three broad categories.
A few beginners will go to the gym together to get over the initial anxiety or discomfort of exercising in public.
Whenever you’re a beginner at something, doing it with other beginners can help you feel better and more comfortable with your own experience (or lack of).
The next step is usually an experienced gym-goer trying to introduce a friend to working out.
Either you seek out an experienced person as a beginner to show you what to do in the gym or the experienced person will drag friends along to try and get them into working out.
Finally, the top tier of training partners is two or more experienced ‘athletes’ training together.
This provides a competitive environment and is either used as a strategy to train harder to outwork your partner or to get a more experienced trainer to give you some pointers and tips that you may not be able to see for yourself.
^^ Bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen, Crossfitters, gymnasts, boxers, runners, and a range of other gym related endeavors will employ the above.
Training partners therefore provide company, help create a social environment for training, help to keep you accountable, or act as some friendly competition to push you past your limits.
Benefits of a Training Partner
1) More Accountability
If you train alone it can be so easy to just skip a gym session or two when you’re not in the mood.
Consistency is one of the most important foundations or pillars for any fitness journey.
The person who turns up consistently will often see results even if their training or diet is not optimal.
Continued effort in fitness is very much rewarded with lower body fat, more muscle mass, better cardiovascular health/fitness, and countless other physical benefits.
For all the benefits though, it’s easy to skip workouts when motivation is low.
If, however, you train with someone else then you are more accountable to both them and yourself. If you skip a workout you don’t just let yourself down now, you also let your partner down.
Often the guilt of this is enough to keep people going to the gym consistently when they have a training partner.
Studies show that having an accountability partner will make you more likely to complete a specific goal by 65% – 95%!
Training is important for physical aspects but the above study shows how powerful human psychology can be, especially when used for personal benefit.
2) Push you During Sessions
My personal preference for a gym partner is for someone to push you during a workout.
Training is (and should) be relatively hard.
You should push yourself to progress and recreate a better, stronger, leaner, fitter version of yourself.
When training alone though it can be easy to sometimes slack off and go through the motions.
You don’t need to be pushing your limits every single workout as that isn’t sustainable but you also don’t want to fall below a certain level.
Having a training partner provides competition and external motivation which can be ideal for any training days when you’re just not feeling it.
3) Can be a Spotter
If you are pushing yourself while working out and lifting heavy, you’ll want to utilize a spotter.
Spotters support you during a lift, usually a heavy compound lift, to ensure you don’t fail a lift and place yourself in a dangerous position risking serious injury.
Spotters provide a mental safety net (knowing someone can help you rack the weight if you’re struggling) but they also provide an actual safety net.
Anyone training heavy and pushing rep maxes should utilize a spotter.
Not only do spotters help from a safety perspective but they can also help you push a working set beyond your usual capacity or capability.
By supporting the concentric portion of some lifts, individuals can push sets further than they could if training solo.
A few eccentric only reps at the end of a set are an example of taking your muscles to true failure to stimulate more muscle growth.
The video below gives an example of this and is one key benefit of using a training partner for more advanced training techniques.
4) Making Training Enjoyable
This one is kind of self explanatory but if you train with someone, the social aspect will usually make it more enjoyable.
Humans are social creatures and while you get the lone wolves who much prefer training in solitude (again, this is sometimes me), most people will find training much more enjoyable when doing it with someone else.
Whether a training partner has helped push you to a new level or you’ve found a fun routine to do together, the social aspect of having a training partner will just make it a more enjoyable experience.
5) For Motivation and Competition
Finally, something we’ve touched on a few times is that a training partner will help both of you to improve in the gym.
It can be motivating to keep each other accountable, push each other to do more, and provide some friendly competition.
The only thing better than making life changing progress for yourself is to also do it with someone else and have a shared experience.
Being able to motivate one another is one of the key reasons why Crossfit absolutely exploded in popularity over the last decade.
An environment that creates friendly competition but also one that sees everyone motivating each other is a prime example of how fitness and community can breed great results.
You don’t need to do Crossfit for this though, just grab a training partner and get to work!
How to Find a Good Training Partner
The key to finding a good workout partner is to make sure that you either:
- Share the same goals
- Can help each other work towards a goal
These two points are key because if you have a training partner that doesn’t take the gym or workouts seriously then they will have a significantly negative impact on your workout.
Many people new to the gym will go with a friend who is also not used to working out because you might both hate going to the gym and need some morale support to get started.
See also – Why people hate going to the gym
This is fine to get started with but as soon as you’re taking the gym more seriously, you need some to both be focused and to help you focus.
A distracting workout partner is not only pointless but they will bring you down even if it’s not intentional.
You could have the kindest and funniest friend but if they spend 5 minutes talking to you between sets and catching up on some gossip then it’s just wasting your time and impacting your progress.
To find a good gym partner you just need someone who is either working towards the exact same goal as you (trying to build muscle for example) or working towards a similar goal.
If your friend is trying to build strength but you are trying to build muscle, you can still train together and find a mutually beneficial program.
As long as you have someone who will get into the gym and do the work with you then they can be a good partner.
It doesn’t need to be a military style session.
You can chat and even have a laugh but if you’re doing an exercise that requires a strict 45 second rest, you both need to be sticking to this.
If one person is lazy, easily distracted, complaining, etc.. then they aren’t going to be a good partner.
It can be difficult to find a good training partner but some good qualities to look out for in a training partner include:
- Motivated – not only to better themselves but to help you as well
- Punctual – there’s nothing worse than a training partner bailing out at the last minute
- Focused – there’s a time and a place to chat or mess about, in the gym you want someone who will be focused on the task at hand and eager to put in the work
- More advanced than you – this is a great one. Training with someone a level up from you (stronger, faster, bigger, leaner, fitter) can both be motivating but also a good place to learn and improve yourself
- Committed – It’s common for more motivated people to burn through training partners. Find someone who is just as committed to long term progress and goals as you are
If you’re anything like me, you’ll train whether it’s by yourself or with a partner.
You consider it to be your hobby or passion so you don’t rely on a training partner – but will use one when you want to for the range of benefits they provide.
If, however, you’re like the majority of the population who aren’t training at an intermediate to advanced level, then a training partner will be much more common.
In summary, you don’t need a training partner to workout.
Fitness in general is ultimately something that’s beneficial to the individual doing it and it’s one of the things that is very easy to do solo.
Going for a run is the simplest form of training and that’s something almost anyone can head out and do.
What I will say though is that a training partner can provide multiple benefits for people of all experience and training levels.
Therefore, if you have the opportunity to train with a workout partner I’d definitely recommend trying it out to see if it’s beneficial for you.