A training partner—someone who trains with you—is likely to be your most practical option. Either alternate sets (especially if your training programs are identical, or very similar), with each of you taking turns at supervising as you go along, or, one of you completes the workout with the other supervising, and then you reverse roles. The second alternative usually takes much longer for both of you to get your workouts done. It also may be hard to supervise someone well while feeling wiped out as a result of having just completed your own workout.
If you train at a commercial gym, getting a training partner is likely to be easier than if you train at home. As you get to know gym members you may find someone you could work with. Publicize your search for a training partner using the gym’s notice board, or newsletter if there’s one. If possible, also put up a notice in other gyms in your town. You could even extend your search to any colleges that may be in your area. If you train at home you can use the same channels for your search for a training partner.
It’s not necessary that you have about the same level of strength, or are using the exact same sequence of exercises. What matters most is having a similar training philosophy and degree of seriousness, and that you get along with each other and are both punctual for workouts. You also need to have similar recovery abilities so that you can agree on a mutually suitable and productive training frequency.
Regardless of if your supervisor is a training partner or a non-training one, he needs to understand that your training is a very serious matter, and has to be treated as such. It’s not difficult to keep your attention on training if you’ve set the rules beforehand. There’ll be:
a. No non-constructive criticism or advice from either of you.
b. No defensiveness to constructive input. Each of you must learn from the input of the other, and be open to criticism.
c. No socializing chit chat until after training has finished.
d. No personal discussions until after training has finished.
e. No fooling around and taking things lightly.
If you can afford to employ a personal trainer, check out his competence first. Despite their “qualifications,” many personal trainers have major deficiencies in their knowledge of training.
To help determine whether someone can help you in the gym, critically watch the trainer at work with a client, with this checklist in mind:
a. Is the form he teaches like that explained in Chapter 12 of BUILD MUSCLE LOSE FAT LOOK GREAT, and THE INSIDER’S TELL-ALL HANDBOOK ON WEIGHT-TRAINING TECHNIQUE?
b. Does he remind his charge of key points of form before a set starts, and even in the course of a set when necessary?
c. Has he modified his client’s exercise selection and form according to any limitations the trainee may have? Has the trainer avoided a “one size fits all” training program?
d. Does he keep accurate records of weight and reps for each work set performed?
e. Does he consult his client’s training log before each set, to ensure that the correct weight is selected? And does he carefully load the bar?
f. Is he supportive, serious and respectful?
g. Does he keep his charge’s mind totally focused on the work at hand?
If he doesn’t score positively on all these points, look elsewhere. If he scores well on these points but the deadlift, squat and some other major movements were not done in the workout you inspected, ask the trainer to demonstrate how he teaches those movements. Compare his instruction with what’s described in the aforementioned books. If there are more than just minor differences, look elsewhere for hands-on help with your lifting technique, although the trainer in question may be valuable in other areas.
While working out with a training partner
Either of you could do the record keeping (poundages, sets and reps—in a training log) during the workout. Check the poundages you need set by set, and then verify that the resistance has been loaded correctly before performing any set. If there’s a mistake, you want to discover it before the set starts, not during it. Miscalculations can ruin sets and perhaps cause injuries; and regular errors will strain the relationship between you and your training partner or supervisor.
Treat your workouts as very serious working time. Get down to business and keep your training partner or supervisor at a distance. Keep your mind focused rigidly on your training.
Some caveats for muscle growth
Don’t let anyone push you to train before you’ve fully recovered from your previous session. Don’t let anyone push you to perform exercises in ways that don’t suit you. Don’t let anyone add unplanned exercises to your program. Don’t let anyone push you to abuse forced reps and negatives. If you allow a training partner or supervisor to do any of these things, he’s going to mar your progress, and possibly injure you and stymie your gains.
Work together in an intelligent way so that you do what’s best for both of you. You must avoid pushing each other to do things that are reckless. A training partner or supervisor can be invaluable for pointing out form errors, making suggestions, and helping you to improve your exercise technique. But that’s different from pushing you to do something that will hurt you.
One of the potential problems from having a training partner is that his specific needs, limitations, strengths and weaknesses are different from yours. Be sure that your training program suits you, and that your training partner’s program suits him. While your programs may be very similar, they’re unlikely to be exactly the same. Never allow a training partner to oblige you to do something in your training that’s not appropriate for you.
Remember that you must not become dependent on supervision. Always be able to train well by yourself. Have spells where you train by yourself, to be sure you can still deliver the goods alone.
For a few minutes every evening, review your day. Be sure you have a specific time you do this review. If you just leave it for when you can fit it in, you’ll end up not fitting it in.
Find out how you did in trying to make today another step towards achieving your next set of short-term goals. Have all of today’s actions—training (if a training day), nutrition, and rest related—met or exceeded the goals for the day? If not, why not?
A daily critical analysis of what you did and didn’t do to take another step forward will help you to be more alert to improving tomorrow. Some days may be ruined by crises that destroy your good planning. When this happens, learn from how you coped—or didn’t, as the case may be—so that when something similar happens again, you’re prepared for dealing with it better.
Never miss this daily appointment with yourself. This will help to ensure—calamities excluded—that you always keep to your plan for training success, and muscle growth. If you extend this daily review to other aspects of your life—especially work or business—you’ll find that it will help you there too.
Take as much control over your life as you can. Learn from your mistakes. Capitalize on the good things you’ve done. Do more of the positive things you’re already doing, and fewer of the negative things.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The combination of a training diary, training partner or supervisor, and the daily review, can bring about a tremendous increase in your training application. It can move you into another sphere of seriousness and organization, and muscle growth.
But all of this is academic. You must supply the determination, hard work and persistence needed to make the organization deliver the goods. Most trainees have neither the organization needed for success, nor the will to push themselves very hard when they need to. These are demanding essentials—satisfy them, now, and then get on with achieving your potential.
This is the fourth and final part of Chapter 5 of BEYOND BRAWN. For further information on this classic book, please click here.