Bodybuilding can be one of the hardest, and loneliest, sports on the planet to succeed in. The sustained, single-minded focus needed to achieve all training objectives is often compounded by the fact that - for the average bodybuilder - there is usually very little in the way of a moral support and technical guidance on offer.
Bodybuilding is largely an individual sport where one is often left to figure it all out on their own and, compared to other pursuits, a greater number of things can, and do go wrong along the path to success. For example, the pre-competition phase (a major part of many bodybuilding programs) demands a number of critical steps to be followed before one steps onstage: diet, training, supplementation, tanning and posing all need to be perfected before competitive success can be realized.
Qualified advice from reputable sources will certainly help in confronting these variables, but this might only take one so far. Indeed, many feel it necessary to train with a like-minded person, someone who shares similar goals and who will enhance the quality of the training session, to gain the full benefit from their training efforts.
Reliable, compatible training partners, who can motivate, provide guidance, and generate training intensity while setting the tone for a positive workout experience can often, according to many, be the difference between winning and losing in bodybuilding.
Some feel that having a good partner is a crucial element to their success. In favor of the training partner approach are New York bodybuilders Tony Catanzaro and Anthony Belvilacqua.
Tony, a competitive natural bodybuilder, and male model, and Anthony, one of Howard Beach's top personal trainers and an aspiring natural bodybuilding champ, both feel their results have increased since they started training together. Both hungry for success and very competitive - it has been said that when these two train, the intensity levels in the gym double, such is their enthusiasm for the sport they love.
Both men are results driven and feel the team approach has, so far, given them an edge. I recently spoke with Tony and Anthony and they told me exactly why training together is the preferred method for them.
[ Q ] What are your individual training goals?
I'm always looking to improve my physique. I think that's the secret to my success. I don't look to get bigger. I look to get better. Too many guys just focus on getting bigger. By doing that they knock themselves out of proportion. I look at my body as Arnold did back in the day.
I look to even everything out. I won't, lets say, focus on my arms to get bigger for the sake of having freaky arms. You see, by doing that it would only make my chest and shoulders look smaller. I only weigh around 185-190 lbs, but you would think I'm much heavier because of my wide shoulders and lats, and thick legs.
The truth is I've worked very hard to shrink my waistline - get the point. Like I always say, the ice sculpter carves the ice, he doesn't build the ice. My goals are to thicken up my middle back and to add a little more size to my traps.
Well I have many goals. I like to set little goals for myself each month try to blast through those goals to get to the big picture. Goal setting is very important when you are trying to get the physique you dream of.
My goal for this month is to put on at least 5lbs of muscle (which I think I did working out with Tony) and to get the basic poses down. My long-term goal is get up to about 225lbs (I am currently at 190lbs) and to win first place in a Natural bodybuilding contest.
[ Q ] What makes you such compatible training partners?
Anthony is a great kid! He is very hungry like me, and I found that working out with him was a great idea. It's hard to find a 35-year-old guy with the hunger of an 18 year old. A lot of the guys my age or a little younger just are not focusing on their workouts.
They are thinking about what they have to do at work, and the kids, the stock market, and a million other things as well - all as they are working out. I'm very busy and have a wife, a house, bills, a career, and a million other things going on as well, but when I'm in the gym its "GO TIME" and that's it!
All the other stuff is out the window for an hour and a half. If I did not do that for myself, then I would go nuts. Even the most powerful men in the world find time in their day to workout. You have to learn to balance your time, and by doing that you will become a more powerful person.
I have had many training partners before Tony came along. I was just never able to click with any of them like I was able to with Tony. Tony's almost as hungry as I am and he means business. Tony also cares for me when we train, it's as though his goals become mine.
Past training partners have only cared about their goals, which doesn't benefit either of us. It's actually kind of scary how alike me and Tony are when we train, it's almost as if we share the same training fire.
[ Q ] What are the benefits to having a good training partner?
Well besides the great workouts, Anthony is a great help. He is always making sure that I don't leave my belt or towel behind (I'm actually a very forgetful person). I'm so into the moment that I forget the little details. Maybe I'm just getting old...naaaaaaaaaa. It's good because we look out for one another.
The greatest benefit of having a training partner is the push you get. Tony always makes sure I get the most out of every set, whether it's a couple of more reps or ensuring my form is perfect. There are also certain days when you need that push and a good training partner should be there to give it to you, to help you push through the bad days.
No one can train at 100% every workout as it is almost physically impossible, but a good training partner knows how to bring up the intensity when it's lacking.
[ Q ] How do your workouts together differ from those done training alone?
I've been working out alone throughout my 20 years of training. I started at 15, which some of you may already know. I find that training with someone who is determined not only in his own success, but yours as well, is a great training partner. Everyone needs a push or we pretty much repeat the process of our workouts each week even if we change an exercise or do a drop set. Without that person behind you pushing you to do an extra few reps, you are probably going to come to a plateau in your workouts.
I am only 18 years old I've been training since I was 15. I trained alone for the first three years until I became a certified personal trainer. Then once I came to the gym, everyone wanted to "train with the trainer." It was a little overwhelming because I am still learning as well.
Tony took me under his wing (which I thank him everyday for) and really showed me what bodybuilding was about, he took me beyond fitness. When I workout alone I get approached by members of the gym asking me what can they do to lose the fat under their arms or their stomach. So my workouts are much longer when I train alone. When Tony and I get together, no one approaches us, it's almost as though they can feel the heat of our intensity and back off.
[ Q ] Describe the kind of intensity generated during one of your workouts?
Anthony and I are very focused in our workouts. So focused, that if a bomb were to go off, we probably wouldn't even hear it.
Words cannot describe the intensity; we are so mentally focused that we can get our muscles "pumped" by just thinking about them.
[ Q ] What intensity techniques are used during the workout and what affect do they have on the workout?
We train "OLD SCHOOL" and love to imitate some scenes from Pumping Iron - it's a good way to add a little enjoyment and laughter to the workouts. I always say, you have to enjoy your workout because if you don't, your body and mind will just think of it as a hassle and therefore become stressed over it. You have to enjoy it otherwise it's pointless.
We'll Tony and I usually tell each other how easy this next set is going to be and how we can get 12 reps without even breaking a sweat. We also rehearse lines from the movie "Pumping Iron." I am telling you a line from Arnold right before a set definitely helps to get those last two, three or four repetitions.
[ Q ] What do you both do pre-workout to ensure adequate energy levels?
Well, I'm a big believer in eating a good high carbohydrate meal 45 minutes to an hour before training. I find this to be the best way to get a pump and keep it. These starches work well: brown rice, baked potatoes, and yams, and even cream of wheat.
I'll have a big bowl of oatmeal an hour before training and then I'll have an apple while walking to the gym. The oatmeal before the gym gives you that growing pump you need.
[ Q ] What motivational methods are used to encourage one another to train to the limit?
Besides the Arnold blurbs, I always use "Let's get serious" and "Stop screwing around." I think the tone of my voice just sets the tone for the workouts. I notice that other people become sparked as well so it sets a good energy level for everybody!
Well, what I usually do to Tony is I'll kind of psych him out - it's hilarious. I'll give Tony a heavier dumbbell or add more weight to the bar and tell him that he did the same weight last week, and since Tony is very forgetful, he agrees. He goes through with his set with ease, thinking he did it last week, when in reality he never did that weight before. I've done this week after week and Tony still doesn't know! (Got Ya Tony)
[ Q ] How does each of you channel your focus to achieve total concentration?
I always say, "Become the muscle," actually feel what you are doing. Don't just count reps - you have to feel it in order for it to work!
I'll usually have Tony repeat me my goals and I'll close my eyes and visualize what I am doing. Tony has helped me to visualize the muscle being worked to actually "become the muscle" - this training trick has helped my physique tremendously.
[ Q ] Describe and average workout. What processes would you follow from beginning to end?
We always start with a couple of warm-up sets of 20 reps, then pretty much go right into it. If it were cold outside we would do five minutes of bicycle or some type of cardio to get a sweat first. Just like a car needs to warm-up when it is cold outside, so do we.
At the end of the workout we would do some posing as well to further stimulate the muscles. As I often found that flexing is the best way to become harder and push nutrients into the muscle.
Tony and I usually start with a couple of warm-up sets for the target muscle and then go right in bombing that muscle group. During sets we will stretch to get new blood to flow to that target muscle as well as light posing. Then when we are all finished we usually head to the aerobic room to work on posing.
[ Q ] How would you describe your training style?
Totally "Old School:" it's like 1975 Pumping Iron all over again. Just with better form and NO STEROIDS.
Hardcore and intense: I feel as though the people that are around us while we train are blown away by our intensity.
[ Q ] What body part does each of you enjoy training most, and why?
I enjoy training every body part, period. It really doesn't matter to me. I trained myself to love training, because if I hated to train, lets say, my legs or stomach they would be weak. There is a guy in our gym that won't train his legs for anything. I don't even think he ever did one rep of legs his whole life.
He's at the gym almost every day, and time after time I have told him that he has to train his legs and that they were 60 % of his physique and all the good things that come from training legs and still... nothing. I even put a sign on his back that said "I HATE TRAINING LEGS" - he was walking around with it and still, he won't do it. No reason other than the fact that he just doesn't want to.
I want to let the readers know something: if you aren't willing to go though sacrifices in life, you will not achieve all that you wish for. Everything comes with a price and nothing good ever comes easy. Yeah, you can use drugs and achieve results pretty quick, but look at where you will be headed.
Always remember, everything beautiful in life went though something painful to exist. When you were born, your mother was in pain bringing you into the world, a construction worker becomes tired from building all day. You must go though the pain in order to achieve.
You cannot make excuses. You will see that by doing the things that you don't want to do, but know that you should, will make all the difference in your life.
I enjoy training in general. I don't have a favorite body part to train. I believe that a balanced physique is a true physique. I also love seeing different muscle group's change and become larger; it's very cool the way the body works.
[ Q ] What funny experiences have you had during training?
This is funny: the other day, Anthony and I were using a bench to stand on while we did superset pullups with dumbbell presses. When we went back to the pullups, this very large older Spanish lady took our bench away from us. So we said it is okay take it, and we grabbed another one.
Well now she is having problems adjusting the bench. So she calls on us to help her. So I told Anthony to go over to her, I was going to bust his chops. After he helped her I told the lady to give him a big hug and kiss so she did it. When he came back to me, he had this huge lipstick imprint on his cheek.
I busted out laughing and told him to leave it on through the whole workout. You see it's not all about being a stiff when you're at the gym. I help everybody and everyone knows that. You shouldn't be one of those selfish people you see at the gym that wouldn't help you if you if the weight was falling on you, always help others. The lipstick imprint set a healthy happy tone to the whole workout and that's what's important. Even actors find laughter between scenes when they screw up. It makes for a healthy atmosphere.
This funny experience occurs on a daily basis: we have this member that comes to our gym that is a very funny character. This fellow runs up to everyone with a smile on his face and asks, "What are you training today"? Then before the person has time to respond he will jump in with what he is training, and his response is usually Back, Arms, Chest, Shoulders, Abs and Cardio.
When I say everyone I mean everyone, but he especially loves Tony and I, he calls us Double-A. "Double-A what are you guys training?" Before we get a chance to answer he blurts out "I am doing Chest, Back, Legs, Abs and Cardio. Tony and I look at each other with amusement and Tony replies "We are doing Chest, Legs, Back, Arms, Shoulders, Traps, Abs and Cardio." The guy smiles and says, "Big Day you guys are shocking the body," at this point I turned around and am trying so hard not to laugh.
[ Q ] These are very funny experiences. It would be cool to train with you guys. What makes your training partner a good one? What are their best qualities do you think?
Being on time is one, but most important helping one another. It's also good to find a partner with the same strengths or style that's not a quitter and who can push you back just as hard.
The qualities a good training partner should have are definitely disciplined and caring. You don't deserve a training partner who's not going to push you down. You need one that's going to help you rise above all.
[ Q ] How do you think your training partner will do competitively this year, and why do you think this?
Anthony is 18 years old, and has a great start. He started training at 15, just like me. I started in that small room I made into a gym in my house. I didn't have anyone with me at that time to push or guide me. But when I look back, I'm glad it was that way. I had to grow on my own, mentally and physically in order to become who I am today.
Anthony is a hard worker and doesn't ask anyone for help. But I'm glad to help him as he has helped me in return. I know he will definitely be competing next year and filling his room with trophies. The first time I told him about competing I was telling him how he needed to get his feet wet, and that he should do some local novice shows to start and see how he places.
Do you know what he told me, he said:
Losing is not an option."
Well, I have to say it looks like this kid got a little bit of me in him. GO FOR IT KID!
I am not really sure if Tony's going to compete this year, but if he does I know for a fact that he will be holding up that first place trophy. Tony and I believe that we are each other's "secret weapon." Tony says I am the only one who has the "balls" to correct him when he does something sloppy.
Tony is my secret weapon because he is going to teach me all he knows about competing and so that when I enter a show (in the next year) I am going to be able to blow away the competition hands down.
How To Build An Affective Training Relationship
Like Tony and Anthony, you too can build an effective training alliance, but like all successful partnerships, there are a number of rules that must be followed. The central themes to have emerged from what our two champions have said on the subject of training partnerships follow.
1. Be A Motivator.
Both Tony and Anthony know one another's strengths and weaknesses and tailor their motivational approach to successfully boost their partners training experience. Having an ability to know how your partner is feeling and applying just the right amount of intensity through encouragement (in Tony and Anthony's case, reciting lines from Pumping Iron), is the hallmark of a good training partner.
Providing an uncompromising level of support, and working to the highest levels will serve as motivation for your partner. They, in turn, will help you to achieve your goals.
2. Be Disciplined & Reliable.
Having a disciplined mindset will help to ensure 100 percent focus is given at every training session. Being on time and showing commitment to your partner will forge the training relationship, strengthen the bond between both parties and generate superior results.
A disciplined mindset and a training partnership share a symbiotic relationship in that the intensity generated through an unwavering mental attitude will help to motivate ones partner while the encouragement this partner gives will strengthen ones resolve to train even harder. Be disciplined!
3. Have Mutual Goals.
For the purposes of this article, bodybuilding is the overriding goal for both interviewed parties. Tony and Anthony have exactly the same goals: to achieve maximum muscle size while maintaining good symmetry and proportion and getting cut. These common goals help both men to stay on track, as they have a mutual understanding of what one another needs as far as training support goes.
|WHAT'S YOUR GOAL?|
Having the same goals also helps both parties to achieve in the sense that both would be more astute at identifying any weaknesses in their partner, and knowing the ways to correct these weaknesses. This would result in greater training progress for both men, and a strengthened training partnership.
4. Be Results Focused.
Both Tony and Anthony have specific pre-determined goals they strive to achieve. Their results are based on the goals they set for themselves and are the very reason they step foot in the gym. Seeing tangible results in the form of increased muscle mass, keeps both men striving to be at their best while strengthening their training relationship. Working as a team encourages both parties to push one another toward their respective goals to achieve the results they seek.
5. Be Respectful.
It is a given that in order to work successfully as a team, mutual respect must be had. Training with someone you admire as a person and an athlete will motivate you to give your best during every training session. The accountability attached to pushing your partner to their limits hinges, to a large degree, on the level of respect that is had for this person.
In choosing a training partner, pick someone who is motivated, disciplined and worthy of your training time. In return, be a source of encouragement and inspiration for your partner.
6. Shared Training Approach.
Old school intensity and quality over quantity is the name of the game for Tony and Anthony, and their physiques reflect this shared approach to training. Knowing exactly what your partner wants to achieve from their session makes you a better team member. Having the same approach to training will enable sessions to be planned more efficiently while ensuring that goals are mutual.
7. Enjoy Your Workouts: Have Fun!
Although intense in the extreme, training sessions are never dull affairs for Tony and Anthony. As long as the work is getting done, and all training targets are being met, fun can only add to the enjoyment of the training experience. Having a few laughs can even help to re-focus the session and stave off the boredom that can lower the intensity of the session and stifle results. As Tony says, "it makes for a healthy training atmosphere."
The Advantages Of Training With A Friend.
As shown in this article, training with a partner can make a world of difference to ones bodybuilding program. Tony and Anthony, in detailing their experiences, have given a great insight into why and how the training partner alliance works. A detailed look at how a great training partnership can be achieved was also provided. So in summary, the advantages of training with a friend follow:
1. Increased Motivation.
The extra push a training partner gives can heighten results significantly.
2. Positive, & Negative Feedback.
A training partner is often better able to reflect on what you need to do to succeed.
3. A Sense Of Camaraderie.
Remember Pumping Iron? The gym atmosphere at Gold's was electric, and everyone seemed to train together and help one another. This kind of atmosphere is conducive to training results.
Sharing the highs and lows of training with a partner can help with motivation and ensure a more productive training experience.
Having someone always on hand to spot and offer encouragement can only result in a greater degree of intensity, and improved quality of training, which, in turn, will hasten results.
No one can know everything. Having a partner will ensure additional information regarding training, diet, and other important aspects of bodybuilding can be accessed.
A partner who can correct poor technique and spot during heavy sets will serve as a safety barrier.