I'm not writing this article to criticize training partnerships, rather to answer the flipside of the coin. What if you don't have a training partner? Can you still achieve fantastic progress? Can you still train as intense? You're damn right you can! This article is going to focus on strategies to get the absolute most out of your training when hitting the weights alone, as well as some advantages of 'Lone Wolf' training.
Through the years, I have trained with different people, but due to college and shift-work I have had to train at non-consistent times making a training partner was not feasible. By training alone for long periods of time, I have learnt ways to push myself to the limit each workout, without needing anyone else for motivation.
SETTING YOURSELF TRAINING GOALS EVERY WORKOUT
When training with a partner you are competing against them in a friendly battle to see who can lift more weight, do more reps, and be the most intense. To replicate this type of competition when training alone, you have to compete against yourself each and every workout. The previous workout you did is now your target to beat, never settling for just equaling previous records you go out to break them week after week.
The methods in which I achieve this victory effectively over my former self is by keeping an accurate training journal showing exactly how much weight I used and for how many reps. This is common practice, but to make the 'competition' exciting for myself I set myself bi-monthly and monthly goals. I have these written down for each exercise and have them attached alongside the previous weeks training in my diary. So that before attempting to reach new levels in strength on the next exercise, I refer back to the last session reinforcing what I have to do.
I also then refer to my short-term goals set for strength gains. This really 'fires me up.' In my mind I immediately start visualizing smashing past my present strength levels and being in new training highs. Everytime I achieve my short-term goals I check them off and date when I did it. This gives great satisfaction later on when constant progress is being shown. The time investment in making these goal sheets every month are well worth it and once you try it you'll do so from there on in.
BEING ABLE TO FOCUS ON YOUR TRAINING 100% EACH SESSION
When I'm in the gym I am forever seeing guys spending too much time chatting in-between sets rather than getting themselves focused and ready for their next set, apart from spending too much time on the equipment, they are robbing themselves of an intense, productive workout. When alone you can devote your total concentration into your training, in-between sets you can mentally rehearse your next set without distraction.
DOING THE EXERCISES THAT WORK BEST FOR YOU
Everyone responds differently to the various exercises available and this is a major factor when devising the best training routine for you. When training by yourself you can work on the exercises that you enjoy and get the best results from. For example, not everyone gets good gains from the bench press, some do better with dumbbells instead. If you are doing certain movements just to fit in with someone else you could be robbing yourself of maximum chest development.
It's great if your training partner is on the same wave length as yourself with regard to training style preference, but it could be holding you back if you don't share the same training beliefs, dedication and intensity. If this is the case, either changing training partners or training alone could be the key for you to start making some progress in the gym again.
FOLLOW A ROUTINE THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU
Having the freedom to experiment with different training styles and different body part splits is a great way to continuously learn about your body and what methods reaps you the best rewards. Never stop learning or experimenting is sound advice passed on through successful bodybuilders. Lone wolves can decide for themselves how they plan on cycling their training over the next few months without pressure that someone else doesn't like what you have got planned.
HAVING THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS YOU DOING ALL THE WORK
I am constantly observing in the gym guys using weights far too heavy for themselves and relying on their training buddy to assist more than the 'forced reps' principle originally intended. When you're a lone wolf trainer, if you are doing Incline Dumbbell Presses with your heaviest weight you learn to rely on yourself to get the weights off your knees and up for the first rep, rather than a training partner making the lift for you at the start.
I know a lot of people might object to this, saying that they can only train with their max weights when being assisted. My comeback to that is what are you going to do if your training partner is sick or on holiday? Will you have the confidence that you can still achieve the lifts? In this situation a likely result is that people will just lighten the weight for the session. Furthermore, if you think that you can't do it alone then I suggest you watch Ronnie Coleman's "Unbelievable" video he manages to get 200 pound dumbbells in to position by himself on Incline Dumbbell's.
CAUTION: TRAINING SAFETY!
When training by yourself, especially if at home, safety has to be the number one concern. Don't max out your bench alone, people have died that way! In most gyms you will be able to find someone who can spot you on heavy lifts and give you forced reps if instructed before the lift. Don't be afraid to ask for help, you'll look at lot less stupid doing that than twisting yourself into a pretzel in order to rack the weight after you've gone to total failure.
When training alone incorporate more dumbbells and machines. Also, if your gym has a Power Rack, make use of it. By setting the pins correctly you can be confident that even when training to failure, you will be safe. In this case, all you have to do when benching, squatting or doing military presses is rest the bar on the pins and move away.
A great training partner, someone you work really well with can be invaluable. However, I hope the above points illustrates that training like a 'Lone Wolf' can have some huge benefits and by taking the proper steps you can make some great progress alone.
All the best,