Is it possible for males and females to make successful training partners in the gym? Can rewards be found through a couples approach to training that is unattainable with an individual effort?
One of the most successful male/female training partnerships is evidenced by Richard and Laura Combes as they trained together for the Mr. and Ms. America bodybuilding contest in 1980.
Richard: I rarely have training partners because I rest so little between sets that there is rarely time for someone else to complete their set before I need to do my next set. When I have had someone ask to train with me, I have usually worn them out and they would fall by the wayside. When Laura asked me to train her, I felt the best way to teach her what national level competition training was would be to let her train with me.
We, of course, ran into the problem of differing strength levels. I squatted up to 600 pounds, deadlifted up to 630 pounds, barbell curled for 10 reps with 135 pounds and went up as far as 225 for doubles or triples. These were far beyond Laura's capabilities, so we parallel trained; that is, we set up two benches or two squat racks, etc., so that she mirrored my workout.
At first she would just do one set to every two or three that I did until she reached a level of fitness that she could keep up with my pace. We also added cardio for her and changed some routines to fit her weaknesses that differed from mine so that she never actually did exactly the same workout for every body part that I did.
In other words, I tailored her routine to fit her specific needs. I made sure that her routine reflected her body structure choosing those exercises that allowed her to get the maximum development.
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A good training partner can help you immensely in your workouts but a bad one can spell disaster. Before you decide if you want a partner, you need this information.
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Richard and Laura trained at Richard's gym, Baldwin's Body Forum in Tallahassee, Florida, and at Gold's Gym in Venice, California. Today, Richard is training at another Gold's Gym, in Panama City, Florida. Can Richard be found there training with Diane?
Diane: We are partners in terms of supporting one another in our shared goals, endlessly discussing training techniques, nutrition plans and inefficiency with our routines. We routinely shared our thoughts about the latest research and have lively discussions about the methodology of training, but our fitness goals are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
So we consider ourselves a couple that trains simultaneously (when schedules allow), but individually. However, support of our individual fitness goals transforms our separate efforts into team results.
Many baby boomers are achieving physique goals through a couples approach to training routines. Training at Gold's Gym, Panama City, Florida, is a baby boomer couple that not only trains together, but also enters physique contests together. Dave Perry, 52, and Charlie Williams, 47, are training partners in the gym, as well as partners in life.
Training together as a couple provides a forum for shared goals and increasing expectations. "Synergy," was a term this couple used to describe their ability to train together.
Dave has entered several physique contests. But, for Charlie, the decision to enter the over 30 division of the NPC Southern USA contest was one she questioned at several points along the way. Once committed to entering the contest, Charlie was unwavering in her nutrition and exercise program.
Dave Perry views the greatest benefit of baby boomer training as a time of fewer distractions in the area of his personal life and regards training at the age of 52 as an opportunity to develop mature muscle. After more than twenty years of training and the wisdom that comes with age, Dave has learned the techniques that work and no longer wastes time and energy in the gym.
Training as a baby boomer is more conservative than prior years, due to physiological age-related changes that make an over 40 trainer more susceptible to injury. While current workouts include more reps and sets rather than ever-increasing weight from workouts of decades ago, Dave is clear that he is able to derive more from today's current conservative resistance training program.
Shared goals are viewed by both Dave and Charlie as the benefit of training together. While dieting is tough for a contest, Charlie states, "We are accountable to each other and provide checks and balances in our nutrition and training."
We heard recently from reader, Jim Ganley with positive comments on male/female training partners, so long as the partnership only deals with training.
Regarding male / female training partners, I can tell you that the three best training partners I have ever had were women. They were always on time, never missed a scheduled workout, never complained, and trained as hard as I did. It also helped to keep my ego in check by always using the best possible form so as to set a good example for them. This was in the early 1980s, a time when relatively few women were into serious weight training in the Northeast. The other factor contributing to the favorable outcome we experienced was that we were not romantically involved.
In fact, two of these women were married, and the third had a steady boyfriend. On a couple of other occasions where I had attempted to train with my girlfriend or wife, it was a complete, unmitigated disaster. Put succinctly, they had no respect for my opinion whatsoever and constantly challenged everything that I had to say regarding exercise selection, number of sets and reps, poundage, form, etc.
Keep on pumpin'!
"Collectively, my husband and I have amassed 50 years weight training experience as we have been working out since our early 20's. The advantages of couples training together is that it strengthens the bond between us because we are both taking part in an activity we love. We also have a vested interest in each other's health and we try to keep on track when it comes to motivating each other or adhering to a nutritious food plan.
On leg training days, I have to drag his butt into the gym but once he's there, he's fine! The weight and size difference between us has never been an issue as with any man I've ever trained with, I train as hard as they do! Ladies, if you are afraid of training with a man because you think you'll get bulky like a man, forget that notion because your testosterone levels are much lower than a man's are.
The only disadvantage of training as a couple is that on the rare occasion that I've had to train by myself, I really miss my husband because my workouts just aren't the same without him!"
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.