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Ray’s Fitness Diary – Buddy Training

Dumbbell rack

Hey there, how’s it going? Remember me?

After completing a cutting programme last November, I finished off the year by training with my friend Dom. These sessions were largely based around the Push Pull Legs protocol, and kept us both ticking over nicely as 2015 drew to a close. We enjoyed training together, and so we asked Sean to come up with a new programme that we could both work on at the same time. He kindly presented with a fresh routine based around compound sets. And on February 15th we completed it with a solid shoulder session. In this blog I want to talk a little about the programme itself, plus the pros and cons of training with a friend.

The Programme

Given that training with a friend was to be a new experiment, we requested a short six-week programme to trial it. For all we knew our schedules would chop and change too much and it would prove a fruitless endeavour, so we erred on the side of caution.

Throughout the six weeks I’ve found the compound sets more challenging than I thought I would. The pre-fatigue makes the second exercise in each set really tough. For example, dumbbell bench press into push ups. Sounds simple enough, but the pre-fatigue of the bench pressing makes those pushups very difficult. That’s the whole point, obviously! This has meant that my secondary exercises (regularly, but not always bodyweight stuff) haven’t always brought many reps. A fact I’ve sometimes lamented and allowed the sulk monster to run riot. Mental strength required, as ever. Remember, the mind fails long before the body.

We arranged the weekly sessions so that we’d train together through the week, but would then tackle a solo leg session over the weekend. This suited us both pretty well; I usually get up very early on a Saturday and like to tackle my leg sessions then, so it was certainly a good arrangement from my perspective.

As the programme wore on we worked up the weight levels and pushed ourselves to progress. This went well, although generally the secondary exercises remained rather modest in terms of output. On back days we had plenty of pull-ups and chin-ups to tackle, whilst on chest days we enjoyed a variety of pushups. All with varying tempos, occasional pauses – little tweaks throughout to keep us on our toes. Some sessions I felt on top of it, others it seemed to get the best of me. Certainly, I feel that the secondary exercises on leg day tended to win the battle. If it were a boxing match then they didn’t knock me out, cause I kept getting up and going again – but they probably won on points.

The Pros of Working with A Friend

Working solo can be great. You tune into your favourite music, zone in and get to work. You try to become a machine and smash the session to pieces, ultra focused on dem gainz and so forth. With a friend, it makes the gym a different experience. Less mechanical, more social. There are downsides to this (to be discussed shortly), but the positives are great. I really enjoy the social aspect of training with a friend. You’re hanging out with your mate, keeping fit with a mutually enjoyable past time.

There’s also the competitive aspect to consider. How many reps you get? … Christ, better crack on. It keeps you going, and fires you up a little when you might otherwise flag as fatigue sets in. Gentle ribbing, coercing your partner into to driving up one final rep. It might not make you fly to ridiculous new heights as it’s all margins, but they work in your favour.

Plus, let’s not forget the value of having a training buddy to spot you as you push beyond your limits. There to share the highs of a great set, and of course rescue you when you get ahead of yourself and need rescuing from the bottom of a barbell. And it happened once or twice on this programme. Training with a friend gives you both a helping hand with the mental side, and functional aid with the practical aspect of pushing beyond your limits. I mean, you can go for a new bench press PB by yourself, by all means. But it helps to have someone there, ready to high five or help you out – whatever you need.

The Cons

I wouldn’t say there are bad aspects to training with a friend. Just things to consider.

For example, depending on what kit you’re using and what you’re doing, I’ve found that training with a friend means that rests often run longer than I’d let them if I were training solo. I can mitigate this, though, by making sure I’m offsetting it by working with a more challenging weight and ensuring each rep is worth the extra rest I had to take whilst waiting for my mate to finish.

Additionally, there’s the schedule shuffling. Sometimes you might have to swap days around which isn’t ideal, or even find yourself inadvertently training solo (and starting late) after someone slept in. (It only happened the once, bless him! And in fairness even the session swapping was minimal.) When you introduce a second party you lose a little autonomy, and this can throw spanners in the works now and again. But generally you plan and figure things out at the start, plan ahead, and all is well. Good communication is the key that should make this issue one of relatively little consequence.

So that’s only a couple of cons, and they’re both minor. If you work to offset the negative effects, and enjoy the pros of working with a friend, then the cons are of little consequence in my experience. It’s a net gain!

Overall and Moving Forward

I really enjoyed working on through the compound sets programme with Dom. After working alone for most of 2015, it was a great change of pace. It won’t last forever; of course I’ll have to train solo again at some point, but for now we’re both on board with keeping the team together. In fact, we’ve already got our next assignment from Sean…

So if you do train alone, that’s cool. It’s great. But why not try to drag a friend along for the ride? It’s a fun way to shake things up.

As for me, I’ll check in again soon.

Crack on, folks.

Ray Wilson - Author

Ray has worked with Sean on a number of projects across film, web, and health and fitness. In 2015 he completed a bulk/cut cycle, blogging about his experiences with weekly input and advice from Sean.