"The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it" is a famous quote from Hubert H. Humphrey. For many lifters in the gym, the great gift of friendship bring many benefits derived from weight training with a partner. Inspiration, safety, and camaraderie are among the many gifts that a gym buddy can deliver. However, it also comes with its own set of limitations. Sometimes being alone can be a good thing. "Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude"... wise words from Arthur Schopenhauer which can be applied to the gym as well. Sometimes, without any of the distractions which arise from conversation, we are able to reach inside and find that personal combination of drive and focus which lets us take our training to the next level, delivering some awesome new results.
Life is all about finding advantages. And if you're looking to train longer and harder with more motivation, then training with a buddy - a built in spotter, teammate, opponent and personal trainer - may just be the right move for you! Let's look at the advantages of buddy training and employ a few tips and tricks you can implement to get the most out of your spotter when it comes to your training.
Half of your gains in the gym appear from just walking in the door. Even if your workouts are brief, average, or you under-perform due to distraction, you'll still see half of the benefits you'd see from an outright awesome... and way more gains than the person who just plain skipped the gym that day. Five average workouts each week will always topple two awesome workouts each week in terms of long-term gains. If your buddy does nothing more than ensure you make it to the gym each day, then he or she has already established a huge positive surplus to your training arsenal.
Extend your sets
Your sets are about to get longer. There will be many reasons for this, which will get into. However, the important thing to know is that, whether it be by spotter or through motivation via pure adrenaline, you're about to move that weight for more repetitions that you did before. What does this mean? It means you'll very soon be able to bump up the weight you're using by 5% and complete the SAME number of repetitions! Adding more reps is nice, and will target those slow-twitch muscle fibers which aren't fired until you're 12 or 15 repetitions into your set. But if the name of the game is muscle BUILDING, then you'll want to move more weight - and longer sets will eventually allow you to do exactly that!
The competition factor
As mentioned previously, training with a buddy can help your sets grow longer - and the weights you're using increase faster - because you are suddenly motivated. The adrenaline rush which comes from accepting a challenge - and winning a challenge - can be a great motivator for moving more weight for more repetitions with each workout. See how many repetitions your buddy can complete - and then knock out one more. He'll come back thirstier than ever when his set arrives. When the workout ends, you'll probably both realize you are moving more weight in each workout than you have ever moved before!
The top reason many lifters enjoy using a spotter is safety. In many exercises, such as the deadlift or DB raises, failure isn't a big deal. You drop the weight when you cannot move it another inch. No harm, no foul. However, when it comes to movements such as bench press or squats, simply letting gravity take over can leave one hospitalized! Having a spotter to guide, balance and move that weight when your muscles fail allow you to train to absolute failure with confidence, knowing a prepared and focused partner in the lift is ready to take over when your ability to move the weight finally gives out. Training for that extra repetition - set after set - will lead to new gains over time!
A system of grunts and short phrases should exist between lifters and spotters. More common words like "Go", "Help", and "Done" should be spoken by the lifter, and heard clearly by the spotter. It's not always good to wear headphones blasting loud music when you need to let your spotter know that you just aren't going to be able to get that barbell back up this 12th time!
Put the Ego Aside
There arrives a point in every spotter-lifter relationship where the spotter will cross the line into gains territory. He won't mean to do so... he'll chalk it up to nothing more than being a great spotter. But there is a point where, in the name of ego, SnapChat posts, and as part of the numbers gain, where the spotter will move more than he should in order to help the lifter move some insane amount of weight which just wouldn't be possible otherwise. When spotting a bench press becomes heavy bar curling, then it's time to cut back the weight and remember that you're not here to build ego, you're here to help one another build up muscle! And the only way to do that is through honest, progressive lifting, with just a little bump from a spotter now and then.
There will be times when training with a buddy just isn't right for you. Maybe you keep very late or very late hours. Maybe you're an introvert, capable of putting on some Metallica or Wu Tang Clan and just zoning out and finding comparable results to those give by a spotter, on your own. Maybe you find your own motivation... or maybe you just don't play well with others! Whatever the case, a spotter isn't always for everyone.
Also, remember that it's entirely possible to use a spotter each week for chest day or leg day - and then spend the rest of the week training alone. You don't really *need* a spotter for biceps day, even if the motivation is awesome for some. A hybrid spotter/alone split might work for you in this manner. However you train, keep showing up and the gains will arrive!