Many people who plan on starting training or have been going to the gym already look for someone to go to the gym with to push them to go and push them throughout the workout as well. While this is not a very bad idea, it has many downsides that can backfire at you AND your gym buddy. Don’t get me wrong, having a person to show you what to do in the beginning is a great way to familiarize yourself with gym etiquette, equipment, exercises execution and proper form -given that your partner is a bit advanced and knows what he is doing-. A gym partner can also “spot” you while doing some heavy and potentially risky lifts such as squats and bench presses, but overall, you don’t need a gym partner and you are probably better off training by yourself. Let’s see why.
Not very long ago I wrote a huge article on why motivation sucks and what you need instead to get you @ss to the gym. If you haven’t read that article, please do so. It will help you understand the negatives of relying on an extrinsic motivator. Long story short, having a gym partner to push you also means that you will be relying on your gym partner to go to the gym and CONSTANTLY push you. But, here is the thing, life happens, right? What if your gym partner cannot make it one day? Chances are you will either skip the gym that day as well or you will decide to be the savior of Gotham and go have a sole workout, which will probably suck due to your constant reliance on your gym partner (the motivator) to push you. However, if you have adapted yourself to going through the gym alone and training alone, not only will you not develop that psychological dependency, but you will also advance much faster and develop a stronger willpower that will then make you go to the gym no matter what. If it’s snowing, you WILL GO to the gym. If world war 3 erupts, you will still go to the gym. I think you see where I am going with this. Another benefit of training alone is that you will learn how to push yourself through hardcore lifts and will learn how to avoid injuries. For example; if you have a gym partner who spots you during bench presses, you know that if you fail or get stuck during the movement he will help you rack the barbell. Now, what if you are training alone? Should you just give up and let the barbell crush your rib cage? Of course, not. So, you will learn when not to go for another rep to avoid failure and thus injury.
Level of development
We all have different bodies and different anatomies (muscle insertions, amount of lean mass, fat mass…etc.) and thus chances are that you and your training partner will have different starting points. You may be a skinny 150 pounds’ person who never even saw a dumbbell in his life, but your gym buddy may be a 180-somewhat lean person who has been training for some time. This poses a big problem due to you requiring a different training plan than your partner. You will need a training plan that suits YOUR needs and starting points. Your gym partner will also need a different and more advanced training regimen than you so that he/she can keep developing and seeing progress. And even if you guys train the same way, this will NOT be optimal for at least one of you because you are doing something that could be too much or just unnecessary for you. Another issue is that if you have a lower starting point than your partner, you may get frustrated over time because you are constantly comparing your strength levels and appearance to him/her. This may motivate you in the beginning, but over time, you will feel like you are not making progress or as much progress as your gym partner, when in reality, the mere difference is that he/she has been training and dieting for longer. If you still insist on training with a gym buddy, at least make sure you guys are at the same level of training and body composition.
No customized training
You: Hey Mike, what are we doing today?
Mike: We are doing chest and triceps and then 15 minutes of cardio. Gotta get dem GAINZ!
Sounds familiar? This is a sample conversation that most gym partner have whenever they meet up to train. Gym partners either play it by the ear, or have sort of a plan of what they’re going to do that day. As I mentioned in the last point, training with someone means you cannot be systematic about what you are going to do. And like we say “failing to plan is planning to fail.” especially when it comes to something like working out which requires consistency and constant progress tracking. There is no one size fits all program that will yield results for everyone. My program could give you results, yes, but is it ideal for YOU? Definitely not. You need your own intelligently-designed training plan that will fit your goals, starting point, availability and dedication that will help you make the most progress as fast as possible. Playing it by the ear at the gym will take away this perfect approach to training and changing your physique, and will significantly hinder your progress.
So, we said that everyone needs a training plan that fits their individual needs and circumstances, right? To take this even a step further, genetics come into play when working on transforming your body. No two people are 100% alike, including twins. Genetics play a MAJOR role in how fast someone can build muscle and lose fat. Hypothetically speaking, you and your gym buddy have the same exact starting points and start following the same exact training program and diet plan. 3 months later, you notice that your gym buddy looks significantly better than you. He is having a much easier time putting on muscle while you are still struggling with the same weight you were doing last month. He is also leaning out more rapidly than you, what’s going on? The answer is that his physiological makeup is probably better than yours -damn genetics-. However, you can probably run 200 meters in 5 seconds while he could die trying to do so. We all have different genetics and they greatly influence how fast we can progress at the gym. Thus, you need a training and diet plan that fit YOUR genetics, and because of this, you cannot do the same thing your gym partner is doing. It just won’t work out.
Once again, due to customization, you cannot do the same thing as someone else. If your training partner is more advanced or wants to lose fat while you want to build muscle, you will literally have opposing nutritional needs. He will need a caloric deficit to lose weight, while you will need a caloric surplus to build muscle. Depending on your age, weight, experience and genetics, you will also need different amounts of calories, nutrients, vitamins, fiber, macronutrients…etc. Now, you tell me how you will be able to do that when you are depending on another person!
Given that you and your gym partner have different starting points, different goals, different nutritional and training plans, you will also need different supplementation programs. While supplements are not necessary all the time, they can somewhat help speed up the process given that you are adhering to your diet and training regiments. This is also true when it comes to deficiencies. You may have a vitamin D deficiency and thus require a vitamin D supplements, while your partner’s vitamin D levels could be perfectly fine. You may want to use a fat burner to shed the last couple of pounds, but what will your partner do with a fat burner when he is trying to build muscle? His supplementation program should include something like creatine that will help him achieve that goal.
Hard work or cheating?
Having mini challenges between you and your gym partner could be an exciting way to spice things up and push each other. Maybe you guys agreed on seeing who could build more muscle over the next 3 months. This sounds good and peaceful on the surface, but not so fast, cowboy! Given that its all fair in love and war, your gym partner may decide to cheat a little bit behind your back to win this ego-satisfying competition. He may start using some “supplements” or illegal drugs to speed up the process a little bit. Next thing you know, he is growing every single session while you are struggling to put on 2 pounds of muscle. This phenomenon happens more often than you think and I see it a lot at work. It’s kind of amusing, so I usually just laugh, but I say to myself “poor gym partner, you don’t know what’s going on behind the scene.”. Anyway, going through this will also cause you frustration, which could further hinder your progress or cause you to either stop training/sticking to your diet plan, or push you to cheat or take extreme measures, too! I mean, none of you is tracking the other person 24 hours a day, so what’s the worst that could happen? But if you decide to take some extreme measures or illegal drugs, you put your health at risk for a stupid competition or you develop a dependency and convince yourself that you cannot train without this life elixir anymore, because once you know what it feels like to be superman, you just don’t want to go back to being Clark Kent.
Since everyone is different and have different lives, we also have different levels of willpower and discipline. You may look at your goal as a NEED and act accordingly, but your gym partner may just WANT to achieve his goal(s) without wanting to pay his dues. You will go to the gym 5 days a week and follow a strict diet throughout the week, but your gym partner may decide to skip 2 days out of those 5 and binge eat and drink on weekends. Different levels of dedication will affect peoples’ progress and discipline. If you and your gym partner have different levels of dedication, this “partnership” is bound to fail.
Having different goals than your gym buddy will affect your level of adherence to a diet plan, training plan, supplement plan and discipline. Since all these variables should be ideally customized to your individual physiological makeup and goals, you will be working towards achieving your goals as fast as possible, but your gym partner will adapt different approaches that suits his needs. Thus, you will both have different “variables” to work with to effectively transform your body and improve your health.
Ever had an annoying unreliable gym partner? Maybe you are one of the few lucky trainees who did not get to experience this awful trauma. You tell your gym partner you will meet him at 5 o’clock at the gym, but he doesn’t show up and he doesn’t even send you a text or call you to let you know he won’t be able to make it. Now, you are sitting there wondering what to do and you are also worried if something happened to him/her. Having an unreliable gym buddy is a nightmare that many people are familiar with, and he will do nothing but hold you back from achieving your dream body. Think of it as a toxic relationship. Do you really want to be involved in a partnership like that? I am sure you don’t.
Let’s say you and your buddy train together for 4 months. Your gym buddy is not satisfied with his progress, so he decides that “gym life” is not for him/her. What are you going to do now? Not only will some of his negative energy transfer over to you and affect you mentally, but you will also be clueless for some time in regards to what to do. This is even more true if you have been following your gym partner’s advice all along and doing whatever he or she was doing. You are now left in the desert, alone, and clueless. This is another reason why you should train alone. You will take this “gym thing” more seriously, be more committed and spend a lot of time researching and learning about exercising and dieting and implementing effective ones into your life. You will also learn to incorporate different dietary and training tricks into your regiments when needed or during odd times, such as traveling or being on vacation. You will learn much more training alone than you will ever do listening to just one person. Do NOT depend on your gym partner as your guide.
We all have families, work to go to, friends, things to do, different goals, college…etc. and thus, we are not always available when other people are. In the context of this article, you and your gym buddy will most likely have different daily schedules and thus availability. You may be able to train early, or like to train early in the day while your gym buddy may not be able to or even like training during that same time. You have things to do, and so does he. You will not always be available during the same times, and because of this, you will not always be able to train together. Let’s say you decide you are meeting up today at 3 to train. Something urgent comes up and you cannot make it at 3, but you can train at 7. Your gym partner will not be available at 7. Should you guys skip the gym that day? I think my point is obvious.
Waste of time
Whenever I go to the gym, I usually see two people training together or even a group of people training together. Quite frankly, I think this is nothing but a waste of time. Not only because we are all different, have different goals, genetics…etc. but training with someone is so time consuming that I am better off training alone faster and more intense and save some time to spend on something else instead. I remember a group of guys telling me that they usually train together and spend on average 5-6 hours at the gym! That is a LOT of time wasted! This waste of time is a byproduct of those guys rotating on the same machine and talking about bullshit between sets when they are better off training individually and having a much more intense and fruitful workout in 2 hours. Then each of them would have 4 hours to spend with family, work on a project, study, make money, watch TV, go out or do anything else for that matter. And then people complain about “time-flying”. Just manage your time. Train alone and don’t waste your time. Get in there, train hard and quickly and get out!
Having an experienced trainee as a gym partner during your early stages of training could be a great way to explore the gym and a healthy lifestyle without making the same mistakes most people make when they start training. However, having a gym partner to constantly train with and constantly seek advice from is counterproductive in both the short and long term and could you to eventually quit and miss out on all the great benefits of working out and committing to a healthy lifestyle. And if you end up quitting out of frustration, this experience could develop some negative thoughts about the gym and yourself. You could end up feeling like a failure because you quit, which will further affect your physical and mental health, appearance, mood and personality. Learn how to train alone and you will make progress much faster than you ever would if you were training with someone else. You will also develop a great sense of responsibility, discipline, knowledge base and form awareness.