Training Partner Blues
The Legendary Time
Dave Draper and Frank Zane, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu. Thoughts of impressive men - awesome proof of the power of training partnerships. It was a legendary time of bodybuilding history, and eight-week period in 1970, when, at Joe Gold’s original gym in Santa Monica, these men shared their training energy.
They claimed all the titles and commanded the physique world’s attention with their extraordinary partnership.
At 6:00 a.m. daily, Zane and Draper would spin their chest and back magic - on alternate days, shoulders and arms. As they finished, Arnold and Franco began their workout after making arrangements to meet Dave and Frank for their evening training sessions. And they met each evening, changing partners so they could efficiently meet their training needs, Arnold and Dave at the squat rack, Zane on the abdominal board and Franco powering in where he needed.
The excitement, energy, and enthusiasm of the old Gold’s was intense, and, coupled with the purpose and focus of their training partnerships, resulted in success. In the following weeks, Arnold won the Olympia in Ohio, Frank took the Universe in London and Dave won the World in New York. Never again can we hope to see a combination of partners so forceful; yet today hundreds of training partnerships create the same inspiration and energetic sharing.
But training partnerships don’t last forever. Life’s circumstances and schedules change, goals change and sooner or later, solitary training begins again.
Recently, Dave Draper gave us a few thoughts on training partners. “Daily I see people at the gym worried because they can’t find a training partner without compromising their goals.” The athlete who feels concerned, even desperate, is the one who lost a partner a few weeks before and realizes the momentum has suddenly diminished. This bodybuilder has entered a slump and senses failure.
According to Dave, “You become less fulfilled by your training and fear you’ll lose what you’ve gained. You relate to the high you had when your training partnership was new and enthusiastic, and, thinking of your current training, you begin to lose your grip. It’s just not as much fun anymore.
You’re not as confident of your workout because you can’t share your ideas, coax and test.” Still, Dave has some tips to shed light on the scene. “If you train at the same time each day, glance around during your brief rest periods, when you’re waiting for a bench or while you ride the Lifecycle. You’ll notice people who train at your speed, using a style and routine similar to your own.”
As you become familiar with those around you and recognize their consistency in the gym, Dave encourages you to introduce yourself and your need for a training partner. Partnerships often begin this way, each partner welcoming the camaraderie of the gym, the enthusiasm and inspiration of a new friendship and the privilege of sharing workouts.
Some people cannot meet a regular schedule, or prefer solitary training. If this is your case, or if you haven’t found a partner yet (or lately, since most partnerships last only 4-6 weeks), Dave suggests that you use the technique of visualization. After 30 years of training, Dave finds it easy and effective to recall past training experiences to inspire and challenge. In a crowded gym or on an empty floor, he visualizes workouts with his first training partner, Dick Sweet.
“Dick and I discovered the attributes of both rigid and full-range movements, and worked hard to earn each other’s respect. Not in submission, but in good healthy sharing, we’d coax each other along. To this day, I do my shoulder workouts with a man I haven’t seen in 18 years.”
If you don’t have a full-time partner, try a part-time commitment. As Dave, Frank, Arnold and Franco did nearly 20 years ago, arrange to work a problem body part with a friend once or twice a week. You’ll find inspiration there, and you’ll be accountable to someone. You’ll be less likely to skip the last set of your least favorite body part when your partner loads the other side of the bar. If you become part of a team, it’s a commitment.
Each of you is responsible to the other and to the workouts. When your partner doesn’t arrive, you may be disappointed, and it may influence your view of the workout. On the positive side, when you’ve had a hard day and are moody, your partner’s good attitude will often set the tone for the day.
Draper advises, “Whether alone or as partners, begin your session with midsection work - crunches, leg raises and pulley movements. This clears your mind and you can focus on the task ahead. Traffic annoyances are forgotten and the workout can begin with your concentration and energy in place. If you arrive first, begin your abdominal work and your partner can catch up later.” Be alert to the needs of your partner and of the team. If your workout needs adjustment, talk about the changes. Share your attitudes and ideas, triumphs and injuries.
Work together and your alliance may last longer than the average of a few weeks. Ecclesiastes 4:9, written about 3000 years ago, says that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend will help him up.
It’s as true for us in 1989 as it was for Dave and Frank, Arnold and Franco in 1970, who remember those energetic days and visualize that inspiration into their workouts today.