The theory that exercise motivation, performance, and adherence increase with a partner of equal or superior levels of fitness is not something new and has been well documented. In a study published in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine1, exercise motivation was tested using 3 separate groups on exercise bikes over the span of 6 separate sessions.
Each group was instructed to ride the bike for as long as they could at a given % of max HR. Group 1 rode alone, the 2nd group had a partner, and the 3rd group had a partner in (perceived) better condition.
Group 1 rode the bike for an average of 10 minutes, group 2 rode for 19 minutes and group 3 rode for 21 minutes. Group 3 more than doubled training volume simply because they were trying to keep up with their partner.
For all the bros who can’t apply this phenomenon to the weight room, think about that last time you saw your boy throw the 100lb dumbbells up 10x on a set of dumbbells’ bench press. When it was your set, would you be happy with 5 reps? 8? Hell no!
Chances are you aren’t stopping until you either pass out or get those 10 reps. Now think if you were challenged in this way every set for every time you train, the increase in results are not debatable.
More than for providing friendly competition, a quality partner is good at picking you up on days when you aren’t 100%. Maybe you got zero sleep the night before a training session and your partner rolls into the gym fresh off 10 hours of sleep.
In the beginning of that session, you may be dragging but eventually you are going to push harder to match their intensity. Even if you can’t quite reach their level, you can be sure you’ll be getting a lot closer than you would if you were solo – if you even made it to the gym in the first place.
Which brings me to accountability, the fact that you are meeting a fellow lifter who is counting on you to show up and bring your hard hat to train ensures you are less likely to blow off the session for Call of Duty and cheese puffs.
Simply getting to the gym more often and making those days when you aren’t “feeling it” more productive under the bar can produce tangible results when you add it up over time.