I hope to get married someday, although I'm in no hurry. I'm not even in a relationship. I believe in taking my time while I look for the right one, the keeper, the life partner of my dreams. In my mind, a good woman is the best thing that could happen to you. She brings out the best in you, gives you something to look forward to after coming home from work, and is always there for you no matter what.
Kind of like a really good training partner...except maybe for the sex thing.
Now, I can imagine that the married guys are thinking, "Dude, we can tell you've never been married." But I have to think there are some similarities. Like an ideal spouse, a good training partner is a like-minded individual with similar goals, someone who's not just dependable, but willing to push you to be better than you ever thought you could be.
Chances are you've had at least one bad experience with a training partner. He may have been impatient, too quick to assist you when a set got tough. Maybe he was undependable, or too needy, or had annoying personal quirks that distracted you from your workouts. Or maybe, like one of TC's former training partners, he was the "sweatiest, hairiest MF" he'd ever met, and helping him do forced reps on dumbbell presses was like "grabbing onto a soaking wet Sasquatch."
For whatever reason, perhaps the two of you just grew apart, leaving you to work on your physique while he went off to run marathons, open a yoga studio, or like TC's former partner, go off to make beef jerky commercials.
So I began to think about what the perfect workout partner might look like. If you could train with anybody, who would it be? Would you choose to work out with the strongest guy, the best bodybuilder, the best athlete? With a little bit of help from the TMUSCLE editors, I came up with a list of fantasy training partners. Each potentially offers something I couldn't accomplish on my own.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bodybuilder
Stats: 6'2", 235 lbs (competition weight)
Achievements: Seven-time Mr. Olympia who made bodybuilding seem like a real sport. Successful businessman. Movie star. Governor of California.
Arnold is the most famous person ever to pick up a dumbbell. He remains the most recognizable face in bodybuilding, nearly three decades after retiring. When he went into movies, the movies had to get bigger to accommodate him. Everyone from Sylvester Stallone to Carrot Top suddenly felt the need to bulk up. When he went into politics ... okay, there are some areas of life where 22-inch biceps aren't particularly helpful.
In the gym, it's hard to imagine a more insightful or creative training partner. If he could transform himself from an uneducated, unrefined, non-English-speaking bodybuilder into one of the most famous people in the world, imagine how he might transform your workouts.
I mean, all he'd have to say, in that unmistakable accent, is "C'mon now. Let's get go-ink and get a fantastic pump!"
2. Terrell Owens, Football Player
Stats: 6'3", 225 lbs
Achievements: Six-time NFL all-star and Pro Bowler, second all-time in career touchdown receptions, holds NFL single-game record with 20 catches, all-round SOB.
If I were putting together a professional football team, I probably wouldn't want T.O. Although nobody has accused him of a lack of effort, and although his immense talents speak for themselves, he's made himself the most polarizing figure in the NFL over the past decade, thanks to a nonstop series of public spectacles and verbal altercations with teammates and coaches.
But in the gym, he might be the best training partner any of us could ever have. Why? Well, have you seen this guy? Even at 35, he still has the perfect combination of size, strength, speed, and athleticism. He may not be a team player, but he could teach us a lot about getting the best possible results for ourselves.
Watch out if he fails to set a new PR on a lift, though. He'll blame you.
3. Bruce Lee, Martial Artist
Stats: 5'7", 135-150 lbs
Achievements: He was to martial arts what Arnold was to bodybuilding. It's impossible to imagine the current interest in MMA without Lee's influence.
Lee's most famous quote — "Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless" — is perhaps the most overused in the contemporary fitness industry. Lee's willingness to try any training system, including bodybuilding, to get the results he wanted helped inspire the current generation of trainers and strength coaches to push the boundaries of training methodology. That's why the best athletes in the world train with exercises pulled not just from the worlds of powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and bodybuilding, but also martial arts, yoga, Pilates, track and field, physical therapy, and anything else that might give those athletes an edge.
Besides, on the days when you have to confront the bro-tards doing curls in your gym's only squat rack, whom would you rather have backing you up? I can just hear it now....
4. Allison Stokke, Pole Vaulter
Stats: 5,7", weight unknown
Achievements: California pole vaulter, named to USA Today's "All-USA Track Team, Girl's Team," holds several National teen records.
Allison was a much-heralded California high school track star when a website named WithLeather.com posted her picture (at right). Within nanoseconds, she became a reluctant celebrity who'd supposedly give anything to dump her fame, only unscrupulous guys like us keep posting pictures of her.
Anyhow, if she were our training partner, our Testosterone levels would stay elevated by her very presence, and our brains would remain sharp as we struggled to come up with all kinds of double entendres involving the term, "pole vaulting."
5. Mariusz Pudzianowski, Strongman
Stats: 6'1", 310 lbs
Achievements: Five-time World's Strongest Man.
Super Mariusz has won more World's Strongest Man titles than anyone else, but that's not why he's on this list. He achieved those results with single-digit body fat, a visible six-pack, and a physique that many of us would actually like to have.
And check out these lifts: 836-pound squat, 616 bench, 924 deadlift, 440 snatch, 462 clean. These from a guy who competed as an amateur boxer for seven years, who's an enthusiastic martial artist, who finished second on Poland's version of Dancing with the Stars, (insert your own Polish Dancing with the Stars joke here) and who tours with his own musical group.
As a training partner, sure, he'd bury you on the big lifts. But if anyone could inspire you to pursue all facets of fitness — mobility, coordination, and overall conditioning as well as pure strength and body comp — it's this pillar of strength from Poland.
6. Pyrros Dimas, Weightlifter
Stats: 5'8", 180 lbs
Achievements: Three-time Olympic gold medalist, with 11 world records.
It doesn't matter if you follow Olympic weightlifting; as a dedicated gym rat, you know there's something extraordinary about a guy who can lift 2.5 times his body weight over his head and make it look easy. Not only that, he does it with style. He's been known to hold a lift over his head even after he's gotten the signal from the judges, just so the audience can take pictures.
No, he's not the guy you'd choose as a training partner if you're looking for a six-week arm-blasting routine. But if you want to be as strong as you can possibly be, pound for pound, and look like you're enjoying yourself in the process, Dimas would be the Greek god of training partners.
7. Georges St. Pierre, MMA Fighter
Stats: 5'10", 170 lbs
Achievements: Current UFC welterweight champion. Named Canadian Athlete of the Year in 2008. First MMA fighter to be sponsored by Gatorade. Formerly sponsored by Biotest.
GSP isn't the only normal-sized guy who inspires gym rats. He's not even the first one mentioned on this list. But unlike Bruce Lee, he came along at a time when fewer lifters aspire to massive size and strength and more aspire to a combination of fitness qualities that add up to more than immediately meets the eye.
If you're a big guy like Arnold or Mariusz, you carry your muscle-building prowess like a billboard. It's always on display. But if you're a badass in the GSP mold, you don't walk the streets waving your black belt. Your talent is a secret that you only share on your own terms. Sometimes people discover your secret the hard way. Sometimes they pay admission to see you in action. You always have the option of blending into a crowd if you want, something a successful bodybuilder can never do.
As a training partner, you have to think GSP could teach you something about gaining an edge, about getting more with less. And on the days when you just don't feel like hitting the weights, hearing GSP say, "You want to spar instead?" should be all the motivation you need to chalk up and move some iron.
8. Simona Halep, Tennis Player
Stats: no clue
Achievements: Ranked #262 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
She's a 17-year-old Romanian tennis player. I have no idea what her training regimen is like, or even if she speaks a word of English. All I can say for sure is, if she's my training partner, there's no way in the world I'm ever missing a workout.
9. Steve, the Guy in the Next Cubicle
Stats: 5'7", 245 lbs
Every time Steve tries another diet or workout program, your coworkers say encouraging things to his face but then laugh behind his back. At first, you joined in, appreciating the absurdity of a guy who's doing workouts from Muscle & Fitness one month, learning Tae Bo from some DVDs he bought at a garage sale the next month, and then training for a marathon the month after that.
But after working next to him for a while, you realize that, unlike most of the schlubs in the office, Steve is actually trying to improve his physique. Sure, he's going about it all wrong, but you're convinced he's sincere. He just needs some guidance, and when he asks you for help, you decide to train with him.
Is Steve the best possible training partner for you? Of course not. But maybe you're the best possible training partner for him.
Think back to all the guys who helped you out over the years, guys who shared their time and expertise without any expectation that you'd be able to reciprocate. They did it because they love training, and sensed that you would share that passion once you learned the ropes.
Here's how you pay them back: You take a confused, frustrated newbie under your wing, and teach him the basics. Under your tutelage, it starts to make sense. He learns to make every repetition count, to assign importance to every element of every meal. Week by week, month by month, you see him getting leaner, stronger, more focused in the gym, more confident at work. One day you realize he's pushing you as much as you're pushing him.
That's when you realize that Steve is exactly what you've always wanted in a training partner. Sure, your workouts with him sucked at first, but now that you've brought him up to the intermediate level, Steve is ready and willing to take on any training program you want to try. He can't always keep up with you, but you're inspired by his effort.
Thanks to Steve, you've discovered you really like to teach, to share what you know. You have more patience than you realized. And for the first time in your life, you're proud of someone else's accomplishments. The day one of your coworkers goes to Steve to ask for weight-loss advice, you can't stop smiling.
So that's my take on fantasy training partners: one bodybuilder, one NFL superstar, one strongman, two fighting legends (one alive, one not), one Oly lifter, two outrageously well-proportioned female athletes, and one guy nobody's ever heard of.
All of them, in various ways, would inspire me to train harder, train better, train more often, and put more thought into thought into how I design my programs.
What are you looking for in a training partner? If you could pick anyone to work out with, living or dead, who would it be?
Georges St. Pierre (one the left, levitating)
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