I have mentioned in a previous Journal post the importance of Intensity if you are going to get results from your workouts. So as a programmer, how can I force you to push to levels you haven’t gone to before?
How can I get you to focus more? How can I get you to start working again when you really don’t want to, to cut your rest a few seconds shorter than you normally would, do 2 or 3 more reps when you want to put the bar down?
Give you a partner.
What I have learned from watching a lot of workouts very closely is that we all have an instinctive desire to not let down someone who is depending on us. We also don’t want to look bad when someone else’s focus is just on us. With proper workout design, this reaction to having a partner can elicit more effort from you than any other method I know of. This is usually the way newer CrossFitters are introduced to true all out effort. Seasoned CrossFitters know on a good partner workout they have to bring everything they have. I have seen people quit CrossFit over partner workouts.
As a coach, yelling at you, counting down, or shouting, “pick up the bar!” can all be effective ways to get you to push your threshold. And the more familiar I am with you as an individual, the more capable I am at getting 100% out of you in each and every workout.
However, I have also mentioned “red-lining” in previous articles. Once you have pushed past that line (overdone it) and you know how bad it feels, it can be hard, from a mental standpoint, to get yourself to go there again. It feels bad to redline. But it is necessary to do so occasionally. Suddenly, while you are leaning against the wall, gasping for breath, your partner puts the bar down and nods “your turn”. I’m betting you’ll pick up the bar; It forces you to push past that line, it forces you to raise your threshold. This is why so many people hate partner workouts, why after they’ve done a couple, they avoid them at all costs.
What makes partner workouts so effective?
1. Rep Count. Whether on purpose or on accident, a lot of times reps end up getting missed. This happened to me on the 4’ AMRAP of lunges just the other day. Suddenly I wasn’t sure if I was getting to 50 or 60. When you have a partner you do every rep. You don’t end up missing the last two box jumps or cutting your thrusters one rep short. Every repetition is completed. Why do we avoid doing the last two reps? They are the worst ones. Those are the hardest reps we do (and the ones we get the most benefit from).
2. Shortened Rest Time. Each partner doesn’t want to let the other partner down, they don’t want the other person waiting on them. And by responding to this motivation they also become their partner’s worst enemy. I know this feeling very well. I’ll have my hands on my knees and I’m still spitting on the floor and I’ll look up and my partner is standing there waiting for me to go. In that moment the thought is in my head, “you are done already? F*ck!”. One of the best ways to force an increase in your cardiovascular endurance is to make you work when you are still “gassed”.
3. Increased Stamina. You are stronger than you know (or want to admit). Partner workouts prove this. Examples - On a set of hang power cleans, your grip is slipping, your arms are burning, and normally you would drop the bar, but you won’t with a partner standing there. Or on a set of sit-ups when you would normally lay back and rest for 10 seconds, you won’t if your partner is waiting to start their set. Learning to command your muscles to still work when they are filled with lactic acid increases your pain threshold, makes you mentally tougher, and you therefore become more fit.
Every time I run a partner workout I know I am going to get a comment like this:
“Man I had no idea that workout was going to be as brutal as it was.”
“Why was that workout so hard?”
I smile and nod. This is useful to me as a coach; it helps me force you to show your hand in regards to what you look like when you have worked really really hard. I file this information away to use later.
Adding a partner to your workout gives you a judge, an individual time clock, and an internal coach screaming at you to go faster. A properly designed partner workout forces your effort level to be turned all the way up and shows you what your body is truly capable of.
The secret is out.