It’s the secret edge. The next-level tool. The simple yet effective strategy that can rev up your workouts (and your results). The crazy-awesome supplement? A training partner.
No, really. It’s what you need to unlock the potential in your everyday sweat sessions. “There’s a special magic that I witness with the duos I work with,” says Ashley Borden, a Los Angeles–area trainer. “Both people work much harder than they would on their own, and there’s organic camaraderie and competition that bubbles up in the moment.”
Another plus of a dual hustle: “There’s less focus on personal failing and more of a desire to crush a workout as a team,” says Borden. And research backs her up. When study participants were told they were working to achieve a score as a pair, they exercised an average of two minutes longer overall. Over time, that performance continued to increase, with the teammates exercising up to 200 percent longer than those exercising as individuals, according to the Michigan State University researchers. But the perks don’t end with amped-up intensity; a fitness buddy elevates the f-u-n factor too. “A quick high five or boost of encouragement is clutch,” Borden adds.
Our total-body routine—designed by Borden—will help you tap into this science-backed source of better results. It consists of five mini challenges, which make up a circuit that will strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back, sculpt your thighs and glutes, tone your core, and boost your cardio endurance. All of the exercises can technically be done solo, but you’ll find that banging them out as two-some takes it to a whole new level! The routine was created to hit sticking points that you might struggle with or rush through if you were on your own. If you and your buddy have different abilities, no worries—we’re one step ahead of you. The plan is completely scalable, so you never have to worry about anyone being left behind.
Time: 35-40 minutes
Equipment: Pullup bar, resistance band, step or bench, weight plate
Good for: Arms, shoulders, back, core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves
Instructions: Complete each challenge as directed, in any order you’d like.
1. Partner Pullups
How to: Loop a resistance band around a chinup bar; place knees in the loop and grab the bar with an overhand grip, arms completely straight (a). Bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades together to pull your chest toward the bar (b). Slowly return to start. That’s 1 rep. Before you begin, start a timer. Do 8 reps, then rest for the remainder of the minute. At the start of the next minute, repeat the same pattern. Continue for a total of 8 minutes.
Your goal is to complete the toughest version of a pullup you can, each and every set. We’re showing band-assisted here, but you can also do regular ones—or a combination of both.
2. Team Burpees
How to: Stand with arms at sides (a), then squat (b) to place hands on floor and quickly jump feet back into a pushup position; bend elbows to lower chest toward floor (c). Reverse movement to return to standing. That’s 1 rep. Do 25 reps, keeping tempo with partner.
Each person should choose the variation that works for their fitness level. If this is too challenging? Place hands on a step or bench, or hold a plank instead of doing a pushup.
3. Tempo Step-Downs
How to: Stand on box or bench, feet together and hands on hips (a). Slowly bend your right knee to step down and touch the floor with your left foot (b). Quickly step back up to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Switch legs and repeat on the other side; continue alternating, keeping pace with your partner, for a total of 40 reps.
Little adjustments make a big difference. The more slowly you step down, the harder the move will be. The lower the step or bench, the easier it will be.
4. Overhead Plate-Hold Challenge
How to: Grab a heavy weight plate and hold with both hands at arm’s length. Keeping legs straight and core tight, raise weight directly overhead, arms next to ears (a). Face each other and hold the plate for as long as possible.
Repeat after us (and keep repeating): “Do not bend arms. Do not bend legs. Squeeze glutes the entire time.”
5. Follow- the-Leader Cardio
How to: Agree on a piece of cardio equipment (bike, rower, treadmill, elliptical, stair- stepper) and grab two next to each other. Partner A sets a pace that’s challenging for both to hold for one minute. Rest one minute. Partner B sets the pace for one minute. Rest one minute. Continue for 16 more minutes.
What does “challenging” mean? On an effort scale of 1 to 10, the pace should feel like an 8 for the individual who is choosing the pace.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Women’s Health. For more intel on how to live a happier, healthier life, pick up an issue on newsstands now.
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