In my recent article I explained the benefits of training on a competitive sports team.
However, after reading the book Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade, I found a great quote at the end about training alone:
Find some space where you can be alone—or at least not disturbed—and get your workout done. Most people now advise working out with friends or training partners. I don’t. I believe in training alone—it develops better focus, reduces distraction and is good for the soul.
This quote nicely sums up the 2 main reasons to train alone: 1) Increased Focus and 2) Reduced Distraction. In this article I will go in depth with those reasons and add 2 reasons myself.
Reason 1: Increased Focus
I made good progress strength wise, because I was laser focused on my training.
When I started training, I did it alone. I went to the gym, put on my sound isolating headphones, warmed-up, lifted and logged my lifts in my note book. All of this without talking to anyone, unless I needed a spot on the bench press or I wanted to ask someone if I can work in between his or her sets. This gives you increased focus between sets which is crucial when you start performing exercises that you haven’t mastered yet.
As a beginner I made a lot of mistakes when I performed all the compound lifts. I would often get pain in my joints, because my form was poor. To fight this issue, I would be super focused between sets and note down the mistakes I did while performing the lift.
For example, I used a wide stance on the squat which resulted in hip pain, so I noted this down in my note book and avoided making the same mistake in the future. If I had trained with a partner, there’s a good chance that I might not have been as focused between sets because we would be talking about the hot chicks on the cardio equipment.
Reason 2: Training Momentum
Most training partners think that more is better. A typical training partner will push you to perform MORE reps on all exercises, so you can exhaust your muscles as much as possible. This kind of mindset is great when you want to bring up lacking muscle groups with a demanding program that implements Time Under Tension or something similar.
However, most of you probably need to focus on building some strength before considering programs such as the one above, and the right way to do that is by starting with comfortable weights or in the case of bodyweight training, exercises that you can perform with ease.
The reason why you need to do this has been very well described in the book Convict Conditioning:
There is a damn good reason why you should proceed slowly and methodically through any training program. The reason has to do with generating training momentum. Basically put, this means that if you build a head of steam by moving forwards more slowly, you’ll actually reach your goals much faster than if you proceeded with haste. This sounds like a paradox, but it’s true.
As you can see, the author Paul Wade explains that you need to generate training momentum by progressing slowly. By doing this you can progress further into your training before you hit the inevitable wall where you simply can’t progress no matter how much you eat, sleep and how hard you train.
I’ve hit this wall many times and all I can say is that you want to avoid this as much as possible. I remember my first wall was on the bench press where I was stuck on 135 lbs for something like 6 months – trust me, you don’t want to experience that.
Reason 3: Your Training Partner Can Destroy Your Routine
When I trained with my first partner he would often postpone training sessions because he had work to do. This is a fair reason to skip a training IF you don’t prioritize training highly.
But, I assume that most of you want to transform and to do that you have to put this new lifestyle as a high priority until it becomes a routine that you do on autopilot.
A training partner that doesn’t show up on planned training days may destroy your routine if he or she systematically doesn’t show up for planned training sessions. This is a demotivating factor that can result in you skipping your planned training sessions.
Reason 4: Sustainability
Another thing that I often talk about on this blog is sustainability. Your new lifestyle should be sustainable, in other words: it should be something that you can do for decades. By having a sustainable mindset, you will see your new lifestyle as a long-term investment instead of a 3 week quick solution that doesn’t work.
Training alone with nothing more but your bodyweight is sustainable because it can be done anywhere at anytime. Once you have learned to do this and made progress this way, you can use it for the rest of your life.
Most people go to the gym to train with their buddies. There are reasons most people at the gym don’t get an above-average physique: once their buddies quit – they quit. Once they get a shoulder injury from pushing out assisted reps on the bench press – they can’t train their upper body. Don’t be that guy.
Build your strength foundation slowly, and then you can play around with new stuff.
PS: I will write a review of Convict Conditioning in the future, but all I can say now is that I have made great progress on handstand push ups and it’s a great book for beginners that want to do bodyweight training.