Partnering with a spouse, workout buddy or good friend helps keep motivation, commitment, and consistency as the January resolution craze starts to fade. Many of you have chosen the 2013 AFM FITTEST competition as your goal event this year. Now is a great opportunity to work with your partner to start building the foundation for performing the tests in June. The energy you get from supporting and holding each other accountable can also bring many positives to the training experience. This month, we focus on three examples of working with a partner while focusing on some great movement strategies.
Even as we create fun, reactive, partner-based training movements, we still want to keep form, motor control, and stability in mind. The reactive nature of working in a training set with someone else can sometimes be distracting; it is important, therefore, to help keep each other focused as well as to coach one another through the movements so that quality is always maintained and the intended results are achieved. In this series of movements, lower body stability is targeted in the first movement and followed by a second exercise that is reactive and fun while still challenging upper body strength and stability. The third and final series shows how executing a rotational movement in a standing position generates movement of the total body and transfers power from the ground up.
In this first movement, one partner performs a lunge that is a transitional lower body movement. Strengthening the lunge movement transfers to locomotion activities and lower body stability and strength. One of the challenges for all types of clients and athletes is maintaining strength and stability in the frontal plane (forces that affect us laterally). Lack of strength can create unwanted motion that takes away from strong, sharply executed movements in forward motion, such as running. So to strengthen this ability, the second partner holds the band that creates lateral resistance. And, as we always want to get as much out of an exercise as possible, the second partner also performs a squat while holding the band to strengthen the lower body while being challenged with laterally-oriented resistance.
Partner 1: Start with feet hip-width apart, arms extended in front of the chest and holding the band.
Partner 2: Start with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended in front of the chest and holding the band.
Partner 1: Lunge forward, creating a strong and stable position with the lower body. Once this position is established, rotate the upper body as one unit, about 45 degrees over the outside leg and away from Partner 2.
Partner 2: Squat, holding your position while Partner 1 executes the lunge with rotation. Do not let Partner 1’s movement or the band’s resistance pull you out of position. Note that your position is now slightly behind Partner 1’s due to his or her forward lunge. This creates a great angle of resistance with the band to challenge the lunging partner’s rotational stability.
Both partners return to a standing position and then alternate roles until each has completed 10-15 repetitions.
The second reactive exercise movement is a great way to bring a fun challenge into the training session. The focus here is to strengthen the upper body and gain stability strength by incorporating a single-arm stance. Using something as simple as clapping or partner taps forces each partner to spend time holding a position with one arm; being in a three-point stance, even for a brief moment, challenges shoulder stability of the stance arm as well as core strength and control. Designating one partner as the leader and having the second partner timing moments on the leader’s cue also adds a reactive component.
Each partner sets up in a solid plank position with heads facing and bodies an arm’s-length apart. One partner is designated the leader.
The leader performs a full push-up; the partner does the same, cueing on the leader’s movement as to when to start.
At the top of the push-up, the leader extends an arm, designating a hand to perform the partner clap. The partner matches this movement with his or her opposite hand in order to complete a successful clap. (Note: The leader will mix up which hand is chosen as much as possible to create a fun and challenging reactive component to the exercise.)
Repeat the movements for a 30-second timed round or until a designated number of push-ups are performed, alternating from set to set which partner is the leader.
The last movement is a popular medicine ball exercise called a rotational toss, which can be performed in varying degrees of intensity based on the partners’ fitness levels. For some athletes, this exercise involves explosive power and focuses on driving the movement from the ground up. This ability to execute a powerful hip-driving motion can be transferred to changes of direction for strong agility movements or for activities like swinging a baseball bat. For the fitness athlete, the movement focuses on coordination and consistent movement execution. Adding a partner into the mix creates dual benefits, with each partner performing a catch and quick chest pass. This exercise can be used as part of a circuit and definitely adds to the conditioning challenge.
Both partners assume a shoulder-width stance perpendicular to each other and about 10-15 feet apart.
Partner 1 performs a chest pass, feeding the ball to Partner 2 just in front of his or her body.
Partner 2 catches the ball at the beginning of the rotatation, loading the outside hip. Quickly stopping the coiling motion, Partner 2 reverses the rotation to perform a rotational throw back to Partner 1. (Note: It is important that Partner 2 releases the heel of his or her pivoting foot during the rotational movement to allow the pelvis to move with the hip rotation and protect the lumbar spine.)
Partner 1 catches the ball just in front of the chest while maintaining an athletic stance and then feeds the ball back to Partner 2 by quickly performing a chest pass.
Have fun with this series and remember: Building strength through movements that incorporate total body stability and control will transfer to good performance and help you reach your personal best in the 2013 AFM FITTEST competition.