When it comes to recreational activity, traditional strength and cardio programs are effective in a general sense, but can lack in preparing us for the specific demands that these activities bring. Factors like quickness, balance, reaction time, and specific strength are skills that are needed in the majority of all recreational sports. One of my favorite ways to improve these areas during training is by incorporating partner exercises. Partner exercises are a great way to add variety to your fitness program and can easily add the specificity that is needed for your favorite activities. Plus it brings a more unstructured and “play-like” feel into the mix by adding an element of fun without compromising the fitness. Half the time you get so lost in the activity itself you don’t even realize how physically demanding they are until the drill is over. With a little bit of creativity and a challenging workout partner the sky is the limit.
Here are five of my favorite partner drills that I like to use. Either mix a few of them into the workout or use all five for a complete training session.
Stabilization with Partner push: Begin in an athletic stance, holding a stability ball directly in front of you with arms fully extended. Your partner will then apply pressure to the stability ball at various angles while you try to maintain the athletic stance and ball position. You will feel this in both your arm and core muscles. Continue for 30-60 seconds and then switch.
Plank/Lateral Hop Combo: Have your partner begin in a low or high (push up) plank position. Pick a point on your partner that you feel confident enough and laterally hop over your partner once in each direction. Quickly drop into a plank position while your partner simultaneously stands up and now hops over you once each way. Continue alternating in this fashion for a full minute.
Partner Row: Using a TRX, you and your partner will each take one handle. Both will begin by using their right arm in a staggered stance with their left foot forward while facing each other. Keep the TRX taught between the two of you, with your arm fully extended and your partners arm bent at 90 degrees with their elbow past the midline of their body. Begin to pull (row) as your partner applies maximum resistance, but still allowing their arm to fully extend until yours reaches a 90 degree bend. Continue rowing back and forth against each other for a total of 10 repetitions each.
Single Leg Balance w/Medicine Ball Chest Pass: Both will begin by balancing on one leg with about a 45 degree bend in the knee. Using a medicine, quickly pass the ball back and forth to one another at chest level for 30 seconds. Stand up, shake it out, and repeat on the opposite leg.
Blocking Sled: Begin with a stability ball directly between you and your partner at chest level. Provide maximum resistance against your partner while still allowing them to move as they push forward against you as you continue to move backwards similar to a blocking sled, keeping pressure on the ball between you. Continue for about 5-10 yards, and then switch pushing/resisting roles. Repeat for 2-3 reps each.