Workout buddies: a fun five-exercise circuit for you and your partner

It’s week four of our #TopfitMorning challenge, and today we find out how exercising with a friend can help you keep on your path to fitness or weight loss – and show you how to work out together

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 10:09am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 11:17am

Two’s company – especially if you’re trying to get in shape. A workout partner brings many positive effects, research shows, from increasing the quality of your workout to boosting the likelihood you’ll stick to an exercise programme and achieve your fitness or weight-loss goals.

Better yet, pick a partner who’s slightly fitter than you. In a 2012 study, Kansas State University researchers found that people who did so increased their workout time and intensity by as much as 200 per cent, compared to people who exercised alone.

“People like to exercise with others and make it a social activity,” says Brandon Irwin, an assistant professor of kinesiology who was the study’s principal investigator. “We found that when you’re performing with someone who you perceive as a little better than you, you tend to give more effort than you normally would alone.”

There’s even a name for the phenomenon of people, who may not be adept exercisers themselves, performing better with a moderately better partner or team as opposed to working out alone: the Köhler Motivation Effect.

In a 2012 study in the journal Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology that tested the effect in competitive college swimmers and high school track and field athletes, researchers found that the weakest member of the team showed greater motivation gains than their fitter counterparts.

Another study published last year by scientists at University College London showed that people were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones – such as quitting smoking, getting active or losing weight – if their partner made a change as well.

The research looked at 3,722 couples in England, either married or living together and over the age of 50. Among women who smoked, 50 per cent managed to quit if their partner also gave up smoking at the same time, compared with 17 per cent of women whose partners were already non-smokers, and eight per cent of those whose partners were regular smokers. Men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same behaviour change.

So, four weeks into the SCMP’s #TopfitMorning 12-week fitness challenge, we present here a fun partner workout demonstrated by Topfit trainers Arnold Wong and Louis Doctrove. The five-exercise circuit can be done with minimal equipment and in any neighbourhood playground. Rest for 30 seconds between each exercise and aim to complete three sets of the circuit.

1. Alternating ab wheel roll-out

The ab wheel is an old-school, inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that can help you build rock-hard core muscles. Roll out slowly, alternating between left and right with your partner. Perform 10-12 reps each side.

2. Push-up plank with reach + lateral hop-over

One person gets into push-up position with one arm outstretched. The partner hops over from side-to-side continuously. Perform for 60 seconds (change outstretched arm after 30 seconds if you’re in push-up position), then switch roles and repeat.

3. Pull-up + leg raise

Hanging from a bar, one person does pull-ups while the other does leg raises, both in the same rhythm. Do 12 reps, then switch roles and repeat.

4. Push-up plank with single arm row

Grab a resistance band. Both people get into push-up position face-to-face, each holding the end of a resistance band with the left hand. One person pulls on the band and the other resists. Do 20 reps, then switch arms.

5. Medicine ball hold with leg rotation

Grab a medicine ball or any similar compact heavy object. Sit with legs straight, facing each other. Holding the ball, lean back slightly and raise your legs. Circle your feet around the other person’s. Rotate clockwise for 30 seconds, then anti-clockwise for 30 seconds.