How to Train Alone

I know many of us have been here. Maybe you just moved to a new gym, or your gym partner bailed on leg day yet again.

Training alone is usually less fun. A training partner can give you that extra motivation to break through those PR barriers. If you can find someone at your strength level, that competitive element can also give your workouts an edge.

But it’s not always possible. Sometimes you’ll have to train alone. So here’s a few things that’ve helped me to stay motivated in the past few months of solo training.

1. Follow a Program.

Go in the gym knowing exactly what weights, reps and sets you need to hit for a good workout. By doing this, you’re giving yourself a target. I like to physically tick off the workout each time. It’s kind of like that feeling when you cross something out on your to-do list - a real sense of accomplishment. Here are some of the programs we recommend.

Workout to-do list

As a bonus tip, something that’s helped my motivation recently is writing my own programs. I properly periodize the first half of my workout with compound movements, then leave the last half of the workout open to my choice of high rep bodybuilding type movements. Finding out yourself what works can be really rewarding and you can tailor your program to what you know you need to work on, or the movements you really enjoy.

By following a set program, you really hold yourself accountable. If I miss a workout, I force myself to put a red cross next to the entry in my spreadsheet. It’s the fear of that disappointment that often keeps me going in those lazy days.

2. Setup so you don’t need a spotter.

“If I train alone I can’t go heavy because I don’t have a spotter”.

This is often a common excuse.

In the bench press, you can use the safety pins as a spotter. Set the safety pins at a height level to your chest when you’re relaxed, lying flat on the bench. Once you have retracted your scapula in the setup, the bar should not touch the safety pins when pressing. However, if you fail on a rep, the safety pins will catch the bar when you relax and lay flat.

Using a Power Rack as a Spotter

In the squat, you can use a similar tactic, set the safety pins just below your depth and practice ditching the barbell onto the safety pins. Pins are usually designed to hold over 500lbs/225kg.

Practice these tactics a little to make sure you’re comfortable first. Give it a try. You could hit new PR’s this way, which is really the best way to stay motivated.

3. Take out the earphones

Now bear with me on this one.

I’ve always been the guy who goes to the gym with music playing and my hoodie up. I wouldn’t talk to anyone and I’d hope to be left alone to get on with my workout.

But recently I tried something new. I left the earphones in my bag and would actually acknowledge people in the gym. Honestly it’s a whole new world.

Just saying “hello”, “nice form/lift” or “can I work in a set with you?” can strike up an interesting conversation. It sounds incredibly simple, but I can guarantee a lot of people will have never tried it. The gym isn’t typically a social arena, but I’m yet to find anyone who isn’t willing to say a quick hello. We’re social animals and having a conversation with a stranger can really brighten up your day.

If you think about it, you’re surrounded by people who are guaranteed to have at least one interest in common with you (fitness). If you’ve been doing this a while, you may even be able to help them out with something.

Give it a try. It’s kinda cool to walk into the gym and actually know those people you work out next to everyday.

- Zac

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