4 Things to Keep in Mind When Working Out With a Partner

Everyone has a favorite workout, right? Well, I have a favorite workout day. Saturday gym days are our favorites because it’s when we know we’ll be working out with a partner. Partner workouts are some of the most fun.

Partner workouts, just like regular CrossFit workouts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes we can be moving at the same time, sometimes one rests while the other works, and sometimes we even add a third person for a team workout.

Is working out together they key to a strong marriage? We think so!

Just like a relationship, communication is key during a partner workout. Since we have the benefit of knowing each other for 13 years, we often forget that any good partnership follows a few key rules, even when it’s just a CrossFit workout.

I’ve combined some of my thoughts and talked to those who work out with me at Greenbrier Fitness about their thoughts. Here’s what we came up with.

Take Care of Your Partner

This was the first rule my coach shared with me about working out with a partner. It’s so true. If you aren’t taking care of each other, you will not finish the workout.

Taking care of your partner can look a few different ways. For some, it’s motivating and for others, it’s knowing when to step in and take on more. Most of it centers on expectations.

Some of our newer members dread partner workouts because they are afraid they will slow someone down. This is not the case, at all! Partner workouts are about working together, to accomplish a shared goal.

“Be willing to do a few more reps if your partner needs to catch their breath.” ~ Michelle

One gym member said my question caused her to pause and think. She said she never really thought about how she could be a good partner, instead her thoughts were on how she could pull her own weight and not slow the other person down. That is being a good partner!

Here are a few ways you can take care of your partner:

  • Ensure they have enough rest
  • Change out any weights if they need to increase/decrease
  • Help add/remove modifications if they need them (ie. bands, adding an ab-mat, grabbing a shorter box)
  • Anticipating what they may need, when they need an extra break, etc.

Expectation management is the name of the game when it comes to working out with a partner. “I expect support and encouragement, before, after, and during; knowing that someone has my back can keeping me pushing through a workout,” Laura shared.

Talk to Each Other

Before, during, after. Communication is necessary the whole time. Talking during a workout may seem impossible, but it’s really important. When Steven and I go into a workout, we talk about how we’re going to divide the reps, who’s going first, what the plan is. Then we continue to communicate throughout, sometimes we change the plan.

“Define your goals ahead of time ‘we are just going to survive this’ vs. ‘I did this 6 months ago and I would love to beat my time'” suggests Kristina.

One example of this was when we did two workouts within a time cap. The first was an assault bike for calories and dumbbell snatch. The second was 3 rep max squats. For us, we wanted to push hard enough through the first part to have enough time to comfortably squat. We knew going in we wanted at least 6 minutes to squat, so we were able to pace well.

And when we got to the squats, we had a plan on what we’d put on the bar each time and who would go first. As we neared the end of the time cap, we had time for my last attempt and I asked if Steven was going to try to squat again. His answer determined whether I would rerack after the squats, or if I could dump it.

There are times when things don’t go according to plan, and that’s ok. That’s when I think we excel because we know each other so well. But communication makes this easier. I can say, I need an extra break and he can do a few more reps, or I can hop in for a quick rep or two so he has a quick break.

Know Each Other’s Strengths

And weaknesses.

Sometimes you feel like the workout is made for you. Othertimes it consists of everything you struggle with. The perfect workout is a combination of both. Especially when you and your partner have different strengths.

Steven and I are both strong, but that’s where our similar strengths end. He’s great at the gymnastics movements like pull-ups and muscle-ups and he is much faster than me. I have handstand push-ups and turtle-like endurance. Together though, we can do well.

“Really the key is to keep moving. If you have to scale, do it, but keep moving. Also, we need to have an understanding. Each person will have strengths and weaknesses. Communication is key. Support and encourage each other.” – Michelle

By sharing your weaknesses ahead of time, you can make a plan. For example, something like “Toes to Bar (T2B) are hard for me. If I come off the bar tell me to get back on” is what Kristina would tell her partner. If T2B are something her partner excels at, Kristina can make up for those reps doing something else. “I can deadlift 190# all day if you need me to do more of those reps I’d be happy to.” Teamwork at it’s finest.

Have Fun

The best part about partner workouts is the fun you can have. You’ll laugh, you will sweat, you may feel like you’re dying, but in the end, if you’re not having fun—it’s not worth it.

“I like working with different people. You get to know the rest of the members better and there’s always a balance of work whether a brand new or elite athlete. No one should ever feel like they were second best because the entire point of what we do is there’s a scaling option for everything and you both can get the full spirit of the workout doing different scales of the same movement.” – Elise

The ultimate goal of a partner workout should be to have fun. Yes, there are competitions involved, and prizes to win. But those are fun too!

She’s right. When we walk into the gym on a Saturday morning, the atmosphere is a bit different. People are more relaxed, they’re joking around, there’s more teasing and talking during warm-ups. And then we buckle down and get to work. Because CrossFit is about community, and partner workouts are the ultimate community builder.


Working out with a partner, with my partner, is the best part of sharing life with him. We have so much fun, even when the workout is kicking our butts. I love looking back and seeing what we can accomplish together, inside and outside of the gym.

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