Sunday, April 7, 2013

TRAINING SOLO - By Fred Fornicola

Originally posted on on October 6, 1999. Visit Fred's Site.

I've been training alone for the last 5 years mostly in part because I haven't found anyone who has the same philosophy, motivation and dedication that I do. I did train briefly with someone 2 years back who after a few weeks thought we weren't doing enough for chest and bi's and he was "shrinking" so he quit training with me. That was okay with me because it reconfirmed that I didn't need anyone to put me through my workouts if they weren't going to train as hard as I was. If you are looking for a training partner or are already training with someone, make sure of a few things:

1) That they understand the methodology of what HARD and PROGRESSIVE training is all about.

2) That they are as dedicated and reliable as you are.

3) That YOU are going to be the best training partner you can be.

With that said, here are some of the things that I would like to touch on especially if you train alone: SAFETY, DEDICATION, MOTIVATION, INTENSITY, and PROGRESS.


First and foremost, SAFETY is THE most important aspect of training especially when you are training alone. You need to organize your workouts so you can train alone without subjecting yourself to dangerous situations. If you want to Squat or Bench Press and you don't have a partner, keep your eye on people in the gym, you'll know who knows what they're doing and ask them for a spot. Explain to them what you'll be doing so they don't disrupt your set or not help you at the right moment. Let them know that they don't need to assistance you on your reps if the weights moving slow, that you're doing that intentionally. Keep in mind that most people will bounce the bar off their chests when they bench so they might think your struggling if your reps are under control. Also let them know how many reps you'll be getting so they don't interfere with your set. I would advise however, trying to devise a workout that eliminates any need for spotters if you can.


Since you are reading this article I will already assume that you are a dedicated strength athlete and by visiting NATURAL STRENGTH and other similar websites shows you are trying to improve your physical and mental well-being. Keep in mind that it is YOU who is going to get your ass to the gym and YOU who is going to push yourself through a workout, so make the promise to yourself that YOU will be the best training partner you have and you will be in the gym on your scheduled days and giving 100% every time.


When you are training alone you need to keep yourself motivated. You need to keep challenging yourself every time you enter the gym and you can do that by using scheduled changes in your workouts. Some ideas may be utilizing different rep speeds, picking different exercises, rep ranges or changing up the order of exercises to help stimulate you mentally and physically. Keep reading NATURAL STRENGTH and other strength related information to keep yourself (excuse the pun) "pumped up" on training.


Undoubtedly my favorite topic. I LOVE raising the intensity level in my workouts. I was using different intensity factors almost to a fault. Training to failure in and of itself is intense (assuming your terminating a set because you can no longer move the weight, not just because it hurts), adding negatives etc can really "up" your workouts but can be counter productive if done too frequently. You need to keep in mind that workout intensity is an individual thing. What is intense to someone may be a walk in the park for others, so when you are training, realize where your intensity level is and, to use a popular phrase "kick it up a notch" to improve your workouts and growth.

Some idea of what intensity factors you can incorporate into your training:

Negatives: Negatives can be utilized in quite a few exercises such as Chins, Dips, and machines that allow you to raise the weight with 2 limbs and lower with one, for example you could do leg extensions by raising the weight with 2 legs to get to the top of the movement, and then use just 1 leg to lower the weight with an 8-10 second count. Just be careful with negatives, they will kick your ass muscularly and physiologically.

Drop Sets or Breakdowns: After taking a set to failure, you can further the set by quickly dropping the weight (10%-20%) and continuing with more repetitions until failure and then doing one more "drop" until complete failure. Again, a tough way to go. I would suggest however being very careful not to use this technique on isolation exercises very often. I did it for leg extensions on a few occasions and I'm still sore.

Rest Pause: This technique has been around for quite a while but not talked about too often. This technique is great for performing singles, but in a very safe manner. Here's how I utilize it. Use whatever weight and reps you would normally use and go to failure, rack the weight and "pause" for 10-15 seconds and perform as many more reps as you can (usually it will be 1-2), rack it again and pause for 15-20 seconds and pump out a couple more, again it will probably be only 1 or 2. Performing these singles is much safer than "maxing out" and much more effective for muscle hypertrophy.

Pre-Exhaust: A popular technique when Nautilus first came out and a big part of Arthur Jones' training philosophy. Eliminate the weak link by doing an isolation exercise first followed by a compound movement. An example would be a machine pullover followed immediately by chins. This will put your muscles AND your cardiovascular system through the paces.

Remember, use these techniques sparingly so as not to over train.


Progressing on a steady basis is what we all are after, but it becomes difficult at times whether you have a partner or not. Making progress in the gym is a culmination of hard training, healthy eating and proper recuperation. You need to be in tune to your body and find what works best for you; progress WILL come.

In closing, if you have a training partner and things are going well, more power to you. If you have a partner and things aren't working out, tell him or her and work out the details to make your workouts more effective and satisfying. You may have to hurt some feelings if you decide to change partners or train alone, but if you feel that your progress is being held back, it's the only decision to make. And for all of you who are training solo, remember that you and you alone are going to be the one who makes your training successful, so hit it HARD.

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