Working out with a friend can keep you motivated, and the friendly competition may even make you work harder -- but only if you're quiet about it. A 2013 study shows an ideal partner is slightly more skilled than you and keeps verbal motivation to a minimum. Although it sounds counterintuitive, Michigan State University researchers discovered that the optimal workout partner is 40 percent more fit than the less-skilled exerciser and does not offer encouraging words, but simply exercises alongside their partner. The scientists believe the encouragement from the fitter individual can be perceived as patronizing and condescending. With this in mind, grab a friend and try these fun and effective partner moves!
1. High-Five Push-Ups
Standard push-ups work the core, chest, shoulders and triceps. But lifting an arm or a leg creates an imbalance that kicks up core activation a few more notches. This variation was provided by Jacque Ratliff, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. HOW TO DO THEM: Begin in a push-up position, head-to-head with your partner. Both of you should lower into a push-up and rise back up together. At the top of each rep, raise your right arms to give a sideways high-five. Repeat the push-up and high-five with the left arm, and continue alternating for 40 seconds.
2. Partner Lateral Squat Walks
This combination squat and lateral walk challenges your balance and coordination and engages your core, glutes, quads and hamstrings. It works best if you and your partner are close in height and weight, says Jacque Ratliff, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. HOW TO DO THEM: Begin standing and position yourself back-to-back with your partner. Push your back against theirs and lower yourselves together into a squat position. Be sure you are both sitting with a 90-degree bend in the knees and hips. Moving one foot at a time laterally, take five steps to the right and five to the left. Repeat the side-to-side steps for 40 seconds. For an easier variation, stand up and take your steps in between squat reps.
Related: The Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes
3. Squat Seesaw With Resistance Band
For this move, you'll need a resistance band with a handle on each end. Jacque Ratliff, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, recommends the seesaw-squat motion of this exercise for a great full-body workout that engages the core muscles and nearly every upper- and lower-body muscle. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand facing your partner while holding on to one handle of a resistance band. One partner stands tall with her arms extended overhead, while the other pulls the band down between her legs with straight arms and goes into a squat position. In opposition with your partner, alternate between standing and squatting, pulling the band in a seesaw motion. Be sure to keep the band taught throughout the exercise and move in coordination with your partner. Repeat for 40 seconds.
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4. Single-Leg Lateral Medicine-Ball Toss
This move involves core stability, works the obliques (rotational muscles) and provides a serious balance challenge. The only thing you'll need besides your partner is a light medicine ball (four to six pounds). Jacque Ratliff, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, provided this move. HOW TO DO THEM: Both partners stand side by side and face the same direction one to two feet apart, with each person standing on her inside leg. The first person should hold the medicine ball with both hands slightly away from the body with arms slightly bent. She rotates her upper body with the medicine ball completely away from her partner, then swings her arms around and throws the ball to her partner. Continue playing catch on the right leg for 20 seconds, then switch to the left leg. Make sure to keep a slight bend in the standing leg, and rotate through the trunk and shoulders when catching and releasing the ball.
5. Medicine-Ball Twist Passes
The twisting movement of the ball pass works the obliques and abs. This exercise is from Danny Musico, celebrity trainer and former super-middleweight boxing champion of the world. "Start slowly, gradually increasing speed throughout the set," he says. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand facing away from each other about two feet apart. Place your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. The first partner holds the medicine ball with both hands. Both individuals rotate to opposite sides. The first partner hands the medicine ball from behind to second partner who retrieves ball from behind. Both individuals turn to the opposite sides to again exchange the medicine ball from behind. Continue to pass the ball in one direction for 20 seconds. When finished, repeat in the opposite direction. (Note: This may also be done kneeling or sitting back-to-back.)
Related: The 41 Hardest Core Exercises
6. Lunge and Medicine-Ball Chest Pass
This move works well as a dynamic warm-up: Lunging engages the glutes, quads and hamstrings, while passing the ball activates chest and shoulder muscles. You'll need a four- to six-pound medicine ball. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand facing each other five to 10 feet apart and with feet hip-width apart. Hold the medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Your partner should stand firm with a slight bend in her hips and hands held directly in front of her chest to provide a target for you to throw the ball at. The thrower steps forward with the right foot into a forward lunge. As the right foot hits the ground, bend the left knee to allow the right hip to sink as you explosively push the medicine ball away from your chest and directly to the target before pushing back to the starting position. The catching partner receives the ball, brings it to her chest and immediately steps forward to throw the ball back to you in the same manner. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Related: 20 Best Body-Weight Exercises
7. Triceps Kickbacks With Tubing
Firm your triceps with this resistance-band exercise. You'll need one double-ended, medium-resistance tube or two resistance bands. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand facing each other. Take the two ends of the tubing or bands and hold each handle while your partner holds the middle of the tubing (or both ends of the bands). Slowly bend at the hips while maintaining your posture and a straight spine (avoid rounding your back). Keep both elbows high with your upper arms parallel to the floor; keep them there throughout the exercise. Your elbows will act as a hinge as you slowly straighten your arms backward. Pause a second or two, then slowly return to starting position. Do one to three sets of 12 to 15 reps, alternating sets with your partner.
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8. Trunk Rotation
This core exercise targets all of your abdominals as well as your obliques and shoulders. You'll need a double-handled medium-resistance tube. HOW TO DO THEM: Stand facing your partner approximately five feet apart. Each of you holds one end with both hands. Back away from each other until you feel light resistance on the tubing. Contract your abdominals inward and maintain good posture throughout the move. Begin by rotating your torso one way while your partner rotates in the opposite direction, then slowly return to starting position. Repeat 12 to 15 times and switch sides.
9. Single-Leg Quick Chest Pass
Standing on one leg activates the gluteus medius muscles, which helps with balance and knee stability and is especially important for runners. HOW TO DO THEM: Grab a medium-weight medicine ball (four to six pounds) and stand facing your partner with about three feet between the two of you. Hold the medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Shift your weight to one leg as your partner does the same. Keep your abs contracted, stand tall and stay stable. Pass the ball back and forth with a quick-paced basketball chest pass. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds on each leg.
10. Medicine-Ball Sit-Ups
Sure, sit-ups can be overrated, but doing them with a partner can make them fun again. HOW TO DO THEM: Both of you should start by lying on the ground toe-to-toe with each other with knees bent. Hold the medicine ball with both hands at your chest while still lying on your back. Exhale as you rise up to a seated position and either toss or hand your partner the ball. Your partner will then lower down to the ground and rise back to the seated position. Continue passing the ball back and forth for 20 reps. For an added challenge, try holding the ball over your head as you complete each sit-up.
Related: The Cardio Abs Workout
11. Stretch It Out
Use a partner to do your regular stretching routine, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. She can help you with a seated stretch by holding your arms and gently pulling them forward as you reach toward your toes to increase the flexibility in your hamstrings. Then switch places. Do this for a series of five different stretches. "Stretching can be boring, but having a partner to talk to and assist you will make the time fly and make the stretches more effective," Olson says.
What Do YOU Think?
Who's your exercise partner? Have you ever done any of these exercises? What did you think of them? Will you try these partner exercises with a friend or spouse? What are some of your other favorite exercises to do with a partner? Leave a comment and share your suggestions with the Livestrong.com community below!
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