“It’s like looking in a mirror, only… not.” – John Travolta, Face/Off
We use lots of fancy stuff in the name of exercise.
Today’s cardio machines are basically iPhones you can run and bike on. Wearable tech promises optimal results through biofeedback monitoring.
But no matter how “smart” a certain training tool might be, nothing beats a real, live training partner.
Whether you need an extra push to finish that last set of squats or just some fresh workout ideas, a good gym buddy delivers every time. And you don’t even have to buy a new one every 12 months!
Partner workouts designed around games and creative constraints can inject a healthy bit of randomness into your movement practice. Not only are these types of workouts fun, but you’ll find yourself moving and thinking in brand new ways.
Here are two brutally tough partner workout ideas that utilize the bottoms-up kettlebell position. Beware if your partner is a little sadistic.
The “Traffic Cop” Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press
One partner will lift and the other will play “traffic cop” by directing the movement with Stop and Go commands.
In our example, Savanna handles double bottoms-up kettlebells.*
I point out one side at a time to randomly start and pause the press motion.
*The lifter should choose a weight she can safely handle for 45-60 seconds.
Some creative constraints:
- Work one arm per set
- Work both arms together
- Keep one arm in a static press (half-press, overhead, etc) and press with the other
- Keep one arm in a suitcase hold (weight by your side) and press with the other
- Perform in a 1/2 or full kneeling position
Of course, this exercise can be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells in a standard grip.
The bottoms-up kettlebell press is a proven staple in the toolbox of smart shoulder training. Rotator cuff activation and scapular control are the big players in any BU exercise.
Keeping the kettlebell upside down requires a combination of grip, balance, focus, and total body engagement. Lose any of these, and the kettle comes crashing down. Start light!
When training any movement with a long range-of-motion, it’s important to own all angles from start to finish in order to develop and maintain well-rounded strength.
Every lift has a sticking point – an angle where you experience a lapse in strength, stability, or control. This is why powerlifters train paused squats, bench presses, and deadlifts at various heights. Isometric tension help fill movement gaps.
Finally, having to instantly react to your partner’s cues will hone your concentration. You’ll discover subtle ways you can hold, lose, and regain control of the movement.
Taken together, we have quite the stack:
Bottoms-up + Isometrics + Randomness/Reaction
A bullet-proof press and boulder shoulders to match.
Having fun yet? Just check this one out…
The “Copy Cat” Kettlebell Workout
Set a timer for 1-2 minutes.
One partner will lead a movement flow (no ballistic lifts), the other will attempt to match and mirror the movements exactly.
- Make (and match) faces 😜😐😳
- Write words in the air with your hands and feet
- Move to the beat of a song
- Vary the speed
- Pause at various angles
Get creative and think outside the typical lifting box.
And be nice to your partner 😉
Our brains are wired to imitate and learn by observing others.
Mirror neurons are those that fire when you perform an action AND when you see someone else performing that same action.
In a sense, we have an innate ability to get inside each other’s heads.
For this exercise, the follower is playing out both sides of the process in real-time, observing the movement and acting it out.
As the poet Ludacris put it – “When I move, you move. Just like that.“
This game is all about staying in the present moment. As the follower copies the leader, he finds the flow in deep focus on action but without time to get hung up on his own technique.
And should you choose to play around with bottoms-up kettlebells, you’ll get all the benefits described above, too.
So grab your partner, do-si-do, and keep on kettlebellin’.
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