Manual Resistance Training: How To Get The Most From Your Training Partner


Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer
and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle

Your training partner can add value to your workouts in ways you can’t on your own, or they can derail your results: here’s how you can increase your value as a training partner.

The nuts and bolts of what you need to know…

  • Manual resistance can be the most effective way to overload a muscle through its entire range of motion – something a free weight, or variable resistance machine simply cannot offer
  • A good training partner can increase their value by applying resistance in direct opposition of the working muscles to increase the demand placed upon them, as opposed to simply standing around like a jackass

There are a few things we know about the process involved in building muscle:

  1. We need to place the targeted musculature under some form of tension – for best results, we must not only recruit, but must fatigue as well
  2. Various exercises, or modifications to the same exercise, allow us to place various compartments of the same muscles under higher, or lower, levels of tension – this is necessary to maximize growth systemically, as a muscle will not grow if it doesn’t need to adapt, and it won’t need to adapt to anything if it is never subjected to tension
  3. No single exercise places a muscle under maximal tension throughout its entirety due to increased and decreased leverages at differing joint angles

In a perfect world we would be able to fully recruit and fatigue our muscles throughout their entirety, entirely on our own, but this isn’t a perfect world. While variable resistance machines have been created to solve this issue, and tools like resistance bands or lifting chains can take a good thing and make it better, both options pale in comparison to what a good training partner can offer.

training partner 2

Manual resistance, when appropriately applied, is the only way to practically maximally overload the trained musculature, because a good training partner can apply just the right amount of tension, at precisely the right time, to ensure the muscles are under maximal tension throughout the entire range of motion.

But manual resistance isn’t appropriate for just any exercise – some exercises are better suited than others, but a general guideline is that manual resistance can be applied to any exercise performed within the safety of a machine, the smith machine, as well as some barbell and dumbbell exercises. Some exercises that you should NEVER apply manual resistance are deadlifts (and all their variations), barbell front or back squats, dumbbell presses, free weight rows, and standing overhead presses to name a few. Everything else is pretty much fair game, but my favorite exercises to provide manual resistance are:

  •         Flat, incline, decline, and SEATED overhead barbell presses
  •         Front and lateral raises
  •         Lat pulldowns (pressing down onto the cable stack)
  •         Pec deck, reverse pec deck
  •         Leg extensions, curls, presses, and hack squats
  •         Machine curls, and extensions
  •         Barbell preacher curls, reverse grip barbell preacher curls
  •         Dumbbell flyes

Out of all the exercises listed above, I feel that it is necessary to include that manual resistance for dumbbell flyes is probably my favorite way to incorporate this method. The reason is because the tension is all but removed after roughly ¾ of the concentric range, but a good training partner can apply manual resistance and increase the demand on the pecs in their shortest position in a way that is simply not possible on your own.

The beautiful thing about manual resistance is that ANYBODY can apply it – therefore, anybody can be a suitable training partner, as long as they understand how to apply manual resistance, and how much to apply when working with you. This increases the value of a training partner ten fold!

If there was one downside to manual resistance, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to quantify progression, because the amount of resistance provided, and the amount of fatigue induced as a result cannot be measured. This should not deter you though, as building muscle has less to do with the actual amount of weight lifted, and more to do with the amount of stress a muscle undergoes – this is what makes manual resistance so valuable in the first place.

A second potential downside is that due to the increased time under maximal tension, one may end up being more sore than usual – but as we know, the body will adapt over time, and what once caused the soreness, will not have as daunting an effect down the road.

Manual resistance is arguably one of the most underrated forms of resistance there is, but because it’s the most practical way there is to overload the targeted musculature throughout its entire range of motion, it’s a form of resistance that I feel deserves more attention. I think the biggest reason that manual resistance isn’t talked about more, is because most people choose to lift alone – after all, why would anyone want a tag along that does nothing more than interfere with the pace and quality of their workout?

But, if more people understood the value of manual resistance, and actually went to the lengths necessary to teach a partner how to do more than stand next to you like a jackass while you do a set, there’s no reason why this method should be as underutilized as it is. On the flip side, you can increase your value as a training partner to someone else by simply introducing them to the benefits of manual resistance – in return, they’ll likely want to return the favor, and the end result is the two of you improving the quality of your workouts, thus increasing each other’s capacity to build more muscle faster!

If you want to see what a training partner is SUPPOSED to do watch this:

What I want to know from you is, have you ever trained with someone well versed in applying manual resistance? If so, how did you respond? If not, is it something you’d be interested in trying? Have you ever had a training partner that increased the value of your workouts, or were they essentially worthless, and you ended up ditching them because you were doing better on your own? Leave your comments below!


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4 thoughts on “Manual Resistance Training: How To Get The Most From Your Training Partner

  1. You have yo give me best tips for looking great health it is the way to see the many option for given you easily access control panel in your computer use by the windows 10 click the right in to your mouse for see main menu to best working.

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  2. This is a great little method for breaking through plateaus. Having a training partner there to apply resistance/reduce resistance/provide encouragement & motivation is a very productive tool that you can tap into. Also, the camaraderie is second to none when their screaming at you to do one more rep you feel like a youve let them down if you dont achieve it.

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    • Wow! Thank you so much, Patti! That means a lot…especially coming from you. Somehow, hearing people express confidence in you, actually makes you feel more confident. I just want to be obedient and do what's best for all concerned. It's been awhile, though, since I've had such a big cliff to jump off of, though. Thank you for your suIo9rt…p&#3p;ll keep you posted.

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  3. Great post Vince. Haven’t had a training partner in years. Wish I had one that shared the same passion as I do. I’ve seen trainers not even use manual resistance with their clients, shame. Applying this method would put stress on the muscle that you are not used to. Would be a game changer.

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