Working Out as a Team: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Other

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Get fit with your significant other: These two-person exercises use your partner's body weight for resistance or leverage. Video by Amanda McGrath/washingtonpost.com

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By Howard Schneider
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The marketing folks at washingtonpost.com have declared this to be Wedding Week and put together all sorts of features and great advertising to help people get prepared for their summer nuptials.

Big deal.

The economy is foundering, the job market is lousy, and though home prices are low -- which is great for first-time buyers -- who is to say when they'll move any direction but further down?

Yet there is some good news: Smart economists have conjectured that having too many choices, far from being a good thing, actually makes us miserable. Any of you who are engaged or recently married have successfully navigated one of the choices that people fret about the most. You have chosen a life mate, a partner, a companion . . . and a new piece of exercise equipment.

That's right. At risk of censure and reprimand and with due respect for family-newspaper values, we are going to teach you how to work out using another person's body.

No, not that. This isn't about calories burned during sex, though if you are curious the ever-handy Compendium of Physical Activities has run the numbers.

This is a bit more earnest. In hopes of helping you get off to a stronger marriage, I've compiled a list of exercises you can do together.

Literally. They require two people, for weight, bracing, leverage or other reasons.

The American Council on Exercise (http://www.acefitness.org) has a video demonstrating several partner exercises that can be done with a medicine ball, as well as a couple of yoga balancing moves in which you and a partner help support each other. Go look for it on the group's Web site.

A number of more aggressive exercises come courtesy of Michael Veltri, head of the Okinawa Aikikai aikido studio in Woodley Park. Veltri incorporates these as part of a general conditioning program, and has his students pair up to do them.

These exercises aren't easy. Some are downright annoying. You might find that, while designed for two, they don't work both ways: Depending on the relative size and strength of you and your partner, piggyback squats, for example, may be possible for one of you but not the other.

But at least some should be within reach, and they will be fun to try nonetheless. If you are able to work down the whole list, I promise you'll break a sweat. What's more, they don't require you to buy and store lots of ugly weights. After all, who needs a dumbbell when you're about to marry one?

Piggyback squats: Have your partner jump on your back. Walk 10 or 20 feet, stop and do 10 squats, walk another few feet and do another set of squats. Repeat until the first partner is sick of it (or her . . . or him).

Assisted deep-knee bends: This may be the toughest of the lot. You stand up. Your partner sits on your feet, reaches around the back of your knees, and grabs her wrists. You sit down -- butt all the way to the ground -- then do a sit-up to generate momentum and stand back up, as your partner rocks backward and pulls to assist. The idea is to synchronize the motion and keep moving. This provides an intense lower-body and core workout for you and an upper-body workout for your partner. Do five or 10 if you can, and try to build up to 20.

Partner chest press: This one requires a bit of trust -- and caution. Lie on your back with arms extended straight up. Your partner stands over you and grabs your hands. As both of you keep your arms locked straight, your partner steps backward, leaning forward until her body is in a rigid, inclined position, supported by you. You use her weight to do a chest press, lowering your elbows to the ground and pushing back up. Adjust the number of repetitions to fit the circumstances.

Hip twists: Lie on your backs next to each other, with your heads at opposite ends of the mat. Reach around with the arms that are next to each other and grab your partner's other hand on the outside of his hips. Both of you raise your legs simultaneously, pass them across each other, and set them down across each other's bodies. Then raise them back up and swing over to the starting point. Repeat for a minute, or try for 25 repetitions.

Locked-ankle sit-ups: Sit facing each other and hook the back of your partner's ankles with the tops of your feet. (One person will have feet on the outside turned in, and the other on the inside turned out.) Do a simultaneous set of 20 to 30 sit-ups, and just for kicks, clap hands in the middle.

Ab throwdowns: You stand with feet apart. Your partner lies on his back with his head between your feet, and grabs your ankles. He raises his legs toward you, keeping them as straight as possible. When his feet come up, you grab hold and push them back toward the ground. He tries not to let his feet touch the ground, and immediately brings them back up. Try for 30 or so repetitions.

Wheelbarrows: The classic kids game: Hold your partner's ankles like the handles of a wheelbarrow and help him walk forward on his hands. Go for 20 feet or so, stop for a set of push-ups, then repeat.

Hand-clap push-ups: Set yourselves in a push-up position with your heads a few inches apart. At the top of the push-up, clap opposite hands with your partner, alternating between left and right.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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