Partner Exercises: 5 Moves to Try With Your Workout BFF

Man and woman working out together

As we make our way toward warmer temps, New Year’s resolutions often start to fall by the wayside. Gym attendance dips, the sofa sees more action, and we start falling back into our old routines. It’s all part of what fitness professionals call the “two-month curse”—the time when most people who start an exercise program quit.

But it can also be a great time to shake things up and get some motivation from a friend. There are a ton of reasons why working out with a spouse, partner, or friend can keep you happy and healthy, but here are the big four:

Support and Accountability: An Indiana University study found that married couples that join a gym but then go separately have a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. But couples that go to the gym together, regardless of whether they actually worked out together, only have a 6 percent dropout rate. Having someone to encourage and challenge you is a tried-and-true method of sticking with your workout goals.

Variety: Boredom is one of the main reasons why people fall off the exercise wagon. I get it—even your favorite playlist can get stale if you’re listening to the same thing over and over again. Working out with a partner, rather than alone, changes things up, keeping you motivated and interested.

Competition: Behavioral studies show when you’re working out with a partner, you push yourself harder, especially when that partner is in slightly better shape than you are. For example, a study from Michigan State University found that while working with a virtual partner, subjects exercised 24 percent longer than they did exercised by themselves. And another study found that people who did planks with a partner held their plank 33 percent longer than those who went at it alone.

Bonding: Studies show that couples that do physical activities or challenges together are more satisfied in their relationship. Strengthen your marriage while you strengthen your bodies!

5 Fun Partner Exercises

Here are some of my favorite partner exercises. You can do them à la carte or as a circuit. Aim to do 3 sets of 20 for each.

Plank & Jump
Partner A holds a plank position on the floor. Partner B stands to the right of Partner A’s mid-calf, both feet parallel to Partner A’s calves so you’re looking in the same direction. Partner B (carefully!) leaps laterally over Partner A’s legs, landing in the same direction on the left side and then jumps back over their legs to the right. That’s one rep. Repeat until Partner A can no longer hold the plank and then switch positions.

Buddy Bridge
Partner A and Partner B lie on the floor facing each other with their hands at their sides, feet in the air, and butts about two feet apart. Press your feet together sole to sole, so you’re making a little bridge. Using glutes and hamstrings, push through each other’s feet, lifting your butts up until your hips are in line with your knees. This one involves some serious stability, so it may require a little practice to get it right.

Partner Wall-Sit
Stand back to back with a partner and gradually step your feet out until your heels are about two feet apart. (You’ll look like an upside-down “Y”.) This is your starting position. Together as one unit, sink down into a squat position so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Pushing through your heels and using your partner’s back for stability, return to your starting position. When done properly, it should look like you’re doing a wall-sit against a large mirror.

Clapping Plank
Both partners get into a pushup position facing each other, heads about eight inches apart. Both partners then lift their right arms, clap their hands together, and then return to pushup position. Repeat with left arms. Avoid rising or sagging butts—you should be in a straight line from the top of your head to your heel.

Twin Twist
This is a spin on the traditional Russian Twist, but more fun. Sit back to back with about two feet between you, knees bent. Partner A should have a medicine ball. Both partners lean slightly back, keeping spines straight. Partner A holds the medicine ball in front of them, elbows bent, and twists to the right to hand the ball off to Partner B, who is twisting to the left. Partner B then twists to the right, meeting Partner A for another hand off. Switch directions (so Partner A starts by twisting to the left) halfway through your reps.

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