T Nation

Training with a Weakling....


So, I've been wanting to have a training partner for quite a while, but it seems that most of my friends are bums. And the ones who actually do lift, don't seem to have schedules that match up with mine, which makes it nearly impossible to get into the gym together.

Friday, a guy at work asked if I'd mind if he comes to lift with me from now on. Apparently, some guy at a bar gave him a hard time the previous night, and it served as a bit of a wake-up call to him. He was just hanging out with his girl, when a bigger guy started giving his girl some unwanted attention. My co-worker said that it occurred to him then that he wouldn't be able to protect his girl if anything ever went down. So, he wants to do something about it.

What I'm looking for from you guys is some tips on working out with a little guy. He's about 5'8" 120 pounds, and from what he says, he's never been able to gain any weight no matter how hard he's tried. Of course, I automatically assume that he hasn't eaten/lifted enough, and that'll be the first thing I tell him. However, I am aware that some guys simply have a harder time putting on weight than other guys.

This guy really is very very small, and I've never worked out with somebody significantly weaker than me. I really want to help him, and it'll be a huge bonus to have a training partner. My concern is that I want to work him hard, and push his limits, but I don't want to push him so hard that he just gives up and doesn't come back...That wouldn't be any good for either of us.

Any tips for walking that line between pushing too hard and being too easy on him?

Are there any signs to look for that might signal to me that he's nearing the quitting point?

Any tips for making the workout run smoothly? Will stripping tons of weight off/putting it back on take as long, and be as annoying as think it will?

Are there any lifts that a complete beginner just simply shouldn't be doing, despite having someone there to keep an eye on his form?

I know we have several personal trainers on this site, and I'm definitely hoping to gain some good insights from them. But, I'm also interested in hearing from some people who have simply lifted with weak friends.

Thanks in advance, to anyone who decides to chime in with some helpful thoughts...


Ask him how he's doing, it sounds obvious, but verbal feedback can be huge. Observe how he's doing, is he frequently missing reps? Scale back. Is he blasting through sets? Push on. Just try to be observant and this part should be pretty easy.

Same as above. The signs of fatigue for him will be much like the ones you experience yourself, they'll just come earlier and with less work done.

Dedicate enough time to switch weights on barbell exercises (yeah, it will be annoying), or if you're lucky enough to have a big gym with lots of redundant equipment and few trainees set up two stations. Otherwise dumb bells and machines.

None that aren't too stupid to be worth doing in the first place. Obviously pay more attention on lifts with bigger injury potential, but a good spotter who knows what good form looks like and knows how to use proper coaching cues (touch and verbal) will keep even the weakest of weaklings as safe as safe gets when lifting weights.

I think its very cool that you're willing to help this guy. If he commits to the work he will probably make awesome gains working out with someone much bigger and stronger than himself.


cues cues and more cues, he'll learn by watching, and till him the basic technique of each lift, and constantly watch him while he's going. He'll get feedback from watching how you lift and from the cues that'll tell him. Oh, make him the weight bitch, it'll be good for him


i was 125 when i started 5 years ago( im 179 now ) . i F'd about with all different programes and got no where .then found SL 5x5 , practised form with an empty bar and went from there . i remember feelin "IM DA MAN" coz i squated 60lb's WTF we've all started somewhere . SL 5x5 aint nothing special but IMO for absolute beginers its simple and works.
i had no one to help me so the fact that this guys got someone helping him and guiding him is a very big plus .


eat him. assume his girlfriend as yours.


Such wisdom. Are you the Buddha?


if she resists, eat her too.




Ahhh...For a second there, I thought this thread actually had a shot at being a logical, sensible, mature, helpful tool.

What a fool I am.

To those who posted helpful responses, I thank you.

To the rest of you....Ehh you're predictable. Funny, but predictable.


Well come on, the first two guys took care of pretty much everything, what else do you want?

It doesnt take much deep discussion to say "push him hard, but dont kill him, teach him the right way, tell him to eat, and lift big"


Everyone was a beginner once. Everyone. Lots of people forget this, and most of us had a mentor who played a big part in our progress.

If you beat the shit out of the guy and rip his form apart for the entire workout he'll likely become disheartened and quit. Its always interesting to watch how big guys behave in this situation and it reveals a lot about their true character, many guys have the 'look what I can do, and look how weak you are' attitude and their ego's end up running wild which benefits no one.

I helped a buddy gain quite a bit of weight and strength, he obviously needed an introductory program and I only made him train 2 or 3 times a week. The hardest part was making him eat enough, I literally had to constantly berate him into eating.

I got him squatting each workout, focusing on form and developing flexibility (his hips and hamstrings were tight as fuck) then I got him doing rows and bench press's. After that he did a couple of sets for abs and some arm curls.

One thing I found was that he seemed happiest, just like all beginners, when he was working his arms, so I got him pumping his biceps up at the end of every workout so he 'felt' better.

What annoyed me was: 1) He'd always turn up and say shit like "X at work says you should do this, not what your making me do, he used to bench press 1000000LB's 2) workouts took twice as long 3) he gave up after he made some decent progress 3) he always resisted eating, I tried to tell him that eating was the easy bit, especially on a dirty bulk 4) he didn't get fat no matter how much he ate-asshole 5) the hardest part was making him unlearn all the shit he already thought he know

Good luck, its a good thing to do if you can help someone like this, though boxing or MMa is likely to be better if he just wants to be able to kick someone's ass in defense of himself or his lady. I know a 140LB boxer who is more than capable of kicking the average 230lB muscle heads ass, I've seen him knock a 240LB (give or take a LB or two) bouncer on his ass with one punch. Being big doesn't mean you can fight-he needs to understand this or getting bigger may actually put him in more danger if thinks gaining a bit of muscle will transform him into the terminator.


I wasn't really trying to criticize you guys...Like I said, I'm the fool for expecting anything other than what I got. And frankly, Bonez's post gave me a pretty good chuckle.


Send him to T-Nation. You should give him tips and shit as much as possible in the gym but if he really wants to get into it, he should spend his off time reading as many articles as possible.

I found my way into BBing in sort of the same way, one of my bigger buddies was shitfaced at a bar giving me shit and when I went to get in his face my other friend broke it up sayin "Whoa there little guy." From then on I didn't want to be "little" anymore.

It's big of you to help him out, I've always thought about doing that but I can't bring myself to do it, I'd rather work with someone who is similar or larger in size.. I just don't think I'd make as much progress. Good luck..


I'm certainly not the kind of guy to develop any kind of "show off" attitude. Even if I wanted to be, I haven't earned the right to exhibit that level of dickheadery.

He's actually the kind of guy who seems happy to learn anything he can, so I doubt he'll have any problem with having his form correct. He strikes me as a guy who would prefer to be taught the right way to do things, rather than working against himself by doing the wrong things.

From what I gather about his diet, he doesn't mind eating. In fact, he loves to eat carbs. His problem seems to be that he eats only 1 or 2 meals a day, and with his metabolism, that doesn't even come close to enough calories to put on weight.

Those issues that you ran into with your little apprentice sound absolutely infuriating. Although my little buddy may struggle with a couple of those, I think he'll do OK with some of the others. I don't think he has much of a base of knowledge in weight training, so he shouldn't have any bad habits to unlearn.

While I fully understand that being big isn't always the best way to win a fight, I do think it is often the best way to avoid a fight. Douche bags at college bars, who pick on all the small guys they can find, do not want to start shit with somebody their own size. I think my buddy's main concern is that he not be seen as an easy target, and that he might at least be able to hold is own if a fight did occur.

Thanks for your response....It was full of good points.


If he struggles to gain weight, get him to down a bowl of oats with every meal. If that is too much for him, get him to drench his meats/rice/etc. in EVOO.


I actually have the same concern for myself. I've always felt like I had my best workouts when I'm working with somebody stronger than me. But, at the same time, I think I'll get a lot out of helping somebody else progress. I wish somebody had taken the time to do the same for me years ago.


I had a role model, sort of, but he and I didn't start working out until after I put on like 15-20lbs of muscle, and when he saw my progress, he adopted me and I finally had the confidence to step foot into the weight room.

WHICH kind of makes me feel like a douche, because I work with a guy who is like 140lbs maybe 5'8" who I've thought about working out with, he's put on a little size but I really want to push myself and I can't really count on a guy of his size to pull twice his body weight off of me if it comes to it.


For all weight lifting intents and purposes I hereby declare that we replace the term "role model" with "swole model".


If I ever refer to myself as "swole", I hope somebody rips my fucking face off, because that's what I'll deserve.