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Hackenschmidt with a Reverse Lift on Roller
Hackenschmidt with a Reverse Lift on Roller

"Buddy" Weight Conditioning

Jake Shannon

Do you like lifting dumbbells? Well you may very well stop after you read this (unless you are in the bad habit calling your friends and workout partners "dumbbells"). I want to share a method of strength training that is somewhat common in wrestling rooms but is not otherwise commonly known elsewhere.

Inspired by Brandon Ruiz, I thought that Buddy Lifts need some attention. The only equipment you really need is a friend. Preferably a friend that roughly weighs the same as you (or less if you happen to be a beginner to strength training). Even if you're a seasoned weight lifter, still start with someone that is approximately the same weight as you. Regardless if you can dead-lift or back-squat twice your body weight, you will want to start with a lighter weight since it is a "live" weight, which can be awkward.

Live weight actively recruits compensatory and stabilization muscles in a way that "dead" weight does not. It is these oft under-used stabilizers that you will want to be careful with so as to avoid injury until you are familiar with lifting with a live weight. There is much here that an experienced weight lifter will find familiar but lifting with a live weight must be felt to be truly understood.

Regarding safety, please follow these basic guidelines when lifting "live" weight:

- Take care of your partner! They trust you and they should have every reason to do so. It's simple; if you can't carry their weight, then don't lift them.

- Use proper form. If you have any question about how to perform the lift, ask a qualified coach first!

- Put some "oomph" into it. Once you are confident that you have proper form and you can protect your partner, lift ballistically. This means, lift as explosively and powerfully as you safely can.

- Never, ever use children or animals for your buddy lifts. Even if they have soiled your favorite pair of shoes or ruined an expensive piece of furniture, they are off limits for this activity. Only use partners that can make fully informed decisions regarding participation and their own welfare.

- Do not lift while ill or injured, you're only prone to make things worse.

- Lift only insofar as you can maintain perfect form. Once your form degrades due to fatigue or if the load is too heavy, then please immediately stop and call it a day.

As long as you can abide by these guidelines I think you are really going to enjoy learning and performing these buddy lifts!

The Basics: Start Here

These exercises are a great way to begin your training in partner resistance exercises.

1) Leg Pushing

Have your partner lie down on their back. Now step around so that you are standing over them with one foot on each side of their head. Their left hand grabs your left ankle and their right hand grabs your ankle.

Your partner raises their legs (so their posture is shaped like an "L") and you push their feet hard forward and toward the ground. They resist and try not to let their feet hit the ground. They bring their legs up again and you push them back to the ground.

You repeat this 15 times for beginners, eventually working your way up to 50 repetitions per set.

2) Piggy Back Ride

Most people should be familiar with this even if they haven't done this since childhood. Once your partner jumps on your back you have 3 basic options:

- Walk for distance - Perform Lunges - Perform Squats

3) Taking Out The Trash

After assuring your partner that the name of this exercise in no way reflects your personal estimate of their character, grab them from behind in a bear-hug around the waist (both of you should be facing the same direction now).

Now walk a distance, say 100 meters forward then switch positions. Now have your partner carry you back.

This lift can be performed with the lifter walking both forwards or backwards (just be careful you have a clear path to avoid stumbling).

4) Honeymoons

Think of the classic image of a groom carrying his bride across the threshold. Lift your partner like this and then:

- Walk for distance - Perform Lunges - Perform Squats

Intermediate Partner Lifts

Once you feel comfortable with carrying live weight, you can add these lifts into the mix.

1) Single Leg Lift

Stand at your partner's side, squat down and hug your partner's leg with a classic dead-lift posture (your hips underneath you and your head up). For the most efficient grip, make sure both palms are facing up, and one on top of the other. This is almost as if you are doing a bicep curl with your hands together when done correctly.

From here, stand up straight lifting your partner into the air and slightly load the weight onto your chest by putting your hips firmly beneath you.

This exercise can be done for reps or you can walk for distance.

2) Wheelbarrow

Another long forgotten gem from childhood, this one is performed by walking on your hands while your partner holds your feet. To make it challenging, do a push-up between every step or try doing this exercise up and down a flight of stairs. It ain't rocket science but it will definitely challenge you and put some fun back in your work-out!

3) Backward Saddle Sit-Up

Ok, it sounds complicated but it really isn't. Your partner gets down on all fours. You are going to sit down on their back but instead of facing forward like riding a horse, you are going to sit facing the other direction (toward their feet).

Once you are comfortable, hook your legs into their legs so when you lean back to do the sit-up you are stabilized. Cross your arms across your chest and lean back as far as you can. As you do, your partner should begin to feel the load increase upon their neck and shoulders. This way, while you are working your abdominal muscle, so your partner is working hard too.

Do as many as you can until you can reach 50 repetitions without trouble.

More Advanced Buddy Lifts

These progressions are a little more complicated and should be practiced only after the aforementioned buddy lifts are mastered.

1) Dead-man Lift

Stand directly above your partner as they lie face down. One foot on each side of them reach under their belly and clasp your hands. Assume a classic dead-lift posture with your head up and your hips underneath you.

Lift your partner with your legs, swinging him forward as you stand upright. Repeat from the beginning position with your partner lying completely flat.

2) Fireman's Carry

Face your partner. Pull your partner onto your shoulders by grabbing their same-side bicep (e.g., your left hand grabs their right bicep) then duck your head underneath that same side armpit (e.g., their right arm).

Bend down slightly while maintaining a good load-bearing posture (head up, hips squarely underneath you) and with your other arm grab their leg (e.g., your right arm hugs their right leg, assuming the above example). Pull them completely onto your shoulders and stand up completely.

From here you can walk for distance, perform squats and/or lunges.

3) Squad Push-Up

This is for when you have more than one partner to work out with. All participants assume push-up position in a circle. Place your feet on the shoulders of the person next to the left of you. Be sure to place the shoe-laces portion of your feet on your neighbors back, not the tip-toes.

The person to the right of you will place their feet on your shoulders. This will create an unbroken human chain when done correctly. Once in position, everyone will do push-ups in unison until the "weakest link" in the chain can continue no more.

4) Reverse Lift

This is a classic lift practiced in Greco-roman wrestling. With your partner lying flat on their stomach, kneel to one side of them. Wrap your arms around their waist and clasp your hands together underneath their body.

Now, be certain that when you grasp them that arm that is on the same side of your body as their feet are reaches under the near side of your partner and the arm that is on the same side of your body as your partners head and arms reaches around the far side of your partner's body.

With your arms grasped thusly, from your kneeling position pull your partner onto your lap. Now get to one knee, then to both feet.

Here's the tricky part: now swing your partner's legs from the side that they are on at first now to the other side. To do so, stand tall and giving a slight pop with your hips as you pull with your clasped arms.

Lower your partner all the way to the ground so that they are flat again and then repeat the lift.

5) Partner Plyometrics

Make sure you are fresh on these so you don't jump on top of your partner. Have them lie face down then stand to one side of their body. Next, simply jump back and forth over their body. Work up to 50 jumps per set.

For a more advanced workout, have your partner get on all fours and jump over the higher obstacle that they now present.

6) The Flip Over

Your partner gets down on all fours. You get to one side and reach underneath with both arms, grabbing their far ribs. Now place your chin on their back on the far side of your partner's body.

Once you are in position and have hold of your partner securely, kick both legs over their body completely while holding tight. When done properly, you will end up on the other side of your partner with your belly to the ceiling and your head underneath their ribcage. From here, kick back over to the position that you originally started from. Flip over like this as many times as you safely can.

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