// On the ball partner training

by Sherri and Alex McMillan

In today’s time-poor society a market exists for personal trainers who can enable clients to spend quality time with their friends or loved ones while getting fit. Partner training enables this and is financially beneficial to both parties, with the clients sharing costs, and the trainer’s earning potential increasing. Multiplying your usual training rate by 1.5 and dividing it by two, for example, is a good way of establishing the per-client price of a partner training session.

Partner training is ideal for trainers who teach group training and have limited budgets because many of the exercises are done in pairs, meaning that only half the usual amount of equipment is needed. This apparatus-efficiency is well illustrated by the following medicine ball exercises, which will ensure that both partner training clients achieve an incredibly effective workout, while socialising and having fun.

Set-up: First client stands upright, holding the medicine ball over the head. Abdominals should be kept contracted throughout the entire exercise while squatting and throwing the ball to the floor so that it bounces up towards their partner. The partner catches the ball and quickly throws it back. Ensure both partners maintain good posture. Continue for between 60 and 120 seconds.

Variation: Try moving partner around (i.e., slam the ball side to side).

Set-up: Partners stand facing each other balancing on one leg. Keep abdominals contracted, and the body erect and stable. Pass the ball back and forth using a basketball chest pass. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds on each leg.

Variation: Try hopping side to side, front and back while passing.

Set-up: Partners lie on their backs feet-to-feet with about a foot distance between each other. Knees should be extended as far as possible while still keeping the lower back in contact with the floor. Both partners slowly crunch up, lifting one vertebra at a time off the floor. At about 30 degrees upwards clients will reach a ‘sticking point’ and feel like they’ve hit a brick wall. At this point it’s important that you encourage them to be patient and muscle through, using their abdominals to overcome the resistance. Clients should not bounce or add momentum with the upper body or lift their feet off the floor. When an almost fully upright seated position is reached, the client with the ball should throw it to their partner who should catch it while maintaining perfect, stable posture. Both partners lower themselves to the starting position, then repeat the throwing action vice versa. Continue for 30 to 90 seconds.

: This is a more advanced exercise, so if one partner cannot curl up with good form, try the exercise on an inclined bench which enables the exercise to be performed more easily.

Variation: The partner could stand and toss the ball from various angles/positions.

Set-up: Partners stand inside a tennis court or a sectioned off area of about that size. One partner holds the ball while standing at the top of the court, and the other partner stands at the opposite end. One partner rolls the ball quickly to various spots on the court for their partner to run to, scoop the ball up and toss back to their partner before the ball rolls outside of the court. Continue for 60 to 120 seconds.

Set-up: Both partners stand side-by-side, upright on one leg. The abdominals should be contracted throughout the entire drill. One partner holds the medicine ball and both partners slowly bend/squat, the ball being lowered to the floor. The first partner releases the ball and the second partner picks it up, both of them returning to the starting position. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds on each leg.

Tip: If the floor is too low, try placing the ball on a bench or chair instead so that clients do not have to squat as low.

Set-up: Partners kneel back-to-back, keeping abdominals contracted and maintaining perfect posture. Slowly twist to one side and pass the ball between partners. Return to the other side to retrieve the ball. Continue for 30 to 90 seconds going one way and then repeat in the other direction.

Variation: Standing.


Set-up: Partners stand facing each other. In unison, shuffle sideways for about three metres in one direction while simultaneously tossing the medicine ball back and forth between partners. Repeat, going in the opposite direction. Continue for 60 to 120 seconds.


Set-up: Partners stand tall with perfect posture and face each other. One client lunges forward, throwing the medicine ball to their partner using a chest pass. The partner will catch the ball while performing a backwards lunge. Repeat lunging forwards and backwards. Remind clients to push off the front leg and be sure that while lunging their front knee stays over their front foot. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds each side.

Variation: Small step forward to deeper lunge progressions.


Set-up: Partners stand side-by-side, just under a metre apart, maintaining perfect posture and keeping the abdominals contracted throughout the entire exercise. Arms should be kept straight and the ball swung from the outside of one partner’s body to the inside and then tossed to their partner. The outside leg will pivot as the body rotates. The partner catches the ball and repeats the exercise. Continue for 30 to 90 seconds each side.


Set-up: Partners stand side-by-side about a metre apart. One person rolls the ball forwards on a diagonal so that it will intersect their partner’s path. Both partners sprint forward, with the second partner catching up to the ball and rolling it forward and diagonally into the first partner’s path. Continue sprinting and rolling for 60 to 120 seconds.

SQUAT & GRANNY SHOT (photo 11)

Set-up: Partners start by standing with feet placed wider than the hips and feet turned out slightly. Squatting, the medicine ball is held out in front of the body with arms straight to the ground. Posture is set by contracting the abdominals, pressing the chest out and up and the shoulders back and down. Start by squatting upwards while simultaneously throwing the ball to the partner in a move similar to a basketball ‘Granny shot’. The partner catches the ball and returns it using the same technique. Continue for 60 to 120 seconds.

Variation: Try moving partner around (i.e. toss the ball side-to-side).


Set-up: Partners sit on the floor about half a metre apart with their knees bent. Sit upright with perfect posture and abdominals contracted tightly throughout the entire exercise. One partner holds the medicine ball into the chest, and both partners recline a few inches while maintaining perfect posture. The position is held while both partners rotate one way and then the other. The starting position is returned to, and once upright, the ball is thrown between partners. Repeat the exercise for 30 to 90 seconds.

Variation: Try facing the same direction and tossing the ball laterally to partner.


Set-up: Partners stand 1.5 metres apart. Holding the medicine ball at chest level and then using an overhead press, the ball is tossed between partners. Partners stay square to each other, and when catching the ball, they should do so in an overhead position. Encourage clients to keep their abdominals contracted, chest out and up and their shoulders back and down. Continue for 30 to 90 seconds.

Variation: Try moving partner around (i.e. toss the ball side-to-side).

1-LEG DRAW BRIDGE (photo 14)

Set-up: This exercise requires a light medicine ball (1 to 2 kg) or a ball that is not weighted. Partners stand facing each other, a few feet apart. The ball is held up over the head. Both partners stand on one leg, back neutral, abdominals contracted and slowly bend forward at the hips keeping both legs extended. When both partners can go no lower without bending their backs or knees, the ball is passed from one to the other before both slowly return to the starting position. Continue for 30 to 90 seconds.

Variation: Progressions can include ball passing at chest level, ball passing at level of head and ball passing with arms extended overhead.


Set-up: Both partners lie on their backs head-to-head with their arms straight up to the ceiling with enough space between them to allow hands to potentially touch. One partner holds the medicine ball. Both partners lift their legs up, bent at the knee and with their arms positioned straight up to the ceiling. Legs should be positioned with a 90-degree angle at the knees and hips so that upper thighs are perpendicular to the floor and the lower legs are parallel to the floor. Abdominal muscles should be tightened and the spine braced. Keeping the knees at 90•degrees, both partners slowly drop one heel towards the floor (keeping the other leg still) while simultaneously dropping the arms overhead. The ball is now passed. Both partners return the leg and arms to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Continue passing the ball for 30 to 90 seconds.

Variation: Various leg positions (legs bent, legs straight, double legs).


Sherri McMillan, MExPhys & Alex McMillan, NASM
Sherri and Alex have been in the fitness industry for over 18 years and were awarded the 2006 IDEA International Fitness Directors of the Year and 2006 ACE Fitness Educators of the Year - First Runner Up. They are the founders and owners of Northwest Personal Training and Fitness Education in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Alex and Sherri have presented at conventions throughout the world, and authored numerous articles and fitness books. They are spokespersons for Nike, Nautilus, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. Contact them via www.nwpersonaltraining.com

NETWORK • WINTER 2008 • PP45-51