We've got 6 steps to whip your ticker into tiptop shape for American Heart Month.
The bad news: a 12-ounce heart-shaped Whitman's Sampler of chocolates has 1,650 calories. The good news: Burning off those calories by working out together can actually improve your relationship.
The Trust Workout
"Any workout that requires a spotter involves a certain degree of trust, especially when you risk injury if the other person isn't paying attention," Vranich says. "If you know the other person is there for you and trust that he or she is in tune with what you're doing, it can be a huge connector."
Do two sets of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise, with partners alternating spotting and lifting between each set.
Bench press:Lift the maximum weight you're comfortable with, but make sure your partner is ready to grab the bar in case you max out. "If you know the other person is paying close attention and helping you figure out your max, it can bring you closer together," Vranich says.
Chest flies:Move to a bench and choose a medium-heavy weight. Begin with arms straight up over your chest, palms facing each other but not touching. Slowly lower arms to the sides, no lower than shoulder level, keeping elbows slightly bent. Contract the chest to pull arms back to the start position, and repeat for 15 reps, 2 counts down, 2 counts up. "When someone is spotting you, you'll push yourself harder because you trust that they're paying attention and can help lighten your load when necessary," Vranich says.
Squat rack squats:As you do your squats, the other person is pressed up against you and doing them with you. "This almost feels as if you're spooning, except you're back to back," Vranich says. "If you go down and the other person isn't paying attention, you could get pinned on the bottom and get hurt."
Skull crushers:Place the appropriate weight on the bar and lie on a flat bench. Begin with your arms straight overhead, hands in an overhead grip about shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. Bend your elbows and lower your forearms toward the top of your head. One workout tip is to keep elbows and upper arms locked in position, and straighten arms to return to the start position. "Here, the weight comes over your head, so this exercise involves putting a lot of faith in your spotter," Vranich notes.
The Intensity Workout
"Any movement where the other person provides resistance will up the intensity," Vranich says. "You need to have a good understanding of each other's limits when it comes to upping the intensity of a workout."
Do two sets of 12 to 15 reps of each strength exercise, with partners taking turns resisting each other.
Leg resistance raises:Lie on the ground with your head between your partner's feet, shoulder-width apart. Grab her ankles for support. Using your abs, bring your legs straight up into a 90-degree angle with your torso. Your partner pushes your legs back to the ground while you contract your abs to control the movement. The harder she pushes, the more intense the exercise.
Plank and pushup:Get in pushup position. Your partner wraps her arms around your core in a plank position, perpendicular to you. Perform pushup reps.
Hip hold squat:As your partner performs a normal squat, add resistance by holding on to his waist as he pushes up.
Advanced pushup:Get in pushup position but have your partner balance a small dumbbell on your back to increase the intensity.
Cycling class:Try a high-intensity cardio workout class together, like Group Cycling, where an instructor can up the intensity as you spin side by side. "Just don't try to compete with your partner because everyone — especially men and women — performs at a different level," Vranich says. "The only person you should compete with is yourself."
The Intimacy Workout
"Intimacy is all about eye contact, so any workout that involves a movement where you're facing one another ups the intimacy level," Vranich says.
Do two sets of 12 to 15 reps of each exercise, alternating partners between each set.
Reverse row:While working out together, hold a weight bar at knee height with a slight bend in your knees. Have your partner lie on the ground faceup and grab the bar. As she pulls herself up, keep the bar steady.
Lunge/reverse lunge:Hold your arms out straight at shoulder height. Face your partner and lock arms. When you do a forward lunge with your left leg, your partner does a reverse lunge by moving the right leg back. Alternate legs with each rep. "Here, it's almost as if you're dancing with one another, so this workout is especially intimate," Vranich says.
Interlocking crunches:Sit on the ground facing each other and interweave your legs to lock them in place. Place your hands behind your head and perform an abdominal crunch at the same time. Meet each other at the top.
Back extension on ball:Lie belly down on a stability ball and place your hands behind your head. Have your partner hold your feet on the ground as you extend your back and bring your chest up.
The Communication Workout
"Stretching together is a great way to improve communication between two people," Vranich says. "You have to express to each other when you can go a little further with a stretch — and when you can't." Also, Vranich recommends doing yoga together: "When you do yoga poses, you can help each other with those small but essential adjustments. For example, your partner can tell you to pull your right hip back a little more. You appreciate the advice, and your partner will feel proud that he or she helped."
Hamstring stretch:Lie flat on a mat. Your partner sits to one side of you and takes hold of one leg at the back of the ankle (keep a slight bend in the knee). She gently raises the leg toward the core as far as possible, making sure that your hips do not leave the floor. Repeat on opposite side.
Quad stretch:While working out together, lie facedown on a mat with your partner kneeling next to you. Bend your leg as he grabs under the knee and gradually pushes up until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh and hip. Repeat on opposite side.
Chest stretch:Stand your arms in a T, with palms facing forward and shoulders relaxed. Your partner grabs your arms from behind at the elbows and gently pulls back as you exhale and feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest.
Triceps stretch:Bring one arm up toward the ceiling and bend it so your palm is on your back. Your partner will press back at the elbow until you feel a stretch in the back of your arm. Repeat on opposite side.
You know that working out offers endless physical benefits, but did you know it can improve matters of the heart beyond the cardiovascular variety?
"By feeling good together at the same time and same place for the same reason, you reinforce the idea that your relationship brings about good feelings," says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist at the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute. Another advantage: Working out together is an activity you can enjoy in good conscience as often as you want — unlike, say, drinking beer and eating pizza.
Plus, your time at the gym will give you plenty of things to talk about when you're not there. ("Hey, did you see that 90-pound guy try to bench press three times his body weight in front of that pretty trainer this morning?") Click the four unique strength workouts at left to improve specific areas of your relationship, whether you're looking to build trust, improve communication, up the intensity or establish more intimacy.