Personally, I find it's far easier and more efficacious to train by myself. Though I'm certain half of you think it's because I think I'm the shit and no one can hang with me, that's not entirely true. I've found that I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting on training partners, by and large, and if I'm not waiting on them I'm dragging my ass to the gym before I'm ready to train, or on a day I'm disinterested in training at all. This is due in large part to the fact that I lack even the barest semblance of a schedule or program at this point, and will range from training heavy 8 days in a row followed by 3 lighter days and a day off to a mixed bag of training 5 days a week, all depending on my schedule and how I feel. Throw on top of that the fact that I refuse to follow any kind of daily schedule in terms of training times and I'm really unsuited to being anyone's training partner. Finally, I've no real use for training partners- I rarely lack motivation to train, do no exercises that require a spot, and never train to failure. As such, a training partner would simply slow me down, as I'd have to wait for them to psyche up, do their set, change weights, etc. etc., rather than simply running to the water fountain and back in between innumerable singles.
In spite of his terrible choice in white trash facial hair, Doug Furnas approached powerlifting like a fucking accountant, planning all of his workouts months in advance and allegedly never missing a scheduled lift... or rep. (Gallagher)
The obverse side of the training coin is people who can follow a more regimented routine, or those who train in such a way as to require a partner. Before those of you who require or desire a partner get all bent out of fucking shape, I'm not saying you're too weak to train alone. Instead, there are people who truly benefit from training with a partner or partners, usually do to the sport in which they're participating. This goes for powerlifters in particular, as they often train using implements that require a second party, like Monolifts, bands, chains, and suits/bench shirts. It's neither advisable nor in many cases possible to train with a lot of the gear powerlifters use for training without a partner, so having a partner or partners is a necessity. Additionally, they get constant feedback on their form, which is critical in order to ensure that you're biomechanically efficient, and getting tweaks that might help you move extra poundage.
It's pretty tough to do board presses without at least one training partner and not die.
In my mind, the greatest examples of each paradigm come from one of the greatest motherfucking man movies of all time- Rocky III. Not only did Rocky III serve as the movie debut for Hulk Hogan, but it introduced the world to a living legend- Mr. T. In the film, Mr. T played Clubber Lang, a character who was mean as shit and pretty much acted like Ray Lewis, if Lewis developed a penchant for rape and contracted a serious case of rabies. Also like Ray Lewis, T was a complete loner, living and training in what appeared to be a combination of basement gym/rape room in total isolation. By the time he got into the ring, he was jacked and completely fucking insane, the latter of which is a common side effect of complete isolation from human contact.
I live alone. I train alone. I'll win the title alone.
This is definitely how I like to train. Once I settle into a place I don't plan on leaving nearly immediately, I intend to rent out a space and build my own gym where I can train without distraction. Though it's cool to be able to bullshit with people in the gym on days when I don't really feel like doing serious training, having other people around usually only serves as a general time waster and aid to procrastination. Thus, if I were to train in total isolation, I could avoid those distractions. The likelihood when training with large poundages is admittedly high, but I can get away with this because I do almost all of my training in a rack, making death by barbell fairly unlikely, and when I'm not in the rack I'm usually on the platform, where I can ditch the weight if I get into any shitty situations.
I am, apparently, not alone in my desire to train by myself. Other Clubber Lang-esque trainers include guys like:
Bob Peoples- The grand world champion of making the deadlift his punk bitch and defying conventional form and training styles trained in the middle of nowhere on a farm in TN on homemade equipment. (Hise) Nor was he the only champion powerlifter to train like this, as Pat Casey and Chuck Sipes both did the same, as did Olympic lifters and overall bad motherfuckers Vasily Alexeev and Marvin Eder.
Ed Zercher- The Nikola Tesla of lifting, Zercher usually trained by himself, probably because he was tired of explaining why he was doing unsupported free-bar leg presses when he could doing virtually anything else for legs and avoid the near-probability of dying while doing dumb shit in the gym. "Training with him was like training in a time warp. We would descend into his basement gym, which was the closest thing to a medieval dungeon I would ever encounter. His weights were odd shaped pieces of iron, old fly wheels, anvils, wrecking balls, discarded pieces of machinery and chunks of things that I never could identify. But it was all heavy.
Ed trained a lot of different lifts. He did Hip Lifts, Harness Lifts, One Hand Deadlifts, One Finger Deadlifts, Bent Presses, Side Presses, Crucifixes, Two Hands Any How (actually the name of a lift), and more." (Strosnider)
Jeff King- Jeff King is a bodybuilder about whom everyone should know, yet virtually no one does. The only bodybuilder to ever sport legs better than Platz's and a neck even bigger than his legs generally trained by himself, probably because no one else could handle his workout volume.
Benny Podda- The man is a fucking legend for all of his nonsense. Lives in a cave, destroys gyms, and is probably the only living embodiment of Godzilla. Read more about him here.
Battling the immutable force that was Clubber Lang in Rocky III was the speech-impaired yet impressively ripped Rocky, who after getting his ass kicked inside out by Lang at the outset of the film took on a team of trainers and went on to eventually beat Clubber Lang in the second most improbable victory in the Rocky series (the first being, of course, his victory over Ivan Drago). Every Rocky film is replete with training montages, which is of course the reason why we all love the everloving shit out of them. The training montages in the Rocky films are so fucking good that babies have been made to them, and I'm fairly certain half of the people in the developed world have used them as an inspiration for anything ranging from capital murder to weightlifting PRs to one or more dark masturbatory fantasy (per viewer). As such, they fucking rule, and the overriding theme of the training montage in Rocky III is that there's no fucking way Rocky'd have beaten Clubber if he didn't utilize the advice and motivation of a training partner.
Frankly, I think all of us would benefit from being friends with Carl Weathers, as he's without question one of the coolest motherfuckers on Earth- he's been a pro football player, Predator cast member, cast member in four Rocky movies, Action Motherfucking Jackson, and star of the hilariously bad yet awesome tv show Street Justice. He's jacked, reminds me of Billy Dee Williams, and reminds us all in Rock III that "there IS no tomorrow!" enjoining us all to break our asses in the gym and live for today. Training partners in real live are rarely as awesome as Carl Weathers, but can serve a purpose nonetheless. I mentioned their myriad uses above, but I think it stands to mention some of the Rocky-esque guys out there and the manner in which they use training partners.
Chuck Vogelphol- If you don't know who Chuck is, you're fucking up. Chuck invented what is now the clicheed powerlifter look, and did so by rocking it while he was shattering records and deflowering virgins. He trains wearing a shitload of gear, though, which means training partners are a necessity... this is hilarious because he seems about as even tempered as Malcolm McDonald's character in A Clockwork Orange.
Dave Tate- Tate, like Vogelpohl, is a legendary powerlifter, and like Vogelphol trained wearing gear and as part of a team. From my understanding, his newfound bodybuilding-style workouts are done solo, which points to picking a style that suits you at a given time.
Ed Coan- Perhaps the single greatest powerlifter of all time. Coan trained with a variety of people, but apparently did most of his training with Doug Furnas, another powerlifting badass who had a short but impressive career in the sport.(Gallagher 51-63)
The Barbarian Brothers- Though neither of them ever did much competing, these two lunatics were legendary for their antics in the gym. They were never seen apart when they were Gold's legends, and did apparently insane shit to get psyched enough to outlift everyone of whom they'd ever heard. They (allegedly) were famous for doing shit like "throwing Olympic plates like Frisbees, [and] kicking each other in the face for last rep motivation."
In short, as with everything, it's all subjective. It's possible to be successful with or without partners, provided you adjust your training to suit your environment. The endless discussions about whether or not one needs to train with partners online is little more than the poorly framed thoughts of weak minds- if you need to ask someone what you should do, you likely shouldn't be lifting in the first place. Train the way that suits you best, and then succeed by wanting it more than the next guy.
Pick your poison and go slaughter motherfuckers on the platform.
I can't be beat and I won't be beat.
This time I'll train harder. There won't be no quick knockdowns.
I'm gonna torture him. I'm gonna crucify him - real bad.
Colescott , Steve. Unrealized Potential: Before Quadzilla, There was Jeff King! http://www.ironmagazineforums.com/bodybuilding-gossip/104518-retrospective-interview-original-freak-jeff-king.html
Gallagher, Marty. Purposeful Primitive.
Hise, Bob. Bob Peoples- Deadlifter. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2008/02/bob-peoples-deadlifter.html
Strosnider, Wally. The Man Behind the Zercher Lift. http://www.usaplnationals.com/wally/wallyA.html