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Could a workout buddy who chants “You can do it!” be sapping your motivation? According to new research from Kansas State and Michigan State Universities, the best exercise partners keep cheerleading to a minimum.

Previous studies have shown that people who work out in pairs — especially when their partners are slightly more physically capable — perform better. This new study, led by assistant professor of kinesiology Brandon Irwin, investigated what happens when a fitness buddy offers his or her partner verbal encouragement. Contrary to expectation, they found that cheerleading negatively affected performance. Participants with praise-happy partners held an abdominal plank exercise for a mean of 31 fewer seconds than those with partners who stayed mum.

The takeaway? Exercising with a slightly more capable partner has benefits — but you’ll see the most improvement in your physical performance when that person doesn’t root you on.

But perhaps the most potent motivator of all, says Irwin, is creating a sense of team spirit. “If one has a strong sense of cohesion, whether you’re communicating well may matter less,” he says. To develop a tight-knit feel, do things like setting goals together or planning an active field trip outside the gym.

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