The other day, I was cruising around the web and I came across a video of two guys working out on the bench press and thought, man, it's about time I did an article about spotting. The reason? There's just too many accidents that could have been avoided with good spotting.
In this video I saw with these two guys working out. One guy was doing the bench press while another was, well, I really don't know what he was doing. He seemed to be counting out the repetitions on the bench press. Anyways, the spotter in this video does something so stupid that there are no words to explain it. I want you guys to take a look at it:
I can’t express how stupid this is. The poor guy doing the bench press could have seriously injured himself and the dummy who was supposed to be spotting him thought this was funny. All it takes to seriously injure yourself is a brief loss of concentration and bam, you're out. The weight could have come crashing down on his neck or face causing very serious injury.
A spotter’s job is to make sure the lifter is safe at all times - plain and simple. I don’t care if it’s 115 pounds or 550 pounds, a spotter has to make sure the lifter is always safe throughout the entire movement. I look at this video and it just makes me very angry.
I’ve trained at plenty of gyms and I’ve seen some serious accidents occur, all of which could have all been avoided if the spotter knew what he was doing. I remember seeing one guy trying to squat 550 pounds who had no business trying to squat 550 pounds using a spotter who clearly didn’t know what he was doing. The spotter had his hands on the bar! What’s the spotter going to do when the lifter starts to fail?
Anyways, I just walked into the weight room, just in time to see this guys knees buckle and watched him go down as the spotter simply looked on. The guy got flattened and had to be taken out of the weight room on a stretcher with paramedics by his side. Stupidity in the weight room can kill you.
The spotter in this video has no excuse. The lifter put his trust and safety into this dummy hands and this is what he gets. Anyone who thinks this video is funny has no business being in the weight room.
In the previous issue of building muscle 101's newsletter, I had another video of some dummy trying to bench press 315 pounds with a spotter who didn’t know how to spot. Again, serious injury could have occurred because the spotter didn’t know what he was doing.
This all got me thinking about how important it is to know who to spot correctly. The first piece of advice I have to give is to make sure you are in the right frame of mind. There is absolutely no monkey business or joking around when it comes time to spot. Your concentration should be just as strong as your lifter’s is.
As a lifter, my second piece of advice is to make sure you know who’s spotting you. I always get one of the gym staff to help me with my lifts because more times than not, they know how to spot. A good spotter will always make sure the lifter is safe throughout the entire movement. Right from the time the spotter helps the lifter un rack the bar to the time he helps him/her rack the bar, the spotter should always be close by. Different movements require different spotting techniques. I’m going to take you through each of the techniques.
For squats, a spotter must always spot from the back of the lifter with his/her hands around the torso of the lifter, all the while squatting down with the lifter. This is a very important spot because one mistake and your lifter could be down on the ground with 400 pounds rolling of his head. Balance is crucial here as you need to leverage your weight with the weight of the squatter and the bar. You really need to know what you're doing here.
Here’s a quick video about spotting correctly for the squat (Please excuse the bad squatting technique):
For the bench press, incline press, and decline press, you need to be directly over the lifter with your hands near the bar at all times. The reason you need to be directly over the lifter is because you have to leverage the weight with all of you body weight in case the lifter gives out completely. Also, if you can, put one leg over the stabilizer bar. See the video below:
For the seated barbell shoulder press, you can either use the bar or the elbows. I personally prefer spotting with the elbows but you can get away with spotting with the bar. To spot with the elbows you need to be applying gentle inward pressure to the elbows in order to help lift the weight. Again, you need to be balanced in order to generate the necessary leverage.
For all dumbbell press’ such as the seated dumbbell shoulder press, flat dumbbell bench press, flat bench dumbbell fly, decline dumbbell press, and incline dumbbell press you need to spot with the elbows. Just like the seated barbell shoulder press, you hands should be at the elbows applying gentle inward pressure. First I want to show you how not to spot when it comes to the seated dumbbell shoulder press, or any other dumbbell press for that matter:
You can't safely spot in this position and it's of no use to the lifter. The spotters hand should be near the elbows and not on the dumbbells. What happens when the lifter starts to fail? The spotter will try and use the dumbbells for leverage and will throw off the balance of the weight for the lifter.
Here's how you want to perform a spot for dumbbell movements:
Notice how the hands of the spotter are on the elbows applying the necessary pressure to help with the weight.
For chin ups, you need to spot with the feet or torso. I personally prefer the feet because the person uses your hands as a stabilizing platform. This is non intrusive and feels more natural to the lifter. Of course, the lifter will have to bend at the knees in order for you to spot at the feet. Actually, the lifter should be bent at the knees anyways.
Spotting is something we all have to do at one time or another. It’s all a part of learning your way around the weight room. If you aren’t sure how to spot, simply explain to the lifter that you aren’t really sure how to spot and they’ll understand.
Take your spotting seriously and you’ll greatly enhance your lifter’s set.
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All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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