Being an effective spotter is a crucial part of weight lifting. At some point in anyone’s lifting career, they will likely be asked to give a spot. Knowing how to position yourself, how to hold the weight (if necessary), and how to keep the lifter safe in the event that they fail are all important factors in spotting. An improper spot could result in serious injury to the lifter. While every exercise doesn’t need a spot, there are a few compound lifts and some large dumbbell lifts that could require spotting. Barbell and Dumbbell Presses, Back Squats, Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press, and even some Olympic Lifts. A good spotter can make all the difference.
Bench Press Spotting
Giving a good spot means more than saving a lifter should they fail, it is also about judging wether or not they can push through the repetition or if they’re in visual pain and cannot continue. When spotting a lifter performing a Barbell Bench Press, one must stand behind the bench with hands below the bar, but not touching it. Keep knees slightly bent, with a straight back and always ready to help should the lifter need it. Typically, a spotter uses the alternating grip. If the lifter needs a liftoff, always provide help.
It is also important to know how many reps they’re doing and wether or not they want minimal, simple, slow aid or for you to pick up the bar should they fail. If they begin to fail and look as though they are in physical pain, then lift the bar and re-rack it quickly. A Dumbbell Bench Press spot, is very similar to a Barbell Bench spot in terms of body positioning. The difference is where you’re hands are. There are two different positions, either gripping the wrists and helping the lifter through the rep, or below the elbow. Ask the lifter their preference, a good spot is about visual estimation, and being there if you are needed.
Back Squat Spotting
Back Squat spotting is incredibly important for lifter safety, but can also provide a psychological boost. Stand directly behind the squatter, with arms outstretched close to the sides of their body, as if you were going to give them a hug from behind. As they begin the squatting motion, you should as well. Mimic the motion that the squatter does, descend at the same speed as them. Should a male require help put your arms into their armpits and if needed, hug around the chest to them up. If spotting for a woman, you can should keep similar position but hug around the waist or keep your hands on the outside of hers and lift the bar. Ask the squatter what they would prefer in order to best keep them safe and avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Spotting someone performing a Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press or Arnold Press requires similar form to the Dumbbell Bench Press. You can either grip the wrist or place your palms below the elbow. As they perform the negative portion of the rep, keep your hands hovering outside the wrist or below the elbow and only give them aid if they require it.
While you should never stand directly behind someone performing a jerk, ballistic press, or clean, it is the spotters job to keep others away from the lifter. Do not allow anyone to walk directly behind or close to the lifter. Olympic lifts should also always be performed in a controlled motion utilizing proper form and appropriate weight.
It is incredibly important to be knowledgeable both when lifting and providing a spot. If you don’t believe you can be a competent spotter it is better to tell the lifter so rather then put both you, and them in danger. There are a plethora of exercises in which you could spot someone, but spotting is most important on compound lifts that have the highest chance of injury.
Always discuss weight, rep ranges, and whether or not the lifter would like some help so they can work through a repetition, or if they need a lot of help. Regardless of what they say, if the lifter looks to be in serious pain it is better to play on the safe side and remove the weight as safely and quickly as possible. You may not always be needed but spotting is an incredibly important job and should not be taken lightly.