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How To Be The Ultimate Gym Spotter

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You may know how to lift weights. But do you know how to properly help your lifting partner (or anyone else in the gym, for that matter) lift weights?

Because, yes, thats important too. The art of spotting is an underrated one, but its one that can help everyone in the gym. Having a bunch of good spotters in your gym can help you make serious gains, because they allow you to lift heavier weights with confidence, and they allow you to push your body closer to its limits.

And if you expect other people to spot you correctly, you need to know how to spot them, too. You need to understand how and where to grab the weights, and how to keep the fellas in your gym safe. And its not always as easy as just picking up the bar.

Why? Because a spotters job is far more complex. Yes, if your partner loses complete control of the weight, you have to pick it up. But you also have to find a way to spot them, to be ready for that moment, without robbing the weight and taking away all the resistance and keeping your partner from working. Get ahead of all that by learning how to spot key lifts right now.

General Spotting Wisdom

Before we dive into the lifts, lets understand the role of the spotter. When youre spotting somebody, you arent just lifting the weight off of them. And you shouldnt rob them of the chance to complete their reps by themselves.

And if you ask for a spot, you should do so cautiously, too. The spotter shouldnt be tasked with actively aiding you during every single rep. If you simply cant budge the barbell on the way up during a single rep of a set of bench press reps, you just might be going too heavy.

Long story short, if you cant almost nail the lift on your own, you dont need a spotter. You need an ego check. Decrease the weight if you feel like you dont have a chance of budging the weight without a spotter.

How To Be The Ultimate Gym Spotter

How To Spot The Bench Press

Few lifts are more commonly spotted than the bench press. But its very very often spotted poorly. That can not only injure the person benching, but it can injure the spotter if you dont do it right.

Step in

Sorry guys. Its going to get a bit up close and personal, but thats what you signed up for when you asked for pecs and a big bench. A good spotter will make sure he has the proper leverage over the weight by getting his chest right over top. And that means he cant watch from a few feet behind your head. Instead, if youre spotting the bench press, step very close to the person youre spotting, getting your hips close to the bar. That will set you up to deadlift the bar upwards; remember, the deadlift is your most powerful position, and you want your whole body to pull the bar up if a spot is needed.

Use an Uneven Grip

More often than not, spotters will assist the bench press on its path with a double underhand grip, biceps curl style. Thing is, your biceps arent equipped to carry even lighter bench press loads, like 135 pounds. If you want to give yourself and your lifter a fighting chance, its a smart idea to access your larger and stronger back muscles when spotting by assuming a double overhand grip, or at the very least, a mixed grip. Itll give you a lot more strength in case things go terribly wrong. The mixed grip should be your go-to.

Dont touch the bar until you have to

As long as the bar is moving, stay off of it. If youre in the habit of screaming its all you!, let your words be true. You should be shadowing the bar on its way up and down, hands near it, so youre ready to react if it stops moving. But dont actually touch it until your services are needed.

Squat

Trying to do the best squat Trying to do the best squat

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Yes, you can spot the squat. But its a tricky lift to spot just right. Do you spot the bar? Do you spot the lifters body? Its sometimes hard to know, and its tricky to find the right position.

Spot at the waist

No, you dont need to wrap your body around their torso. Instead, just hold your hands close to their waist. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, for a failing lifter, the tactile cue of adding pressure around the waist will unfailingly create instant tension and stability through the trunk thanks to the feedback from that assistance. Regardless of whether or not it gets the lifter out of the hole, itll help the most out of the above spotting options to make the squatter feel stronger and supported.

Second, its just less invasive. Wrapping your arms around a lifters body, like a harness, is destined to break the lifters concentration and focus, and its too easy to instantly offer help. And theres no value to really spotting around the chest anyway.

Dumbbell Bench Press

Personal trainer explaining how to exercise with dumbbells at the gym Personal trainer explaining how to exercise with dumbbells at the gym

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With dumbbell presses increasingly popular, more and more lifters are training the movement heavy. That means you need a spotting technique for dumbbell presses too.

Spot at the wrists

There are generally two trains of thought here. Some people spot the wrists, staying close to the dumbbells. Some people spot the elbows, and when the time comes to spot, they apply upward pressure to the elbows to help drive the weight up.

But if you belong to the spot at the elbows camp, consider this. A lifter whos moving some heavy dumbbells may be able to get a bit more assistance on the way up when being given a spot under the elbows, but that leaves the entire lower arm free of lateral or medial support. If a spotter mistakenly applies pressure or force in an improper angle rather than straight up, chances are the heavy dumbbells will crash right inward and endanger the lifters face.

Thats why you should spot at the wrists. This creates better control over the direction of the help being administered, and can also help stabilize the wrist itself when a strong, firm grip is applied while spotting. Its that simple. It makes it basically impossible for a weight to stray laterally or medially during dumbbell bench or seated presses.

The Deadlift, The Lift You Don’t Spot

Man preparing for a lift Man preparing for a lift

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Simply put, you dont. The deadlift comprises of the shortest list of steps for a successful execution: Pick up the bar to stand tall. Theres no room for help with this one; you can either do it or you cant.

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