Can I grab a spot bro?
I find spotting to be an amusing social norm in the gym. There’s something very masculine about spot requests. For example you will almost never see women doing it. And when you’re asked, you feel obliged to give a spot. In fact it’s kind of a compliment because the spottee sees you as approachable and strong enough to support his lift. Personally I dislike being asked to spot because most people don’t understand the point of a spotter.
What’s the point of a spotter?
A spotter is there for safety. If the lifter fails then the spotter can help lift the bar so the bar doesn’t hurt the lifter. That’s it. Oh and to also chant: “Come on, come on, come on”, “It’s all you”, “You got this” and “Push!” (as if they were otherwise going to pull).
You should only really need a spotter with barbell pressing movements like bench press, seated should press and incline bench press. If you’re using a power-rack with safety guard rails then you don’t really need a spotter at all. That said – a spotter is nice to have around even with guard rails because it’s embarrassing and annoying to have to unload your barbell in order to re-rack it after failing.
Dumbbells do not require a spotter as there is no bar to put the lifter into a compromised position. If failure occurs, you just lower or drop the dumbbells.
A spotter can also be used for squats – but it ain’t pretty. You don’t want to be regularly asking guys to spot you for this. Google image “Squat Spotter” if you don’t know what I mean. Just use a squat rack with safety rails.
What’s not the point of a spotter?
A spotter is not there to help you lift the weight. This means helping to initially get the weight up from the racked position or at any point later in the lift.
If the spotter touches a rep at all – that rep does not count.
The point of weight training is to get stronger. To do this you want to be improving each workout. To measure improvement you need to be tracking weight and reps. If someone is touching the bar then measurement becomes difficult. For example if you’re logging your training (which you should be), then how do you log the assisted reps? Bench press 100kg – 5 repetitions unassisted by a spotter + 3 repetitions assisted by spotter with what he said was a light to medium touch? – Ridiculous.
How to be a spotter
So a spotter is there as a bit of a luxury. Having someone there can act as motivation to perform a little better than if you were on your own. Further they are handy for bar retrieval on failure. Normally you might stop short because you aren’t sure if you can make another rep. Having a spotter there allows you to try but catch you if you fail. The bar can then be re-racked instead of down on the safety rails.
The spotter should know how many repetitions the lifter is aiming to achieve. That way they can be extra vigilant close to that count. When the lifter signals, usually with a grunt of, “alright”, the spotter should at first only lightly touch the bar in order to aid the spotter in re-racking the bar. Obviously discretion should be applied as to how much the spotter aids the lifter. If the lifter is failing so much that the spotter has to really struggle to also lift up the weight, then the lifter is probably lifting way too much weight or shouldn’t have attempted that rep.
Unless you’re competing in a powerlifting meet. A spotter is never really a necessity when training. Remember – touched reps don’t count. Most guys who think they need a spot actually just need to lift less weight with better form.