10 Tips To Be A Good Weight Lifting Spotter

By:    Published: January 20, 2012

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Part of weight lifting and gym culture is spotting the person exercising next to you, whether they are your regular gym buddy, an acquaintance or a complete stranger.  Spotting is very important for a person's safety, and it helps people continually maximize their workout as they progress towards higher goals and heavier weights. Here are some helpful tips to be a good weight lifting spotter, whether you're trying to be a better gym buddy, or just want to help others achieve their fitness goals:

1. Understanding What It Means To "Spot" Someone

Spotting, or providing a spot, is the act of helping a person complete the range of motion with a particular exercise. For example, a spotter would help someone using the bench press bar by lifting the weight bar at the point where the lifter can no longer complete a full press. Gym equipment and free weights aren't the only times when a person could use a spotter. For exercises like chin-ups, spotters can provide a helpful spot by holding their partner by the legs and pushing them upward to complete a full chin-up.

2. Recognize When Someone Needs Help

Working out at the gym can be quite intimidating, especially for the novice weight lifter. There are a myriad of reasons why some people don't ask for a spotter when they should. Maybe it's because they are too shy or embarrassed to ask for help, or they're unsure of their own abilities and misjudge how much weight they can handle on their own. Sometimes, people won't ask for a spotter because they have too much pride. Whatever the case may be, be on the lookout for anyone struggling with weights or a fitness machine. Through constant vigilance, you can help prevent someone from sustaining a serious injury.

3. Ask For Spotting Preferences

Whenever you provide people with a spot at the gym, make sure you ask what their preferences are. For different gym exercises and equipment, there can be multiple ways of spotting a person. For example, you can help someone by either pushing or pulling the actual exercise equipment, or by supporting the person's body. Whenever people ask you for a spot on the bench press while using dumbbells, ask if they prefer to be spotted at their wrists for support, or pushing from under their elbows.

4. Learn When To Say "No"

There are certain times when you should politely decline someone's request for a spotter. If the person who asks you for a spot is using weights that are far too heavy for you to handle, let that person know. You can potentially put people in danger if you agree to be their spotter, but are unable to properly spot them when the time comes.  The same goes for fitness machines or exercises you are unfamiliar with. If you don't feel confident in being that person's safety net when they need help, politely tell them they should find a different spotter. In situations where people are about to injure themselves, call for help if you feel you are unable to help them on your own.

5. Know When To Start Spotting

Always ask how many repetitions the person will be doing per set before you begin spotting. You don't want to start providing a spot too early in a person's set, thereby ruining the exercise. In most cases, you'll be providing a spot towards the end of a person's set. For example, start preparing to spot someone at seven repetitions for a set of 10 repetitions.

6. Don't Provide A Spot When It Isn't Needed

Weight training only works for building muscle if people are constantly pushing themselves to their utmost limits. Whenever you spot people, don't impede their weight training progress by providing a spot when it isn't needed. Sometimes people will ask for a spot, but if you feel they can push or pull just a little bit more, hold off spotting them and encourage them to keep going. Use your best judgment and provide the spot when you feel they've truly reached their limit.

7. Ask if the Person You are Spotting Needs Help Getting Started

Sometimes your job as a spotter can start right from the very beginning of the exercise. When spotting people, you should ask if they need help getting started. Whether it's helping them lift the bench press bar off the rack, or helping them set their dumbbells into the proper starting position, part of your job as a spotter is to make sure they can actually start the exercise.

8. Stay Focused On Your Job As A Spotter

Never take your eyes off the person you are spotting. If a friend passes by, or if someone stops and asks you a question, only respond if you can keep your focus as a spotter. That one second you took to turn your head is all it takes for people to hurt themselves by dropping a free weight on their chest because their spotter wasn't doing his or her job.

9. Don't Scream In People's Faces (Unless They Prefer It)

Part of a spotter's job is to be encouraging, not annoying. Some people might feel motivated to work harder with someone screaming in their face like a drill sergeant, but most people don't.

10. Don't Drip On The Person You Are Spotting

It's natural to be drenched in sweat at the gym, it's why you're there in the first place. However, when spotting others, do them a favor by toweling off that perspiration so you don't drip sweat on them. Sweating on a person you are spotting is disgusting, and can potentially cause that person to lose focus. Always bring a towel with you when you go to the gym and wipe yourself down before you start spotting somebody, especially for exercises where you are standing over the lifter.

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