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Why and When to get a spot for lifting

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 24, 2015 8:04:00 AM


Why and when to get a spot for lifting

Personally I was too shy and proud to ask for spots when I started lifting. Usually you will be on your own in the gym so here are tips how to ask for a lift, when to ask for a lift and why to ask for a lift.

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Why you get a spot when lifting

If you want to stay injury free and minimize your risk while getting stronger it will be good advise to get a spot when you test your limits. I have dropped a 100kg bar on my head while bench pressing and it was not pleasant. The implications can be severe if you do not have a spotter. Ligaments can be ripped, bones be broken and muscles torn. If you fail a heavy rep on a bench press or squat you will not always know if you can actually control the weight on the way down anymore.

Another point that is being underestimated is failing a rep due to fatigue and fainting for a short period. There you will definetly not have the opportunity to exit the rep in a controlled manner. What I usually see is that the power racks and security measures you can take are either not taken right, or it is not possible, as there are not enough options in the rack itself to adjust to everyone's body measures.

Furthermore a spot can also help to really milk everything out of your last reps without getting anxious to fail. This can be helpful to push through plateaus and build more confidence into your motor patterns under high load. Not convinced ? Watch this:


When you get a spot while lifting

The lifts you will most likely need a spot for are the bench press and the squat. These are the lifts where you can get pinned beneath the bar, severely injure yourself and might not be able to free yourself. This risk is even higher with the squat than with the bench press. 

The reps you will be looking at depending on your program will be in most cases the last two sets under high load you are doing for weight which you have not lifted before. In a 3x3 program, get a spot on the last set or maybe even all of the sets depending on how much you have increased the weight. In a 5x5 program have a look at the last two sets when you are not on a repeat set.

I also found it to be helpful to be alert when you return after sickness or switch programs to get a few more spots in as you usually would. When you get surprised by itches and pains you normally do not have either stop the program altogether or get a spotter to help you.

For High rep templates with 8 reps+ I found that I do not need a spot. The weight is so low, that I am perfectly capable of controlling the weight If I fail and not get pinned beneath it.  

How you get a spot while lifting

For getting a spot find someone who is approachable in your gym. Middle aged men about the same age and size as you are usually willing to help. Also reach out to those who are doing the same excercise as you. This will make it easy for you to return the favor and establish someone reliable in your gym to turn to. Smiles go a long way here. 

Do not ask women for a spot unless you are a woman yourself. Usually it comes across as being creepy and you will get told by staff that this against gym policy. The guys with earplugs in might also not be the best to ask.

Just be friendly and find someone the same size as you who is approachable and ask friendly for a spot. Instruc them how many repetitions you are intending to do. The person does not necessarily need to be super strong as most of the times with a little help you are able to lift the weight yourself. For spots on the squat consider to get a staff member involved as it is not straight forward to spot someone on the squat.

If the person you asked for a squat spot walks to the side of the rack to help you... maybe consider asking someone else.

Good luck finding someone to help a fella!

Further reading

On the deadlift

On the squat

On the bench press