When Do You Need a Spotter?

23 Feb

adv_benchpress_03[1]In exercise parlance, a spotter is a person who assists in the execution of an exercise to help protect the athlete from injury.

A spotter can also encourage and motivate the athlete, and assist in the completion of forced repetitions.

Ultimately, though, the primary responsibility of a spotter is to ensure the safety of the athlete being spotted.

Free-weight exercises involving one or more spotters may include:

  • Overhead (shoulder press)
  • Bar on the back (back squat)
  • Anterior “racked” (front shoulders) position — bar on shoulders or collarbones (front squat)
  • Supine, over-the-face (bench press)

These types of exercises, especially when performed with dumbbells, require one or more experienced, knowledgeable spotters.

Power exercises, such as Olympic lifts, should not be spotted.  Instead of spotting these exercises, the strength and conditioning professional must teach athletes how to get away from a bar that becomes unmanageable.

Ideally, overhead, bar on the back, and front shoulders exercises should be performed inside a power rack with the safety bars set at an appropriate height.

When spotting over-the-face barbell exercises, the spotter should hold the bar with an alternated-hand grip, preferably inside the athlete’s grip.  For dumbbell exercises, it is important to spot as close to the dumbbells as possible.

The number of spotters needed is mostly determined by the load being lifted, the experience and ability of the athlete and spotter(s), and the physical strength of the spotter(s).

Appropriate communication, before and during the lift, is the responsibility of both the spotter and the athlete.


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