Perfect Spotting Technique for Weight Room Safety, Part I | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Perfect Spotting Technique for Weight Room Safety, Part I

August 12, 2011

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

The goal of training is to get bigger, stronger and faster for improved athletic performance. It is completely counterproductive if you sustain an injury due to negligence in the weight room, which is why every athlete must understand the fundamentals of spotting technique. The example of Stafon Johnson, a former USC running back whose life was threatened when he accidentally dropped a 275-pound bar on his neck, should remind us that there’s no excuse for not helping a friend or a teammate with a timely spot.

Exercises That Require Spotting
If you wonder what exercises require a spot, the answer is simple:  any exercise in which weight is supported by the trunk or placed over the head or face. This includes upper body exercises such as the Bench Press, Overhead Press and Skullcrushers—and lower body exercises such as Squats and Lunges.

Although explosive or power exercises like Olympic lifts fit the criteria, the fast movement of these exercises cannot be properly spotted without risking injury to both the weightlifter and spotter. Instead, create sufficient space around your workout area, and be prepared to drop the bar in the event of a failed rep. The bar might make a loud crashing noise (unless it has bumper plates), but that's better than injuring yourself by trying to prevent it from falling.

To avoid accidents, the spotter and weightlifter must establish an understanding of how they will communicate during lifts. Take a lesson from Muskego (Wis.) High School head strength coach Mike Nitka, winner of  the NSCA's 2010 Strength for America award. Nitka developed a set of verbal cues that work well with his young athletes. Using the Bench Press as his example, he says, “Our spotter says ‘spotter ready’ when he has his hands on the bar; ‘spotter lift off on three’ before he counts down and fully releases the bar into the lifter’s hands; ‘lifter begin’ when his hands are out of the way; and ‘finished' when he re-racks the bar.”

The spotter must be able to handle the weight with no help. If it's too heavy for him, a second and third spotter should be used, each holding an end of the bar and following it through the lifter's full motion.

A spotter must remain totally focused during the exercise. He can provide a rep count and offer words of encouragement to the lifter, but he must never get distracted or lose sight of the bar. If a lifter has difficulty completing a movement, the spotter should instantly provide enough help to allow completion. When a lifter signals that he is finished, the spotter should immediately remove and rack the bar.

For lower body exercises, the spotter should always help unrack and rack the weight, because those transitions are the most dangerous moments of an exercise. He should position himself behind the lifter with his arms in a ready position under the lifter's armpits. Whether it’s a Squat or a Lunge, the spotter should follow the lifter through the full range of motion and always be ready to assist.

As a precautionary measure, perform lower body exercises in a squat rack, and set the safety bars at a height near the bottom of the movement.

Check back soon for Part II of this series, which will cover spotting technique for specific exercises.

Source:  Training & Conditioning
Photos:  Danny Vega

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Must See
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,727,808
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 33,909,668
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 82,927

Featured Videos

James Harden on Becoming a Franchise Player Views: 72,546
Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 29,436
Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 574,276
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,902,816
Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,359,811
Colby Lewis's Four-Seam Fastball Technique
Views: 5,011,582
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,872,125
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,902,816

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

Tiger Woods back injury has proven he is no longer himself. From withdrawing from the Bridgestone Invitational to missing the cut at the PGA...

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

How to Train With Running Blisters

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

How to Bench Press With a Shoulder Injury