Let’s be honest. No one enjoys the role of spotter in the weight room—especially if it interrupts what they’re doing. But out of the kindness of your heart, you reluctantly agree when asked. And this is good, because 1) you don’t want someone to get hurt, and 2) you might need a spot at some point so you need to pay your dues.
But exercise spotting can be tricky. Two sweaty people in close proximity can make for some weird situations—as I’m sure many of you are aware, having experienced it at one point or another. Here are six awkward moments in exercise spotting that you should be aware of, so that you can avoid embarrassing situations in the gym.
1. When your spotter stands a bit too close to your head on the Bench Press
You lie down and get set up for the Bench Press. You have a quick conversation with your spotter about how many reps you plan to do, and you provide brief guidance on how you want him to help. Your spotter gets into position, and that’s where things go awry. He stands too close to your head, practically straddling the bench. His shorts might even touch the top of your head. So rather than focusing on crushing your set, the only thing on your mind is wanting him to back off! Hopefully he’s not going commando.
STACK expert Chris Hitchko once experienced this situation Really, it can happen on any exercise where you’re lying on a bench. So beware of whom you choose to spot you on an exercise like this . . . which leads to our next awkward situation.
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2. When your spotter sweats all over you
For some reason, the only spotter you can find looks like he just came out of an hour-long session in the sauna. He’s absolutely soaked with sweat—and he stinks a little bit, which is a whole different issue.
Sure enough, as you grind through your reps on the Bench Press, you get drenched with his sweat. It’s the weightroom version of Chinese water torture. And this is only your first set! You can’t get a different spotter now, because that would make a bad situation even worse. Guess you better add a snorkeling mask to your gym bag.
3. When you have to provide a spot for the Back Squat
This is inherently awkward. There’s no way around it—even if you do it right. As a matter of fact, doing it the proper way makes it worse.
You basically need to spoon the person who’s squatting, wrap your arms around him and put your hands on his chest. All sorts of weirdness going on here. And it’s even worse if the person is disgustingly sweaty, which is probably the case since he’s doing Squats.
Hopefully, the person squatting knows what he’s doing or you could run into problems—like this situation describe by strength coach Tony Bonvechio:
“After his second rep, he started to struggle, said, ‘Nope,’ and just dropped the bar. I caught it in my hands and was stuck there holding 185 pounds with this kid stuck between me and the bar. I managed to drop the bar forward enough that it didn’t hit anyone, but I carefully explained to this athlete to never, ever drop the bar when someone’s spotting you.”
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4. When you have to provide a spot for Pull-Ups
A few things can make this dicey. First, you have to hold the hips of the person doing the exercise—holding his feet doesn’t count. Second, as he lowers, you have a good chance of getting a face full of butt. Third and most disconcerting, if he kicks his legs for an extra boost to finish his set, there’s a good chance you’ll get kicked right where you don’t want to get kicked.
5. When someone passes gas as you spot Sit-Ups
Spotting Sit-Ups isn’t all that bad. You just have to hold someone’s feet. No big deal.
But Sit-Ups require a lot of flexing and tightening of the trunk. And sometimes, this can cause accidental gas slippage. As the spotter, you are positioned downwind, in a perfect position for a serious crop dusting. Spotter beware!
6. When your spotter completely fails you
Spotting is designed to keep you safe—and of course, to avoid scenes in the weight room. However, it doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, spotters make mistakes, which might cause even more of a commotion.
John Rusin, a strength coach and physical therapist, shares one of his experiences:
“I can remember being an athlete at the University at Buffalo, and at the time I was in off-season training. I was on the Bench Press and was working at sets of 10 reps with 245 on the bar. I grabbed an intern and had her spot me for my final set on the Bench, where I went for a max number of reps. After 12 reps, the bar came down on my chest, and she couldn’t help out enough to get it off me. The bar sat on my chest for a good two minutes as she had to find a basketball player to help rip the bar off my chest in the middle of his speed session.”
Moral of the story: Choose your spotter wisely. Ideally, pick a friend or teammate whom you know and can offer some constructive criticism without causing problems.
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