“Hey, can I get a spot?” It’s almost impossible to work out in a gym and not get asked this question. And typically, it’s in regards to the Bench Press.
Having a spotter on the Bench Press is critical. You balance weight over your chest, neck and head. A failed rep with no spot can result in hundreds of pounds crashing down on the most sensitive parts of your body with catastrophic consequences. Luckily, having a spotter allows you to lift heavy weight and push yourself with the assurance that you can so with minimal risk of injury.
There’s a specific technique to spotting for the Bench Press. Often, a spotter might just watch and grab the bar only when needed. Or he might just use his fingertips to offer assistance. Good intentions might be there, but poor spotting form puts the lifter in danger.
Here are the six steps you need to follow to provide a safe spot for the Bench Press.
RELATED: Is the Bench Press Safe for All Athletes?
Step 1: Establish Expectations
Ask the lifter how many reps he or she is planning to perform. This will help you plan ahead, prepare for the last few reps and know when a failed rep is most likely to occur.
Step 2: Set Up
Stand about a foot behind the bench with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp the center of the bar with an alternating grip—never spot the Bench Press with both hands under the bar. Tighten your core. It’s important to be balanced and always ready to catch the bar in the event of a sudden failed rep.
Step 3: Unrack the Bar
The lifter determines when he or she is ready, not you. Have the lifter count down from three. On “Go,” lift the bar off of the pins and help the lifter steady the weight. If the weight is heavy, pay extra close attention because the lifter may not be ready for the load.
Step 4: Monitor Each Rep
Continue to hold the bar, allowing your hands to follow the moving bar. Don’t provide assistance, but always be ready for a failed rep. Closely monitor the condition of the lifter. A good indicator is bar speed—if it’s moving at a steady pace, odds are the lifter is having no trouble. However, you must always remain vigilant.
Step 5: Provide Assistance (If Needed)
If you notice that the reps are starting to slow down, the lifter is nearing failure. At this point, provide only enough assistance to keep the bar moving and prevent the lifter from getting stuck. It may still be possible for the lifter to finish the set with your assistance. If the lifter gets stuck or asks for help, immediately proceed to Step 6.
Step 6: Rack the Weight
Once the lifter is finished—whether it’s a final or failed rep—rack the weight. Using your strength, pull the weight up to the pins. Imagine you have to rack the weight on your own. You don’t know how much energy the lifter has left, so be prepared to lift a heavy weight.
This set-up is for a single person spot. If the weight is really heavy and you don’t feel like you can effectively provide a spot on a failed rep by yourself, ask for a spotter to man each collar, making for a total of three spotters to accommodate the heavy weight.
RELATED: 3 Reasons Your Bench Press Is Weak