Spotting is a integral part of a gym community and is what separates a “real” gym from the fake gyms. Good luck finding someone to spot you, or even knows how to spot, at your neighborhood Snap Fitness.
Spotting should always be taught in tandem with an exercise. So for example when someone learns how to properly squat they should also be taught the proper way to spot someone else who is squatting. This goes for bench pressing, dumbbell presses, even pull-ups.
How to Spot Correctly Is IMPORTANT
Knowing the right way to assist someone in achieving their personal goals can make all the different in a workout.
Unfortunately a lot of mainstream gyms that focus more on profits and treadmills fail to touch on spotting and some of the most important benefits of having a well-trained user base.
Safety Isn’t Just Smart, It Makes For Bigger Gains
Safety is the biggest benefit of knowing how to spot. Most gyms only have one owner or a handful of staffers at any given time. To push your limits and grow you’ll have to at one point or another push some heavy ass weight.
If you push big weight without a spotter you risk serious injury, and serious injury means rehab and rehab means lost gains.
Having a gym full of people able to spot helps that gym community as a whole progress better than a gym without trained or willing spotters.
The equation is simple: More weight + moved safely = more gains.
You’ll never get huge if you’re constantly combatting injury after injury. So stay safe when going big and you’ll be able to go big more often.
Wolves Sniff Butts, Monkeys Pick Fleas, Bros Spot
Outside of the first and most obvious benefit of safety, spotting is also a great way to bond with similar like-minded individuals.
A lot of gyms we’ve been to can tend to have stand-offish atmospheres. Dudes in their stringers all ego-lifting trying to look casual while simultaneously comparing themselves to all the other alpha-bros in the gym. This vibe is impossible to eliminate completely, but with a good spotting culture it can be greatly reduced.
You never know, you spot someone, they spot you, a few compliments are shared and before you know it you’re talking football over protein shakes. Congrats, you got a new friend!
So in case you’re new to the gym, or just new to the concept of helping out your fellow lifters, here are the 8 Golden Rules of Spotting. Follow these and you’ll be set for safe and social success in the gym.
The 8 Golden Rules of Spotting
1. Learn The Fundamentals
You’re not help to anyone if you are spotting without ever having learned proper technique. This sounds obvious but just like with actual squatting, deadlifting, benching, the male-ego often prevents him from taking the time to humbling learn from someone else proper form.
A bro walking around offering to spot who doesn’t know how to spot is dangerous as f*ck and should be avoided like the plague. Better go light weight or have a hypertrophy day than go heavy with some over-confident shmuck that could contribute to a serious injury.
Talk with your gym owner. He or she will most likely be more than happy to give you a quick crash course in spotting, or at least introduce you to someone who can.
2. Ask Men & Women Equally
That guy that goes around asking only women if they need a spot is just a creeper plain and simple. Of course, who doesn’t want to spot that hotty with the yoga pants and badonkadonk over at the squat rack, and if she asks, a gentleman must oblige, but don’t discriminate against your own gender!
Spotting isn’t a pick-up technique and shouldn’t be used as one. Help to spot men and women equally. There’s nothing “gay” about spotting a guy trying to squat twice his body weight ass-to-grass. If that’s what you think you’re just an insecure little b*tch and shouldn’t be at the gym anyways.
Always be willing to lend a helping hand, or ask for help from both men and women equally.
3. Ask Only For Appropriate Lifts
She doesn’t need help with those easy-bar curls bro. Cable machines and supplementary hypertrophy focused workouts don’t usually require spotting and doing so makes you come off as a creep, because obviously the intent here is more than spotting.
Likewise, try not to ask a bro to stop what he’s doing to help spot you on your second set at 50% your max. People value their gym time, and while more than happy to help others, also don’t want to waste it. Be selective about interrupting others for a spot.
Squats and bench press are the two major compound movements that often require a spotter. Exercises like leg raises, pull ups/chin ups, cable movements often don’t require a spotter, but if you’re with your friend you can ask them to assist you getting in position or helping with a few reps. Hypertrophy and supplemental work involves more of a “workout partner” relationship than a pure “spotter relationship”.
4. Ask At Appropriate Times Between Sets
Don’t interrupt someone in the middle of a set with anything. While in the middle of a set the last thing anyone wants is to hold a conversation or answer a request for a spot. This is pretty common sense.
Don’t break peoples focus. Wait until weights are racked, and be sure the person isn’t in the middle of a circuit or superset before approaching them for a spot.
5. Ask About the Lifters Preferences Beforehand
This is probably one thing that even the most well-intentioned bros get wrong. They know form, where to stand and how to pull the bar, but they don’t talk with the lifter beforehand to get confirmation on the style they’re looking for.
Everyone has different preferences for the timing, speed and amount of assistance provided on a given lift. The most common error spotters make is applying too much assistance too early on in the rep scheme.
When someone asks for a spot they’re usually looking to be challenged. Before they start their lift ask them how many reps their targeting to get an idea about when to jump in.
When you do jump in, be gradual in the amount of assistance you provide. Don’t just lift the weight for them by yourself, that is defeating the point. Conversely don’t let the bar crush their chest for 5 seconds before jumping in.
Ask about rep range, look for stalling, then slowly come in and apply assistance gradually to help the lifter work through their reps. For squats this usually means a one-time assist. For bench however the lifter may want you to assist an extra 2-3 reps to really tear up their chest.
Communication is key in dialing in and customizing how you spot for each person and can make an entire world of difference. A tuned in spotter is a good spotter.
6. Be Mindful of Personal Space As Best As Possible
Spotting requires getting close, there’s no way around it and that’s just fine. However there are a few things to keep in mind regarding personal space/etiquette when spotting.
It’s not so much a matter of personal space as it is how you act within someone else’s personal space. Spotting by nature requires you to get in a lifters “bubble”. However, once in that bubble, try to be respectful.
Most commonly this means when spotting someone on the bench press, don’t hover your open shorts over their face. Your nasty scrotum will do nothing to aid in that lifters endeavors.
Also be mindful of dripping sweat down onto someones face or spitting as your talking. Getting someone else’s sweat or spit in your eye right before un-racking big weight is the absolute worse.
7. Spotting Isn’t A Pickup Line
As touched upon (no pun intended) in rule #2 about asking both genders equally, don’t use spotting as an excuse to hit on someone, male or female. This type of behavior is completely inappropriate and bound to fail anyways.
This goes for both genders, heterosexual and homosexual. People are in the gym to better themselves and do work. Last thing they need is some creep insisting on spotting them when it’s not required.
This isn’t to say however that if someone you are attracted to comes to you and requests a spot you can’t strike up a conversation, just don’t use spotting as a offensive tool to hit on other people.
8. Compliment the Lifter
This isn’t so much of a solid rule as it is just a common courtesy. When assisting someone on a difficult set it’s always nice to give a bit of encouragement. Psychologically there’s nothing wrong with telling someone they “got it” , or “can do one more”, if you can tell they got enough fuel in the take for one or two more.
After the set is finished throw out a compliment. Being nice to people is a good thing and hey, why not spread some positive karma?
9. Be Humble and Always Offer Assistance
If people follow the above rules then nobody should be asking you for frivolous wasteful spotting or interrupting you to ask for help. If someone takes the time to wait until you have a break and asks for just one or two spots, don’t be a dick and just help them out.
This means helping not just experienced and advanced lifters but helping out the less experienced and beginners as well. Don’t forget that everyone started at the same place. Staying humble and sharing/helping new members at your gym is a great way to indoctrinate new members to what can be a rewarding community to call their own.