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Winning Ways:
Spotting 101

Tuesday, March 23, 1999

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

When someone asks you to "spot" him or her in the gym, you have been asked to accept a big responsibility. While in the weightroom, there are few jobs more important than that of the spotter.

What is a spotter? Great question! A spotter is a person who stands at the ready to assist you in lifting a weight when the muscles can't do one more rep, or when you are trying a new exercise for the first time. It doesn't have to be a lot of weight, but the spotter will help you if you have trouble keeping the weight balanced. Another time a spotter may be needed is when you are lifting a weight that is heavier than usual.

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One of the more difficult aspects of being a good spotter is knowing when to help. You know it's time to help when the weight stops moving or it begins to go downward. Another clue that your assistance is needed is if the lifter yells "help!" One thing that I preach to my assistants is that because a goal may be 12 reps, that doesn't mean that you can't step in if you see the lifter struggle before they complete the set. I feel that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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Our technique, in this case is to help "guide" the weight while the lifter continues the set. This way the lifter has a sense of accomplishment by finishing the set, without injury. Once you accept the responsibility of being a spotter, the first thing you want to do is get a clue. What I am saying is to find out how many reps the lifter is looking to do. Also find out whether the lifter will need help lifting the bar out of the rack, or getting the dumbbells into position. If you find that the lifter is going to need help, set up a plan so that everyone is on the same page. What we do is have the lifter count to three. The reason that the lifter counts is because they know better than anyone exactly when they are ready. That takes all the guess work out, then both the spotter and lifter lift together.

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Another job of the spotter is to be a cheerleader. People appreciate support, but don't go overboard. Offering encouragement could push lifters to new heights, or at least get them to work harder than they would if they were there by themselves. The last job of the spotter is to make sure that the weights get back into the rack or dumbbells get into a safe position. Our lifters are told never to take their hands off the weight until it is secured. No exceptions! I have been in this business for nine years and have yet to have anyone get injured in any of my weight rooms (knock on wood).

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Spotting is a job not to be taken lightly. I encourage everyone to understand that by asking someone to spot you is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. It takes a strong person to know when to ask for help, and if someone asks "do you need a spot?" don't be offended that person probably has your best interest at heart.

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I'd like to take this time to say thanks to two of my favorite fitness models, Ms. Margarita Santana and Ms. Liliana Hernandez. These ladies are photographed demonstrating techniques that would be used when spotting certain lifts. These ladies take their strength training seriously. I would like to thank them both for taking the time out of their busy schedules to help me.

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Photos by Art Redd

Do you have a fitness or conditioning question for Graig? Send it to If your question is used in an article, you will receive a free Team Conditioning Systems t-shirt.

For previous Winning Ways, visit Graig's Archives

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