We’ve all done it. We’ve all been on our last set, needed just to push out a few more reps, but want to make sure we don’t kill ourselves with a bar to the throat. We scan the gym for a spotter or sometimes just ask the closest person to the bench.
Every day, bench-press users ask total strangers for a spot, and the request is often regarded as flattering, signaling that the weightlifter regards the potential spotter as an insider, knowledgeable and strong.
But now, fitness experts are calling that tradition dangerous. As weight rooms, once the province of muscle heads, have grown populated with aging people seeking to strengthen their bones, marathoners seeking to bolster their quads and athletes of every kind wanting more powerful cores, the practice of asking just anyone for a spot makes no sense—if it ever did, fitness experts say.
Newcomers to the weight room may be especially insecure about saying no, prompting fitness experts to put out the word that declining to spot is OK. “It’s not talked about. Many people, especially newbies, wonder, ‘Should I be spotting this?’ But everyone just does it without any talk about it,” says Tom Manella, vice president of training at Life Time Fitness, the Chanhassen, Minn.-based chain of fitness centers. “If someone asks you to give him/her a spot, don’t feel obligated,” he says, suggesting that the spot seeker be referred to a personal trainer.
If you’re going to agree to be a spotter, here’s some things to keep in mind, according to LifeHacker.
- You’re not there to lift the weight for the lifter; you’re there as a safety net in case something goes wrong.
- To the above point, you need to be prepared and alert the entire time. Things can go wrong at any time.
- There are stances and grips that can make spotting more safe for you as well. The WSJ article notes that “an alternating grip (one overhand and one underhand) with a narrower grip than the lifter” makes for a more secure way to grasp the bar in a bench press.
My suggestion — leave on your headphones at all times and keep your head down. Pretend you didn’t hear the request for a spot. Option B is super big shorts and no underwear.