Spotting – Bench Press

Specialist (SPC) Brian Buss. 

“It was all you bro!”

— Your spotter that decided to row the barbell off your chest for no apparent reason. One thing is for sure: you can never be sure if your spotter is “that” type of person or not, and checking before it is too late is crucial to both keeping your sanity and crushing that PR at the same time. Why do some people do this? It is hard to say. Some do it out of fear; they do not want you to get hurt. Others do not know any better and sincerely believe that that is how bench-press spotting should look like. How are you supposed to spot someone, anyways?

As with many things, it depends. First and foremost, ask them. How do they want you to spot them? Do they only need help with the lift-off, or do should you follow the bar with your hands the whole time? How many repetitions do they plan to do? You need to have access to at least some of that information to know how to spot. Otherwise, it may be more dangerous than is needed. If the case is that you can row the weight used during the bench-press, it is okay to spot by yourself. If not, you may require one more individual to help you. How do you spot properly alone vs. with someone?

Alone

  1. Stand behind the bench and the individual you are spotting.
  2. If they want you to, help them lift the bar off the rack using a mixed grip with hands as far away as theirs.
  3. After you have helped them lift off,do not drop the bar before they let you know that they are ready, most often by starting a repetition.
  4. Do not take your eyes off the barbell and the individual that you are spotting.
  5. If they are struggling, let them, but only until the bar starts moving down when it should move up.
  6. By using the same mixed grip as before, pull the bar upward by using the lowest possible force, barely enabling them to complete the repetition.
  7. Before letting go of the bar, make sure that it landed onto the rack properly.

With Someone

  1. If the individual wants help with the lift-off, there are two ways to perform it: from behind (a) or from the side (b).
    1. While one spotter stands to the side, the other helps with the lift-off and then immediately moves back to the side. It is obvious why three spotters would be optimal for this situation.
    1. Both spotters stand on the sides of the bar and row the bar upwards at the same time, using light force. There are two reasons to use light force. Firstly, because of the fact that the spotters are lifting from the sides and not from the middle, the bar will not be completely horizontal. The low force allows for corrections. Secondly, the weight will be twice as easy to lift due to there being two spotters.
  2. After the individual has started their repetition, follow the bar with your hands underneath it, with a space of at least 10 cm, so as to prevent sabotaging the individual in case a sudden movement would occur for some reason.
  3. Do not take your eyes off the barbell and the individual that you are spotting.
  4. If they are struggling, let them,but only until the bar starts moving down when it should move up.
  5. By using both hands, pull the bar upward using the lowest possible force, barely enabling them to complete the repetition.
  6. Before letting go of the bar, make sure that it landed onto the rack properly.

If you are unsure about spotting and how your spotter wants you to do it, use this guide as a manual. Otherwise, you may find some of the safety tips useful anyways. Using two or more spotters will almost never be required as very few individuals can use more than 150 kg on the bench press. However, if you are unsure of your capabilities of pulling the bar up when needed, ask someone to help you spot. It’s always better to be safe,rather than sorry.

/Milos Askovic

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