Would you give me some tips on spotting?
Spotting is something that is commonly overlooked, yet it is an integral part of personal training. Many would concede the fact that this is how personal training actually got started. Two people were working out, and one needed help lifting the weight. Before long, each person took turns as the other watched and spotted.
With that said, what is the best way to spot? There are a few rules to always keep in mind. The spotter must always keep his/her eye on the exerciser and the load they are using. A spotter that is not paying attention is worse than not having a spotter at all because this will give the client a false sense of security. Take your job as a spotter seriously. Many bad injuries could have been prevented if the spotter was better at their job. Another rule to spotting is the movement should never stop, unless this was the intention. What I mean is that the load should be in constant motion. You do not want the load to be at a stand still and make the client have to adjust themselves before trying to push the rest of the way. A good spotter knows just how much to help keep the load moving without giving too much assistance to take away the benefit of the movement. This is an art and can only be improved upon with practice. The next rule you must remember is where to stand. You should always be close enough to the load to have a good line of pull, yet not too close to annoy the client you are spotting. You should work out the particulars of each exercise with each client before a heavy load is attempted. Another thought that should be considered is where you put your body in terms of their body. What I am referring to is something like the bench press. The last thing you want as a spotter is to straddle over the end of the bench right over the client’s face. Can you get a visual? It is not a pretty sight to have another person’s private parts on your head while you are trying to push the weight up! A way to help this is to have a bench that has a step on the back. This will allow the spotter to be elevated enough above the client to avoid most awkward placements. The other way is to place a heavy-duty step behind the bench for the same purpose. It still would not be suggested to wear any loose fitting shorts. This would compromise the professional endeavor.
Probably the most important spot would be during the squat. First, have your client stand inside of a squat cage or squat rack with safety bars to catch the weight in case of an accident. This is very important. I have seen what can happen if you are not inside one of these places. It is also very important once again to keep the load moving. Many people will load this exercise quite extremely. The squat has a sticking point at the bottom of the motion. Most clients who are using an appropriate load will only need a little help through the sticking point before they will be able to move the load on their own. When spotting, you will be doing as many repetitions as your client. You should be directly behind them and should be doing the squat with them, so to speak. Your arms should be out and under the lifter’s armpits. Try not to touch the client as they go up and down. When the client starts to slow down or is hitting a sticking point, this is the time to lock under their arms with your arms and squat with them. If this is not enough to keep them moving, you must then try to "hug" them towards you and continue with the squat. By having the squatter or in this case the load next to you, it brings the center of mass closer to you so your help is generating more force. If you have done all you can and both of you cannot move the load, it is time to dump. Dumping means the squatter lets the bar go behind them, and the load crashes down onto the safety bars or squat rack. This is not something you want to happen often, but it is far better than the alternative. Never let the weight go forward and over a person’s head. With that kind of force going downward, it often will propel the client face first into the ground. When I was a collegiate strength coach, I spotted athletes with over 700 pounds on their backs. This way of spotting is the only way to ensure a safe environment for the athlete. Of course, if you get the opportunity to also have one person on each end of the bar, it can only help. It just isn’t always feasible in a gym setting.
To recap, here are some of the things a spotter should always remember. You must concentrate on your client at all times. If you look away even for a brief instant, you can cause irreparable damage to your client and your career in that gym. One of the most important reasons people hire a personal trainer is to spot them and avoid injury. Next, do not let the weight stop. Try to keep the load moving, even if it is barely moving. Also, remember physics. The shorter the distance between the load and the fulcrum, the more force will be exerted to the object trying to be moved. In other words, the closer the load you are trying to help move is to your body, the more you can help move it. It is also important to keep your inner unit or core tight when you are spotting. Please review Paul Chek’s article on The Inner Unit and follow his advice as a trainer and a client. Remember you may need to help at any time. Too many trainers have injured themselves when they were trying to help avoid injury to their clients. Always bring your belly-button in toward your spine to protect your lower back. Last, always wear appropriate clothing and put yourself in appropriate positions so you don’t compromise your integrity and professionalism. Each exercise will be different, just as each client will be slightly different. You should discuss appropriate spotting strategies with your clients before each exercise. Your client should always have an open line of communication to let you know when it is close to the time they are going to need that spot.