Spotting is a crucial component of resistance training participation. Proper spotting for appropriate resistance training exercises enhances a lifter's mental and physical performance during resistance training. Without the use of spotting and subsequently proper spotting technique, weight-lifting participants put themselves at a higher risk for lifting-related injuries.
A primary goal of lifting weights is safety of movements. When working with heavy weights, using a spotter helps to decrease the risks of serious injury. In the May 2003 Issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers indicated that a decrease of injuries when lifting weights could be accomplished through more education, equipment warnings and proper spotting technique.
Psychological Benefits of Spotting
While the physical benefits of spotting are usually easy to see, the psychological benefits are more subtle. However, these subtle differences can have a huge affect on resistance training performance. The assistance of a spotter creates encouragement and a sense of confidence and enables the lifter to complete the exercise safely and effectively
Physical Benefits of Spotting
Spotting while lifting weights not only provides a mental advantage for the lifter, but a physical one as well. In the June 2000 Issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers compared unsupervised and directly supervised participation during weight lifting. The researchers concluded that direct supervision and monitoring during weight lifting was more effective in terms of increased training load and strength gains.
When spotting most exercises, it is important to first have a solid base underneath you. The spotter should use a widened split stance to create a larger base of stability. In this stance, the spotter puts one foot in front of him and the other one behind him and then widens them out. The torso should be upright and the hands should be in a position that most effectively spots a specific exercise. If it is an exercise such as the bench press, the spotter would have an alternating grip, with one underhand grip and one overhand grip on the bar for support. If it is an exercise such as a dumbbell shoulder press, then the spotter would place both hands on the lifter's wrists to provide support. Overall though, body balance and stability are the keys to effective spotting, along with adjusting to specific exercises being performed.
When and What to Spot
Effective spotting happens even before a weight lifter begins a lift. Communication between the lifter and the spotter is important so that each knows the protocol for executing the lift properly. A spotter can begin spotting actively if a lifter needs a lift off of a weight. This initial assist can help the lifter feel confident both physically and mentally before performing the movement. During actual lifting performance, the spotter should be involved in both the lengthening and shortening phase of the lift. Additionally, spotters especially come in to play when the lifter is trying to work through the sticking point of the lift, which occurs about halfway through the forceful exertion of lifting a weight. In terms of what exercises to spot, almost any exercise can be spotted except for power exercises. In the textbook "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning," authors Earle and Baechle explain that power exercises should not be spotted due to the considerable safety issues for the spotter.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "U.S. Injuries and Deaths Associated with Weight Training"; V. Lombardi and R. Troxel; 2003
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: T'he Influence of Direct Supervision of Resistance Training on Strength Performance"; S. Mazzetti et. al.; 2000
- "The NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Human Kinetics."; R. Earle and T. Baechle; 2003