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The spotter

A few days back I had gone to a commercial gym to train my friend for the national bodybuilding competition. I was horrified with what I saw in the gym, there was this approximately 5 feet 7 inch guy, weighing about 60 kilos lifting a total of 170 kilos on the Smith machine bench press. Now the horror was not because he was lifting so much weight, but because of the way it was being done. Get this there was one guy near his head, one guy standing over of his stomach, two guys at both ends of the bar. All of these guys were supposedly lending a “TOUCH” to this super strong guy. Yeah right! It took 5 guys including the supposed lifter to move that weight. The guy standing over his stomach was practically deadlifting the weight and was actually grunting while doing so. Imagine that, someone supposedly lending a “touch” has to strain so hard!

I call such types of exercise sessions community exercise sessions. After all such types of performances need a group of people to complete. The guy who was benching could not bench more than 70 kilos if he were to do it properly. However the community exercise session enabled him to lift more than twice his capacity. My humble request to you is that please never practice such rubbish ways of exercising. Such ways of exercising are dangerous, futile and give a false sense of strength.

A spotter is a person who hands the weight to you, and is there for your safety in case you fail to lift the weight. Let me tell you that using a spotter could be one of the most sensible things you can ever do. However when that spotter does the lifting for you, it is an abuse to the use of a spotter. Unfortunately in most gyms all over the world this is what is happening. People are attempting to lift weights way beyond their capacity and using the spotter to complete the lift.

As a goal oriented individual you will do well to stay away from such practices. Let’s say you can bench press 80 kilos on your own, with a spotter around you go on to load 100 kilos on the bar. Now if you cannot lift 100 kilos on your own, what makes you think that you can lift 100 kilos when the spotter is there? Obviously it is the fact that he will lift the extra 20 kilos for you, so then what do you gain out of the extra 20 kilos on the bar? An inflated ego maybe! In theory you would have lifted 80 kilos of the weight, while the spotter would have lifted 20 kilos right? Not really, since you have no definite way to find out who actually lifted how much weight during the set. From my experience I can tell you that in most probability you would have lifted even less than 80 kilos of the weight due to your reliance on the spotter. Check it out for your own self next time you use a spotter to help you lift. You will find that even with heavier weights your exertion will be lesser than if you were to lift lighter weights all by yourself. It is only natural, since two people are involved in the lift, when one fails the other compensates for him with his force.

 Let me get back to a statement I had made before, that engaging a spotter might be one of the most sensible things you might do. For one he is there to hand the weights to you. This means that you do not exert any extra effort before the set begins. When engaging heavy weights safety is essential, a spotter is there to protect you in case you fail to lift and the weight gets stuck. This safety gives a strong mental push and helps one to push hard physically. So please do not neglect the use of a spotter, however use it properly.

Another thing which I wanted to discuss is, for which exercises one should use a spotter. I remember once seeing a guy using two spotters while doing deadlifts! I mean what the hell, was he scared that the weight was going to fall on his head and the spotters were there to save him. Of course not! They were just there lifting the weight for him. Get one thing straight, if you do not have any risk of getting stuck with the weight on top of you, then you should not use a spotter for that exercise. For eg. in barbell curls, machine calf raises, etc. you should not engage a spotter. However on heavy squats, bench presses where you have the risk of getting stuck with the weight on top of you, it is best to engage a spotter.

Whenever using a spotter, see that the spotter spots the weight. For eg. spotting your elbows during a bench press is not safe. The spotter’s hands should be near the bar not below your elbows. This will ensure that the bar does not fall on you.

So keep these points in mind and use a spotter to go heavy. Always ensure that you are the one lifting the weight, not the spotter lifting it for you. So go heavy and enjoy the results!

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