We’ve all been there and it is super awkward… asking for help, in this case asking for a spot! I will acknowledge that there may be a certain level of anxiety in this situation. In this blog I will provide some etiquette and considerations on what to look for in a spotter and how to go about actually asking for help. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this you will feel more comfortable asking someone to spot you when you need it.
Let’s briefly go over when you will need a spot. You will need a spotter if you are going to push yourself close to or even beyond failure by doing a lot of repetitions or a heavy weight. Also you may want a spotter if you are doing an exercise for the very first time and you are unsure of your capabilities. Some lifts do not require a spotter such as deadlifts, standing barbell overhead presses, glute bridges, or many machine variations of many different exercises. So now we have briefly covered that, let's move on to the difficult part: selecting a spotter.
It is important to choose the right person for a spot. For example, let’s say you are an animal and can bench press 300 lbs. You probably do not want to select the 120 lb person that has just started lifting last week to spot you. A situation like that would just be unsafe for both the lifter and the spotter. Let’s be real, the aforementioned person would most likely feel uncomfortable in that situation anyway. Instead, you would want to select the 185 lb person on the other side of the weightroom who can probably deadlift 250 lbs for reps to spot you on a 300 lb bench press. So best case scenario, your spotter should be someone who is relatively close to your strength level if not higher.
Now that you have selected who you want to spot you, you have to actually ask that person to spot you but they are in the middle of their own workout. What do you do?
If the person you selected to spot you is in the middle of their workout it is best to patiently wait for an appropriate opening to ask. Do not ask people who are doing cardio because theoretically they cannot just stop running or biking or swimming or whatever they’re doing to go and spot you (why you would go to the pool to ask for a spot? I don’t know just covering all the bases here!). You should wait until the person you selected enters a period of rest in between their sets to approach them.
So now that you have mustered up the courage to approach someone at an appropriate time and they seem to be strong enough to properly spot you, you now have to actually ask them!
At this point all you have to do is practice good manners and ask them “Can you please spot me?”. Most of the time they will say “Sure!” But there are other ways of asking. One of my favorites is “Excuse me, when you are done with your next set could you please spot me?”. Formulating your request similar to this will show the other person that you are mindful of their workout and there is no major pressure. If someone agrees to spot me I always ask for their name and introduce myself. If you get to know this person (even just a little bit) it will be easier to ask them for another spot in the future instead of asking another person. An additional benefit of getting to know someone a little is that they may remember the way you like to be spotted and they may even memorize your workout to a certain degree.
And if you are ever in the position where the tables have turned and someone asks YOU for a spot then all you have to do is take a minute or two to help someone out. You know what it’s like to be in their position so show the same kindness to them that someone has shown you. So in the end of this whole process you have taken the appropriate steps to include a huge element of safety in your lifting and that is in fact using the assistance of a spotter. You have even gone as far as making a new buddy in the gym without being too awkward! So be safe and ask for a spot!
If you would like to have a consistent spotter at hand while being someone else’s consistent spotter then you can sign up for Merritt Powerbuilding. Limited space available!
Keith Oelschlaeger, CSCS, MS is a personal trainer at Merritt Clubs Canton.