Can You Spot the Problem?

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Did you ever wonder whether using a spot when lifting would have gotten you more gains in the long run than having not used one? If so, then this video is for you. Here I’m answering a common question of whether or not spotting helps to make gains or hurts muscle and strength gains over time.

To do this, I’m answering one of the viewer’s questions as part of AX Jeff.

Here, Albert Hansen asks:

“Jeff what’s your opinion on spotting? I’m a bit of an old school guy and I tend to never want someone to touch the bar when I’m lifting but am I being too stubborn for my own good?”

There are really three criteria that needs to be addressed when answering this question and those are the load, goal and the experience of the lifter utilizing the spot.

Let’s start with experience.

I’m a firm believer that beginners should never employ the use of a spot for any reason other than ensuring safety on a lift or to assist with perhaps the lift off portion of a bench press (the immaterial part of the exercise). The reason for this is clear. Beginners often times rush to get under a barbell without first having any control at all of even their own body in space. Attempting to control their body holding an implement is simply taking a step out of order.

What makes this really bad however is when this step is made and the person doing the lift isn’t even the lifter themselves – but their spotter. If your spotter is doing more work than you are then you are never going to build the foundational strength needed to make solid gains down the road.

That said, I often times recommend that early beginners spend a short time training with bodyweight and learning how to command their body in space before even moving onto weights. This doesn’t have to take a long time as I said. Sometimes, more athletically gifted trainees can speed through this period if they have great body awareness and natural strength. Too often however, this phase is skipped and the person winds up paying for skipping it in the form of unsafe and unstable lifting technique for the rest of their lifting lives.

What is even worse than having someone that spots too much however is getting bad spots from people. As we have seen many times before, this can actually take a situation that is ineffective and it can quickly make it downright dangerous.

Of course, the load being used is a critical part of whether a spot is necessary, since I believe there are definitely times when one is warranted.

At high loads, not only is it recommended but it is imperative that spotters be present in order to minimize the dangers if something were to inexplicably go wrong. All you have to do is look at the recent Ryan Crowley incident to see how fortunate he was that he had spotters in place to minimize what could have turned disastrous.

On the other end of the spectrum however is the overuse of spots on submaximal loads.

Beginners will often times have their workout partners spot almost every rep of every set. This is often times used as a way for them to feel as if they are lifting heavier and heavier weights. If the spotter is doing all the lifting though, it really isn’t increasing the overall load at all.

Which does bring us to training goal however.

If you are looking to build more muscle and wonder whether getting a spot can be helpful, it absolutely can. Having someone there to help you perform forced reps for example can be a great way to induce more overload and force new size gains.

When training for strength on the other hand the waters become a bit muddier. Some purists will say to never touch the bar other than to help get it back to the rack and prevent a disaster as noted above. Others will say, the slight assistance near the sticking point is a great way to help the lifter grind through this part of the lift and continue to build strength through the rest of the range of motion. This of course, would be used judiciously.

Ultimately, there are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to spotting during a workout. You are going to be the judge when push comes to shove. Be sure to sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts on spotting.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a complete step by step program to build muscle and strength at home (without needing a spotter if you don’t want one), be sure to head to via the link below. Start training like an athlete and build ripped athletic muscle in the next 90 days.

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