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Never Underestimate the Importance of Having a Good Spotter in the Gym

Sadly it took a preventable tragedy for the general weight-training world to stress the necessity of having a proper spot, and spotters ready for any mishap. At places like Kabuki Strength, safety always comes before one-rep maxes, as it should in every gym.

“We have a rule in our facility that if someone is getting to 85 to 90 percent of their one rep max, they need to have a spotter,” said Kadlub. He also advised that the spotter needs to be someone strong enough to provide that spot if needed. Asking a random person in the gym may not be the best idea. You also could benefit from having more than one person around.

“If they’re getting to 95 percent and up, we have three spotters – two side spotters and a back spotter.”

It isn’t only about being there, however. Spotting for the squat requires technique and effort as the movement itself does. The side spotters should be ready to use their entire arm and shoulder to assist instead of simply cupping their hands around the sleeve of the bar. Kadlub explained how he assists when he is the back spotter. The idea shouldn’t be to simply be ready to take the barbell. The approach should be to spot the lifter, not the weight.

“We’re hovering at the squatter’s chest. You need to be able to squat down with the squatter, close to the back without bumping into them, and your hip hinge needs to be the same as the lifter’s,” said Kadlub. He also suggests putting in reps on spotting would be a good idea.

“It’s definitely something that takes practice so you’re not interfering with the squatter, but you need to be able to hug the squatter to your chest and assist so two people are lifting the weight instead of one.”

In powerlifting competitions, lifters use a monolift or a pair of stands to squat, but there are multiple lifters ready to help when needed. Most trainees work in a squat rack on leg day, which is much safer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the safest method. Kablub shared that even inside of a rack, spotters should be onsite and ready to help.

Kadlub goes on to say that, “Even with safeties, there’s an element of danger. The safeties or straps may give out, and people get comfortable until they fail. It’s always wise to have a training partner when squatting or benching.”


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