7/20/17 - Spotting and Trust
Weight training is an incremental pursuit. Inherent in its nature is the practice of progressive overload. Within this training style comes failure. Our position begins to falter as we go up in weight. It’s very easy to find the ceiling of our potential at any given time. We would refer to this as a max effort. The obvious role of the lifter is to maintain the most ideal form throughout the action of the lift, and to make the lift.
What happens when this goes south? What happens when you fail with a weight? There are some lifts, such as the deadlift and the power clean, that the bar is not in a compromising position. It is no big deal if you drop the bar and come back to it. What about something like the bench press or back squat in which you are between the bar and the floor/bench? Failure seems to be a bit more serious here. This is where the long list of gym fail videos that we all see come into play. However, this is serious and it is very possible to get injured.
Before you go down the rabbit hole of watching videos and posting a rant on Facebook about the dangers of lifting weights, I want you to go down this path a little further with me. Let’s agree on a few things. Do you agree with me that we could find a weight for each athlete that is appropriate? Let’s use the squat as an example. Can we find an appropriate weight for a fifteen year old volleyball player to squat? Can we find the correct weight for a 74 year old grandmother? You bet we can. These two athletes have no relationship to one another except that they both can squat. They are both capable of change, and improvement relative to their situation.
You see, weight training is about improving the range of motion accessible to athletes when they move. If an athlete can show proficiency, then we need to challenge position. One of the tools we can use is weight. Inside this process an athlete begins to build trust in their own ability to move. They build trust within themselves that their body can execute a task. We do this over and over again until the mechanics and the breathing begin to become second nature.
While on this journey of trust building we are sure to bump up against some resistance and some struggle. There are always enough weights in the weight room to staple every athlete to the floor. The secret in progress is walking the line with failure. When an athlete feels ready, we begin to test their maximal ablilities. With this comes the chance of not returning the weight to rack. This is where we take trust to a new level. We know this as spotting.
Imagine an athlete lays down on the bench to perform bench press. They unrack the weight, descend to their chest, and can’t perform the rep. They are pinned to the bench. There is no where to go, and this relatively heavy bar is doing its best to become one with their sternum. This is where a spotter comes in and helps this athlete bring the bar off their chest and return it to the rack.
There are a couple hurdles here we must clarify. Spotting is about trust. Maximal lifting is about trust. It is about trust in the process. It is about trust within the athlete. It is about trust in the spotter. You see, this game we are playing is safe. Lifting weights is training. When we say the word “training” we are speaking about a calculated pursuit of betterment that is relative to each athletes ability. You train with weights that are appropriate for you. No one is stepping up to a bar to fail a rep. We all step up to the bar for success. We complete lifts over and over and over again to repeatedly instill success and victory in our bodies and in our minds. This process yields tremendous results. Read that again. This process yields tremendous results for those that choose to participate. But, don’t kid yourself. This is a game of trust.
We need agreements with spotters. We need spotters to know the cues a lifter will give when they need some help. It is your job as a spotter to understand how to help an athlete if they call for it. If you are not sure what to do, you need to make this known before the athlete attempts a lift. We need to have trust. Inside of one rep an athlete assumes all responsibly to move the weight. The spotter is there in case something goes wrong. If the athlete calls for a spot/needs help, the spotter then assists. When you choose to begin spotting, it is now your responsibility to make sure that bar returns to the starting position and then safely returns to the rack. This is twofold. The bar needs to return to the starting position, then it returns to the rack. The athlete is still responsible, as well. If you call for a spot, it is still your responsibility to complete the lift with the spotter. It has now become a team effort. Both parties have to work together to complete the lift. This is the trust piece. With this, progress is much more available. We are not lifting to fail, but at the furthest reaches of potential, we are always dealing with failure.
Safety is a priority when lifting weights. This is why we have spotters. This is why we have collars for the ends of the bar to hold the weights on. When squatting, we should have two spotters (one on each side of the lifter). Due to the position of the barbell, spotting with one person can be a bit shifty. If your not comfortable spotting by yourself, grab a buddy and spot from both sides. We need to talk about this trust thing again. One spotter needs to be the voice. One spotter needs to be the one to communicate with the athlete and call for the spot. This signals the other spotter that its time to help. If an athlete runs into trouble in a lift, these moments under load/out of position/failing need to be kept to a minimum. Each millisecond that races by inside of a failed rep can be very costly. When the athlete calls for help or stops progressing in the lift, the spotters then begin to assist. This needs to happen at the same time. You could imagine if one spotter immediately lifted all of the bar weight up, an the other grabbed the bar a second later. The bar would be uneven and the poor lifter underneath would be quite out of sorts. The first goal is to bring the weight up as a team with the lifter still engaged in the lift and actively working to complete the rep. If total failure ensues, the responsiblity is on the the spotters. If you are not willing to assume this responsibility, do not spot someone. Remember the trust thing. It is ok to say you are not comfortable. I have had these moments, too. Grab a buddy and keep everyone safe. Communicate clearly and execute well.
Spotting comes down to trust. Trust is a direct result of communication. Most of the struggles in life seemingly come down to communication breakdown. If you communicate expectations, typically things work out a bit better. Communication builds trust and trust is a two-way street. We must trust one another. Inside the weight room this is a big thing. I have no problem saying that weight training and weight rooms are very safe places to be. This is because of trust. The gym, these bars, and weights are instruments of betterment. They are always to be respected, and they are always heavy. Build trust in yourself and build trust in your athletes. That way gains are incremental and always available. Trust, my friends, is incremental, as well. Execute every lift well. If you find yourself spotting, make sure to communicate. You are part of this trust thing with your athlete. If your not OK with this, just say so. Ask someone else. Trust in the process. Trust is not to be broken. Repetition, execution, and victory with a barbell are all firmly rooted in trust.
With a partner complete 4 rounds for quality of:
10 Med Ball Throw to Sit Up
10 Standing Med Ball Chest Passes
10 Standing Lateral Med Ball Throws
Then, Complete the following for time of:
DB Deadlifts (50/35)