Do you remember the 1982 movie Personal Best with Mariel Hemmingway?
No, not the bathroom scene with Mariel and Kenny Moore, but the scene where she is trying to give a “spot” on bench press?
How many times have you had a bench press “spot” only to look up and see… well, you know what I’m talking about.
So what does it take to be a Good Bench Press Spotter?
Ben Tatar has this lengthy 10 point article.
How To Be A Good Bench Press Spotter
Having a good spotter is very important. For one if you have a reliable spotter who motivates you, your bench press journey on Critical Bench will be that much more successful. The thing about training partners is that it’s always hard to find someone who is as dedicated to training as you are. However, when you do find a training partner who is as dedicated, reliable and understands the “art” of spotting, then every time you step onto the bench you will feel more confident, energized and you will have one less thing to worry about. Remember, if you change your circumstances in the gym, then you will have better and more productive workouts every-time you step foot into the gym. So get together with your spotter or alone as we all have to spot at some point! In this article I will provide you with new insight about how to spot and coach the bencher effectively.
Tip #1 – The timing of the handoff
When you are lying on the bench, you always want to communicate with your spotter. For example if you are lying on the bench, have your spotter count to 3 and after your spotter counts to 3, he will then un-rack the weight and hand it off to you. I find the 3 count to be important because if you aren’t prepared to take the weight, you will either get hurt or you won’t have your technique down right when it’s time to attempt the heavy lift! Not only do I find the 3 count beneficial for safety but I also find the 3 count as an opportunity to get prepared for the lift. Once the spotter counts to 3, you can then begin to squeeze the bar extra hard, get tight, and take the weight! Once the “1, 2, 3” command starts, you will be ready to go, it’s crunch time now, baby!
2) The magic touch when un-racking the weight
The spotter needs to help balance, and control the weight as he helps the bencher un-rack the weight. For example, if the spotter gives the bencher an un-even hand off and un-racks the weight with too much force, then that can throw the benchers groove completely off. This can be hazardous to the bencher’s performance. The last thing that the bencher needs is to get the “press” command, when he doesn’t have the weight in proper groove.
So in conclusion, some lifters spot with too much force when un-racking the weight, some lift one side more so than the other and some don’t assist enough off the rack. These bad spotting techniques put the bencher at risk of missing the weight and potential injury. I think in order to master the art of “hand offs” the spotter and bencher will need to practice handoffs (taking the weight off the rack) with lighter weights.
3) Practice hand offs with lighter/medium weights
A bencher and spotter should both step under a lighter weigh, ex: 135, 185, or 225. As the spotter hands the weight to the bencher, the bencher should say “Yes, good sport”, or “Do this differently”. So the bottom line is practice hand offs with the lighter weights so you can be confident with the heavier weights. Practice makes improvements.
4) The Spotter’s role during the lift
A good spotter should always say something positive to the bencher before the bencher steps under the weight. For example the spotter could yell “Light weight”, “Bench Fast” ,”Fill your belly with air, belly filled with air”, “Elbows in, elbows in, bench lower” flair out your lats, I said flair out your freakin lats”, “stay tight”, “arch higher”, “yeah you got it, keep showing me that animal desire”! The thing is, if a spotter motivates the lifter before and during the lift, it’s going to bring out the lifters “higher self”, into play instead of their “regular selves”, allowing the bencher to be more intense and aggressive on the bench when they are benching. The bench press is all about technique and mechanics, if the spotter can remind the bencher and yell positive cues, this will help the bencher propel the weights to lockout.
5) The Spotter’s role after the lift
At the end of the lift, the spotter should give the bencher feed back. The spotter can yell “You’re a strong animal, however, next time control the weight, bring it down slower, squeeze your quads into the bench and use your legs more. When you’re benching 500lbs everything needs to be perfect, so make 315 perfect too”. So the spotter should also give the bencher little detailed tips to improve their technique for the next time that the bencher attempts to bench again, this way the bencher continues to grow. If you are training a day with drop sets, tri sets, or speed benches, the spotter should say “Let’s go, don’t rest, keep moving”, If the bencher is doing a heavy day, the spotter can say, “put your sweat shirt on, relax, keep warm and practice mental imagery for your next attempt”. Also the spotter should always be educating themselves like on a speed bench day the spotter can say “It’s more effective to do 8 sets of 2 reps then 8 sets of 3 reps, as training has evolved, that’s right speed benches are 8 sets of 2 now”. Finally, the spotter could give the bencher little pointers like “put your index finger on the ring to bench wide, so you don’t have to bring the bar down as far, and this will help you widen your back. You know, wider backs, means bigger bench”. On the other hand if the bencher is doing a burn out set after 2-3 heavy bench sets, the spotter can say “Pause on every rep and use a narrow grip, this will improve your competition max”! All of these details of attitude and communication between the spotter and bencher should take the benchers benching ability to new heights. So, the bottom line is that your spotter should be like your “coach”, instead of just a person just existing to keep you safe.
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.