How to Find a Spotter At The Gym
Spotter selection 101.
Help me out!
So you're at the gym and about to go for a new personal best on the bench press. You're training alone and have no one to spot your lift. You feel a little uncomfortable asking someone you don't know to help you lift, but know you will be a lot more uncomfortable stuck under a barbell you can't move (and they will have to lift it off you anyway).
Your best bet is to ask for the spot, but how do you select the right person to help you chase glory?
Selecting a spotter is a lot like hunting a wild animal, expect you're not looking to hang them on your wall. You do need to know your environment, who frequents it and pay close attention to the current happenings. Once you have a spotter in your sights, you need to move in carefully and avoid scaring them off into the great abyss that is the treadmill area of your gym.
There are three key factors to consider when choosing a spotter. These were derived from a combination of folklore, science and a little bit of BS. I now present them to you for use in your next gym session.
This article was written in July 2014. If you want to hear the latest from Tom Fitzgerald and Integrated Fitness & Nutrition, you are welcome to sign up to our mailing list below
Does the potential spotter have the required strength to assist your lift if you get stuck? If you have seen them lift a similar weights to you in the past you know you should be ok. If you have never seen them leave the treadmill or Bosu ball before, then maybe you should reassess. Bigger is not always better here, take the time to make an informed decision, because your life and gains depend on it.
For every 1m distance from your workout station, the likelihood of receiving a spot decreases by approximately 10% (Fitzgerald, 2014). Potential spotters don’t want to travel more than 10m and leave their workout station to help someone else because a) someone might steal their weights and b) 10m+ walking is cardio (and they are doing weights).
EXCEPTION: if no one in your vicinity is deemed suitable for a spot, you may need to expand your search. Be sure to acknowledge this to your spotter when asking for their assistance.
The sweat paradigm is a vital, but often forgotten, factor in selecting a spotter. The paradigm is as follows. Someone who is sweating is obviously working hard, meaning they are likely to be strong and probably know what they are doing. However, if they are sweating now this won’t magically stop when they are giving you a spot (no matter how hard they towel dry). There is therefore a high potential for sweat drips from your spotter onto you, particularly during the bench press set. This leads to an awkward non-acknowledgement from both participants after the transfer of sweat and cessation of the lift.
You need to make a decision regarding spot quality vs the likelihood of copping sweat drips. Can you work through it and make the lift? Or will it psych you out? These are vital questions that you need to answer when looking for a spotter.
Where to Next?
Once you have found your target, your next challenge is to get their attention. Most people have headphones in, so verbal communication is out of the question. Some form of dance is probably your best option. Dom Mazzetti made a video to help you ask for a spot, check it out here. Most people will say yes to your spot request and will be happy to help out. If someone does refuse to spot you, move on and hold that grudge for the rest of your time at that gym.