Spot or not

This would be funnier if it hadn’t happened multiple times, which makes me question if I have learnt any lessons from the experience(s).

Of all the exercises in the gym, the bench press is the most necessary to have some help (a ‘spot’) out if you get into trouble.

Due to the position under the bar, you can’t just drop the weight and reset for another attempt.

If you don’t have the strength to complete a rep, then you don’t have the strength to push the bar away from your chest (no matter how long you wait).

So it makes sense to have some assistance if you are going anywhere near failure, where either of these scenarios could occur.

The gym I used to train at had two bench presses.

The best one was in the middle of the gym but it had a light directly above it, which I didn’t like looking into while lying down.

The other was in the corner, slightly hidden.

I didn’t bring my sunglasses on this fateful day so I found myself pressing in the corner.

Eventually, I worked up to a heavy set.

I was doing higher-rep work (8-10) and the weight just happened to be around body weight.

This meant if I could do ten reps, that I would have done 10 x bodyweight bench press, which I had never done before.

It was right on the edge.

There was no one else in the gym, so I couldn’t get a spotter but I decided to give it a crack anyway.

The plan was to back off it was too heavy (probably, cannot recall).

The weight felt good, I got to six reps and was cruising.

Seven and eight were hard, but I knew ten was on the cards.

Nine just got there and as the bar reach the top, I know I had a choice to make.

Rack the weight and save it for another day (with a spot).

Or go for it.

When you have experience in the gym and understand somewhat how the body works under fatigue, particularly with regards to technique and local muscular fatigue, you’re in a good position to make an informed choice.

So I went for it (informed choice doesn’t mean smart choice).

The weight felt significantly heavier on the way down then it had previously, but that’s not really an issue.

The problem was that it didn’t seem to want to go up.

So I was stuck with 95kg on my chest and unable to move.

There was no one else on that side of the gym to come and help (or witness).

The only way to extract myself from this situation was the roll the bar down my stomach, on to my legs and then lift it off.

So I did that.

While all of my internal organs made through, the bruise running from my rips to mid-thigh was a solid reminder of the consequences of lifting fatigued without a spotter.

Some lessons require reinforcement, evidenced by the fact I have done it again twice since, but know I feel I have understood the lesson and am now ready to implement my learnings.

Tom Fitzgerald