I believe it is important to continually teach and emphasize important concepts in your program, whether it is a fundamental, philosophy, an offensive or defensive concept, or something regarding training.
This week we spent additional time discussing the role of the spotter in our strength and conditioning program. A good spotter will perform several functions working with their partner(s) and all are important. I think the more that a spotter and lifter work together, the more efficient and better they perform. The spotter will become familiar with the lifter, the amount of weight they can do, how to tell if they are in trouble, and where their “sticking points” are with each lift. The spotter/lifter team also becomes more efficient at changing the weight on the bar between sets. We tell our student-athletes that they should be like a NASCAR pit crew getting the plates on and off between sets.
A primary role that we discuss daily is safety. The spotter needs to be alert and in position to help keep the lifter safe. We stress that often the lifter is in a vulnerable position with the weight and bar above their head, face or torso. If the spotter is not diligent and vigilant, it only takes a second for an accident to happen. Often while reviewing film of the lifters technique, we critique the spotter as well. As is always the case “the eye in the sky does not lie”. It is easy to see if a spotter is daydreaming or in incorrect position while looking at videotape.
The second role a spotter will have is assisting the lifter through any reps in a set that they cannot finish on their own. We typically have our athletes go to failure on each heavy day lift, so assistance is often needed. As you all know, on some lifts this is easier than others. While spotting Bench Press, it is fairly easy for the spotter to assist the lifter during a rep by lightly applying just enough upward pressure to keep the bar moving in a positive direction. When benching, if the lifter cannot perform ANY more reps on their own, we often have the spotter and lifter position the weight at the beginning position and have the lifter perform “negative reps” to complete a set. During Squat reps it is also possible for a good spotter to assist the lifter during any reps they cannot perform on their own. They should be in a position to “fork lift” the athlete completing the lift, helping keep the shoulders back and the weight moving in a positive direction. It is possible, but more difficult to assist the lifter during Push Press reps, but we do have the spotters (positioned at each end of the bar) catch the weight after each rep and help lower it back down to the starting position. Probably the most difficult lift to assist the lifter past the point of failure is the Clean. Typically we position the spotter behind the lifter in the rack just to insure that if the lifter misses, the weight goes forward onto the catch bars and not back onto the athlete.
Finally, another very important role we ask our spotters to fulfill is communication. We ask our athletes to “coach each other up” while spotting. Knowledge of technique is imperative in order to do this. If they know the technique and coaching points and can communicate it to others, chances are they will understand and do the technique better themselves.
We all need to be “speaking the same language”. On each lift, the spotter(s) should know and be able to communicate coaching points for that lift. For instance, if an athlete is completing Squat reps, they should know and be able to communicate our checklist if any points are being missed:
- √ Base
- √ Spread your chest
- √ Athletic Posture
- √ Eyes on the Red
- √ Heels flat
- √ Hips below the knees
Below is a short video showing pretty good spotting technique for each of the Core Lifts.
By enhancing the spotter/ lifter working relationship, both the safety and performance of your athletes will improve.
As always, comments and questions are always welcome!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org