Spotter/ Lifter Teamwork

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.

spottingThis 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 –


Don’t Take the “Light” Day Lightly

hartI have written quite a bit so far about the “Heavy” day in our weekly workout (A Weekly (not weakly) Workout Program!) and the concept of breaking (Breaking – It’s a Good Thing) on your heavy day lift.  Probably equally important, though, is our philosophy and how we approach our “Light” day lift.

A quick review/ reminder of what a week’s workout looks like in our program.  We have 4 Core lifts, Bench, Squat, Push Press, and Hang Clean.  We lift four times a week, each day doing one lift at a Heavy intensity, one lift at a Medium intensity, one lift at a Light intensity, and omitting one lift each day.  The way we have our week structured is this:

  • Monday – Heavy Bench – Medium Squat – Light Push (no Clean)
  • Tuesday – Heavy Squat – Medium Push – Light Clean (no Bench)
  • Wednesday – Heavy Push – Medium Clean – Light Bench (no Squat)
  • Thursday – OFF
  • Friday – Heavy Clean – Medium Bench – Light Squat (no Push)

The challenge with many of our athletes, because of their competitive nature, is making sure that they stick to the set/ rep percentages that are on their card for their Light day.  The percentages on the Light day start at 60% (of their 1RM) on the first set, and increase to only 80% on their last set.  Inevitably they will try to do more, or come to me and say “Coach, I know I can do more than what my card is saying for my light day!”.  They will be tempted to add weight and do more.  And they are right, they could do more weight than is on their card, but that is not what we want on the Light day.

We try to educate our athletes to the importance of sticking to the workout and the philosophy behind having a Light day.  The way the program is set up, the lift intensities cycle between Heavy – Off – Light – Medium.  After a Heavy day, we take day off from that lift to give that muscle group time to recover.  When the lift comes back into the rotation, it is only at a Light intensity.

The Light day is a great day to really concentrate on form and technique.  If they are having any technique issues on any of the lifts, their light day is the day to work on those problems.  It may be going through the full range of motion (past parallel) on squat, working on their “dip” when they Push Press, really working a controlled descent on their Bench Press, or improving the “Drop/Catch” phase of their Hang Clean.

If we are going to change things up (as was discussed in a previous post Throwing a Changeup”), the Light day is typically the day we will do it.  Here are some examples of what we might sub in place of a Light day lift:

  • Light Squat – substitute front Squats.
  • Light Hang Clean – substitute Power Clean from the floor.
  • Light Push Press – substitute Hang Snatch.
  • Light Bench Press – substitute Incline Bench.

Staying with the percentages on the workout card, and using the Light day to recover and work form and technique is an important concept in our strength and conditioning program.

Any questions?  Just comment or email… I always respond!

Jeff Floyd –