Your legs might give up halfway through your last rep when you’re trying to squat with kettlebells the size of bowling balls or the heaviest set of dumbbells you own, leaving you trapped at the bottom of the movement. Fortunately, this jam normally poses little risk since, as long as your toes are out of the way, you may securely stand up again by lowering your weights to the ground.
You might want to ask a friend to watch you perform the workout once you switch out those tools for a barbell and start using bigger weights, advises Alyssa Parten, M.S., C.S.C.S. , a qualified personal trainer and powerlifting coach. Parten discusses why it’s crucial to have a spotter when squatting, or someone who can help you if you can’t complete a lift. She also offers advice and gives a demonstration on how to recognize a squat safely. Although spotting may seem easy, trust us when we say you shouldn’t ignore these suggestions.
USE OF A SPOTTER DURING SQUATS: IMPORTANCE ICYDK, the National Strength and Conditioning Association states that it is beneficial to have a spotter present when performing any exercise that is performed over the head, over the face, or with the bar resting on either the back or the front of the shoulders (such as a back squat or front squat, respectively). What is the main purpose of having a spotter? lowering the chance of injury, says Parten. She adds that this is true for both experienced weightlifters and beginners using barbells. Beginners might not feel entirely at ease utilizing a strange piece of equipment, which might result in poor movement patterns. On the other hand, she explains, advanced lifters who are self-assured enough to try huge lifts still require a second (or third) set of hands to keep them secure in case they are unable to complete those reps.
Spotters can be helpful for squatting in particular when you’re pushing yourself to the limit or testing your one- to five-rep max (i.e., the biggest weight you can safely lift for one or five reps), advises Parten. If a large lift doesn’t go as planned, “you want to make sure that you have someone there who knows how to get you out of that compromising situation,” she says. For instance, you might fall backward or forward after being caught at the bottom of your squat, with the latter “definitely risking injury to your head or neck,” according to Parten. However, a spotter can assist you in getting up again and also make sure the barbell is safely re-rack.
HOW TO IDENTIFY SQUATS The quantity of spotters present will determine how you will spot a squat, according to Parten. She explains how to spot a squat with one or two spotters in this section. Parten also provides examples of how to use her advice.
STOPPING A SQUAT WITH JUST ONE PERSON If you’re your workout partner’s only spotter, Parten advises that you should first position yourself comfortably behind them and observe their form as they perform heavy lifts. “You just stand back if the lifter is performing their squats and they’re looking fantastic, smooth, and don’t have any concerns,” she says. You shouldn’t approach them with your hands until you see that they are beginning to strain. Consider: The lifter either asks for help, falls back to the lowest point of the squat, or is unable to push out of the squat after a few seconds of trying, according to Parten.
Then you’ll come up behind the lifter, keeping a foot or so between you and the squatter, stretch your arms in front of you, and raise both of your hands up below their armpits, being careful not to contact them on the body. You should imitate their squatting motion while maintaining your hands at their sides, advises Parten. She continues, “I’ve seen folks be excessively handsy when spotting. “Give your client some space if they aren’t in danger of hurting themselves or someone else.”
You will extend your arms forward, press your forearms into the lifter’s armpits, and grab hold of the front of their shoulders if they require assistance moving out of their squat. Then, says Parten, press up to get back to standing at the same moment as the lifter. You’ll assist the lifter in re-racking the barbell at the top of the movement, she continues.
One big no-no, according to Parten, is simply pulling the barbell off the lifter if they are stuck in their squat. “You’re putting yourself in danger because you might not have the strength to get that barbell off them,” she says. “You’re putting the lifter in danger because they might then fall.” You simply want to assist them with the squat motion so that it appears as though two individuals are lifting the barbell rather than just one.
According to Parten, this spotting technique can be used for all types of barbell squats, including high-bar, low-bar, and squats using speciality barbells. It may be necessary to position your hands in front of the lifter’s chest during a front squat rather than exactly beneath their armpits. If you were to employ the conventional spotting approach, the lifter’s elbows might prevent you from grasping the front of their shoulders, the expert says.
MARKING A SQUAT WITH TWO PEOPLE You’ll adhere to the same protocol as before when there are two spotters present. Each spotter will now face the lifter while standing at one end of the barbell rather than straight behind them. You’ll first keep an eye out for indications of struggle. You and the other spotter will take up positions at either end of the barbell when you feel some strain, imitating the squatting motion while hovering your hands over the bar. According to Parten, if the lifter fails their rep, each spotter will grab the barbell, press up and out of the squat at the same time, and then assist the lifter in re-racking the barbell.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR LIFTERS WHEN USING A SPOTTER FOR SQUATS According to Parten, it’s crucial for lifters to understand how to safely fail a rep in addition to spotters having a solid understanding of how to spot a squat correctly. “You can endanger the spotter if you try to escape the bar and push it behind you onto that spotter, or if you try to escape the bar after the spotter is holding on to you, so they’re basically forced to lift it,” she says. “You’re putting them in risk if it’s more weight than they can handle.” She advises that after receiving help from the spotter, the lifter should continue to press into the floor and stand up from the squat rather than giving up.
No matter the exercise, before beginning any repetitions, the lifter should always have a brief conversation with the spotter to explain what they will be performing and the assistance they will require. In her words, “if you just ask someone to spot, then they might not know if you are attempting to work up to a one-rep max or a tiring set and you might have a preference in how you want to be spotted.” The purpose of this brief conversation is to make sure that everyone remains safe, is at ease, and gets the most out of the workout.