Can I Get a Spot?

How I was cheated out of three reps

You’d think that the people who work at a commercial gym would know how to spot someone. Not always the case.

As an intern with MF, you get to write about some pretty cool stuff and are exposed to ton’s of amazing training ideas. One that really caught my eye was the 5/3/1 program, basically a routine designed for power lifters to slowly increase their strength. Three years of collegiate rowing had left me lean and with an incredible aerobic capacity. I could row for hours on end but the amount of weight I could push was sort of embarrassing (I’m 160 lbs and was barely able to hit 200 on my bench).

So I’m a few weeks into my 5/3/1 program and getting ready for my final set of bench press—185 to failure. I’m working out at a commercial gym so there really aren’t too many guys around I would trust to spot me through a max bench attempt. That’s when I see one of the personal trainers. He was just heading out to do a fitness assessment with a new client, but I figured I could grab him for a second for a second, right?

“Hey man, can I get a quick spot? Just like three reps?”

He has a sort of apprehensive look on his face. “Uh…yeah, just three? Sure.”

I get set, tense my back and get ready to work my ass off for a triple. One, two, three—he helps me off the rack . . . and his hands stay on the bar. I bring it down and then up, way easier than I anticipated. The guy was lifting with me! I bang out my three reps and rack the bar, disgusted. The PT scurries off with his client and as they’re walking away I hear him say to his client “You gonna be tossing around weight like that soon?” and the kid responds, “No way man, never.” I felt like such a cheat. After the trainer left I grabbed some dumbbells and did as many presses as I could to keep my ego intact.

The take away? If some one asks you for a spot, make sure you know what you’re doing. There’s no shame in failing on a lift. It's part of working out and there is nothing worse than having to roll an 185 lb bar off of yourself. To all you spotters out there, don’ lift the bar until you see it going down when it should be going up. Even then, take as little weight off as you can. The guy you’re spotting will thank you.

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