Strength Training

Your Bench Press Spotter: The Key to a Safe and Successful Workout

Do you really need a spotter when bench pressing

If you are considering trying heavy lifts when bench pressing, then it is important to first understand the safety side of attempting it, and how you would get help in the case of a failed lift.  Be sure you don’t just try and increase the weight load without a fallback plan.

It is advisable to have a spotter when attempting advanced or heavy lifts as they can assist in the event of a failed lift, which could prove fatal.  However, a spotter may not be necessary when working with lighter weights.  Spotters are helpful when you are attempting new levels.

Apart from protecting you from any possible injuries that you may encounter during weightlifting, spotters are also helpful for motivation and progress, especially where there is no power rack or any other safety equipment available.

You may not always have a spotter on hand, especially if you are at home and want to exercise by yourself.  It’s also important to ensure that your spotter knows what is expected of them and helps to make your lift as safe as possible.

If you don’t happen to have a spotter to give you a hand, then you will discover some suitable alternatives in this article.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have A Bench Spotter?

You don’t always have access to a good spotter.  This is especially true if you have a home gym and spend your workouts training alone.   Finding suitable ways to offer safety when you lift heavy is of vital importance.

Of course, there are other ways that you can bench press without the help of a spotter by using different safety equipment for barbell pressing.  Therefore, if you don’t have a bench spotter you can make use of the following:

Power Rack (sometimes called a power cage)

A power rack, sometimes referred to as a power cage, is helpful as you can set the safety bars to just above your chest, but in a position that is within your range of motion.  This means that in the event of a failed lift, the safety bars will catch the barbell for you preventing you from becoming crushed beneath it.

A power rack is good for a home gym or for anyone who wants to bench without using a spotter. Therefore, if you want to be doing bench presses with heavy lifts alone, then it is recommended to make use of this equipment.

Smith Machine

In a smith machine, the barbell is locked on to vertical rails that have a series of slots which allow you to position the barbell at your chosen height.  You would place your bench under the smith machine so that the barbell is directly above your chest around the nipple line area.

Not only does it provide shoulder stability in the case of a bench press, you can also lock on safety bars (as with a power rack) so that if the barbell is dropped it will land on them as opposed to you.  You can also use the smith machine for squatting, lunges and other exercises where a barbell is moved in a vertical plane.  This makes is a great option for home and garage gyms.

Squat Rack

The squat rack is a more cost effective and smaller alternative to the power rack and performs the same function, just with a little less versatility.  They are also different in design and the number of vertical uprights.  The squat rack comprises two uprights with the power rack made up of four.  The squat rack has a smaller footprint and a horizontal beam across the bottom.

As with a power rack, it will offer the use of safety bars which can be set up at your chosen height, depending on what exercise you are performing.  The safety bars will prevent the need for having to have a spotter on hand.

Bench Pressing Without A Spotter

Bench pressing, especially when working with heavy loads can be dangerous if you are doing the exercise solo and without a spotter or alternative safety equipment.  However, if you can adhere to the best practices below, you will be good to go.

Use Lighter Weight

Don’t opt for a heavy weight load if you don’t have a spotter.  It is important to use weights that you are 100% confident that you can manage within your rep range.  Lifting with lighter weights does not necessarily guarantee no injuries, but if you do find yourself struggling, it will be far easier to get out from under a loaded barbell that has less plates.

Don’t Use A Thumbless Grip

Often, seasoned lifters like to grip the barbell during a bench press in a specific way.  This is referred to as the false grip or suicide grip.  It involves holding a barbell without wrapping your thumbs around the bar itself, typically the bar will rest in the lifters palms.  The advantages of utilizing this grip type is that it can help with pressing more weight.  For this reason, it’s not uncommon for powerlifters to bench press in this way.

However, the suicide grip has a major disadvantage. Because you are not holding the bar with fingers and thumbs, it’s easy to lose control of the barbell resulting in it being dropped. With that in mind, it is advisable to bench press with a proper grip using your thumbs.

Don’t Put Collars On Your Barbell

The purpose of weightlifting collars is to secure the plates onto your barbell and prevent them from sliding off.  Not only does this keep the weight secure providing stability for the lifter, they will help to prevent injury if you were lose control resulting in the plates sliding off.

That being said, if you were bench pressing with no spotter, by removing the collars will allow you to easily tilt the barbell therefore sliding off the plates.  If you fail a lift and the weight is bearing down on you, losing the weight and getting out from under the bar is possible.

Final Thoughts

Whilst it is advisable to bench press with a spotter, sometimes it is not always an option, especially if the spotter does not know what is expected of them. However, good spotters who have been trained well and have good experience are always alert and know what to do, what to recommend, and the safety mechanisms that you need when pressing a heavy barbell.

If you do not have access to a spotter then keep your bench pressing safe by implementing the options above.

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