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I've been doing starting strength for a couple of weeks now and have a friend who has been training me in the technique and spotting me on the bench press. This last training session he didn't pitch up.

While I'm confident that my technique is good enough to train on my own, I wasn't so sure about benching without a spotter and didn't really know if it's OK to ask someone randomly in the vicinity to give me a hand. Yesterday I asked one of the gym staff and they organised someone to give me a hand, but it brought up the question:

Is it ok to just randomly ask someone to spot me and how do I go about it?

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I believe so, but unless the person in question is benching themselves, you can't expect them to stay around to spot you for more than one or possibly two sets, so your best bet is to find someone else who is benching at a similar weight and take turns.

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Around here (Russia) it is very common to ask random people who are resting nearby to spot you. If you are training with a partner, it is of course proper to first ask them, and only turn to other people if your partner is unable to spot you, e. g. due to being busy with their own exercises which allow for no pause or having temporary arm disability.

I just ask the nearest resting person if they mind spotting me. Nobody ever refuses.

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  • 1
    Sounds like you guys have a good culture. In America I think we don't ask as much. In the ten years or so I've been a "fitness guy" I can count on one hand the amount of time someone randomly asked me to spot them. – Eric Sep 23 '14 at 14:48
  • Maybe it's just me, but it seems a lot more people in Russia know a thing or two about lifting than in America--even in the free weight section of a gym. – Berin Loritsch Sep 24 '14 at 13:11
  • Suggest mods remove the prejudiced comment from @BerinLoritsch – HH- Apologize to Carole Baskin Sep 24 '14 at 20:38
  • Racist? Really? I live and train in America, and aside from gyms that cater to barbell sports, there's not many people I would ask for a spot. Or is it racist to say that people in Russia seem to know how to train? – Berin Loritsch Sep 24 '14 at 21:30
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It is OK, but understand that you need to communicate your expectations very clearly. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don't know how to spot.

  • If all you need is a lift off, ask them to give you a lift off and don't touch the bar until you ask for help.

If you are really stretching yourself and going for a personal max, I recommend doing your lift inside a power rack with safeties. As well meaning as random spotters are, I just can't trust them to be able to catch the bar before it hits my chest. If you set the safeties so that you can slide out under the bar without an arch, but the bar doesn't touch the safeties when you have an arch, that will be the best.

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