Responsibilities of the Spotter

It should be more than obvious to anyone interested in manual resistance of the importance of an educated training partner. The effectiveness of manual resistance is almost totally dependent on the abilities of the spotter. It can not be emphasized enough how important it is for the instructor to thoroughly educate the participants. For the exercise to be safe and effective the spotter should be strict to the guidelines listed below.

1. Communication whenever necessary and constant coordination with the lifer. Pay attention to the execution of every repetition. The lifter's safety is the spotter primary concern. How the spotter applies manual resistance dictates the quality and safety of the exercise. The spotter should make corrections if needed and provide verbal encouragement for the motivation.

2. Do not apply maximum resistance during the first few repetitions. The first few repetitions of each exercise should be used to warm up the muscle. This will also help to begin fatiguing the muscle involved so that the lifter does not exert an all out effort the muscle will be adequately fatigued. This will help to decrease the potential for injury.

3. Vary the resistance of each repetition during the raising phase. Once the muscles are warmed up the spotter should learn to apply as much resistance as the lifter can safety and effectively handle at each point during the raising phase. All movements should be smooth and controlled. This is the most difficult aspect of manual resistance. The amount of resistance that a lifter needs during the raising phase of the repetitions will actually vary. The bones and muscles are a system of levers. The changing positions of the bones and muscles create leverage advantages and disadvantages. These advantages and disadvantages will require more or less resistance by the spotter. The spotter should learn to gradually increase or decrease the resistance accordingly to accommodate these changing strength curves. If the resistance is applied correctly the resistance should feel constant to the lifter.

4. Smooth transition from the raising phase to the lowering phase. The person applying the resistance should adjust the amount of resistance at the point of transition from the raising phase to the lowering phase. It should be realized that the lifter is able lower more weight than they can raise. That is why it is important for the lifter to pause momentarily in the contracted position. This gives the spotter the opportunity to begin smoothly applying the additional work load for the lowering phase.

5. Add more resistance during the lowering phase. Due primarily to friction the lifter can lower more weight than they can raise. The spotter should learn to apply more resistance during the lowering phase. If too much resistance is added to lifter will not be able to resist the in the down phase for four seconds. If to little resistance is added the lifter could stop at any point during the lowering phase and hold the position. Because the lifter is so much stronger during the lowering phase there must be a mutual cooperation between the lifter and spotter. The same advantages and disadvantages that exist during the raising phase of each exercise also apply during the lowering phase. The person applying the manual resistance must also remember that the lifter is gradually fatiguing with each repetition. The spotter should learn to apply as much resistance as the lifter can resist while allowing four seconds to lower the weight.

6. Change the angle of resistance being applied. Most movements in the body are rotary in nature. Most muscles contract about an axis of rotation. They pull on the bones to form movements that form an arc. For muscles to be most effectively exercised the angle of resistance must change through the execution of each repetition. This must be done to accommodate the changing angle that the muscle is pulling on the bone, the manual resistance must be supplied to coincide with the changing angles of each arc formed by the muscles involved. This can be observed when performing a side lateral raise. In the starting position the angle of resistance will almost be perpendicular to the floor. As the lifter raise their arms, the spotter should gradually adjust to the angle of resistance. This concept will apply almost any time a single muscle group is isolated.

7. Provide enough resistance to stimulate strength gains. For maximum gains the spotter needs to apply as much resistance as the lifter can exert during both the raising and lowering phase of each exercise.

8. Do not apply maximum resistance for any exercise in an all out manner during the first few workouts. Gradually increase the intensity of exercise is each succeeding workout until the techniques required for each exercise have been mastered.

9. When necessary, apply less resistance as the lifter approaches the muscles stretched position. While performing some exercise, the spotter should learn to gradually decrease the amount of manual resistance being applied as the lifter approaches and eventually reaches the muscles stretched position. Injury could result if too much resistance is applied in the stretched position of the muscles being exercise.

The spotter should sacrifice the application of maximum resistance to gain maximum stretching and prevent injury. An example is the neck flexion exercise. The lifer will not relax and stretch the neck if to much resistance is applied. To get the lifter in to a relaxed and stretched position safety, the spotter should begin to gradually decrease the amount of resistance as the lifter approaches the neck stretched position. It should be a smooth and gradual transition. The spotter is applying to much resistance near or at the stretched position if the spotter
A. Does not reach a completely and stretched position at the end of each rep.
B. Stops short of the stretched position.
C. Feels the need to pull back in the stretched position to prevent hyper-stretching.


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