by Neil Anderson
The act of using a spotter for a workout is poorly thought out and usually detrimental to both your performance gains and ultimately your health, maybe even the health of your spotter.
The rule at GPP is, if you haven't the means to complete the lift, you should have known that going into the lift and you should have planned for this happenstance. In planning for it you should have several contingency actions in place that will bring you out the other end of this occurrence wholly intact. In other words, you should never put yourself or any other person at risk for your own personal gain. This is because the benefit you might gain from doing so is minuscule compared to the potential risk of injury you might cause to yourself or someone else. It is also because there is always another equally if not more effective way to achieve the same health and fitness benefit through safer and more controlled means.
In my experience, spotting or asking for a spot is almost never about health and fitness gains. Usually it is about showing off. It is about lifting more weight than you are confidently capable of and then taking credit for something you did not fully achieve. It is indeed oxymoronic to think you have accomplished a lift in the presence of a spotter. The very act of recruiting a spotter makes this event a tandem effort. To evoke the word "I" after completing such an event is selfish, chickenhearted and less-than truthful. Even if the spotter did not touch you or the bar you, more than likely, would not have attempted the lift in the first place.
"But Neil!" Some will lament. "I would have been able to go heavier overhead had I help getting the dumbbells to the rack position. Shouldn't I recruit help in this type of instance so as to improve my ability in this specific movement?"
The answer is, "No." Very few movements we perform at GPP are done independent of other body parts and movement patterns. If going overhead exposes weakness in another portion of the movement, even those seemingly unrelated to the intended movement, it behooves you to accept this for what it is and improve upon this weakness. Otherwise the gap between these two widens. In other words, if the reason you could not go overhead with heavier dumbbells is related to your ability to clean the dumbbells to the "racked" position, you do not gain benefit globally in bypassing this weakness in favor of more weight overhead. Doing so does not improve your global functionality, just your overhead ability, which is useless without ongoing use of a spotter. Unless you plan to have someone around you 24/7 to serve this purpose alone, you'd best bring your clean up to speed with your OH press.
There is no lift or exercise method that cannot be improved upon without the use of a spotter. Yes, it is fun and confidence boosting to lift more than you previously thought was possible within the potential safety net of a spotter. Just because something is fun or confidence boosting doesn't mean it is the only way to make those healthy gains and improvements. Neither does it negate the fitness benefit in decreasing the weight and performing reps and sets fully within your own capacity. Most of the time, decreasing the weight and performing reps within your capabilities will yield more gains and faster.
Spotting techniques have their place. For those who must compete at capacities way beyond what general health and fitness intends as in; maximum reps, sets, weights or dynamic movements, spotting is essential for safety. However, these actions are limited to the professional weight lifters and athletes (e.g. gymnasts) of the world. These people are competing for sport or acclaim and have needs of expert, professional assistance because their needs lie beyond that of general health and fitness. The rest of us will not miss out on one iota of fitness or health without the use of expert, professional spotters. Therefore they are not generally recommended at GPP.