How To Spot The Squat
Spotting squats in weightlifting is less about safety than allowing greater performance. All athletes should learn how to bail out of a failed squat safely and never have to rely on a spotter to save them from death or disfigurement—if you’re not comfortable bailing out of a squat, you shouldn’t be pushing squats to potential failure.
Spotting squats in this case does two important things:
First, it provides a sense of security to the lifter, who will then be willing to push harder through a tough squat rather than shut it down early to bail out. It’s not unusual to see squats at the same or even heavier weights move more easily with a spotter behind the lifter, even if that spotter doesn’t even have their hands near the bar.
Second, it allows a failing squat to be turned into a forced rep. This lets the lifter complete the lift with minimal assistance, which means more work and better training, and it avoids the unwanted additional systemic stress of failing a heavy lift. In other words, it makes it easier to find a lifter’s limit that day without crushing them for subsequent training.
Position yourself with a staggered stance with one toe between the lifter’s heels, making sure that your leg will not be in the way of their hips, so that if you need to grab the bar, you’re able to remain in a strong and balanced position.
As they begin standing, place your fingers lightly under the bar. This is not to apply any pressure or assistance—this light contact allows you to immediately feel the bar shifting, dropping or stopping and to react immediately by providing assistance before it’s too late for the lifter to continue doing most of the work to get up.
Discuss the emergency exit plan beforehand in case the lifter can’t stand up even with your help. In a front squat, they can drop the bar easily—just get out of their way. In a back squat, they need to let go and move forward while you pull the bar back and make sure it falls safely behind them. In both cases, clearly tell the lifter to bail so there’s no confusion.