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Team Effort

I’ve often wondered whether asking a stranger for a spot is a violation of gym etiquette. I know that when I’m asked for a spot, I’m irritated by the disruption in the pace of my workout and the break in concentration. I also resent channeling my precious energy into someone else’s workout, and, considering the absurd amount of weight usually involved, putting my low back at risk.

I’m no hypocrite: I also gave up asking for spots years ago, though mostly because people don’t understand the concept of spotting for safety. Typically, you’re just encouraging the shared lift you often see at the gym. You’ve got the spotter who assists his partner on the leg press by repeatedly throwing himself into the machine’s carriage. Or, how about the guys performing barbell bicep curls when it’s not clear who’s doing the lifting and who’s doing the spotting. The bottom line is that a spotter has no business touching anything unless the lifter is just plain stuck. Besides, if you’re using an appropriate amount of weight, a spotter really shouldn’t be necessary.

I do know that when someone else imposes a spot on you, he’s definitely crossed the line of gym etiquette.

True story: I’m minding my own business, lying back on a flat bench with two heavy dumbbells. As I start my set, some guy runs up behind me, cups his hands under my elbows, and proceeds to push up on my arms through 8 or 9 reps.

A couple questions present themselves:

1) Am I supposed to thank this idiot for his counterproductive spot?

2) Why do certain people believe that proper lifting requires some kind of group hug?

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  1. I sometimes work out alone and never ask for a spot. I’ve also had very few requests for me to spot. I think my “no-nonsense” attitude while in the gym discourages requests for a spot.

  2. Agreed. Hate being asked. How do you decline without seeming like a total a**hole?

  3. I think the trick is to avoid being asked at all … Watch for the telltale signs of a lifter in need of a spot: scrawny guy sitting next to massive weights, slowly scanning the room. Just gently back away, and make yourself otherwise unavailable …

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