How to Spot a Dumbbell Press: I Can’t Believe I Have to Say This

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Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time knows that I don’t take myself too seriously, and that much of what makes my blog so popular is that I’m able to combine great fitness and health information with a pinch (or two) of an entertainment value.

I mean, where else can you learn about program design, exercise technique, corrective exercise, femoral acetabular impingement, and gluconeogenesis1, all while being peppered with Lord of the Rings references, self deprecating humor, and cute cat pics?

Cute cat face

Anyhoo, today’s post is going to be a shining example of finding that balance between educating people (hopefully) and me being a facetious asshat.

It’s going to be short and sweet, though.

Okay, ready?

If you’re like me, whenever you train at a commercial gym you try not to vomit all over yourself from all the asinine things you see.  Now, don’t get me wrong:  there’s PLENTY of trainers and facilities out there who do a fantastic job and are great at what they do.

And, more to the point, I don’t want to come across as combining everyone into one massive bowl of fail.

Avocado in a bowl

I.e., NOT a bowl of fail. Rather a bowl of deliciousness

But I think we can all agree that those examples are few and far between, and that for the most part, a small piece of our soul dies every time we walk through the doors of a commercial gym and Celine Dion is blaring over the stereo system and/or some asshole is performing their WOD taking up half the gym equipment.

Then again, who the hell am I to judge, right?  Sure I can roll my eyes at the two dudes who have a combined weight of one hamster performing their 47th set of bicep curls. And yes, it’s hard not get a bit eye rolley at the woman over there performing her 317th glute exercise of the day.

But you know what:  THEY’RE ALL EXERCISING

And that’s pretty freakin awesome.

At the end of the day, it’s far better than the alternative which is sitting on their butts watching America’s Got Talent.

Even still, I’ll give most everyone a free pass because most people don’t know any better.  Most people could care less that their elbows are flaring out on their push-up, or that leg extensions place a lot more shearing force on the knees (and that doing them shirtless is borderline weird).

Whatever the case may be, they’ll read something online or watch something on tv that’s interesting to them, and then they’ll try it out at the gym.  That’s usually how it goes – and everyone has to start somewhere.  They’re exercising and that’s all that matters anyways.

One of my biggest pet peeves, though, is when I watch a trainer do something dumb.  That’s when my blood starts to boil.

Presumably these are people who are supposed to know what they’re doing, and it dumbfounds me at some of the stuff I see going down at some commercial gyms.

Take for example something I witnessed not too long ago as I watched a trainer spot his client through something as simple as a set of dumbbell bench presses.

Caucasian male weightlifter bench-pressing in fitness center

Everything was fine and dandy until the client started to struggle and the trainer grabbed her elbows to help her out.

I thought maybe this was a one-time, fluke thing.  But then I saw him do it again, and at this point I was just waiting for something bad to happen.

Luckily it didn’t.

I got home later that day and posted a casual status along the lines of “watched an inept trainer spot his client during DB presses by grabbing the elbows instead of the wrists.”

To me it’s common sense, and I didn’t think much of it and thought it would get some funny responses.

And it did.

But to my surprise I actually received two private message from personal trainers asking me why spotting through the elbows was wrong.

So, to review:

The Right Way to Spot Someone

If someone starts to struggle, you just guide their wrists to offer help.  And try to refrain from being that guy who yells “all you, all you, all you.”

And the “Holy- S***-My-Client-Is-About-To-Crush-Their-Skull-And-Get-Face-Planted-By-That-Dumbbell” Way

Obviously this is said in a slightly tongue in cheek kind of way, but at the same time I feel this is something that should be obvious and that most trainers, coaches, and general fitness enthusiasts should understand.

Don’t spot DB presses through the elbows.

It’s not smart.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. I gotta be honest: I’ve been doing this for a little over two decades no, I have never, not even once, discussed gluconeogenesis with a client. With my invisible friend Timmy? Yes. But not with a real person.

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