Barbell training is a safe, effective way to get stronger and improve one’s health. That being said, some basic precautions can increase safety and prevent needless injuries--and even fatalities. Proper spotting and correct placement of safety pins or spotter arms in a power rack or on a squat rack make the squat and bench press safer. Different lifts, however, require different safety considerations.
For the squat, if possible, squat in a power rack. Put the safety pins just beneath where the bar is at the bottom of the squat. This allows the lifter to lower the bar down to the safety pins, which will take the weight of the bar, and safely get out from underneath the bar. If spotters are needed, have two spotters on each side of the bar. Spotters grab the bar in the crook of their elbow and grab the plate with their fingers. The two spotters need to grab the bar at the same time. The spotters assist the lifter standing up with the bar and--because they can see the j-hooks--help the lifter guide the bar onto the j-hooks. The lifter cannot bail on a squat with spotters--this puts a dangerous amount of weight into the spotters’ arms with little to no notice.
The bench press presents the most danger, as lifters move the bar over their face and neck. Lifters should not put safety clips on the bar, so the weight can slide off the ends of the barbell if needed. Lifters should also use safety pins set up low enough that they do not hit the pins in the bottom of the bench press but high enough so that if they get rid of their arch and flatten their torso, the pins--not their chest--take the weight of the barbell. It is recommended, however, to have a spotter. One spotter is needed. She should stand behind the lifter’s head. The spotter should help lift the bar off the j-hooks and move the bar to the top position over the shoulder joints, stand back to stay out of the lifter’s gaze, and only grab the bar if the lifter asks or if the bar starts moving down. The spotter helps move the bar back from the top position to the j-hooks. The spotter uses a mixed grip to do this. For the lifter, he should never move the bar from the rack to the top position or vice versa without locked elbows.
Finally, the press, deadlift, and olympic lifts should not be spotted because they cannot be spotted safely.
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