Your Spotter A No Show?

By Brandon Hahn Athletic Xtreme


It’s past 5 o’clock and your gym partner still hasn’t shown up. He told you it’d be the last time he was late. You thought last time was the last time. Your workout requires a spotter. You have to wait until he arrives. It’s the only option you have… or is it? It’s time to learn how to train without a spotter.


Lifting requires a focus on three main factors:


Intensity. Intensity refers to the percent of your 1 rep max used in a given lift. High intensity means you are closer to your one rep max. The term intensity is misused far too often in the gym.


TUL. This refers to the time under load. TUL means the time it takes to complete each set, not including rest periods.


Rest. The rest time between sets depends on the workout focus. For muscle growth (aka hypertrophy) it is between 45 seconds to 2 minutes. If strength is the focus it is between 2 to 5 minutes per set.


Spotters help you achieve the desired rep range. This means the intensity for your workout is spot on. Your workout requires you to get close to or push beyond muscle failure. The odds seem against you without that spotter. However, not all workouts require muscle failure in one set.


A workout without a spotter is going to require some advanced techniques. You need to be able to get close to failure and keep pushing. You can use a higher intensity and still focus on time under load.


Here are some advanced techniques to use when your spotter bails:


Rest-pause – This technique involves lifting the weight for your given rep range. Then rest 15 to 30 seconds and lift the weight again. Try to come close to muscle failure before racking the weight. After a second and final rest period, lift the weight as many times as you can. This technique allows you to come to near failure. The key is that your muscles get limited rest and you continue pushing.


Drop sets – This involves reducing the weight after each set. Research suggests a weight reduction of 25%. Reducing too much or too little ends up leaving the next set too heavy or light. Try to complete two to three drops in each set.


Supersets – This involves using one exercise followed immediately by another. Be sure to choose two exercises that focus on the same muscle groups. This will allow further exhaustion of the muscle without using a spotter. Be sure not to rest in between supersetting the exercises. Also, come close to failure, but do not reach complete muscle failure.


Advanced techniques allow your body to push beyond failure. The next addition would be finishing off the workout with bodyweight exercises. This will allow you to reach failure without a spotter.


Some great bodyweight exercise choices are:




jump squats

body rows

close grip pushups



Training without a spotter requires practice (Note: I have been training alone for 6 years and learn new things almost daily). Remember to focus the three main factors in your workout. Do not overuse the advanced techniques. This can lead to overtraining. Try to keep the advanced techniques to 3 to 4 exercises per workout. Train hard and focus on pushing yourself!



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