A spotter can be your most valuable asset in the gym. Here are some key traits that make for a great workout partner.

Forget about the dumbbells, kettlebells, Olympic weightlifting platforms, pull-up bars, cross trainers and even your lucky deadlifting t-shirt. The most important piece of ‘equipment’ in the entire gym is that guy standing above you on the bench press, making sure you don’t decapitate yourself while going for a new PR. That’s right, a great workout partner can motivate you, keep you accountable, push you harder and keep you from killing yourself. But with great power comes great responsibility. Here are the key traits that make for a great workout partner.

Know When to Spot and When to Not

Spotting key lifts is a skill in-and-of itself (see sidebar) but so is knowing when not to spot. Nothing is more frustrating than having someone rip the bar out of your hand before you feel like you are done driving a rep home. A general rule of thumb to follow is if the bar is still moving concentrically (being lifted), no matter how slowly, keep your hands off. Also, unless you are using a special technique such as forced reps, there is never a need to keep helping with additional reps beyond the first rep you had to spot. Meaning, once your partner needs help with one rep, that should be the last rep of the set. Most importantly, while you don’t want to rob a guy of trying to push through a rep, always err on the side of caution and be ready to grab the bar before there is any risk of injury.

Show Up and Be on Time

It’s 5:30 in the evening. You’ve drank your pre-workout shake, laced up your sneakers, foam rolled and warmed up, all in preparation for an epic squat session. And still, your workout partner, who was supposed to meet you a half-hour ago, is nowhere to be found. You strip the 3-plates-per-side you had on the bar, drop down to 185 (because you now have no spotter) and do your best to psych yourself up for the set.

When you are late or no-show for a session you can totally kill your training partner’s motivation and force him to alter his workout plan. And, when you are on the other side of this, you realize how much that sucks. So, just as you would for a job interview, a first date or an important meeting, be sure to show up for your training sessions prepared and on time.

Know When to Push and When to Hold Back

Even those of us who love to train have days where we’re just not particularly motivated to train hard. This is where a great training partner can pick up the slack and infuse you with the energy you need to make it through the session—something that might not happen if you were training on your own. However, if you notice your partner isn’t moving well, is missing lifts and is risking injuring himself, it’s your responsibility to advise him to pull the plug, take down the weights and come back stronger in your next session.

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