T Nation

Spotting the Dumbell Bench Press


Hey guys,

Today something went horribly wrong with dumbell bp. My mate failed a rep, not so much as that he couldn't push it with his chest - but he lost his balance. My hands were at his elbows, ready to help. But the 25kg dumbell more or less fell on his chest (it was his grip/balance that failed I think?).

To prevent the falling dumbell from bouncing to the jaw I quickly pushed it to the floor. But we were both sweating and laughing afterwards lol.

This made me wonder: what's the proper way to spot a db bench? To prevent future jaw-surgery I guess. Should have asked this here before.. supporting the elbows seemed logical! Man that was a close one today..


spotter on each side is foolproof as long as everyone is paying attention


Spot at the wrists. Something goes wrong, grab on tight, then let him drop them.


Okay, good one! Is there also a way I can 'catch' the DBs when his grip fails?


sounds like he has the dumbells too far in. make sure his forearm isnt leaning in, it should be straight up and down. perpendicular to the floor. if his grip is even factoring in, it sounds like the dumbells are leaning and that also explains why they fell on his chest instead of the floor.


"Grip" shouldn't really fail on DB Bench - you're not really supporting the weight with your grip , this is why no one ever uses straps like this.

If the grip does fail I can't really see a way to spot for that.

We always spot at the elbows.


By observing others at the gym I learned the proper way to spot DB Bench is pushing upward on their elbows/triceps as much as you possibly can while saying "its all you bro".





IMO, there's no need to spot on a dumbell press. do as many as you can and once you fail, put them down. This is the powerlifting section, not the bodybuilding section where you are going for forced reps. sounds to me it's a simple case of needing to learn to balance the dumbells while pressing them.


With beginners and early intermediates which it sounds like your buddy was, you spot the forearms to prevent the exact issue you were describing. Newbies will have issues controlling the weight and you don't want to have a joint (the elbow) that you don't have control of in between the weight and your spot. For advanced lifters they will usually prefer to be spotted under the triceps, you will note their form is very controlled and the dumbbells don't wobble at all.




Spot on mate, as I recall we both were beginning on the side like a 'regular' bp, and then at the end of the rep we willingly hit the db's against each other. I will pay attention to this next time, thanks!

I lol'd. The stereotype is totally true.

Hey man, we we're doing assistance work on the 5/3/1 which I recall being for powerlifting? There wasn't really forced repping. We newbies overestimated the difficulty of dumbells I guess, since we both bench press 200lbs with barbells. Indeed, balancing makes it so much more difficult.

What do you mean btw with the difference of going 'till failure and forced reps? Aren't they the same thing?? Atleast, that's what I thought.

We're both effectively PL'ing for 4 months, so the dumbells were indeed wobbly. I'll check his forearms next time, ty.

Thanks guys for all the feedback!


lets get our definitions straight here..."spotting" implies being there in case a rep fails and you prevent the guy from getting pinned under the weight....therefore, since there is no pinning, there should be no "spotting" for DB bench press...I guess if you wanted to be super duper extra safe you could have your mommy string a pulley system through the rafters of your basement that you could hold onto while your buddy cranks out some DB presses...but seriously?

It seems some of you are confusing "spotting" with "assisting"...and as MM said, that garbage belongs in the bodybuilding section...if you have to help your buddy perform his rep, you aren't spotting him, you are helping him get it up (probably in more ways than one)


thats what I thought OP meant.....when a rep fails , and the DB carines towards dude's face . not the elbow crap . I've only done that once , but for a gal who competes BBer .

some may say it's not necessary in the Pler circle , but I got a buddy who would have a few implants in the grille if it hadnt been for me......a 95 got away from him just a bit , and hats a weight he normally has no problem with . it was just one of those things .


i just see very little chance I would be able to catch a 100 pound dumbbell in the short distance it has to travel from wherever he dropped it to where his face is located...its not exactly a softball...i dont understand how "spotting the forearms" or any of the other stuff here would change that....

Personally I dont understand how anybody could drop a DB in the first place...


Sorry for the confusion - because I'm confused atm lol. Ok, so it wasn't really spotting in the 'prevent pinning' sense of the word. Just to be clear: I wasn't assisting him/helping him finish his rep. I was there simply to .. ehm ...tries to find a neutral word.. guard his face when his chest/arm fails (for whatever the reason. There was no assistance or forced repping.

But it went wrong, we can't really recall why, grip perhaps, or balance slip, no idea.

Just to get things straight!

So these are the suggestions so far:
- keep dumbells straight (so they fall on the floor)
- 'guard' the wrists when it might go wrong (weight/fatigue)
- ...

Any more?


you could think of it as a powerlifting form of darwinism.


Eugenetics would be pushing the barbell/dumbells downwards amirite?


thats why I said what I said.....one spotter on each side . it's the only foolproof answer as long as both are paying attention . thats how we did it when I had partners . you dont have to hover over the guy every set.....just when you know he's gettin' tired . palms under elbows aint gonna do shit if the lifter actually loses control . reason is as soon as one DB drifts too far out of whack , the other DB becomes un-balanced and risks doing the same .

I've only seen it happen the one time....it was a fluke , the DB drifted too far center and went for his head..... but it worked out because the lifter's buddy ( me ) was paying attention .

if only one spotter is used , spotter focuses on weak side .

when lifting alone , it's obvious to not use barbells or dumb-bells that may pose problems .


I just can't imagine the db getting so out of control that I couldn't safely miss the lift. That's one of the things I really like about db bench pressing.