Weight-lifting question

My 16-year-old son asked for (and recieved) new weights and a new weight-bar for Christmas. He’s had a weight bench for several years but only about 100 pounds of weights. With only 100 pounds of weights, I never worried about him messing with them on his own. Now he has 400 pounds of weights – 300 pounds in the new set and 100 in the old. He has told me that he ‘maxes’ around 200 pounds when he’s at the weight room at school – once he managed 210, but usually it’s more like 195. Obviously, I don’t want him pressing 200 without a spotter. And he agrees that he won’t try to ‘max’ with his home gym. But when I went up there last night, he had around 140 or 150 pounds on his pressing bar – two 45-pound weights plus the weight of the bar (45 pounds at least). So I’m thinking we need some rules here. He has a curl bar too and some of those little bars that are used like dumbbells, but I’m not so worried about him doing those by himself. It’s the pressing that concerns me. How much is it safe for him to press without a spotter? Is it safe for him to press at all without a spotter?


Sure, so long as he’s inside a reinforced roll cage. :wink:

Seriously, you can do yourself some serious damage if you press even relatively light weights without a spotter. One slip from sweaty hands and you could be looking at serious dental work, or a trip to the ER at the least.

If he maxxes 200-215, doing 135 (two 45s and an olympic bar) for reps without a spotter should be just fine. At my gym, the only people around are older ladies for the most part. (50’s-60’s) so I never have a spotter. Haven’t slipped from sweaty hands yet. Don’t know anybody that has either. If your son has olympic style barbells the chances of him slipping are pretty low. Those things have such a good grip that they can cause abrasions like sandpaper.

(anyway, if he is benching the bar above his face, he should be slapped for improper form)

If his max is about 200, 135-150 is fine…
but it will be hard getting that through his head… teenagers do not listen so well when it comes to lifting… they all want to get as big as they can as quick as they can… and they will try to hard sometimes…

I would ask him to stay around 150…

but if you are really concerned, you may think about getting a smith machine at home…

a smith machine can basically be a spot without a person… here is an example… there are many differnt types…


Put a couple of chairs next to the bench on either side, at a level that will catch the weight an inch or so below where it is when it touches the chest.

Training is meant to develop strength, not demonstrate it.

Kids :rolleyes:


Pretty obviously, I know, but just in case he hasn’t already got them, why not invest in some weight lifting gloves and a belt? Those will help his grip with sweaty hands, and protect his back somewhat from some of the rigours of curls etc.

The only problem I’ve had with weight lifting without a spotter is when I stupidly forgot to check that the weights were fastened properly at both ends. Didn’t hurt me, but knocked a chunk out of the wall.

Ahhh…memories. But I did learn to spackle drywall…

If he’s really serious, an investment of the Smith machine is well worth it. I’ve had mine for almost 4 years now, and absolutely love it. We’ve got a couple of consignment sports stores in our area, selling new and used equipment, and sometimes you can come across a deal. But be careful…one thing I’ve learned about weight equipment, just like everything else, you get what you pay for.

200 pounds on the chest?
Not a problem unless it`s dropped there.

Ive done this to myself before. Couldnt get the bar back up so I lowered it to my chest and pulled down with my right arm and pushed up with my left and rolled the bar off my chest to the floor.

Maybe have him practice this with 100 pounds or so. Just so if it does happen with more weight he won`t panic. Of course, spot him while he does this.

Preventing this in the first place would be ideal.(smith machine)

Also if you are really worried about it, you might want to invest in dumbbells, he can do the same exercizes and have less of a chance of getting stuck underneath them.

How do you experienced weightlifters feel about machines (i.e. Bowflex and the type at gyms) vs. freeweights? Machines (there’s probably a better term) are safer in regards to working out alone. Are they any more or less effective? I suppose they’re a lot more expensive.

I rarely ever have a spotter. When I do, it’s not so much for safety but to allow me to get a few more reps than I could do unassisted. I’ve never had the weights even come close to slipping out of my hands, never seen it happen either. The benches at my gym all have a couple of “intermediate” hooks so if you can’t press the bar back to full height, you can still set it down and get out. I’ve had to use these a few times - sometimes by design on the last set. You’re not going to make many gains if you’re not going to (or very close to) muscle failure.

I would be more concerned that he’s using proper form, and taking the reps nice and slow - plus this makes it harder so maybe he won’t be lifting as much weight.

As to the Smith machines, I wouldn’t recommend their use in most exercises. Since they isolate the movement to require only the primary muscles, they aren’t as good for overall muscular development. If you’re doing bench press on them, you’re only using your pecs and triceps. Whereas with free weights, you’re involving a bunch of other supporting muscles like your shoulders. This is true of virtually all machines, which is why I avoid them if at all possible, preferring free weights (or even cables).

I agree with ski. Machines and smith machines may be ok for say- checking your max without a spotter, general use isn’t ideal for muscular development.

I have never heard of anybody developing a great body from bowflex, or any other non-freeweight machines. Sure, strength may come, but it will be limited. If you think the bowflex guy looks that way because he uses bowflex, I hate to ruin it for you, but he didn’t. He used freeweights. Hint- Bowflex pays for him to promote their product, he probably looked that way before bowflex was even on the drawing boards. I digress though, to stay on topic…

I have never heard of anybody slipping, gloves are useless if he has olympic style barbells. Why? Look at the grip, hold on to the bard and move your hand. Abrasive isn’t it? Would take a bit more than sweat to cause the friction to drop to levels in which slippage would be a problem. It would take grease.

I have seen a guy drop 400 lbs or so on his chest, it happened in a video on the internet. He was using a suicide grip- fitting name, in which the fingers are NOT curled around the bar. He had a spotter but it dropped so fast that the spotter couldn’t do anything. Fortunately the bodybuilder in question (not sure who it was) was used to that kind of weight, and his sheer muscle mass prevented anything more than a bruise.

I agree with meatros, if you are that worried about it, invest in some dumbells. :slight_smile:

something that worries me is how you said he knows all about his max and usually does this much or that much. this is dangerous!!!

no one, especially young kids, should know their max that well. in fact, they should never max out. tell him to stop going under 3 reps. this is your biggest worry, not a spotter.

encourage him to get DB’s. they are easier on the shoulder joint.

also tell him to warm up and stretch well.

Proper form and a slow cadence are both important, but he needs to do some upper back work to avoid messing up his posture–having a very strong chest and a weak upper back can cause serious problems. Also, keep in mind that guys with huge upper bodies and scrawny legs are easy to knock over, so if he’s looking to be a badass, he needs to do some leg work.

As for freeweights, machines, and bowflex…

I suspect that one of the main reasons that no one ever develops a great body from machines alone is that there’s this notion out there that it’s not possible. But that’s far from the only one.

The problem with machines is that they force you to use their form, which may or may not be very good. If the machine’s form is far enough off, you may not even be using the muscles that you think you are–I’ve heard quite a bit about back extension machines that don’t work your back as much as they do other muscles.

The problem with bowflex, IIRC, is that the resistance is not constant over the range of motion. The tension on the cables is fairly low at first, but as you keep going, it gets a lot higher. So you don’t get as much resistance as you could with a barbell, or a pair of dumbbells.

One other caution: bench pressing a pair of dumbbells is much more difficult than benching a barbell of the same weight, due to the fact that there’s nothing balancing the barbells except you. If you do go with the dumbbells, spot him a couple times while he gets used to them.

I disagree about not knowing your max that well. Knowing your max is extremely important in developing a good strength training routine. If you don’t stress your muscles enough and damage enough fibers, you will not get optimal gains.

It is nonsense to say that nobody should do max. Should they do max all the time? No, but even once a week isn’t going to cause any problems. I would personally suggest doing it only once every two or three weeks, sort of as a gauge to see where you are. Powerlifters following westside methods lift max weight once a week. Every week, every lift.

You got me wondering though, you don’t happen to be one of those types that thinks squats are bad for the knees and that deadlifts are bad for the back, are you? Wouldn’t surprise me based off the “max weight is BAAAAD” statement you just made.

Speaking of squats, I agree with Ultrafilter, and I am ashamed I didn’t spot it before. Your son really shouldn’t be one of those chicken leg benchpress gym rats. LOL. Squats are the KING of the lifts. They are the most important lift when it comes to looking for maximal gains and health and wellbeing. Benchpress and curls are one of the least useful strength exercises in that they have the least real-life carryover. I have no idea why so many are obcessed with them.

I wouldn’t worry about him lifting at such a young age. That old story about weightlifting stunting growth in youngsters is mostly just a big myth. (there seems to be alot of these things called myths in bodybuilding) 16 is the age at which even those that tout out that B.S myth say it is ok to start weightlifting.

Tell him to squat and deadlift if he wants to bench. :wink: He will be amazed at how much his benchpress increases and how fast he gains muscle.

I agree with most of what you said, the only thing I want to really stress is that he has to be careful when doing squats. It takes a bit to get used to the proper form, and it is very easy to pull a muscle, injure your back, etc. when doing squats, becuase the tendency is to lift heavy and not warm up properly. I would advice against a weight training belt for squats as well-at least until he has the form properly squared down. Belts are helpful when maxing out, but in my experience they can weaken the lower back.

Weaken isn’t the right word; the lower back doesn’t keep up with the rest of the body when doing squats with a belt. So in time you could be setting yourself up for a bad sprain.

Belts interfere with the development of your midbody strength, which is (essentially) where all of your strength comes from. Use a light weight to develop proper form, not a belt.

How about his throat? How much weight can it support?

I’d recommend at least one of the weight benches on the page linked to above–they’re not as versatile as the full machines, but something to catch the bar is a Good Idea.

this might be an ignorant question, but what’s wrong with him just NOT putting the fasteners on the ends of the bar? If he gets stuck with more than he can lift, he can just let the bar tilt to the side and the weights will slide off (ok, don’t practice this on the parquet floor). Seriously, this is what I do, and it seems to work fine as a safety precaution; also, you have to keep the bar level when you’re lifting, so you tend to keep a good form. And it’s lots easier than trying to roll the bar down your frontside to get out from under it.

Whew! I think this is the most responses in the least amount of time in any thread I’ve ever started!

Couple of things: Nick is on the wrestling team at his school, so he has had some oversight in his weight training – a very good thing, since his Dad and I know nothing about it. He checks his max once or twice a month and the coach is against them doing so except at school and under supervision so, as Nick told me, he has no intention of maxxing with his home weights. He is doing reps (I don’t know how many) at 135. He also tells me that he is careful with his form (he rolled his eyes at the idea of knocking out his teeth or crushing his windpipe with the bar). He said, “Mom! The bar is at my chest, not my teeth!” He owns a belt (bought new with the new weights) and a set of gloves, which he uses with his curl bar and dumbbells, and possibly with the new bar, which is, indeed, an olympic one. His bench also has the intermediate hooks almost all the way down. So I guess I’ll stop worrying about him dropping the thing on his pretty face…

As for lower body training – according to him, lower body strength isn’t his strong suit. So far as I know he’s never done any squats or deadlifting – at least not that I’ve noticed at home. He used to run every night, but I think that was as much for weight control (he is a wrestler, remember) as for strength training. Anyway, strength training on his legs is out for the time being – as is wrestling for the rest of the year. He has a torn miniscus? menendez? mateus? Something in his knee, anyway, and will be having surgery on it in the new year. So, I’m not recommending squats for a couple of months! Thanks again for the help, you all! I swear, is there nothing a group of Dopers aren’t experts on?