By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Have you ever wanted to try a piece of gym equipment, but felt intimidated by it?
When I first started strength training, I was intimidated to use the barbells and squat racks, because I assumed it was meant for advanced lifters. I didn’t want to embarrass myself trying to figure out how to step it up.
Now, it has become my favourite gym equipment to use with clients and for my own workout sessions!
Benefits of The Squat Rack
The squat rack assists you as you progress and increase in strength by providing various weighted plates that you can add onto the barbell.
It can also be used for other exercises, such as deadlifts, bent over rows, overhead military presses, and more.
In this blog, I’ll demonstrate how to use the squat rack safely and show you that it’s not as intimidating as it looks!
Step 1: Adjust the barbell height
When you first approach the squat rack, the first thing you’ll want to do is adjust the barbell height by adjusting the hooks. You’ll want the barbell to be placed just below your shoulder height. Most squat racks have numbers on the hook holes, so you can remember the numbers for future use.
Step 2: Adjust the safety bars
Next, adjust the safety bars to the appropriate height by sliding the bars in and out of the rack holes. To find out the right height for the safety bars, perform one squat to observe the bottom position of your squat. You will place the safety bars a few inches below that position. You should always use the safety bars when using the squat rack, especially if you do not have a spotter and you are lifting heavy.
Step 3: Load the weighted plates
Now, you can load on some weighted plates. In the video below, I am adding 10 lb plates on both sides of the barbell. When loading plates, always make sure the weight is the same on both sides of the barbell.
Then, attach safety clips on each side of the barbell to ensure that the plates do not slide off when performing the squats. Using the safety clips are very important to reduce any risk of injury!
Step 4: Get into position
After setting up the squat rack, you can get into the position to lift the barbell off the rack. This is done by holding the barbell with hands just past shoulder-width apart, then getting under the bar and placing the barbell on your upper back. Brace your core, squeeze the shoulder blades, grip the barbell firmly, and you are ready to lift the barbell off the squat rack.
Step 5: Squat
After lifting the barbell off the rack, get ready to begin the squat movement. After you lift the barbell, take about two or three steps back so that the barbell will not hit the rack and is still within the safety bars. Get into your squat stance and ensure your feet are in a stable position.
Make sure that the weight is maintained in the midfoot as you squat down and back up. Ensure that your back is flat, your chest is up, your feet do not lift off the ground – with that, you have successfully performed a barbell back squat!
When re-racking the barbell, take a look at both sides to ensure that the barbell is secured to rest on the hooks.
If you have never used a squat rack, I suggest performing a few repetitions of the squat with just the barbell alone (without any weighted plates) to get comfortable with it.
Once you are comfortable with the barbell weight for a few repetitions, then you can add on some weighted plates.
It is important to ensure you do not lift too heavy, too soon. You’ll know if you are lifting too heavy when your form suffers, you experience pain in your hips, knees, or lower back, or if you “fail” a squat.
Failing a squat occurs due to heavy load and fatigue. Without a personal spotter, failing a squat and lifting too heavy can be very dangerous and lead to injury.
If necessary, here is the proper way to safely “fail” a squat:
Step 1: Check the safety bars
First, ensure the safety bars are adjusted as in the steps above.
Step 2: Rest the barbell on the safety bars
Next, if you start to fatigue during the descent of your squat and cannot successfully lift the barbell back up, you can safely fail by sinking lower into your squat until the barbell rests onto the safety bars.
Step 3: Step away
Once you know the barbell is caught by the safety bars, let the barbell roll behind you then step forward and away from the squat rack.
Step 4: Lower the weight
From here, you know that you have loaded on too much weight and should lower the weight for your next set.
If you have questions about the squat rack at our gym, come visit us at Member Services! Or, email firstname.lastname@example.org.