HOW TO USE A POWER RACK

Big gains with a power rack!

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If you've got access to a power rack, a barbell, and a bench, you have everything you need to develop muscle size, strength, and power. With a power rack, you can train virtually every muscle in your body safely. If you miss a rep, your power rack will stop you from getting pinned during bench presses or stapled during squats.

However, power racks are more than just substitute spotters. You can also use a power rack for big training gains. There are several workout methods and exercises you can do with a power rack that is all but impossible without one.

Be warned; these exercises and methods are intense! Expect some gnarly post-exercise muscle soreness after adding any of the following to your workouts.

OLD-SCHOOL ANDERSON SQUATS

Paul Anderson, born in 1932 and died in 1994, was a legendary weightlifter and strongman. Many strength sports aficionados believe that Anderson was the strongest man who ever lived. Known best for his immensely strong legs, Anderson developed a unique method for boosting squat performance which has since been dubbed Anderson squats:

  • Position your barbell in a power rack.
  • Load up the barbell with a heavy weight (85% to 95% of your 1MR).
  • Adjust the safety rails for partial squat.
  • Unrack the weight and squat.

For your next workout, keep the weight the same but lower the safety rails to squat a little deeper. Continue dropping the safety pins week by week until you are doing full squats. Once you can do full-depth squats, increase the weight by 5 to 10%, raise the safety rails, and start over. You can apply Anderson's progressive range of motion method to bench presses and deadlifts too.

DEAD STOP REPS

Dead-stop reps make your workouts harder. If you want big gains, harder is good! When you lower your weight during an exercise like the squat or bench press, energy is stored in your muscles and tendons. This is called the stretch-shortening reflex. That energy will help you lift the load more easily. The faster you lower the weight, the more energy there will be. That's why slower reps are harder than faster reps.

In dead stop reps, also called pin reps, you start each rep from a stationary position. With no stretch-shortening reflex, you'll have to double down on your explosive efforts to get the weight moving. This is called overcoming the moment of inertia. Here's how to do dead-stop squats, bench presses, and overhead presses:

  • Set your power rack safety pins so they are at the bottom of your usual range of motion.
  • Lower the bar as normal, but then pause with the bar on the pins for 3-5 seconds.
  • Stay tight – this is not an opportunity to rest.
  • Drive the weight up as quickly as you can.
  • This method works best with heavy loads and low to moderate reps.
  • Start with three to six repetitions.

BUILD A BETTER DEADLIFT

Deadlifts are one of the best posterior chain exercises around, with the posterior chain being the muscles that make up the back of your body. A strong posterior chain will have a noticeable impact on how you look, feel, and perform. Deadlifts are also a great way to develop a vice-like grip, and mountainous traps too.

The main disadvantage of deadlifts is that lifting heavy weights from the floor can be hard on your lower back, especially if you have poor hamstring flexibility. This will limit the amount of weight you can safely lift. With rack pulls, each rep starts from a raised, more accommodating position. This is not only easier on your lower back but will also allow you to lift more weight.

Here's how to do rack pulls:

  • Set the safety pins on your squat rack to below knee height.
  • Rest your barbell on the pins and then load up.
  • Do your deadlifts using a double overhand or mixed grip.
  • Make sure the bar touches down and settles between each rep.

Deadlifts are so-called because each rep should start from a dead stop, so no bouncing! You can add more weight week by week or, if you prefer, lower the safety pins as your mobility and flexibility improve, just as you would for Anderson squats. Incorporating these training methods into your routine can enhance your squat, bench press, and deadlift performance while targeting specific muscle groups and improving overall strength.

OVERCOME STICKING POINTS WITH ISOMETRICS

All exercises have sticking points, which occur when your momentum comes to a halt, and you fail to complete a rep. Sticking points can vary depending on the individual but often happen in mechanically-disadvantageous positions, such as when the weight you're lifting is farthest away from your body or when levers are at their longest.

Dealing with sticking points can be frustrating. You may feel that if you could just overcome that tricky joint angle, you would be able to complete your rep successfully. However, no matter how hard you try, the bar always stops at the same spot. The good news is that you can overcome these sticking points using nothing more than a power rack and a barbell through a technique called isometrics.

Isometrics involve muscle contractions where your joints do not move, but your muscles generate force. By using isometrics, you can specifically target your sticking points so that, over time, they cease to be weak links. Isometrics work best for compound exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and overhead presses. Try this method during your next workout:

  • Set up your power rack safety bars.
  • Rest your barbell on the pins and load it with more weight than you can lift.
  • Next, assume your normal position and grip.

Push or pull against the immovable weight with all your might. Keep in mind that because the weight is so heavy, it will not move. Maintain the isometric contraction for five to six seconds. Relax, take a breath, and repeat. Do three to five isometric reps before resting for two to three minutes.

Isometrics are intense, so limit yourself to about two to three sets per workout. Follow up isometrics with full-range repetitions to maintain your strength and technique. After a few weeks of isometric training, you should find that you can overcome your old sticking points.

HOW TO USE A POWER RACK

A power rack is not just a surrogate spotter; it has many more applications. When used correctly, a power rack can be the key to achieving significant and long-term gains in your training. Have a video of yourself crushing your workout with the power rack? Tag us on Instagram so we can share!