Bench Power Rack

There seems to be some confusion about the proper use of the power rack. Believe it or not, the power rack was not invented for empty-bar curls, dumbbell laterals or hanging your gym bag. The power rack is so much more. It is a serious tool for serious bodybuilders, and putting it to good use will help you overcome plateaus in your bench press, squat and even the deadlift, and help you develop more muscle than you ever thought possible!

Do you have trouble coming out of the bottom of the squat? What about locking out your bench press? Such issues may be hindering your ability to pack on some serious muscle, and it’s time to let the power rack help. Here are some typical lifting problems and the solutions the power rack can provide.

Exercise: Bench Press

Dilemma: Locking out
Power-Rack Rx: Partials

Partials, so named due to the fact that you work in a partial range of motion (ROM), will help increase overall strength while also giving you more power to get through the weaker part of a lift, such as the last few inches of a bench press, for example.

Directions:

  • Place a flat bench in the middle of the power rack.
  • Set the safety bars around the height of your sticking point (roughly 6-8 inches away from full extension).
  • Load the bar with 10%-20% more weight than you would normally use for 10 reps.
  • Lie down and unrack the barbell. Slowly lower the bar to the safeties, then press the bar up to full extension and repeat for reps.
  • Over time, progressively lower and raise the safeties to different levels above your chest, allowing you to work through a variety of ranges of motion.

How: Do four sets of 6-8 partials at the beginning of your bench press routine, then finish with your full-ROM working sets.

squat

Exercise: Squat

Dilemma: Getting out of the hole (bottom portion of the rep)
Power-Rack Rx: Reverse squats

Reverse squats help you train without the added benefit of the elastic energy built up during the negative portion of a rep. After a few weeks, this increase in starting strength (out of the hole) combined with that elastic energy found in standard squats will elicit marked improvement in your squat performance and help you build thicker, stronger legs.

Directions:

  • Set the bar on the safeties at a height that matches the bottom of your squat (the point where your quads are just below parallel to the floor).
  • Load the bar with 10% less weight than your 6RM.
  • Squat down and position yourself under the bar, with the bar across your upper back and feet flat on the floor, as if you were in the bottom of a standard squat rep.
  • Press the bar off the safeties by driving through your heels until you arrive at the standing position, then lower back to the start.
  • Come to a complete stop at the bottom as you allow the bar to settle on the safeties before starting your next rep.

How: Do 3-4 sets of six reps at the start of your squat routine. Finish with full-ROM squats.

deadlift

Exercise: Deadlift

Dilemma: Sticking point
Power-Rack Rx: Isometric training

It’s possible to produce more force during an isometric muscle action (one in which the muscle contracts without moving) than either a positive or negative muscle action. So training using isometrics will help produce serious increases in size and strength. Isometric training is angle-specific. Because gains in strength will only be realized at each particular angle, it’s very important to continuously change the height of the safety bars to elicit full-range gains in strength.

Directions:

  • Set the safety bars at the lowest possible setting.
  • Stand in the rack with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and grasp a barbell with a staggered grip (one underhand and one overhand), just outside your legs.
  • Keeping your arms straight, press through your heels as you pull the bar up your thighs to the safety bars and continue to pull evenly as hard as possible against the bars for up to five seconds. Lower the bar and repeat.
  • After four sets, raise the safeties to the next possible level (probably 2-3 inches) and repeat the five-second pulling sequence.

How: Do four sets of the five-second pulls at each level before raising the safeties.
Note: Load the bar with roughly 50% of your 10RM. Even though you’re using isometrics (with the primary resistance being the safety bars), having some weight on the bar will keep it moving in a natural plane from the floor up.