Gone are the days when you just know dumbbells and treadmills as gym essentials. As the fitness world progresses, there are no excuses for you to start knowing how to use the different equipment and machines in the gym—most especially the new ones.
With the varying differences in the gym equipment and machines, it is undoubtedly true that keeping up with how to use these items can be pretty challenging. This is most especially when you can’t distinguish one from another.
This is the case for squat racks. For the beginners in the gym or for those who have never been to a gym, you might think that squat racks are those built like a cage—and that is not correct.
Other than the squat rack’s distinguishing characteristics, there are also workouts that you can do with your squat rack at home or at the gym. To know more about these workouts, I’ve listed some of the better squat rack workouts with easy steps to thoroughly guide you. Also here’s a hint, at the end there’s a video that explains how to do them all visually.
Squat Racks vs Power Cages
You might have seen or heard these two gym pieces of equipment and you also might have encountered people saying that they are the same. Well, this is probably the time that you should know the truth.
The squat rack (first photo) is distinguishably different from the power cage (second photo). The power rack has four vertical posts, thus the term “cage.” On the other hand, a squat rack only has two vertical posts.
Other than its built, these two also differ with the little details. The squat rack is built on perfectly calculated dimensions to help spot you during your lift. This is also the same for the power rack, but you can call the squat rack as the “infant” of the power racks.
Of course, power racks are much safer because they offer a more comprehensive spotting because of the full four vertical posts and also their horizontal safety bars. However, this doesn’t make a squat rack less good.
If you’re planning to purchase one of these for your home gym, a squat rack is definitely okay since a power cage obviously occupies more space. It is truly a space saver!
A power rack is just more stable when you’re into heavy lifts. Also, it is more flexible with the workouts that you can use with this. However, if you’re only a beginner, a squat rack will utmostly suffice.
One of the main purposes of a squat rack is to lead you to amounts of weight while lifting and squatting. Plus, it assists and spots you as you do your workout. So, what are you waiting for? Try one now!
To start, you need to make sure that your squat rack is adjusted for you to use it to its full potential. By this, I’m expecting that you already adjusted the bar and the safety bar height.
Once you’ve adjusted everything, that is when you can only load the bar with the weights. Remember to position the bar depending on the workout that you’ll be doing. Thereafter, you can now start your workouts.
To find the best workout for your body that would perfectly go well with your squat rack, I listed some of the better squat rack workouts with easy steps for you to be guided accordingly.
Take note though that some workouts vary depending on your fitness level.
Squats are undoubtedly one of the most popular workouts out there. They can’t only strengthen your glute muscles, but this workout can also help you with your core strength and your posture, even.
A squat workout is also an efficient exercise that you can do. You can do this with or without any equipment. And if you want a more challenging squat workout, then that’s when you can add weights.
To properly do squats, put the bar on the squat rack adjusted below your shoulder level. In this way, you can avoid any injuries or accidents when the workout becomes too overbearing.
Always take note that when loading the bar with weights, the total weight amount should be in accordance with the weight that you can bear. This can be counterproductive and may cause injury if you force yourself to carry more than what you can actually bear.
For the next step, position yourself under the bar in a squat position. The bar should be on the back of your shoulders with your palms facing forward as you hold onto the bar.
Once you lift the bar, remember that you should be raising it upwards—towards the ceiling. When the weights are too heavy, you will find yourself raising it diagonally upwards, which is something not to be done.
When raising the bar, you also straighten your legs and your whole body. Remember to tighten your core and to keep your back straight. Once you get back down, you do go back to the squat position. Always make sure that the bar is placed on the back of your shoulders.
An unconventional workout for your squat rack is that of without the weights. You can maximize your squat rack by utilizing it for other types of workout like this dips workout.
Generally, squat racks are adjustable to certain extents. This workout is possible if your rack is adjustable to have a station for your dip workout.
There are different types of dips. Since you’re only dealing with the squat rack, a dip that requires you to be in a sitting position, like the photos above, will suffice.
If you’re doing dips on a power cage, you can switch up your dip workout. However, since the squat rack isn’t as tall and big as the cage, you have to work your way around and do the chair dip workout instead.
For the first step, you have to put your arms at your side and your on the floor. Some may prefer their feet flat on the floor, while some would keep only their heels attached on the floor for some challenge.
Secondly, move your torso forward off the rack with your arms extended. Your buttocks should hover over the floor and your knees must be slightly bent.
Breathe in as you lower your body and breathe out as you push yourself up. Repeat these two steps until you’ve reached your desired reps and sets.
To properly do the dips workout, you have to make sure to straighten your arms when lifting yourself up. For beginners, this can be pretty challenging, but this is not an excuse for you to make a shortcut.
When doing workouts, always make sure that you’re in the right form and position. These are very important to take note of because you don’t want to cause injury or immense strain after.
As you push yourself upwards, make sure to stabilize your legs. As much as possible, do not move your legs and keep them in an arched position. In this way, you’re focusing your strength on your triceps and back.
The box squats focus more on your posterior chain. Your posterior chain refers to the back of your leg and spine. This includes muscles like your calves, hamstrings, and your glutes.
To prepare, you need to place a bench before your squat rack. This is important because box squats require you to sit rather than doing full-on squats.
Remember that by sitting, I don’t mean you to relax your back and sit comfortably. The bench is only there for support and for helping you to keep the balance of the bar. Hence, you’re required to maintain your form the whole time.
Before anything else, always make sure that the bench is at the desired height behind you. Moreover, this should also help you position yourself at a parallel squat when you sit on it.
First, you position your grip on the bar with your thumbs wrapped around it. The bar must also be rested outside of your shoulder width. For the positioning of your toes, you can angle them at 15-30 degrees or keep them straight. For the second step, take a breath and bend your hips and knees as you do your squat while letting the bench support you.
You have to sit back a little into your hamstrings more than you would usually do with your back squats. Make sure that your spine is still in a neutral position.
Lastly, you stand up with the weight. You pull yourself back up to a standing position with your feet apart and you back straight. Repeat these steps according to your preferred reps and sets.
Video Example of Exercises
All the above exercises on a squat rack can be taught quite easily, so here’s a video that demonstrates exactly how by Mirafit:
When doing your squats, it is better to have your feet a little wider than your hip-width apart. This will help you increase the depth of your squat without straining your knees. Also consider keeping your toes pointed out as you keep the feet width apart.
When doing your dip workouts, make sure that you vary your stance so you can target many areas of your muscle groups like your chest and your triceps. This is a good upper body workout so it is only better to maximize it well.
As you do your box squats, don’t forget to sit down slowly. Slamming down onto the bench will be counterproductive to your workout; hence, a controlled manner must be observed.
To know if you can now increase your weights, you have to observe your performance and of course, yourself. You should look into your reps, your current ability, and also your goals.
When using a squat rack for your squats, you should always make sure that your form and foot position are flawless. You need to do your squatting without rushing because it can be counterproductive or worse, it may cause injury.
Always remember to go light and go slow. When using your weights, just because you have the assistance of a squat rack, always carry the weight that you can really bear. Adjust it only if you can now carry a heavier weight.
The secret to a good squat rack workout is not with the squat rack, but it is with you. Yes, you. You should know what works for you while still being at the safe zone because not all techniques can work perfectly for you.
Each individual has their own body alignment, hence, these easy steps that I have cited are just steps that you can first work around with. Personalizing these steps to make your workout more effective for you totally depends now on you.
Above all, always make sure that your priority lies on your safety first before your fitness goal. A safer workout is, more often than not, guaranteed to be an effective workout!
To help you train, why not check out our reviews on the best over ear headphones for working out. Also, be sure to check out our guides on the best workout shoes for men and women as these can definitely help with your squatting.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.