My wife was looking through the classified ads a few months ago when she said, “Hey, do you still want on of those racks?” By racks, she meant a squat rack (or power rack).
“Why…do you ask?” I said, afraid to hope.
A couple of hours later we were driving home with a full load in the back of my truck. I had the power rack, a bench press, two barbells, 400+ pounds of weight, a belt, and some used dumbbells that would work just fine.
It was an ugly, rusted mess, but I didn’t care. I had wanted a rack for good reason. It is an important part of weight training 101.
Benefits of a squat rack
Take a look at this picture. The apparatus is about the size of a small elevator.
If you’ve ever done back squats you have probably experienced that sad moment at the bottom when you wonder if you can ever make it back up. If you can’t, at you’re not squatting in a rack or with spotters, what happens next?
Well, if you’re in a crowded gym you can scream for help or let the barbell roll off your back onto the floor, hoping it won’t maim anyone. Or you can yell for your mother, like this gentleman:
He has a rack, but it doesn’t have pins. Take a look at the photo up above. Those poles that are running through the uprights are called “pins.” They can be adjusted to as many heights as there are holes.
When I am squatting at home alone, I can set those at a level that allows me to go as deep as I want, but it can catch the bar if I can’t get out of the hole at the bottom. It replaces the spotter and grants safety and peace of mind to the lonely people like yours truly who hate training in crowded gyms and prefer the back yard or garage.
Those pins can also be used to spot yourself on the bench press, or to press from a dead stop from the bottom range of motion.
For heavy rack pulls–think of the deadlift with a shortened range of motion, like pulling from the knees or above–just set the bar on the pins, load it up at the desired height and weight, and go, knowing that you can let it go if you need to, and that your eccentric portion of the lift will be much shorter.
The answer to why? is safety for anyone who doesn’t have a spotter. And if you’re a powerlifter and you want to work on different ranges of motion, the pins are a huge help.
I don’t believe that any piece of strength training equipment is “essential,” but if I had to pick one, it would be a rack with enough weights to keep things interesting.