There are many benefits to using a power rack during your training. Many old time strength athletes used rack work with great success. Power rack training allows you to train safely by yourself which is the main benefit many people think of but there are many more. Rack work also allows you to overload your muscles as you are able to lift heavier weights by doing lock outs and heavy partial movements. Power rack training can also help your starting strength and build the bottom position of movements by performing dead stop exercises. Here are a few of the benefits to using a power rack in your training:
For me this is one of the biggest benefits as I train alone and by using the rack it allows me to train safely with heavy loads. When you use the power rack correctly you are able to set the safety pins just below your full range of motion so that if you miss a lift the pins catch the weight allowing you to escape being crushed and avoiding injury. This allows you to train heavy even though you don’t have any spotters.
Unfortunately many people I see train in commercial gyms have no clue on how to use a rack to its full potential and purely use it as a squat rack. Often they squat on the outside of the rack which negates any of the safety benefits the rack provides. Outside the safety factor there are many other benefits and advantages to using the power rack in your training.
Heavy Partials and Sticking Points
By using the power rack you are able to do heavy partials which can help you get a feel for a much heavier weight then you are used to and overload specific ranges of motion. For example if you struggle to lock out your bench press you are able to set the pins a couple of inches off your chest to overload the top half of the movement or you can set the pins at your sticking point and get some quality work done in that range of motion.
When using the rack for partial movements I always like to incorporate some full range of motion exercises into the program as well to overload the entire strength curve. Sometimes I will use the rack and do heavy partials before doing my full squats as the heavy partials recruit higher threshold fibers which can help me overload my full squat numbers. Other times I will do them after my full squats to overload the top half of the range. It depends on my goals and weaknesses at the time.
Here is a video showing a shoulders workout using pin presses:
If working on sticking points, I like to use 3 different positions in the rack, one from a low position, middle, and top position as an example. It is important to work your weak areas when using the rack. Many people will only do lock outs because that is where they are strongest and can handle the most weight. Drop your ego so you can progress.
Using the power rack is the best way to perform functional isometrics. If you train with a partner you could have them apply pressure to the bar but it is very hard to know how much pressure they need to apply and also to quantify your gains. For those of you unfamiliar with functional isometrics, you basically set the bar at a specific height and lift it 2-3 inches, pressing the bar against the top set of pins and hold that position for 8 seconds. You add weight until you are unable to hold the bar against the top set of pins for the full 8 seconds in this example.
Again I like to use 3 different positions with this form of training and the rack allows you to adjust and monitor accordingly.
You can do dead stops from any position. It may be at a sticking point or lock out position which you will see most people do. One of my favourites is from the bottom position. What you do is set the pins at you full squat depth, lower the bar to the pins and pause for 8 seconds to take away the stretch reflex, you then drive the bar back to the starting position as you normally would.
Many older trainees recommend setting the bar in the bottom position and squeezing under it but for me I prefer to un-rack the bar as normal but use the pause in the bottom because I feel it helps me stay in a better position while still getting the desired training effect.
You can do this for your bench presses and overhead presses too. By taking away the stretch reflex you will develop impressive starting strength that will help you accelerate the bar off the chest once you go back to a conventional bench press and help you have enough speed to blast through your sticking point.
The power rack is a simple yet effective, versatile tool that can help you improve strength gains and add variety to your training while allowing you to do so safely.