How to Use a Squat Rack – Step By Step Guide


Squats help you build the foundation of your body, which are your legs and back. Many professional and athletes agree that there is no decent substitute for squatting. Smith squats and bench press are cool, but they do not work the entire lower body the way squats do. Now, like any other heavy weight exercise, squats should be performed the right way. A wrong move can bring many unpleasant consequences.

Squat racks are meant to minimize the possible hazards of squatting. In this article, we will review how to use a squat rack properly. We have tried to compile the tips and advices from the best fitness trainers. There are many precious knowledge nuggets scattered around the web, and we did our best to gather them all for you.

Let’s get started

How to use the squat rack properly?

1If you are using the rack for the first time, make sure it can handle the weight plates. You can slightly abuse it first — For instance, let the loaded barbell fall on the spotters from about 10 inches and see how it handles it. Keep in mind that the squat rack is meant to keep you safe, so it should be able to handle a lot of weight, way more than you are lifting.

This step is also important for your mind. Many fitness trainers agree that you will more likely dare to lift more weight if you are sure that you are covered in case of failure. In fitness, feeling safe is as important as being safe.

2Set up the J-Hooks on a height that is right for you. Usually, people set it up a couple of inches below their shoulder level. Don’t place it too low so you can easily step out. Now, if you have to tiptoe to get the bar out of the rack, it means that you’ve placed the hooks too high.

Why is this important? First, you should not tiptoe at any point of the exercise because it affects your balance. Second, you might be too exhausted to tiptoe and that might cause you to miss one of the hooks.

3Make sure that the J-hooks are aligned – some squat racks have markings on the holes for reference. Gun racks are a bit harder to use, so you might as well avoid those if you’re a beginner.4It’s time to talk about safety. If you’re a beginner, we totally recommend you using a power rack or power cage. Power cages provide you with more protection than a squat stand.5Any normal power rack comes with safety pins or bar catches (looks like there are a million of ways to call those). You need to adjust them a couple of inches below your lowest squat position. You can do an air squat to determine it. This way when you go full squat, the bar won’t touch the safety pins, but if you fall or lose balance, they will prevent it from pinning you to the ground.

You can also count on those safety pins if you got to bail. Just let go the bar and stand up. Even if you have the incorrect form and begin to fall down forward, the safety pins will save you. All of that is possible only if the pins are high enough to catch you.

6When you bring the barbell back in, you push the bar against the J-hooks and then down. Don’t try to land it one side at a time. Instead, push the bar against the cage and then move it down until it lies safely on both hooks at the same time.

Things Needed

  • Squat Rack – We recommend a power cage or a squat rack with at least one full frame (which is often a pull-up bar). Nevertheless, a squat rack with “A” frame will get the job done too, as long as you don’t step too far away from it.
  • Olympic weightlifting bar
  • Weights

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind

  • Squat racks are not for curls or upright rows.
  • Do not squat with weights without a spotter, whether it’s another person or a properly configured squat rack.
  • Most accidents occur during the racking and unracking process. Make sure you pay attention to those, and ideally have someone to spot you.

In Conclusion

There are many reasons why squatting is good for you: the exercise builds muscle in your entire body, enhances your mobility and balance, helps you with real-life activities, boosts your overall sports performance, and helps with waste removal. Isn’t that amazing?

Yeah, power squats might seem like a dangerous exercise, but they are not if you are following all the safety guidelines. It takes only a couple of minutes to learn how to use a squat rack, and hopefully we have covered everything you need to know in this article.

We hope that you found this tutorial helpful. What is your next fitness goal?