How to Use a Squat Rack: A Beginners Guide 

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Knowing how to use a squat rack is of incredible importance in the fitness world.  

There is so much you can do with a squat rack, and if you do not know how to use them properly, you will be limiting yourself quite substantially (not to mention increasing the chances of injury). 

Let’s get right into it and take a look at a beginners guide to how to use a squat rack. 

Why Use a Squat Rack 

Before delving into how to use a squat rack, it would be a good idea to take a look at why we should use a squat rack in the first place.  

The role of a squat rack is to allow users to squat in a safe and effective manner. 

Before the squat rack was invented, the only way to do squats was to lift the right from the ground, over your head, and on to your back.  

This limited the weight people could use for squats, and as you would expect, it also increased the chance of getting injured exponentially.  

With a squat rack, you can skip this process entirely. 

Squat racks also usually come with safety bars (bars that will stop the bar from falling to the floor), yet again reducing the chance of injury and making squatting much less risky. 

This all makes squat racks essential to the modern-day lifter, and without them, we would not be where we are now.  

How To Set up a Squat Rack 101 

Setting up a squat rack is simple.  

There are only really two things you need to do to set a squat rack up properly; set the safety bars at a height you are comfortable with and adjust the pegs so the barbell is around shoulder height.  

If you are first starting out, it would be a good idea to set the safety bars a little higher than you would think in the case that you fail a lift.  

You will want to change this later as you progress – but for now, set the safety bars up at a height you feel fully comfortable with. 

This is all there is to it.  

The only step left is to load the barbell and you are good to go!  

How to Use a Squat Rack to its Full Potential 

Getting into Position 

The first step to using a squat rack to its full potential is to get in a good position.  

Once you have the safety bars and pegs adjusted so they are set right for you, go underneath the bar and grab it as close to your shoulders as is comfortable.  

Make sure the bar is resting on top of your traps and is in a comfortable position – if it is too high, you could end up injuring your neck.  

Lifting the Bar Off the Squat Rack 

Next, we need to lift the bar off the squat rack. 

Create tension throughout your entire body, tensing your abs, legs, buttocks, shoulders, and back.  

From here, push your hips forward to lift the bar off the pegs.  

Establishing a Solid Foot Position 

Once you have got the bar off the rack, you need to take a few steps back and get into position.  

While walking backwards, you should make sure your entire body is tense and only take a step once you feel secure.  

After this, you need to get ready to perform a squat. 

Put your feet about shoulder-width apart and point your toes outwards slightly.  

The best foot placement for you might not be the best foot placement for another, so it will take some time to experiment and see what works for you the best.  

How To Use a Squat Rack Video 

Link: How to Set Up Your Power Rack with Grant Broggi – YouTube 

Squat Rack Use; Safety Points to Consider 

Learn How to Bail! – Experienced Lifters Only 

If you are going to be going heavy on squats, then learning how to bail is essential. 

However, before diving more into this topic we must stress that this should only be done by experienced lifters. 

As a beginner lifter, you should not be lifting weights that are too heavy or going that close to failure that you might have to bail. 

If you are an advanced lifter and have mastered every area of squats, then it’s time to learn how to bail.  

This is something that would take an entire new article to touch upon in full, but it basically revolves around throwing the barbell off the back of your back if you feel like you are going to fail.  

You should practise doing this with lighter weights before trying to go for a new one rep max – it could end up helping you in a sticky situation.  

Mistakes to Avoid When You Use a Squat Rack 

Not Trying 

Squats are one of the hardest exercises, so it does not come as a shock that some people just do not put any effort into it. 

Whether it’s by using low weight, using momentum, not hitting depth, or not staying tight throughout the entire movement, there are a million ways that people try to reduce the intensity of the squat.  

As you would expect, this is not the way to go.  

The benefits from squats only come when performed properly – you are not going to get anywhere you are not willing to put up with a little pain.  

Form and Foot Position 

Form and foot position are incredibly important for the squat. 

Unlike other exercises that will result in a minor injury or tear if done with incorrect form, you could end up with a serious injury if you do not take the squat seriously.  

Put form before everything else.   

Too Much Weight 

An issue that is incredibly prevalent when it comes to squatting is people using too much weight. 

Many people see squats as a direct measure of one’s overall strength, so it comes as no surprise that most want to have an awe-inspiring squat. 

However, if you have to sacrifice form or depth in order to squat said weight, then you are just wasting your time.  

From increasing the chances of injury to reducing the effectiveness of the exercise, squatting more weight than you can realistically handle is always a bad call. 

Plus, anyone who is experienced in the gym will be able to tell right away what you are trying to do.  

Lift for yourself, not to impress others.  

Not Enough Weight 

Contrarily to our previous point; you would be surprised how many people do not use enough weight when squatting.  

Sure, squatting is uncomfortable. 

That goes without mentioning how intimidating it can be to lift heavier weights – the thought of having the bail or getting injured can be paralysing.  

However, as long as you squat with proper form, you should be lifting a weight that challenges you.  

As a general rule of thumb, you should lift a weight that you can do 8-12 reps with good form.  

By the end of each set, you should reach or be very close to failure.  

How to Use a Squat Rack and Other Exercises for Progression 

Take Your Shoes Off, or Get Some Lifting Shoes 

Interestingly enough, squatting with lifting shoes can often improve someone’s squat by 5-10%. 

They also make squatting feel much more comfortable for most people, allowing them to hit depth and feel more stable at the bottom portion of the movement. 

If you don’t have any squatting shoes or do not want to invest in any, it’s better to just squat without shoes on. 

Most modern shoes will put you in a disadvantageous position, and you would be much better off just squatting without any on.  

Go light and Go Slow 

A tip that can help you in your early days of squatting is to go light and go slow.  

Developing good form on the squat is essential for injury prevention as well as exercise effectiveness, and this can be quite hard to do if every workout you are just happy if you make it out of the hole. 

This is why going light and taking your time on each rep can be so effective. 

By focusing on form, you will get so much more comfortable throughout the entire movement, and you’ll also build a good base to build from.  

Use the Squat Rack Safety Bars and Go Low 

One of the main points of using a squat rack is that they come with safety bars. 

Despite this, few people ever tend to use them. 

This is a mistake. 

Not only will using the safety bars save you from a potentially life-changing injury, but they can also train you to go lower and make you feel more comfortable in the hole.  

Switch it Up 

Our bodies slowly adapt to any stimulus we throw at them.  

While this doesn’t mean that results will stop, it does mean that we will progress slower with slots as slots go on as our bodies adapt. 

Fortunately, there is a way we can combat these adaptations. 

By switching it up and doing different variations of squats or changing sets/reps on certain days we can guarantee that each workout is as effective as possible.  

Low Rep Your Max 

If your main goal is to get a strong squat as quickly as possible, then your best bet is going to be doing heavy squats for low reps.  

While this will not produce as much hypertrophy, squatting heavy weight for low reps is going to improve your overall squatting strength at a faster rate than doing high reps with lower reps.  

Lower the Bar Position on Your Back 

A quick fix that can immediately let you lift more weight in the squat rack is to lower the bar position on your back. 

High bar squats (where the bar is resting on the top of your traps) puts your body in an upright position, which puts more emphasis on the quads. 

Moving the bar down to the middle of your traps places more of an emphasis on your glutes, a muscle group that is a lot bigger than the quads.  

This subtle change can increase your squat by 5-10%.  

Widen Your Stance 

Another tip that can help you progress faster when doing squats is to widen your stance.  

A wider stance tends to incorporate the glutes much more, allowing you to lift more weight.  

Load the Bar with a Little Extra Weight Each Time 

The best way to progress with squats is to add a little extra weight each time.  

While it can be tempting to add an extra 5KG/10 pounds each session, this kind of progress is not sustainable. 

Not only will you have to push harder and harder each workout to keep progressing at such a pace, but you will also plateau much sooner.  

If you take a different approach by just adding 1KG/2 pounds every session, you will barely even notice the difference each training session and you will be able to experience linear progress for months or even years to come.  

Do Some of These Accessory Exercises 

If your progress is somewhat slow with squats or you have hit a plateau, introducing a few accessory exercises is going to help you tremendously.  

Doing exercises like leg presses, deadlifts, or hamstring curls can all have a noticeable effect on your squat, and including them into your routine as accessory movements will help you get past any sticking points you may be experiencing.  

Don’t Give Up 

Last but certainly not least, don’t give up.  

Progressing with squats can be difficult, and while you will see better progression with squats than with other exercises, there are still going to be times when you hit a plateau.  

That goes without even mentioning the fact that squats are often considered to be one of the most taxing exercises – it can feel incredibly appealing to just skip a session here or there. 

But you shouldn’t give up. Ever. 

Squats are one of the best exercises on the planet, and getting better at them will make you a healthier, stronger person.  

You will thank yourself way down the line.  

How To Set Up a Power Lifting Rack 

In most cases, setting up a power lifting rack is going to be the exact same as a squat rack. 

You need to make sure the safety bars are at a level you are comfortable with, and that the bar is placed around shoulder height. 

However, there is an extra factor that you need to consider when using a powerlifting rack, and that is the arm mechanism that some high-level powerlifting racks have.  

These are usually found in powerlifting competitions or specified gyms – you do not need to worry about this type of rack if you just go to a regular gym. 

In addition to this, power lifting racks like this require multiple people to use as someone needs to control the arms, so you will have support if you do find yourself using a powerlifting rack. 

The arm mechanism is there to reduce the chance of injury on the lift-off, as well as to increase energy efficiency so power is not wasted at the start of the movement. 

Due to the heavy weights that you will likely be lifting when using a powerlifting rack, it is essential that you are fully braced and in a good position before giving the signal to release the arms.  

If you don’t, you could seriously injure yourself.  

What Else Can a Power Rack Be Used For? 

High Bar Position 

The high bar position on a power rack is typically located at the top of the rack.  

This position is useful for exercises such as overhead presses, pull-ups, and chin-ups 

. To use the high bar position, simply adjust the safety bars to the appropriate height and perform your exercise. 

Waist High Position 

The waist high position on a power rack is typically located in the middle of the rack. 

This position is useful for exercises such as bench press, squat, and barbell rows.  

To use the waist high position, adjust the safety bars to the appropriate height and place the barbell on the rack. 

Low Position 

The low position on a power rack is typically located at the bottom of the rack.  

This position is useful for exercises such as deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts.  

To use the low position, adjust the safety bars to the appropriate height and place the barbell on the floor, making sure the barbell is level with the safety bars. 

And Now You Know Why It’s Called a Power Rack! 

The power rack is called a power rack because it is designed to provide support and safety when lifting heavy weights.  

It allows you to perform exercises with a loaded barbell without a spotter, making it a safer option for those who train alone.  

The safety bars can also be adjusted to different heights, allowing you to perform a wide variety of exercises at different positions and intensities. 

9 Ways to Use a Squat Rack 

Exercises Using a Squat Rack 

1 – Back Squats 

Back squats are a classic lower body exercise that target the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  

To perform a back squat in a squat rack, place the barbell across your shoulders, behind your neck, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then return to a standing position. 

2 – Shoulder Press 

The shoulder press is an exercise that targets the deltoids, triceps, and upper chest muscles.  

To perform a shoulder press in a squat rack, place the barbell on the rack at shoulder height, grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip, lift the barbell off the rack, and press it overhead. 

3 – Flat Bench Press 

The flat bench press is a popular chest exercise that targets the pectoral muscles.  

To perform a flat bench press in a squat rack, set the barbell on the rack at chest height, lie on the bench, grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and lower the bar to your chest, then press it back up to the starting position. 

4 – Barbell Lunges 

Barbell lunges are a lower body exercise that targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. 

To perform barbell lunges in a squat rack, place the barbell across your shoulders, behind your neck, step forward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground, then return to a standing position and repeat on the other leg. 

5 – Bicep Curls 

Bicep curls are an isolation exercise that targets the bicep muscles.  

To perform bicep curls in a squat rack, set the barbell on the rack at waist height, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, and curl the bar towards your chest, then lower it back down. 

6 – Dips 

Dips are a compound exercise that targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders.  

To perform dips in a squat rack, set the safety bars at chest height, grab the bars with your palms facing each other, and lower your body until your arms form a 90-degree angle, then push yourself back up to the starting position. 

7 – Hip Lifts 

Hip lifts are a lower body exercise that target the glutes and hamstrings.  

To perform hip lifts in a squat rack, place a barbell across your hips, lie on your back with your knees bent, and lift your hips towards the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 

8 – Barbell Rows 

Barbell rows are a compound exercise that targets the back muscles.  

To perform barbell rows in a squat rack, set the barbell on the rack at waist height, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, and pull the bar towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. 

9 – Box Squats 

Box squats are a variation of back squats that target the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  

To perform box squats in a squat rack, place a box or bench behind you, place the barbell across your shoulders, behind your neck, and lower your body until your glutes touch the box, then return to a standing position. 

Gymtimidation: How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome at the Gym 

When you first start going to the gym, it can be incredibly intimidating. 

You look around you and all you see are bodybuilders, fitness women, and groups of kids crowded around a piece of equipment, and all you think to yourself is that everyone is going to judge you if you happen to do something wrong. 

To be blunt; this just isn’t the case. 

Most other beginners feel the exact same way as you and are more concerned with themselves not you. 

In addition to this, you will come to find that anyone who does have any experience in the gym will be more than happy to help you if you are unsure about how to use a squat rack. 

The people in the gym that have been there for a while are often some of the friendliest people you will meet, and you would be surprised at just how uplifting most gym communities are. 

So, if you feel like you do not belong at the gym, just push through. 

The reality is that nobody is looking at you, and most people will be more than willing to help if you need assistance.  

Everybody is just looking to improve themselves – people do not go to the gym to watch and critique others.  

How to Use a Squat Rack – FAQs  


How to do Squats with a Rack? 

To do squats with a rack, you should set the safety bars to a height you are comfortable with and make sure the barbell is around shoulder height.  

From here, put the bar on top of your traps, squeeze your whole body, and begin the movement in a controlled manner.  

Should Beginners Use Squat Rack? 

Yes, beginners should use squat racks. 

While squat racks may seem intimidating, they are designed to allow users to squat safely. 

You will be much safer squatting in a squat rack. 

What is the Purpose of a Squat Rack? 

The purpose of a squat rack is to allow users to squat in a safe and efficient manner.  

Without a squat rack, the risk of injury would increase drastically.  

How Do You Use a Squat Rack at Home? 

To use a squat rack at home, set the safety bars to a level you are comfortable with and set the barbell up so it is around shoulder height.  

Make sure you pick a weight that is not too heavy and practise proper form when squatting.  

How Often Should I Increase Weights on Squats? 

You should increase weights on squats as often as you need to. 

As soon as you hit the upper limit of your rep range (which is usually 12) on all sets, you should increase the weight slightly.  

How to Use Squat Rack for Deadlift? 

To use a squat rack for deadlifts, remove the safety bars and place the barbell on the floor. 

Not all squat racks will allow for deadlifts as some may be too small or have bars in the way.  

How to Use the Squat Machine? 

To use the squat machine, set the safety bars to a level you are comfortable with, pick a weight that you know you can lift, and make sure the barbell is set to around shoulder height. 

What’s The Best Squat Rack Workout for Beginners? 

The best squat rack workout for beginners is 4 sets of 8 reps of squats.  

Squats are the most effective exercise, and you do not need anything too fancy to get incredible results.  

How to Use Squat Rack Puregym? 

To use a squat rack in Puregym, set the safety bars to a height you are comfortable with, set the barbell at shoulder level, and load it with a weight that you know you can lift.  

How to Use a Squat Rack for Bench Press? 

To use a squat rack for bench press, put a bench in the middle of the squat rack, set the bar height up so you can fully extend your arms when laid down, and set the safety bars up so they are just above your chest.  

How to Use Squat Rack Safety Bars? 

To use squat rack safety bars, you need to find out how to adjust the safety bars on the squat rack in question. It is different for every squat rack. 

From here, adjust the safety bars to a height you are comfortable with.  

How to Use Squat Rack for Hip Thrusts? 

To use a squat rack for hip thrusts, remove the safety bars and position yourself in the centre of the squat rack to begin the movement. 

However, it is worth noting that not all squat racks will be large enough to accommodate hip thrusts.  

What is The Best Rack Squat Exercise? 

The best rack squat exercise is the squat. 

The squat is a compound movement that builds muscle all over the body, and it is perhaps the most effective exercise in the world.  

 
We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into how to use a squat rack. 

Using a squat rack is simple, and once you do things the correct way once or twice, you will do the rest on autopilot. 

Just make sure you do take the time to do everything correctly – using a squat rack incorrectly can be incredibly dangerous. You could even end up with a serious injury if you misuse a squat rack.  

If you would like more fitness advice, don’t hesitate to go to MovingForwards to check out our other content. 

Have fun!