When it comes down to safety in the gym, it’s vital to ensure that you’re using the right pieces of equipment at the right time. For free weight exercises such as barbell squats, you simply must make sure that you perform them in a squat rack or failing that, a power rack.
Squat racks are not only there to assist you with un-racking and re-racking the weights when you’re finished, they’re also there to keep you safe during the exercise. Despite being found in virtually every commercial gym you could imagine, some people that use squat racks are still using them incorrectly. Here’s a look at 3 common mistakes people make when using squat racks, and at what you can do to ensure you don’t make them yourself.
Positioning the bar too high
Assuming you’re using a squat rack for squats, one of the worst mistakes you can make is positioning the bar too high on the rack. If the bar is too high, when the time comes to un-rack the weight you may find that you need to stand on your tiptoes to get the bar off the rack. This will put you off balance and if you’re unbalanced you could trip over, drop the bar, or injure yourself in a variety of other ways too. When you un-rack the bar, you need to ensure that you’re as stable and as balanced as you can possibly be.
Positioning the bar too low
Another very common mistake that people make for squats is positioning the bar too low on the rack. Because they’re worried of losing their balance if the bar is too high, people often try to play it safe and position the bar too low. This is equally as dangerous because you’ll need to bend down to lift the weight off, and then stand back up with the bar now across your back/shoulders. This puts pressure on your back and spine and could result in a very painful injury.
Feeling overly safe and lifting heavy
Squat racks are fantastic inventions that have saved lives in the past and have prevented countless injuries in the process. They’re designed with safety and functionality in mind. Squat racks are great because they do allow people to train heavy when alone, without the benefit of a spotter. If you get into trouble and can’t lift the weight, you simply roll it off of your shoulders, or from wherever it happens to be depending on which exercise you’re doing, and let the safety bars catch it.
However, some people fall into a false sense of security when using squat racks and they train heavier than they should because they think they’ll be safe. Yes, the rack will indeed offer a layer of protection and it will stop them from being crushed by the bar, but it does not guarantee that you’ll be safe, or injury-free, if you try lifting weights which are too heavy. Always assess your strength when using a squat rack and never train ridiculously heavy without a spotter.