How To Use A Squat Rack Safely

Nicknamed the king of all exercises, squats should be part of everyone’s training regime. A compound exercise, squats help you to build strength, power and endurance across a range of muscles including the glutes, hips, quads, hamstrings and abs.

Increase your weight load and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a high level of lower body strength, as well as a 5-star beach butt. But it’s not all about being able to wiggle your money-maker while at the supermarket checkout. Squats are a great functional exercise so they help to promote mobility and balance too.

And if you’re spending hours in the gym trying to isolate individual muscles, squats will help you to use your time at the gym more efficiently, as well as burn more calories at rest by developing more muscle.

Why use a squat rack?

Mirafit Squat Rack

Squat racks are not only a handy piece of equipment to have, but being able to push yourself to rep max without risk of injury is vital in progressing your training regime.

Squat racks come as either single racks designed solely for squatting, or as part of bigger pieces of equipment such as a power cage.

Squatting without weights or with lightweight kettlebells is a great way to start and perfect your technique. But as you start to progress, you will want to use a weighted barbell for true, peachy wonderment.

Naturally, muscles in the lower body can handle much heavier weight loads than the upper body, so what the squat rack provides is a sturdy support which holds your bar in place as you load your weights. Once your weight is locked and ready to go, you can simply dip under and get the barbell in position without having to lift the heavy load over your head – which is both difficult and dangerous.

Squat rack spotter arms – a safer way to squat

One of the main features you should look for in a squat rack are the safety spotter arms. These are the adjustable bars which you can secure to sit around 1-2 inches below your squat fail point.

A good way of finding this is to first squat without any weight and just see where you can take yourself down to – for many, this is to when your thighs are parallel to the floor – slightly further for the more advanced squatter.

The safety spotter bars should be just below this so if your muscles give up on you, any topple to the ground will just result in a few bruises to your ego, rather than to your face.

How to squat – it’s all about the technique

Weight on, bum out and game face on – WHOA THERE!

Here are a few guidelines that will help you perfect your squatting technique:

Technique – it’s really important to master your squat technique to be able to get the most out of your workout and reduce your risk of injury. So, before you start loading on the weights, practise squatting in the mirror without any equipment so you can focus on your form. Then try using just a squat bar to practise while keeping your back tight. Keep the bar central and place it across the back of your shoulders - not your neck - and focus on your bar path as you lower down. Breathe in as you stand up, lower, and breathe out as you come back up.

Barbell position – squats can be done with the barbell positioned across either the back or front of the shoulders depending on which muscle group you want to focus on. Front barbell squats zone in on your quads and upper back, while back squats focus more on the hips, glutes and lower back. Never place the barbell on your neck as this can put too much pressure on your spine.

Form – as well as getting the barbell into the correct position, it’s also vital to make sure you adopt the right stance to optimise your workout for maximum gain. Your back should be straight, your butt should be out as if you are about to sit down and your hips should open as you lower down. Many people advise to keep your knees behind your toes which is possible for some but you might find your joints don't allow it. Remember to keep your weight grounded through your heels and use your glutes with your knees turned out slightly if you prefer.

Weights – don’t try and squat too much. It’s tempting to add on the weight and see how much you can make your face crinkle. But because you’re involving lots of muscles at the same time, you can’t guarantee your lower back will love as much weight as your glutes. Build your weights up slowly using small increments each time and concentrate on a controlled movement, to be well on the way to a delectable derriere.