Power rack training - the key to upper body strength

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Like the Squat Rack, the Power Rack is, for many weight-trainers, a forgotten or seldom used piece of equipment. It’s incredible how many gym users don’t know a Power Rack from a toast rack and even some intermediate and advanced trainees are blissfully unaware of the great and long-lasting benefits that correct Power Rack training can bring.

Firstly a brief description of the Power Rack; it is a four pillared cage-like apparatus with holes drilled in each pillar with normally 2-4 inch intervals into which are placed supportive rods. These rods are slotted through the pillars in such a way that a barbell can be comfortably supported at varying heights. This enables the athlete to work partial movements where heavier poundages can be handled than if the athlete was doing a full movement.

A Power Rack for one’s home gym can serve many useful purposes, but one big advantage is that one can train in safety as the supportive bars will catch the weight in the event of one failing during the exercise. Prices for Power Racks can vary considerably but I’ve found that Body Power Sports Pro Power Rack comes at a very reasonable price and makes a great addition to a home gym.

Used correctly the Power Rack can produce stronger muscles, tendons, ligaments and sinews. Exercises in the Power Rack can help athlete’s break through their individual sticking points in varying exercises. Take the bench press for instance; let’s say our athlete regularly fails the bench press mid-way during the ascent of the bar. To overcome the problem the athlete can set the rods on the Power Rack so that the bench press is begun at the mid-way level. The athlete then trains this particular portion of the movement. Because the range of movement is less than a full bench press more weight can be used, thereby strengthening the muscles but also stimulating tendon and ligament strength. The athlete simply pushes the bar from the rods to the lockout position and then lowers it to the rods again. No bounce should be used - the bar is pushed from a dead stop position - this in itself will increase strength - with the added bonus that the athlete always works out in perfect safety.

Which exercises?
The Power Rack can be used very effectively on the big three; The Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. These compound movements should always be the key movements in anyone’s routine who wants to get bigger or stronger. Quarter squats, half squats, heavy lockouts in the bench press, partial deadlifts are all exercises that can be used. With two sets of rods one can push from a dead stop from one set of rods and then hold against another set of rods above the bar for an isometric hold. A little bit of ingenuity and one can find a variety of safe and effective movements within the Power Rack. Even shoulder presses, as Ian Duckett recommends, can be used with amazing results within a power rack.

Workout frequency
Use the Power Rack as one would use spices in cooking; i.e. a little goes a long way. One of the main faults of trainees countrywide is that of over-training and because of the heavy poundage’s involved in Power Rack training it is VERY easy to overtrain. Employ three to five sets at most and keep the reps low - we are trying to build strength here and not fitness. Use partial movements only once you have warmed up and preferably after you have performed the full movement. For example, once you have completed your desired sets of normal deadlifts, three sets of heavy lockouts would stimulate further your back and trap development. But just because three sets are good it does not mean six sets are twice as good. Stimulate don’t annihilate! If there is anything that you remember from this article let it be the above words.

Make sure you are warmed up, make sure that your lifting style is good and then slap those plates on. If you want to look strong then you actually have got to get strong. Development is inextricably tied in with the amount of poundage that you can shift. Have you ever seen a 500lb squatter (that is a below parallel squat and not a curtsy) with small legs? The answer is obvious. So formulate a workout plan, train hard and smart, supplement wisely, and use the Power Rack to shift those big numbers.

Derek Cope

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