3 Power Rack Exercises You Need To Try In 2022
Whether you’re a seasoned bodybuilder or a novice weightlifter, power rack workouts should be part of your regular strength training routine. Nothing builds muscle mass as safely and efficiently as following a plan of compound exercises utilizing the power rack.1 But, let’s admit it, basic squats, curls, and shrugs can get tedious month after month.
How can you shake up your power rack training in 2022?
We’ve come up with 3 power rack exercises that are sure to jumpstart your training, whatever your level of fitness. Read on if you’re interested in incorporating power rack exercises into your gym routine, or if you’re wondering how to spice up your workouts if you’re already proficient on the power rack.
What is a Power Rack?
Sometimes also called a squat cage or power cage, the metal rectangle of a power rack is a familiar sight at many gyms. Their popularity skyrocketed in the 1960s when early bodybuilding icon Peary Rader began writing in Iron Man Magazine about the benefits of using a power cage for maximizing squat efficacy.2
- Encourages max weight confidence
- Ensures safety when lifting without a spotter
Benefits of Using a Power Rack
When comparing power rack vs squat rack, you’ll find the number one benefit of using a power rack, hands down, is safety. If you’re new to lifting, you want the assurance that you won’t crush your chest or your feet with a loaded dumbbell if you bail on a rep.
Similarly, long-time bodybuilders can rely on the power cage to support and catch the bar no matter how much weight they lift.
Second to safety, however, is versatility. A quality power cage isn’t just a safety precaution. Attachments (also called rigs) and accessories can make your power rack bristle with enough gear to rival a Smith machine. Some possibilities include:
- Heavy bag
- Pull up bar
- Dip bar
Possible Exercises Utilizing the Power Rack
Today’s power racks come prepped for a variety of rigs and accessories, making them a multi-purpose structure on which to build a full-body weight routine. To that end, there’s a seemingly endless list of possible exercises you can perform using a power rack. These include:
- Bench presses
- Incline presses
- Decline presses
- Upright or seated rows
- Shoulder shrugs
- Standing biceps curls
- Tricep press downs
- Hanging leg raises
- Hanging knee raises
- Shoulder presses
- Tricep extensions
- Calf press
- Wide grip front lat pull
- Close grip front lat pull
- Bent row
- Seated row
- Shoulder shrug
- Tricep press
- Front grab
- Hanging shoulder shrugs
What Are The 3 Best Power Rack Exercises for 2022?
Picking the “best” from among the list of possibilities above is pretty subjective. So we’ve chosen to highlight three effective full-body power rack exercises that all fitness levels can perform, whether you’re beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
#1 Barbell Bench Press
It’s a classic. Whether partaking in an advanced or beginner barbell workout routine, every weightlifter should strive to execute a flawless 15lb barbell bench press on the power rack with control and good form. Not only is it the fastest way to build jacked pecs, arms, and shoulders, but it just looks darn cool.
Beginner – The first barbell bench press you should learn is the flat bench press. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can move on to the intermediate inclined bench press, and eventually to the advanced declined bench press. The basic steps are:
- Position your bench beneath the bar. (Even when using a power cage, have a spotter ready.)
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground.
- Use an overhand grip at a shoulder-wide position on the bar.
- Tuck your shoulder blades in and down.
- Tighten your core and press your feet into the ground as you inhale.
- Lift and remove the bar from the rack in one movement.
- Lower the bar in a smooth, controlled motion just above your chest, keeping your elbows tucked.
- Press the weight upwards explosively while exhaling.
- Repeat 6-12 reps for 4-6 sets.
- Rest between sets and hydrate.
- Intermediate – Once you’ve mastered the basic, flat bench press, you’re ready for an inclined bench press. While the general technique is virtually the same, you should adjust the back of the bench so that it’s inclined at 15° to 30° depending on your level of comfort and strength. Changing the angle of the bench allows your shoulder and pecs to engage fully.
- Advanced – The most advanced level of bench press can be done in a declined position where the back of the bench is set at a negative 15° to 30°. In this position, your head and neck will be situated well below your torso. By setting the bench at a decline, you’re able to fully activate your entire pectoral muscle, including the hard-to-reach lower end.
While each of the chest press exercises works the same major muscle groups—the shoulders, deltoids, and pectorals—they hit in different ways. Eventually, the flat, incline, and decline bench presses should all be incorporated into your power rack routine.
#2 Barbell Bent-Over Row
Nothing beats a properly executed barbell row for building and toning massive back muscles. As with the bench press, this is a staple of most bodybuilders, so learning and perfecting your technique should be a priority. Remember to start on the lower range of weight until you’ve figured out the proper form.
Beginner – A barbell row is executed within the “walls” of the power rack but without a bench. For this exercise, the barbell is loaded and placed on a lower level. From there:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees.
- Lean forward from the waist.
- Keep your back straight with your neck in line with your spine while looking forward.
- Grab the bar overhand (palms down) about a shoulder-width apart.
- Pre-load into a straight arm position.
- Brace your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Inhale and row the bar up until it touches your sternum.
- Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides.
- Pause at the top.
- Slowly lower while exhaling.
- Repeat 8-10 reps for 4-5 sets, resting between sets.
- Intermediate – The reverse grip barbell bent-over row is almost exactly like the standard bent-over row except that you use an underhand grip on the bar instead of an overhand grip. This means that your palms will be facing upward against the bar in this position (sometimes this is called a supinated grip). Such a subtle difference actually has a profound change on the exercise. Your lats and lower traps will be the focus.
- Advanced – One-arm barbell rows will target your core and lats better than anything else out there. For this position, you’ll be standing on the side of the bar rather than behind it, and the bar will only be weighted on one end. Standing near the weighted end, you’ll raise and lower the bar, leaving the unweighted end on the rubber gym flooring. You can use your other arm to brace against your upper thigh for support.
#3 Pull-ups and Dips
Adding a pull-up bar and a dip bar attachment to your power cage is a game-changer. Being able to bang out a set of pull-ups and dips is a sure-fire way to engage your core, arms, and back simultaneously. Complimentary exercises like dips and pull-ups work opposing muscle groups, meaning you should always do them in the same workout session.
- Beginner – To execute a pull up:
- Place your hands on the bar shoulder-width apart, thumbs beside fingers.
- Stick your chest out.
- Curve your back and inhale.
- Pull upwards until your chest is at bar level, then hold.
- Exhale and slowly release.
To execute a dip:
- Grab the parallel bars and jump up to a straight arm position.
- Lower your body by bending your arms while exhaling.
- Dip until your shoulders are below your elbows.
- Pause at the bottom, then inhale and raise yourself by straightening your arms.
Don’t lose confidence if you aren’t ready for either of these quite yet. You can build up strength on a pull-up machine or by enlisting a friend to hold your legs while you execute the exercises. Even at the beginner level, dips and pull-ups are pretty advanced exercises:
- Intermediate – Once you can confidently execute a set of 8-10 pull-ups or dips with good form, you’re ready to try dips using a weighted dip belt or pull-ups while wearing a weighted vest.
Advanced – Want to be a legend at your gym? Try banging out a set of advanced pull-ups like:
- Around the world pull-ups
- L-sit pull-ups
- Typewriter pull-ups
Some advanced variations on the standard dip include:
- Around the world dips
- Side to side dips
- Ring dips
Safely Incorporating a Power Rack into Your Routine
Adding power rack exercises is certain to boost your weightlifting prowess to the next level. But, as with all exercises, practicing good form and taking it slow as you learn the ropes is vital to your success. If you’re looking to create (and stick with) a power rack routine, consider the following advice:
- Find a mentor or trainer to encourage you and keep you accountable
- Structure your workouts so that their frequency is manageable3
- Invest in good quality strength training equipment, from your gear to your machines
- Monitor your intensity levels
- Remember to rest and hydrate
However You Exercise, A Tru Grit Power Rack Fits Your Needs
Incorporating an effective power rack workout into your power rack exercise routine provides you with an opportunity to amp up your fitness safely and add versatility. Plus, there are an endless number of exercises you can perform with a power rack, from shrugs to cable curls.
Elevate your home power rack workout routine with Tru Grit Fitness.
Whether you’re looking to start a new home gym or add to an existing strength equipment set-up, a Tru Grit Power Rack has everything you need to succeed as a fitness novice or bodybuilding expert. Take a look at our racks and rigs for the best quality and durability in the industry.
Fuel your passion with Tru Grit Fitness.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2002/02000/Progression_Models_in_Resistance_Training_for.27.aspx
T Nation. Peary Rader’s Old School Training. https://www.t-nation.com/training/peary-raders-old-school-training/
International Journal of Exercise Science. Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of Frequency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836564/