Any serious gym or home gym will be sure to have a squat rack as the centerpiece.
However, if you are new to the gym or weightlifting in general, these pieces of equipment can come across as intimidating. Especially if you are going to commercial gyms.
Not to worry, by the end of this guide to squat parts you will have all the necessary knowledge to use a squat rack like a pro.
What Are A Power Rack And A Squat Rack?
This is a common point of confusion and the terms are often used interchangeably. For your purposes, all you need to know is that power racks tend to be larger with more features and have more of a cage appearance.
A squat rack will still allow you to do all the compound movements usually associated with racks. However, because a power rack is more of a cage, you can do the exercises inside the rack.
There are a number of different types like squat stands or half racks but they will all have the same parts discussed here.
Why Use A Power Rack?
If you are wondering why you need a large and bulky rack to lift, it essentially boils down to safety and customization.
Racks Make It Safe To Fail
If you are serious about building muscle, you will eventually fail a lift or two. Without a rack, depending on the lift, failure could be a disaster. When dealing with heavy lifting it is very important to have fail-safes to keep you safe.
Racks Allow You To Customize Your Lifts
Racks allow you to place the barbell exactly where you want to begin your exercise. If you were to try to get the bar in position from the ground every time, you would burn up your energy and not lift as heavy as you could with a rack.
Also, power racks allow you to do a wide variety of exercises that you could not do safely without one. Here is a quick list of compound movements you can do in a squat rack:
In conclusion, racks remove most of the concerns from heavy lifting and allow you to just train however you want.
The Parts Of A Squat Rack
The frame of a squat rack is what gives the entire structure stability. Within the frame, you are going to see holes running up and down the beam.
The purpose of these holes is to allow you to adjust the j-cups and safety arms for whichever lift you are doing.
You may notice that different racks have different spacing between their holes. This is because different racks follow different spacing protocols. Those with smaller spacing typically referred to as westside hole spacing, are usually favored as they allow for more customization.
Along the frame, especially in commercial gyms, you will usually find weight plate storage on either side of the frame.
The base of a squat rack is very important. If you are in a rack and look down, you will see beams running across the floor to attach the vertical beams of the rack.
These beams on the floor are usually bolted to the ground for added stability. If you have a home gym or are installing your rack for the first time, you will want to research if your rack requires bolting.
The j-hooks, also known as j-cups, are used to hold your barbell in between sets and set the initial height from which you start your lift.
The main reason you want to use this is that for lifts like a squat or overhead press, you need to start with the bar high in the air if you want to lift as much weight as possible.
Just think, you can probably barbell squat more weight if you start with the bar on you back instead of having to deadlift it off the ground and clean it onto your back.
All racks have some sort of safety attachment used to catch the weight in the event of failure. While they are usually used as a safety feature, some lifts like the pin press and rack pull intend with for the barbell to touch the safety attachment.
These are a few different types of safety mechanisms you will run into but they all save a very similar purpose
Safety arms are thick pieces of metal that go across the rack, these are the most common type of safety attachments.
Pins are a bit more old-school but still really useful. They are the thin bar of metal that goes through the holes of the rack. They are usually twisted to be tightened into place.
Straps have become really popular because they tend to absorb the weight of the barbell better and not damage the bar in the case of failure.
However, if you want to do the pin press or rack pull, the straps are not rigid enough.
Pull Up Bar
If you look across the top of a rack, you are going to see a pull up bar. Depending on the rack, you may just have a straight bar or one with a variety of different grips.
Pull ups are a great exercise and you should make full use of all of the grip variations if your rack has them
The other benefit of the pull up bar is structural integrity. The bar serves to connect the frame across the top for added stability.
Weight Plate Storage
If you go to a commercial gym, you will usually see pegs extending from the side of the racks. These pegs are used to store weight plates.
The purpose of these pegs is to minimize the distance you have to carry the plates to your barbell.
If you have a home gym and are looking into weight plate storage solutions, getting some of these pegs attached to your rack is a great option.
Power Rack Attachments
The parts discussed above are the main parts of a rack that you will find in any commercial gym. But another benefit of the rack is the endless customizability. If your rack is compatible, there is a nearly endless supply of attachments. Here is a quick list of some of my favorite squat rack accessories you could look into:
Landmine attachments (Great for presses and T-bar rows)
Squat racks are essential pieces of gym equipment that you should familiarize yourself with as soon as possible.
Read this guide over a few times and you are ready to head to the gym and build muscle!