Have you ever wanted to push yourself past failure but been terrified that failed press will result in the bar crushing your chest?
There is an easy fix for this, just bench in a squat rack, squat stand, or power rack. You can put safety bars where you like and push yourself past your limits as much as you want.
Why A Squat Rack Is Great For Bench Press
It may surprise you to know that I think that a squat rack is BETTER for benching than traditional bench press stands you find in commercial gyms. This comes down to a few main reasons.
I never understood why most bench presses you find in the gym do not have safety bars as well. If you think about it, the bench press should is more dangerous than most other lifts and would probably benefit the most from the addition of safety arms,
If you have never benched in a squat rack before, just place the j-cups at a comfortable height for you to unrack the bar.
Next, place the safety bars at or just below your chest height from the bench. Basically in the worst-case scenario where you drop the bar, you want the bar to barely touch your chest.
No two humans are the same. This is why traditional gym benches being fixed into position perhaps make the movement uncomfortable for some.
The great thing about a rack is that you can move the bar to the perfect unracking height for your own arm’s length.
If you are on the shorter side, you can make it so you do not have to stretch to unrack the bar. Likewise, if you are on the taller side, you can make you’re unracking a bit lower so you do not have to press the weight just to get the lift started.
Also, the benefit of benching in squat racks is that you can adjust the angle of the bench press to better hit the muscle you are trying to target.
This is really beneficial on the incline. I find that most incline bench presses you find in regular gyms have way too steep an incline. The effect of this is that you can not lift heavier weights and find that lots of the load is transferred to your shoulder and triceps as opposed to being centered on your upper chest.
If you are trying to hit your upper chest, you really only need a very slight incline to be effective. There is no need to put your shoulders at risk.
Pushing To Failure
In the gym, you should always be pushing yourself and testing your limits. However, you have to balance this with staying safe at the same time.
In a regular gym’s bench press, I am sure you have thought you could maybe get the extra rep but did not risk it because failure would mean hundreds of pounds crushing your chest.
The bench press into different from other exercises and should be pushed to failure. The only real way to test your maximum safety is with the help of a power rack.
Having an adequate bench press will result in great chest development but a squat rack can help try out some different variations to keep things fresh or push past a plateau. Try any of these and you will surely see strength gains that translate directly to your bench press.
The floor press is a great exercise if you are having trouble locking the weight out. To perform it you will just have to lie on the floor and move the j-cups down to a comfortable height. The floor may be uncomfortable at first, but added stability of a solid surface will help you produce more force.
Unrack the weight and lower it until the weight plates hit the floor or the bar makes contact with your chest.
The pin press is done by adjusting the safety bars so that they are just above your chest. You then perform the bench as normal but let the bar come to a dead stop at the bottom of each rep.
The benefit to this style of benching is that it is a good aid for those that struggle at the bottom portion of a rep.
Is It Bad Gym Etiquette To Bench In A Squat Rack?
This is a common concern but the answer is no, absolutely not. Bench pressing in a squat rack is a perfectly valid use of the rack and no commercial gym should have a problem with you doing this.
I get that using power racks, squat stands, and squat racks for non-essential movements is generally bad gym etiquette, but this is not that. We are not curling or doing some other exercise that could be easily done without a rack.
Instead, we are actively using the rack features to lift the heavier weight while staying safe.
If you are in a crowded gym and see lots of people waiting for a rack, you can go ahead and use a regular bench press if you would like.
Example Full Body Squat Rack Workout
Since we have established that you can bench in a squat rack, there is no reason why you cannot have a complete workout that hits all your muscle groups. For more in-depth guides on squat racks and the various exercises, we have an in-depth guide.
Back squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Barbell Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
What If I Do Not Have A Squat Rack?
If you do not have access to a quality squat rack in your gym, there are plenty of exercises you can do that do not require a squat or power rack.
That being said, barbell exercises are some of the best you can do for your physical development. If your gym does not have a squat rack, I would consider switching to a gym that perhaps does to get the most value for your money.
The other option is starting a home gym and acquiring your very own squat rack for personal use. I think is a great option for the reasons outlined here. If you cannot afford one, another great choice is building a power rack yourself.