Having a power cage at home makes it easy to build up muscles, strength and power. Plus, once you have the fundamental power rack exercises down, you can progress to more challenging variations.
Keen on barbell training but don’t know where to begin? I suggest starting with these basics. Then use them to design your power rack workout or come up with new compound exercises.
Make sure to take note of my exercise tips, too, to ensure your safety, correct form and pain-free training session.
1. Bench Press
Pairing a power cage with a traditional weight bench increases the safety of flat bench presses. That’s because the rack keeps you protected while lifting heavier weights without a spotter.
Doing this compound power rack exercise targets your chest, shoulders and arms. The bench press is also a go-to move for boosting your upper body strength and muscle mass.
- Lie on the bench. Keep your eyes under the bar and your feet flat on the floor.
- Grab the bar with a full grip and straight wrists. Make sure to hold the bar in the base of your palm with your thumbs wrapped around it.
- Take a big breath as you remove the bar from the rack and straighten your arms. Move the bar over your shoulders.
- Lower the bar to your mid-chest while keeping your forearms vertical and your elbows tucked at 75 degrees.
- Press the bar back up with straight arms. Hold the weight for a second, breathe, then lower the bar.
- Rack the weight after bench pressing for five repetitions.
- Do not stretch your chest and flare your elbows to 90 degrees when lowering the bar to avoid shoulder pain.
- Keep your wrists straight when you bench press. Lifting weights with bent wrists will only stretch them beyond their normal range of motion.
- Always bench press with a full grip to prevent the bar from slipping out of your hands. Your thumbs should wrap around the bar, not your fingers.
2. Inverted Rows
Try the more beginner-friendly move like the inverted row if you cannot do chin or pull-ups just yet. Here you’ll be fixing the barbell on the J-hooks or safety pins and going underneath it to start pulling yourself up.
The inverted row is among the best power rack exercises for your upper back and deltoid muscles.
- Set the bar on the J-hooks around waist height. Make sure that it’s secure and not moving around. Also, keep in mind that the higher the bar, the easier the movement becomes.
- Go underneath the bar with your face up and lie on the floor. Now, grab the bar with an overhand grip that is a bit wider than shoulder-width.
- Keep your body straight as if you are doing an inverted plank.
- To start rowing, pull yourself up towards the bar until your chest touches it. Then lower your body down to return to starting position.
- Repeat the exercise for 5 to 15 repetitions.
- Another tip to make inverted rows easier is to position your body at an angle. This form requires less effort than pulling yourself up vertically.
- When you pull, your shoulder blades should be moving down and back. Make sure not to shrug your shoulders.
- Use grip variations to target muscles. For example, an overhand grip aims for your lats, while a wider overhand grip is for the deltoids. Switching to a narrow underhand grip will work out your lats and biceps.
3. Barbell Squats
Performing squats with a barbell is a classic favourite as it involves several body muscles. Your legs and lower back let you raise the heavy bar while your upper body and shoulder muscles support it.
This power rack exercise can also stimulate your lungs and heart muscles as you level up your squats with more taxing weights. It’s like getting body-building and cardio benefits in one go!
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then position the bar on your upper back.
- Take a big breath, then squat down by moving your knees to the side and your hips to the back.
- Break parallel or squat down until your hips are lower than your knees.
- Now, squat back up with your knees out and chest up. Make sure to lock your hips. Breathe as you hold the weight for a second at the top.
- Repeat the exercise for five repetitions.
- Squeeze your upper back before removing the bar from the rack. It will prevent the bar from digging into your spine and hurting your neck.
- If you’re struggling to break parallel when you squat, try widening your stance a bit. A too-narrow form will not create enough space for your belly, making it difficult for you to move your hips down.
- You need to lock your hips or stand tall at the end of every squat. Failure to do so will result in hip pain.
4. Rack Pulls
Rack pulls are excellent power rack exercises if you want to prep your body for bicep curls, dumbbell rows or deadlifts. This strength-training exercise also helps you carry out daily activities with ease, like carrying your baby or doing the laundry!
Similar to squats, this move also targets multiple muscles, including your back, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. It also enhances your grip strength.
- Set the bar and rack a little bit below or above your knee. Use your body height as the basis for adjustment.
- Add the weight plates. Ideally, start with a lower weight, then gradually increase it as you progress.
- Stand with the bar in front and your toes under it. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, chest straight, shoulders back and head forward.
- Bend your knees slightly as you grab the bar with an overhand or mixed grip. Inhale and lift the bar, pulling the weight up and your shoulders back.
- When you achieve a lockout, hold the weight for a second. Then bend your knees and lower your body to put the bar back onto the rack.
- Repeat the exercise for four to eight repetitions.
- Set the bar above your knees for a more beginner-friendly rack pull. It will decrease your range of motion plus help you master the correct position first.
- Decrease the intensity of this exercise by working out with an unweighted bar. You can always add lighter weight plates later as you increase your strength.
- You can also wear weightlifting gloves, wrist straps or a lifting belt for added protection.
Weightlifting among beginners is doable and safe with the proper body form and the right piece of equipment. Ready for a good muscle training experience? Check out my top picks to start doing power rack exercises at home!