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Good squat rack technique prevents injuries while enhancing the effectiveness of the squat. When performed properly, squats increase lower body muscle mass and strength. At the same time, the supporting muscles throughout the midsection, shoulders and arms are also activated. Proper squat rack set-up and approach is important before taking the bar off the supports.
Before doing anything else, empty the weight bar and place the spotting pins at the correct height. Removing existing plates is a good idea to make height adjustments safely. Determine the correct height by stepping inside the rack and squatting without the bar until the thighs are parallel. The spotting pins should be high enough to escape under, but low enough to allow you to get to this parallel position with the weight across your shoulders.
Next, set the empty bar on the spotting pins and adjust the bar hooks to a comfortable height. Placing the hooks at throat level will allow you to dip under and use your legs to push the weight up safely and away from the supports. Place these supports too high and you risk creating a dangerous situation in which you have to rise up on the tips of your toes to get the weight free. Place them too low and it is difficult to get the exercise started.
Once the supports and spotting pins are adjusted properly, load the bar starting with the heaviest plates first. Push the plates together until they fit tight and fasten safety collars on both ends. Begin the movement by dipping under and placing your hands shoulder-width apart on the barbell. If this is uncomfortable, widen the hand position, but not too wide. Hands should be close enough to the body to transfer the load down the main axis of the body.
The basic foot position for the back squat is shoulder width or slightly wider. Feet can be turned out about five degrees or pointed straight, depending on individual comfort level. Standing underneath, tighten the stomach muscles, squeeze the hands on the barbell, push up with the leg muscles and step back to the middle of the squat rack. A strong grip is maintained as you lower your body to parallel.
Throughout the movement, keep the eyes focused on a point about ten to twenty degrees above the line of sight. The back is kept straight as you go down. As you rise, keep the back straight by remembering the directive to arch your back. You will activate the strong lumbar muscles when doing this, pushing the barbell up in a straight line.
As with all weight training equipment, taking the time to be safe and use proper technique in the power rack will improve the workout and lower chances of injury.