Mistakes While Using The Squat Rack
If you’re just starting out on your squat rack journey, it’s essential to get your technique right from the get-go, to avoid an injury or strain that can stop your training in its tracks.
Used correctly, the squat rack is an awesome piece of gym equipment that can really help you build muscle and create a ripped body to be proud of. And the beauty of the rack is that it lets you safely work with free weights without the need of a spotter.
To help you get started on the right strength and muscle-building track, we’ve put together a list of the key mistakes to avoid when getting pumped at the squat rack.
1. Forgetting About Your Core
Your core is essential in keeping you strong and stable throughout a squat lift but engaging those abs can often take a back seat when executing the move. While squat lifting will also help you strengthen your core, it’s also worth doing separate ab exercises as a stronger core will help you power through each squat lift move.
Failing to use your core effectively while squat lifting can put your back under pressure and your body at risk of strain or injury. So, as part of your set up at the squat rack, make sure you consciously engage your core, and keep your back straight so you have a strong and stable transition up into the lift.
2. Incorrect Placing Of The Bar
Another common error when working at the adjustable squat rack is placing the bar too high across your shoulders or at the base of the neck. Having the bar far too high on your back can put unnecessary strain on your neck and upper spine and will also have an effect on your overall stability.
For a safe and effective squat lift, place the bar across the top of your back and find your ‘comfortable place’ before you go into the lift. Also check the position of the bar when racked – for most lifters, the height should be set in line with your sternum or center of your chest, so you are not having to stretch or go on ‘tip-toe’ to release the bar. Find your grip and get stable before un-racking the bar, ensuring you feel secure before going into your lift.
3. Getting Your Foot Position Wrong
Another common error – especially with a keen squat rack rookie wanting to get on with the lift – is where and how you place your feet. When lifting you need both stability and a solid connection with the ground so before you lift, look down to check out your gym shoes.
Your feet should be shoulder width apart and parallel, with the toes pointing slightly outwards. Now feel the connection to the ground and check your feet are stable before going into the lift. Also aim to have ‘active’ feet – that is the muscles in the lower leg and foot are engaged and strong. Passive feet should really not be at the squat lift party and can put your ankles at risk of collapsing inwards, causing an unstable foot and a break in the energy you are creating in your legs, hips and lower back.
4. Lifting Your Heels
Getting all ‘tippy-toes’ at the squat rack is also a big no-no. It can be tempting to raise your heels in an effort to get initial lift off in the squat but keep it in check as your feet must remain strong and contacted with the floor. Raised heels in a squat lift can put you off balance, running the risk of a collapsed lift as you can’t bring your glutes or hamstrings into full play. Lifting your heels can also put your joints and muscles under an unnecessary load, potentially straining your knees and lower back.
5. Keeping The Squat ‘Shallow’
Finding your feet in the squat lift can become the focus for a newbie lifter, and you may feel you should start shallow as you get to grips with the squat. But getting your squat nice and deep from the start is a good habit to create.
Going shallow in your squat will undermine the strength in your legs and limit the range of movement you’ll have as you go into the lift. It can also add extra strain on your knees as you are unable to engage your hips which will not be in the right position for the lift. The result will be a weaker lift that causes you to go off balance. With a deeper squat you get the chance to engage all the power in your legs and lever your hips and knees in the best possible way. Aim to go just below the parallel – which means your hips need to be lower than your knees. If in any doubt, practice first without the bar until you’re comfortable.
6. Going Too Light With Your Weight
Getting the right weight at the right time can be tricky and takes a bit of trial and error, but a good rule of thumb is not to go too light when you start off or trying to go to heavy too soon. Too light a weight is not going to make any inroads into your muscle-building goals so check the numbers. Experts say that if you can do an easy calf raise movement with a weight then you are not squatting heavy enough.
However, another common mistake is packing on the kilos too soon, and risking injury or strain. Instead gradually ramp up the weight as your body and muscles develop and you can feel the need for weight progression. What you want to achieve is also key to picking your weight – to increase muscle size, go for a lighter weight but do more reps; for strength, up the weight so you can only squat for five or six reps at a time.
7. Insufficient Fuel For Your Body
To get the most out of your squat lift training and enable your body and muscles to recover, the right nutrition is essential but not always done, especially for the lifting newbie. The power surge needed for squat lift training can quickly fatigue your muscles, so you need to give them a helping hand otherwise you won’t see the results you are working so hard for.
Eat whole carbohydrates for energy and quality protein to support recovery and the muscle-building process. If time is tight and you are on the go, straight from work to gym, make life easier by using a protein power, pre-prepared in a protein shaker, and ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs to smash it in every squat lift session.
- How To Use A Squat Rack – Livestrong