Last updated on November 7th, 2022 at 05:50 pm
The first time you ever used a squat rack you probably didn’t care whether you should be facing in or out.
In fact, you probably saw someone else squatting and copied their technique.
That’s great, as long as they were squatting the right way.
Oh yes, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to use the squat rack.
So, I’ll now reveal the right way to use the rack and explain exactly why you should be doing this.
Table of Contents
The Correct Way to Squat in the Squat Rack
You should face inwards on a squat rack. In other words, you’re facing forward, while looking at the pins and the bar. You then walk towards the bar, put your hands in the required position, duck down underneath it, and then lift the bar off the pins with the back of your shoulders. Take a few steps back, perform your set, and then walk forward in order to re-rack the bar.
Squat Rack Infographic
Why Should You Face Forward in the Squat Rack?
The main reason for facing forwards in the squat rack is due to safety.
Okay, so you follow the standard procedure for using the rack.
So firstly, you’re facing the bar and therefore “looking in”.
As you approach the bar you place your hands on it, duck down in order to get the bar placed comfortably onto the back of your shoulders.
As you straighten your knees the bar will unrack and then you take a few steps back in order to squat.
You then perform the desired reps and walk forwards and re-rack the bar once done.
Doing Things the Other Way
Now, let’s look at this from the other way round, which will explain why facing in is the safer option.
So, facing out will involve stepping back, ducking down, placing your hands on the bar, and the bar on the back of your shoulders.
Once again, as you straighten your knees you’ll unrack the bar.
Then take a few steps forward and you start completing your reps.
This all sounds absolutely fine so far.
However, once you’ve finished your set you then have to take steps back until you’re at the pins.
Remember, you’ll probably be fairly fatigued after your high-intense set, so getting the bar re-racked is the only thing on your mind.
That said, having to reverse back into the rack you can’t actually see where you’re going.
In other words you have to guess the distance, find the pins without actually being able to see them, and then hopefully re-rack the bar without dropping it.
Oh yes, and you have to do all this while you’re tired and fatigued after your set.
Okay, re-racking the bar while facing out is obviously perfectly possible.
But, there’s always the chance that you’ll walk into the rack or simply miss the hooks completely.
This, of course, can lead to an injury that could’ve been easily avoided if you were facing in.
Why risk it?
Are You Worried About Falling Backwards When You Squat?
I understand that the fear of falling while squatting is a real worry for many of you.
Okay, maybe it’s never happened to you before, but there’s always a first time.
I actually “jumped in” with someone of the squat rank in my gym recently, and the whole time they squatted facing out from the rack.
Me being me, I kept myself to myself, although we chatted throughout our set.
Eventually they asked me why I faced in, and I explained to them as I have to you above.
This person then told me that they were always worried about falling backwards while squatting, especially as they were now lifting fairly substantial weights.
In truth, I kinda “get it”, as in if you do fall backwards then at least the rack and the pins are there to “protect you”.
That being said, I also think there is a higher likelihood of falling backwards if you’re backing yourself into the rack without seeing what you’re doing.
You can actually learn more from my article about squatting and falling backwards, although the main reason for this is a lack of ankle mobility.
So, you’re extremely unlikely to fall simply because the weight is heavy.
But rather it’s because you have a mobility issue.
In fact, with this being the case, I would much rather just let go off the bar and allow it to fall off my shoulders.
Granted, it’s going to make a lot of noise, you may even hyperextend your back trying to get the bar off your back.
However, this is a quick and easy way to escape from a failed squat.
Plus, it’s far easier than trying to re-rack the bar when the pins are behind you and out of your line of sight.
How to Fix Tight Ankles
What About Falling Forward When You Squat?
In much the same way, if you feel you’re going to fall forward while you squat, this points to a tightness in the hips.
So, once again, a mobility issue rather than the weight on the bar.
However, in this scenario it’s far easier to see why it’s safer to be facing when you squat.
If you’re facing out then you’re simply going to fall forward, face palm the ground, and unfortunately with no escape from that heavy bar.
But, if you’re facing in, then at least you have the rack there to protect from serious injury.
Obviously, you should work on your mobility issues if you are worried about falling either way.
But, just remember, when facing the rack you have an easy escape route both ways, irrespective on which way you’re going to fall.
Unfortunately, you are greeted with a far greater degree of danger from falling if you’re facing out.
5-Minute Hip Mobility Routine
So, as to whether you should face in or out on the squat rack, the answer is definitely IN.
Therefore, you want to be facing the pins and the bar.
The main reason for this is that it is easier and safer to re-rack the bar, as you can actually see where you’re going.
If you’re facing out, then you’ll have to step back towards the rack without 100% knowing exactly where it is.
Furthermore, if you’re worried about falling when you squat, this is actually a mobility issue rather than to do with the weight.
So, if you’re falling backwards you need to work on ankle mobility, whereas if you’re falling forwards your hips are lacking the required flexibility to squat efficiently.
That said, once more, it is easier and safer to be facing in during both of these scenarios.
If you feel yourself falling backwards, then simply release the barbell.
And if you’re falling forwards, then you have the rack there to protect you.
Next, I’ve written about another extremely common squatting issue that I know people suffer with. So, see what I have to say about getting to the gym and finding all the squat racks taken.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.