Who else has wondered, “Should I Bench in the Power Rack?”
We’ve all been there.
You want to bench press, but you also want to go heavy.
You realise that there are certain safety concerns, especially if you’re benching without a spotter.
That being said, you don’t want to be viewed as “one of those people”.
You know what I mean, those who come into the gym, take over certain equipment, and use that equipment with completely wrong exercise selection.
Bicep curls in the squat rack, anyone?
So, should you be using the power rack to bench press?
Or should this be avoided at all costs?
Allow me to reveal all.
Should I Bench Press in the Power Rack?
It is absolutely fine to bench in the power rack, in fact it is highly recommended. The power rack is a completely different piece of equipment from the squat rack. So, the power rack can be used for a wide variety of exercises, including the bench press. You will need to set up the power rack correctly for your individual body type. This includes using the right bench, if you have a choice. Plus, setting the J-hooks and safety pins at the ideal height for your arm length and the use of back arch when benching.
1. It’s a “Power” Rack Not a “Squat” Rack
This is the most important factor about benching in the power rack.
In fact, the clue is in the name.
A POWER rack is not the same as a SQUAT rack, and anyone who says different should be told to mind their own business.
Look, one of the biggest bugbears in the gym is probably seeing someone performing bicep curls in the squat rack.
So, people automatically assume that no exercise apart from squatting should ever be done in the squat rack.
I do agree with this in the main, but not 100% of the time.
A prime example of this would be if you go to the gym for a bench press session and there isn’t another soul in the gym.
You want to go heavy, and you want to be as safe as possible, plus there’s no power rack in your gym.
For me, this is a perfectly acceptable time to bench press in the squat rack.
Well actually, the fact that there’s no-one else in the gym means that you can do whatever you want in the squat rack, even bicep curl.
But, hopefully you get my point, and that is that your safety in the gym should be your number one priority.
That being said, as I’ve mentioned, the power rack and the squat rack are two completely different types of apparatus.
In fact, if you study them closely you’ll even see that they are very different from each other.
The squat rack is built purely for squatting.
Yes, you can perform another exercise, such as bench press, in the squat rack, but it wouldn’t provide as much “support” as the traditional power rack.
For me, you can perform just about any exercise in the power rack, including:
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Calf Raises
To name but a few.
Bench Press Safety
The whole point in using a power rack to bench press is to ensure that you do so with good form, without the worry of seriously injuring yourself.
If you think about it, with pretty much every other exercise you have an “escape route” if ever you fail a rep.
In other words, most exercises offer you the opportunity to drop the bar or the load and move out of the way.
Unfortunately, you don’t have the same “comfort blanket” when it comes to the bench press.
Basically, if you’re failing a rep, you’re going to get crushed by the bar.
That being said, I know many people talk of the bench press “roll of shame”.
However, I personally wouldn’t want to regularly roll a heavy loaded bar over my chest, ribs, and stomach.
Then again, there are those who bench press without collars.
The aim here is that if you fail a rep you can simply angle the bar to the side and allow the weight plates to fall off, thus escaping from a potentially dangerous situation.
But, this still isn’t a safe way to bench in my opinion.
Plus, you’re now also putting other gym-goers at risk while your dropped weight plates roll all over the gym floor.
So, for me, if you’re going to bench press with heavy weights then safety should always be your first concern.
You should always bench press with a spotter or in the power rack.
In truth, I actually believe you should do BOTH, as there’s no guarantee that a spotter will actually be able to help you with a failed rep.
2. How to Set Yourself Up to Bench in the Power Rack
Okay, when it comes to the correct set up to bench press in the power rack, this can vary from person-to-person.
That being said, there are 3 main factors for you to consider.
Firstly, you need to choose the right bench for you.
That’s right, not all benches were created equal.
Admittedly, in my own gym, this is definitely not the case, as all our benches are exactly the same as each other.
But, this doesn’t mean that this will be the same for you in your gym.
In fact, benches can vary in both height and width, so you need to choose one that is suitable for your body type.
Furthermore, it could also be the case that you don’t want to flat bench, but would rather do incline bench presses.
So, as you can see, selecting the right bench (if unlike me, you actually have a choice) is imperative.
If you don’t have a choice of benches then this is obviously a moot point.
The Power Rack Hooks & Pins
Next, is setting the J-hooks, or J-cups, at the ideal height,
This is where the barbell is placed, before and after your set.
In order to determine the ideal height for yourself, lie back on the bench and extend your arms into the air in the direction of the barbell.
The maximum height of the barbell should be in line with your wrists.
So, any higher and you’ll need to adjust the placement of the J-hooks.
Finally, we have the all-important safety pins.
This is basically what is going to save you from getting crushed under a failed bench press.
Therefore, setting up the safety pins for you individually is extremely important.
Now, the safety pins will once again vary depending on the type of power rack you have available to you.
Some power racks have a clip-on attachment, others use hooks, whereas there are even power racks that have poles that slide through the holes in the side.
In truth, it doesn’t really matter about what type of safety pins the power rack has, but rather ensuring that they are set at the right height for YOU.
Now, one of the main bench press cues is to retract your shoulder blades, literally dig them into the bench, and then to puff your chest out.
Basically, this is using back arch, which reduces the range of motion, thus allowing you to lift heavier weights.
However, you’ll want to set the safety pins approximately 1-2 inches below your puffed-out chest.
Basically, if you do fail a bench press rep, you can simply flatten your back, which allows your chest to fall flat, and this will then be below the level of the safety pins.
This in turn means that you can safely slide out from underneath the power rack.
Setting Up the Power Rack For Bench Press
So, as you can see, it is not only fine to bench press in the power rack, it is actually highly recommended.
In fact, I would go as far to say that even if you have a spotter, you should still be benching in the power rack.
It’s important to remember that the power rack is a completely different piece of equipment to the squat rack.
So, while the squat rack is specifically for squatting, you can actually use the power rack for a vast array of different exercises.
Once using the power rack, you need to ensure that it is set up correctly for your body type to be able to bench press.
This will include selecting an appropriate bench, as well as adjusting both the J-hooks and the safety pins.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.