Barbell SquatsJason LaCarter
Performing barbell squats, either front or especially back, is almost impossible to do without power or squat rack. (The difference between a power and a squat rack is that the squat (half) rack has only two pillars, with bar catchers only attached from one side. Power rack has four posts, and bar catchers are fixed on both sides, providing better stability. If you can, always opt for a full rack.) The reason why is simple—how would you load a barbell, and then place it behind your neck without something to hold it for you? Without a power rack, it’s impossible to do heavy squats. However, even if you could load yourself, doing squats without a power rack would be extremely unsafe. Always make sure to set up safety pins at the correct height. Do a squat with just a barbell, and see where it stops at the bottom position. Place the pins a little lower than that. The idea is for them to catch the barbell, as soon as you give up on that last rep. This will prevent injuries, but also potential property damage, as heavy barbell won’t fall on the floor. See how to squat without destroying your knees.#2 Rack Pulls
While the only “big lift” exercise where the power rack is pretty much useless is the deadlift, this piece of equipment can be used for its closest cousin—rack pulls. As you can see from the name, you need a rack to do rack pulls. You set up safety pins just below, above, or at knee height, and you pull the bar off the pins (or off the rack), and there you go, those are rack pulls. Although this looks like a crippled deadlift, rack pull is actually an awesome exercise. It entirely takes away the leg push part from the deadlift, and all you have left is 100% back. Rack pulls also allow you to lift heavy, and you can really build muscle with this exercise. They hit back muscles hard, and are an excellent option for developing upper back and traps too. Because you lift heavy, rack pulls are also excellent for your grip strength.
#3 Bench Press
Even if your gym has a separate bench with bar holders for this exercise, you should perform the bench press inside a power rack. The reason why is simple—safety. Without a spotter, the bench press is a dangerous exercise, at least if you want to do it properly, which is to lift heavy. Having a loaded barbell towering over your head and chest is not the smartest thing you can do while trying for your personal best, alone. A rack corrects this, as it is there to catch the bar if you fail your rep. Roll an adjustable bench under it, and place the safety pins just above your chest level. The idea is for them to catch the bar as you fail, just above your chest so that you can squeeze out without any broken ribs. Besides the regular and incline bench press, you can use the power rack to perform “dead” bench press. This is a rack pull version of bench press. You set up pins just above your chest, and then place the bar on it. With every rep, you lift the bar off the pins and put it back on, essentially lifting “dead weight” without any spring or momentum.
#4 Inverted Row
The inverted row is the best bodyweight exercises you can do for your upper back (and biceps), period. However, although bodyweight, it is hard to perform without a power rack. The idea is to fix a barbell on safety catches or J-hooks. It should be high enough for you to go under it, holding the bar with your hands fully extended, hovering just above the floor. Then, you pull yourself to the bar, trying to touch it with your chest. You will realize that this is much harder than it seems. When you get stronger, you can make the inverted rows harder by placing your legs on a bench. Once that becomes too easy, you can hold a plate over your stomach or chest. However, this exercise should be more about volume than lifting heavy; use it as an accessory for your pullups and barbell rows.