By Louie Simmons Flex
York Barbell introduced an isometric power rack in the 1960s in which one could do isometric pulls, presses, and squats at any desired position. There was only about 12 inches inside the stopped supports where one inserted a bar through a series of holes at any desired position. This type of exercise was recommended for expert lifters only, who performed three- to six-second holds, yielding strength development 15 degrees above and below the training range. The Gorilla Rack was introduced soon after for our first powerlifters. Peanuts West was squatting without spotters and fell with the bar on his back, injuring himself. While recovering, he came up with the idea of a power rack that was wide enough inside to walk forward and backward, using the safety pins as spotters. I must say, this was a great invention. Now, anyone could train heavy without a training partner or spotter, including being able to attempt new records, without concern about safety. This is why a power rack is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can own.
WESTSIDE POWER TRAINING
Westside mainly uses three different rack positions by placing safety pins at a height 2½ inches, 4½ inches, or 6½ inches of the floor. When pulling in a rack, do not pull a weight greater than 10% over your best floor pull. Westside uses regular bar weight or one of two different styles of bands for accommodating resistance, such as monster minis quaded over the bar. This system adds about 225 pounds at the top, while light bands add 350 pounds at lockout. There must be tension at the start of the pull to ensure there is no momentum at the start of the lift. When I asked Chuck Vogelpohl what rack pulls against bands did for him, his response was that it taught him how to think while he lifted—and also how to strain. There is no doubt that with a 1,180-pound squat and an 835-pound deadlift, he could strain. Finally, we will use the lightened method for both the deadlift and the power clean. By attaching the band at the top of the power rack and suspending the bar in its cradle, you can lighten the bar by 135 pounds, or 100 pounds at the start. Mostly conventional style deadlifts are done within the rack.
BENCHING OR SEATED PRESSING
Heavy lockouts were common before Westside started promoting board presses. You can choose two methods. First, lower the weight to a pin set anywhere from chest level to just a few inches from lockout; have records with both close and wide grip. Always keep records on several pin heights. Regular weight with band tension or chain weight can make it possible to have many records—making it fun when you can break a bench record every time you train. Listening to the advice of my good (and strong) friend, Jesse Kellum, I realized that no one could lower heavy weight correctly anymore (too many bench shirts, I would guess), so try to lower the weight under control and do not bounce it of the safety pins. For the seated (or standing) press, the rack is key. Heavy incline or decline presses can be done this way in complete safety. Of course, everyone does or should do seated presses. It’s hard to clean what you can press, but by resting the barbell on safety pins, no spotters are necessary. Heavy lockouts can accelerate your press strength. If you are too tall to stand up in the rack and fully lock out a press or jerk, you can stand outside the rack and use the J-hooks to support the barbell.
PIN SQUATTING AND GOOD MORNINGS
The heavy lockout, or overload system, was used in the 1950s by Paul Anderson and many Olympic lifters and bodybuilders. As much as 1,000 – 1,500 pounds can be handled but not safely without a good power rack. One can take the bar of the J-hooks and do regular squats or lower the bar to the safety pins at the predetermined pin height. I suggest you always lower the bar in a controlled manner and pause on the safety pins. This will prevent unnecessary shock from energy that quickly dissipates into your body when the bar comes into contact with the safety pins. You can set the bar at a predetermined pin height and do concentric squatting by lowering yourself under the bar first, then squatting upward. Both front and back squats can be done from the bottom. Light weights can develop explosive strength and very heavy weights will build max or absolute strength. Good mornings are a great exercise, and doing partials with heavy weights will build a powerful back. Concentric good mornings are consistently done at Westside, too; adding bands to the bar also brings a new dimension. If it’s heavy weight you want from presses, squats, and pulls (including shrugs), the power rack can be your best training partner. Westside has special racks with the holes 1 and 2 inches apart. For every 4-inch drop, a large weight reduction can happen. Thus, 2 inches for deadlifting and 1 inch for pressing is important. Long live the power rack!