A woman getting ready to lift the barbell weight off a squat rack

How to Safely Use a Squat Rack


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

Here’s our step-by-step guide to help you squat safely and with confidence:

  • Adjust the Rack to Your Height
  • Load the Bar
  • Balance the Bar Across Your Shoulders
  • Lift the Bar Off and Step Back from the Rack
  • Start Squatting
  • Return to Rack and Set the Bar Down

Safely Squatting from Start to Finish

A man starting his squat exercises after lifting the barbell off the squat rack

Whenever you step up to the power rack to begin lifting, be sure to follow these tips so that you can continue to get fit while protecting yourself from any would-be accidents.

Adjust the Rack to Your Height

There are plenty of risks that come with trying to squat from a rack that is set either too high or too low. When adjusting the height of the rack, a rule of thumb is that you want the barbell to sit at about chest height. You can tweak your height preference accordingly from there to maximize your squat performance.

Load the Bar

Make sure that you’ve correctly calculated how much you plan to lift before you start grabbing plates. It may sound obvious but always double-check to make sure you’ve loaded both sides with the same amount of weight before getting under the bar. Secure the plates using clips so that they don’t move around while you’re lifting.

Balance the Bar Across Your Shoulders

Stability is crucial for all types of lifting. However, it’s especially important if you plan to squat with a heavier weight. Make sure the bar is distributed evenly across your shoulders so that you can maintain your balance upon lifting it off the rack.

Lift the Bar Off and Step Back from the Rack

Once you’re ready and stable, go ahead and push off the ground with your feet to unrack the barbell. You should feel totally balanced while doing so. Step a few inches away from the rack so that you can comfortably squat without fear of knocking into it.

Start Squatting

Place your feet shoulder-width apart and strive to keep your knees out rather than letting them buckle inwards. To get the most out of the movement, be sure to squat below parallel by going down until your hips are lower than your knees. From there, all that’s left is to keep your knees out and chest up as you squat back up to the starting position.

Return to Rack and Set the Bar Down

Once you’ve completed the desired number of reps, you’ll be ready to rest for a bit. Maintain your balance and carefully place the bar back to its original position on the rack. Be sure that it is completely in place on both sides before going to set it down.

Why Add Squats to Your Fitness Regimen?

A woman in the gym doing squat exercises

Squats are a compound movement that can strengthen multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Not only will your legs get stronger, but you’ll also build core strength. Having a strong core and legs will lead to enhanced mobility and an overall better base for athletic performance.

Squatting is also great for improving your posture. Proper squat form teaches you how to tighten your core, activate your back muscles, and become more aware of your posture in general.

Exercising your leg muscles can also improve your circulation and digestion — movements like squatting help speed up the travel of nutrients and oxygen to your organs.

All things considered, squatting can only help to enhance your health, fitness, and overall quality of life. Whether you squat with no weight or with heavy plates, you can reap all these benefits.

Common Mistakes When Using a Squat Rack

A man struggling to squat with a heavy barbell weight

While squatting is a fantastic movement to have in your fitness regimen, it’s extremely important to do it safely and with perfect form. Here are a few of the most common squat mistakes to avoid at all costs:

Going Too Heavy Too Soon

It’s great to be enthusiastic about getting stronger, but bumping your squat weight too high can be a considerable safety risk. Experiment with trying to do multiple repetitions of a given weight before putting on heavier plates. Try to move up slowly in intervals of 5–10 pounds until you find a weight that is challenging, yet safe.

Neglecting to Engage Your Core

Many people make the mistake of assuming that a squat is all about your legs. In fact, you should also activate your core and upper back muscles to perform squats more effectively. Tightening your core will not only help you strengthen it, but it will also give you much more stability when you squat.

Rounding Your Lower Back

This is a very common cause of injury when squatting with heavier weights. Have a trainer watch you squat to see if you might be guilty of this mistake. If so, try to break the habit as soon as possible.


  1. 5 Ways to use a Squat Rack – Jetts
  2. How to use a Squat Rack – Lipstick Lifters
  3. Key Mistakes Squat Rack Squatting – Women’s Health
  4. How to use a Squat Rack – Livestrong

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