Using the power rack will not only help you develop explosive power and strength but you’ll get a massive chest to boot.
By Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS
Your last heavy barbell pressing session coincided with a popular new dance at the time, the Macarena. So is it any wonder that your chest development resembles that of Macaulay Culkin?
Maybe you’re worried about getting stuck under a barbell by a heavy weight or a distracted spotter. But the power rack eliminates those fears.
The power rack is the most underused piece of equipment in the gym, but it’s actually one of those most useful pieces of equipment. It’s great for performing partial reps, which overload the muscles being worked, and for overcoming sticking points and pushing beyond plateaus. You can push sets to repetition maximums and do partial overloads, and virtually any strength-building barbell movement can be accomplished in solitude, in the power rack.
Fail with a weight? No big deal, the pins are your built-in spotters. Except for hotel and corporate chrome palace chain gyms that have made an effort to round up and run off the “usual suspects,” as in you, the serious lifters, all gyms have power racks. And since they’re usually collecting dust in the corner, you can have the whole thing to yourself for as long as you want.
Under The Hood
Behind bars, the chest is referred to by muscled-up cons as “the hood.” In the free world, your “hood” is where you reside; we are going to use both of these definitions to meet our needs, building our hood (chest) in our new hood (power rack) at the gym.
Here is the bottom line: Go to the gym, park your ass in the power rack and do not leave until the workout is complete. This may not be the best way to win friends and influence people but we are going to move away from Carnegie’s tradition and adopt the attitude of warlord Attila the Hun.
Remember, you are at the gym to train, not socialize, and view everyone else as a silhouette.
Start: Lie face-up squarely on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with a wide, overhand grip, well outside your shoulders.
Movement: Un-rack the bar and slowly lower it to your lower chest. Keep your wrists over your elbows and your elbows pointed out to your sides. When the bar reaches an inch or so away from your chest, forcefully reverse direction without bouncing and press the bar upward, driving it back over your face to full extension without locking out your elbows.
Notes: Bench presses have played an important role in the training of virtually all iron game athletes that sport a big, beautiful hood with strength to match. Full range of motion is the name game; make sure every bench press touches your chest. Do not bounce reps. Sets are performed in a rest-pause style, meaning you start with a weight you can perform five to eight repetitions with. Lift the weight for as many reps as possible, take a 20-second rest interval, and do the same weight again. This will probably be two to three repetitions. Repeat this process twice, for a total of three sub sets. Take a 3-4 minute rest interval between rest-pause sets. Lower weight 10 percent for the second rest-pause set.
Rest-Pause Training in Action
Dead Bench Press
Start: In the power rack, set the pins as low as you above your chest without actually touching your chest. Set the bar on the pins and lie face-up squarely on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. You may need to slide onto the bench from the top or bottom to get under the bard. Grasp the barbell with a wide, overhand grip, well outside your shoulders.
Movement: Un-rack the bar and forcefully press the weight off your chest. Slowly lower the weight back down. The bar should settle on the safeties between each rep.
Notes: There’s no eccentric motion to store elastic energy, which is what makes it a great exercise for building explosive power. Perform each set as a single repetition, start the weight one inch off your chest. Take a 30-second rest interval between sets.
Dead Bench Press In Action
Push-ups with Feet Elevated
Setup: Assume a push-up position, with your feet on a flat bench.
Movement: Initiate the movement by bending at the elbows to lower your chest to a point just above the floor, then explosively push yourself up so your hands come off the deck.
Notes: The elevation of the feet tax the upper chest. Simply put your feet on the flat bench you have been using in the rack, get in a push-up position and pump out as many reps as you can.
Reverse-Grip Bench Press
Set up: Lying on a flat bench, grasp the bar with a supinated (reverse) grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and thumbs around the bar. Press the bar up to the start position without letting your elbows flare out. Don’t lock out your elbows at the top of the rep; keep a bend in your arms, maintaining control of the weight at all times.
Movement: With your elbows tucked in close to your sides, slowly lower the bar down to your lower pecs, and touch down gently.
Notes: Reverse-grip bench presses have been shown in studies to illicit more EMG activity in the upper chest region than even bodybuilding’s traditional upper chest “golden boy,” the incline. Pick a weight you can perform eight repetitions with, do that weight for six reps on the first two sets, on the final set do as many reps as possible. Take a two-minute rest interval between sets.
Science has demonstrated Isometric Posing builds muscle. Bend the elbow joint to 90 degrees, with a neutral forearm position, grasp the hands together and interlock the fingers and contract the chest as forcefully as possible for four seconds, followed by a four-second relaxation. Do this 10 times. Rest one minute and repeat this sequence for a total of five times. For more on isometrics read my article Isometric Training for Strength.
If you have a power rack, a barbell, and weights you have no excuse not to have a great physique and strength levels to match.
Time to hit the pig iron!
Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, trains some of the strongest and most muscular athletes in the world at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and via the Internet. He is the co-author of Amazon #1 selling book, Jailhouse Strong. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to sign up for his free training tips newsletter, visit www.JoshStrength.com