Power Rack Training for Beginning and Intermediate Lifters
Recently, I have received quite a few e-mails from folks wanting specialized routines for training. Most of these e-mails are from lifters that are specifically after strength and power, but also want the muscle mass to go with it. In addition, a lot of these lifters train in their garage or at home and only have access to a power rack, a bench, and a few hundred pounds of Olympic weights.
I happen to train in my garage—where I have a power rack, a Forza bench, and a deadlifting platform (not to mention 1200 pounds of free weights)—so I’m well aware of the fact that you can build plenty of strength, power, and muscle by training at home. (In fact, I’ve made better gains at home than I ever made when going to the gym.)
What follows is a program that’s perfect for home training in a power rack. It allows the lifter to train at home by him/herself without needing a spotter—although a spotter can definitely be useful at times. It is also just the type of program that will produce a lot of muscle gains and plenty of strength gains, giving you (who e-mailed me) the kind of program you’ve been asking about.
This program can be used by either powerlifters or bodybuilders. About the only lifters that wouldn’t want to use it are those of you who are powerlifters that don’t want to move up a weight class. Programs like the one that follows are very effective, but they also have the side effect of causing the lifter to gain a good deal of weight, especially if you’re eating everything in sight (as a lot of powerlifters and bodybuilders are apt to do).
I’ve wasted enough time with words. Let’s get right to the program:
Day One (Monday)
Bottom Position Squats: 7-8 sets of 5 reps. The first two to three sets should be warm-ups. The number of warm-ups you do will depend on your strength level. After that, I want you to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with the same weight. Use a poundage where you can probably get 7-9 reps before reaching failure. Use this weight for all 5 sets of 5 reps.
Bottom Position Bench Presses: Work up to a heavy single (about 90-95% of your one-rep maximum) using the “19-21 rep” rule. Okay, many of you are shaking your heads, wondering what in the world the “19-21 rep” rule is. It’s a “rule” that big Jim Williams came up with back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when he was closing in on 700 pounds in the bench press—wearing nothing but a T-shirt. Basically, when working up to a heavy single, you never do more than 19-21 reps on that one exercise. Let’s say you are going to work up to a single with 315 on your bench press. Your sets might look like this:
That would be all that you would do on bottom-position bench presses for the day.
1/4 Rack Squats: Work up to a heavy triple. Set the pins in the power rack so that you are only doing the last 1/4 of the squat. It should take you between 5 and 8 sets to reach your maximum for 3 repetitions.
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 5 sets of 5 repetitions. If you need it, then also perform another warm-up set. Many of you will be plenty warmed up, so there will be no need. Use the same weight on all 5 of your sets.
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1 repetitions. Set the Olympic bar in the power rack so that you can pick it up with it about knee level. Perform 1 or 2 warm-up sets and then put a weight on the bar that is about 70% of your one-rep maximum and perform 5 reps. Add a little weight and do 4 repetitions. Repeat until you reach a heavy single that is about 95% of your one-rep maximum.
Steep Incline Sit-ups: 3 to 5 sets of 20 reps.
Day Two (Wednesday)
Deadlifts: Work up to a heavy single using the 19-21 rep rule. Use the same technique on these that you did on bench presses on the first day. A hypothetical set/rep scheme might look like this:
Rack Presses: Work up to a heavy triple. Set the pins in the power rack so that you will be doing the last half of the bench press. Work up to a triple via 5-8 sets.
Rack Pulls: 5-8 sets of 3 reps. Set the pins in the power rack so that you will be starting a few inches below knee level. Perform 2 to 4 warm-up sets before doing 3 heavy sets of 3 repetitions.
Bottom Position Close Grip Bench Presses: 5-8 sets of 3 reps. Do these with your thumbs almost touching the smooth on the Olympic bar.
Hanging Leg Raises: 3 to 5 sets of 20 reps.
Day Three (Friday)
Squats (pausing on pins): Work up to a max set of 5 or 3 repetitions. To perform this exercise, set the pins in the rack at the same height you used on Monday for bottom position squats. When you squat down, pause on the pins for a second or two before squatting back up. You should be performing between 4 and 8 sets, depending on your level of experience.
Bench Presses (pausing on pins): 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1. Perform these the same manner as the squats. Use the set/rep sequence that you used for barbell curls on Monday.
Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 5 reps.
1/4 Rack Squats: Work up to a single using the “19-21 rep” rule. Your final set shouldn’t be all-out. In fact, it should be just a little heavier than what you used for your final set of 3 on Monday’s rack squats.
Steep Incline Sit-ups: 3 to 5 sets of 20 reps.
Stick with this program for at least 8 weeks. During this time, make sure you are eating adequately and getting enough sleep each night. This program may look easy, but it’s deceptive. It’s a lot harder to perform than it looks.