Power Rack Bodybuilding
by Bill March
It’s now almost five years since the start of my training on the rack. During this time I have used the power rack to gain strength and improve my Olympic lifting. On Saturdays, visitors come into the York Gym to watch the lifters train and I am often asked about my training system on the rack and if I think it could be used for bodybuilding. It has always been my belief that a bodybuilder can obtain as much benefit from rack training as lifters do, if they go about it the right way. During one of my layoffs from rack training for lifting, I had a chance to experiment with some bodybuilding movements. I found that it was possible to reach all the muscle groups with a complete workout.
In order to obtain the best and fastest results you must follow one of the rules of rack training for lifters, for it also applies to the bodybuilder – work the muscle without fatiguing it. In other words, do only what the workout calls for with no extra repetitions or sets. This is hard to do at the start as you will feel your workout is too short and that maybe you are not doing enough. Believe me, if you try extra repetitions or sets it will only prolong your improvement as you will soon run into fatigue and not be able to work the muscles to the maximum in the next workout.
In most bodybuilding routines you are asked to do a certain amount of sets per muscle group along with what sometimes seems endless repetitions. Why? The idea is to pump the muscle, causing it to swell and enlarge in size. This enlargement in size is due to fluid and blood being pumped into the muscle area that is being worked. After a period of one or two hours the muscle size decreases and it returns to its previous form. When trying this rack system you will find that the pump you receive will stay with you much longer, and after training this way for a week you may never again return to the high repetition, strictly pumping method. Also, you are strengthening and toughening the ligaments and tendons along with working the muscles. This means the muscle will be strong and of use to you and others, not just one that looks big but is actually weak and of little use.
As with rack training for lifting, here you will use a low, middle and top position. Each muscle will be worked at the bottom, middle and top, therefore working the entire range of the muscle. Sometimes when doing repetitions the bodybuilder misses working the bottom position because of a jerk, swing or bounce at the start. Moreover, because of not really finishing the exercise at the top of the movement, the muscle is often incompletely trained.
Here is another suggestion to consider when using this rack system of training for bodybuilding – one that I believe very strongly in, and one that will make your gains come even faster. Mentally, while doing an exercise, concentrate on the muscle areas being used. What I am trying to say is put all your physical and mental effort directly into what you are doing, directed toward that body movement and that one alone. About the only time many lifters put any mental thought into exercises is when they plan their workouts. Usually they seem to be more interested in achieving the required amount of sets and reps that their workout calls for, and the movement is turned into a counting exercise. They do the movement fast with little thought to what it is they are doing and as a result never obtain more than 50% of the benefit available to them. Also, when they do an exercise, only half the movement is done with any slowness and so again, they receive only half the benefit. Example – curling the barbell to the shoulders, they let it down to the starting point so fast and without resistance. Why not fight the bar down to the starting point with the same struggle used to raise it to the shoulders? Lowering the bar slower will work the muscle again and cause other muscles not used to raise the bar to be worked. This will again help you to attain what you are trying to – a stronger, thick looking and well-developed body. These are two things which must be done when using this routine: 1.) 100% mental and physical commitment and concentration on the movements being used. 2.) Raising and lowering of the bar slowly so that the muscles are worked in both the upward and downward movement of the exercise. If these two rules are not followed without fail the gains will come slowly.
About a week before starting this routine, so that you have some way of measuring your improvement in size and strength, take a tape reading of yourself. Also, take a workout and work up to your limit in a single or repetitions of 2 or 3 in several basic exercises (squat, bench press, curl etc.). Write these poundages and measurements down and keep them for later. You will be surprised when you come back and compare them in the future.
This should be a four-day-a-week workout on the rack, with a fifth day to work up to maximum poundages doing the full range of movement. This way you can test and see your improvement each week, as well as keep your body conditioned to non-rack lifting.
Use the following five exercises in the three positions for each workout:
The best way to go about doing your workouts is to do the low position on Monday, the middle position on Tuesday, and the top position of Wednesday. On Thursday do the middle position again s this is where the biggest mass of each muscle group comes into play. Never work more than one part of a movement a day. If you are working the low position of a press, don’t do any work on the middle or the top positions that day. Friday is a rest day. On Saturday you test yourself for gains, working up in poundage as far as you can doing full-range movements.
And now for the most important portion of this routine – the number of repetitions and sets to be done in each position. The rep and set system that I will describe may different from anything that you as a bodybuilder have tried before, but I can assure you it will give results equal to your mental and physical efforts. Do only one set on each position but, do 4 repetitions and hold each repetition against the top pin for 10 seconds. Between each repetition you lower the weight slowly to the bottom pins and let it rest for only a second or two and then return the bar to the hold position again against the top pins. Remember, only one set, four repetitions, and one or two seconds rest between each repetition. If you go through an exercise using this system and don’t feel pumped after the fourth ten second hold you had better check to see if you have any blood in your veins.
Give this routine your all for 4 to 6 weeks and prepare to be pleased.