Thursday, October 10, 2019

Pros & Cons of Rack Training, Part One - Anthony Ditillo

THANK You to Liam Tweed! 

Starting at the left we see a conventional power rack made with two angle irons with holes for placement of the supporting bars. This is a popular rack which lends itself to many different forms of training. In the middle we see Mr. M. Osher of South Africa standing between the supports of his special power rack in his health studio. This is a very popular type of rack using pipes for uprights, which have been drilled to accept the supporting bars. The photo on the right illustrates the sliding sleeve type of power rack in which one upright is used for each side. This, too, is a rather popular and convenient type of power rack which lends itself to complete safety in the exercises although in some respects it is not quite as versatile. Illustrated exercising with this machine is 75 year old Leslie Carson, one of our popular authors. 

Two of his articles, Here 

I have always felt, and still feel, that the proper application of the use of the power rack will aid the average trainee tremendously. And this takes into consideration all three facets of our great sport: powerlifting, weightlifting, and bodybuilding.

There is nothing, simply nothing, to compare, strength- and bulk-wise, with proper training on the power rack and I hereby defy anyone to contradict me on this point. I have seen far too many things of astounding nature take place when power rack training is undertaken for any length of time. I have observed many, very many thin, underweight, under-muscled young fellows grow massive almost overnight by using the power rack, and I have also watched many flabby, fat fellows trim down or even GAIN additional weight through the use of the power rack. However, while some of these fellows did gain even more weight, they also lost many inches of fat, and replaced this fat with thick, massive muscles. While it is true that such development is not the aesthetic kind that today's bodybuilder is going after, however, it was still a most tremendous improvement over what they appeared like beforehand. 

By now, I imagine that most of you realize that I really enjoy power rack work, and you are so right. I would rather work on the power rack than do anything else in the line of weight training. And the reasons are simple. 

On the power rack you are in complete safety. By using the power rack you can train alone if you have to, and still enjoy it. The power rack enables you to sectionalize your lifts into various positions and this way you can work for maximum on your particular sticking points. Finally, power rack training will force you to develop real power and a great deal of muscle, and it is mainly for these two reasons that I truly enjoy power rack training.

Basically, there are two types of power racks. One is the conventional type and sold by most barbell manufacturers, which consists of four posts or poles, made of either pipe or heavy wood and and in which the bar rests inside these uprights and it heightened or lowered by the use of heavy pins, one placed under  the bar and through the poles or boards, one pin on each side. This type of rack is very strong and durable and it enables one to use truly herculean poundages in one's training  routine. The second type of rack consists of two steel poles joined at the top by another pole, all in all making the appearance of the skeleton setup of a child's swing The bar is attached to these two poles by the use of some type of clamp or another, and in this type of rack the bar slides up and down in the poles which are set at the desired height by the use of small pins, one placed through each of the two supporting poles. This type of rack is not as tough or durable as the aforementioned one, however it is cheaper to purchase or make and it can be useful when one trains at home and does not wish to use more than 400 pounds on the rack at any given time. It is possible to further strengthen this type of rack if one prefers this variety and has the patience and fortitude to figure out just what kind of supporting device can be useful. I, myself, have always used such a rack and I further strengthened it by nailing the top crosspiece to the I-beam in the cellar. On such a rack I have squatted to parallel with 515 pounds, and have incline pressed 305. So you see, such a rack can be strengthened sufficiently.

While we are on the subject, I would like to continue somewhat with a discussion of the conventional, four-posted power rack, and take into consideration its good and poor points, and how they relate to the average trainee. 

Now just about any type of power rack is going to help you quite a bit when it comes down to developing heavy, powerful musculature, but the main good point worth mentioning, concerning this particular type of rack is that although it introduces the factor of safety into the training routine, it also enables to develop a sense of balance and coordination which is ever so important when one stops using the power rack and decides to perform his main exercise movements without the use of the rack. 

You must realize that any lift you may perform does not move up and down in a straight line. For instance, the bench press does not move straight up and down in its performance. What the bar usually does after it leaves the chest is move in an arc almost the same in degrees as a half circle. And when one is squatting, when one hits the sticking point in arising, one is almost forced forward into a doubled up position and if a spectator is asked just how did the actual rising of the lift take place he would most assuredly state that the bar moved in a forward arc, which once again resembled a half circle. 

Now if you were to try to perform a full squat or a correctly manipulated bench press on a type of power rack which had the bar attached to the uprights and hence could only move in a straight line, at first it would be difficult and awkward, but in time you could manage it quite well. However, once you tried to stop working on this type of rack and went into the "free style" of training you would have a hard time indeed, for the lifts would once again move into their natural positions and you would not be used to the constant shifting to and fro, forward and backward and for quite a while you would not be able to use very much weight in your various exercise movements. 

This happened to me when I began to train at the Elizabeth YMCA. When I tried to use their conventional training equipment, I was astounded to find that I was barely able to squat with 400! Only seven months before I had squatted on my rack at home with a little over 500!  

   The Author

You can be assured I was very concerned for quite a while. Well, this "tragic occurrence" would not have taken place had I used the four post type of power rack which I began speaking about in the beginning of this paragraph. The reason for this is that with the four post type of rack, the bar moves freely throughout the entire movement, whatever the length of that movement may be. And while this type of rack does allow you to train in safety, it also forces you to develop coordination and functional strength and balance. Therefore I would most heartily recommend this particular type of training rack to all power lifters and Olympic lifters for with this the transition period of going from rack work to "free style" lifting is greatly reduced in its hardness and in its difficulty. Yes.

For the bodybuilder and also for the train at home lifter who has no intentions of ever competing in either powerlifting or weightlifting, I recommend the two posted "sliding bar" type of rack. The reasons are varied and many. 

For one thing, this type of rack does not require the use of balance or coordination, and speaking quite frankly, what does a bodybuilder care if he has good balance? What he is mainly interested in, and rightly so, is the size, shape and definition of his muscles. When pressing on this type or rack, and I mean any type of pressing - incline, bench pressing, press behind the neck, etc., the trainee merely has to push the weight with all his might and the rack does the guiding and balancing for him. This will give him great confidence and grit in his training as far as the ability to handle heavy weights is concerned. It is easier to concentrate on merely pushing of pulling without having to stop the body from swaying to the left or right or forwards or backwards, for on this type of rack such movement is impossible. On this type of rack the bar can move in only one direction : up and down! 

It is for this reason that I recommend this type of rack to the "train at home" bodybuilder. Why should he use the other kind of rack which is harder to handle and more difficult to maneuver? Unlike the competing power lifter and weightlifter, he will not need to ever use his limit poundage in the "free style" because he will not be competing in these various contests. But he will need an economical type of rack which will enable him to gain greatly in bulk and power and for reasons just discussed, it is easy to see that the two post "sliding bar" type of rack is the bodybuilder's best bet.

Many fellows will want to build their own power racks and, of course, if they choose to have it made of metal, they can have a local welder build them such a unit. The wooden power racks have been very popular since they are easy to build, and with proper care are quite durable and very convenient. In the above photo we see Tommy Suggs and Bill Rochelle using a homemade power rack made of 4.4's with the holes drilled for the supporting bars. You will notice that instead of being inside the rack they are using the bars for support on the outsides of the rack, which is another very popular and convenient method of utilization. 

Since we have arrived at the conclusion that one particular type of rack would be most suitable for the bodybuilders and the other type of rack would best satisfy the needs of the power lifter and weightlifter, all that is left is to try to suggest various training routines which can be used for the greatest amount of improvement in the shortest possible amount of time.  

For the bodybuilder, particularly the thin fellow who is trying to bulk up, there are many training schedules which can be incorporated into his schedule which will result in increased muscle mass and power in a very short time. 

For instance, the three or four basic power lifts could be performed three times per week, using approximately 4 to 6 reps per set and about 5 sets per movement, and I am sure that such a routine would prove very satisfying to the average trainee. 

Of course, one must be sure that the exercise movements themselves must be properly chosen for best results. For you see, rack work necessitates the usage of very heavy weights and very heave weights simply cannot and indeed should not be used in isolation or peak contraction movements. 

First of all, when you try to use heavy weights in such movements as the forward lateral raise, the lying triceps extension, the stiff legged deadlift, the full squat, you are just asking for trouble. Since you are primarily a bodybuilder, your tendons and ligaments are simply not developed for using heavy, heavy weights in such movements as these without greatly increasing the possibility of muscle strain or muscle tearing. 

The powerlifter particularly will be able to go as heavy as he likes in any exercise movement he chooses with not as much chance taken in straining himself simply because his very sport dictates his continually using heavier and heavier weights in all of his training routines and exercises and so his ligaments and tendons have been "schooled" so to speak, into accepting heavier and progressively heavier workouts without undue strain or pain.

Next issue, in Part Two, I will outline several effective training courses to be used with these racks. 

Tony, you tease!         

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