If you’re using a commercial gym or looking to purchase your own squat rack, you’ve likely noticed that there are a few different types of squat rack: Squat stands (free standing), Squat rack (similar to a power rack), and an angled squat rack.
When looking at these three squat racks, the angled squat rack looks to be the least versatile option yet is often one you see in most commercial gyms and it’s also a top result whenever you search for the term ‘squat rack’.
As they don’t look very versatile, I’m going to cover the question of “why are some squat racks angled” to see what the benefit is to using or owning one and if it’s a better option than a more traditional squat rack.
What Is an Angled Squat Rack?
An angled squat rack, also known as an incline squat rack, is a squat rack variation made up of two standing vertical posts set to a 10 degree rear angle. These types of racks come with a fixed barbell rest on either side of the rack and have a fixed set of pegs to use as a barbell rest which are spaced evenly along the posts.
An angled squat rack is a more old-school piece of workout equipment that you’d expect to see in bodybuilding gyms or larger commercial gyms. The reason they are used less frequently today is that they lack versatility of use which is a key priority for many gym-goers or home gym builders.
The angled squat rack is mainly used for the following exercises:
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Press
- Incline Bench Press
As you can see, this type of squat rack does limit the exercises you can do, while you can get some more open-ended angled squat racks without the obstructing barbell rests on either side, you’d still be more limited in your use.
If this is the case, why do people use an angled squat rack, and why are they still manufactured?
Why Are Some Squat Racks Angled?
Traditional squat racks have straight vertical posts while angled squat racks have bars that are slightly angled, usually around 10 degrees.
Why choose an angled squat rack over a straight one?
The angled squat rack allows a more natural position for some people to lift the barbell from the rack, especially when performing back squats. An angle makes it easier to re-rack a weight once you’ve finished a lift as you can lean forward and let gravity assist with the re-rack.
Because the positioning is more natural for some, the angled squat rack also provides a safer method of weight lifting due to the ease of replacing the bar on the rack after you have completed your exercise.
This is true for all the exercises listed earlier. By having an angled squat rack, it’s much safer when re-racking the weight because you can let gravity assist whilst also having the angle of the rack to lean into – something that’s crucial when training solo or fatigued.
Why Are Some Smith Machines Angled?
Smith machines are basically squat racks with the weight lifting bar attached to the machine via a track and pulley system so that it follows a fixed plane of motion. They are great for weight lifters who don’t have a spotter or are trying more advanced weight lifting techniques.
Similar to squat racks, smith machine frames can be straight or angled. Angled smith machines – usually angled at 5-7 degrees – also allow a more natural range of motion for some people and usually concentrate the muscular workout to the glutes if you are performing traditional standing squats using the machine.
Smith machines also allow you to bench press, but be sure you don’t work counterproductively! When bench pressing with an angled smith machine, lift the bar from your lower torso towards your head – moving with the angle of the machine.
Moving in the opposite direction – pushing the bar away from your face and towards your lower torso – will not give you the desired workout and could result in injury.
How to Use an Angled Squat Rack
It is important to practice proper technique when using any piece of workout equipment including the angled squat rack. First and foremost, consider safety. There are adjustable catch bars that can be affixed at different levels.
Be sure to secure them at the appropriate level for you – usually, a peg or two below the lowest point of your squat so that the bar does not have far to fall. This is especially important if you do not have a spotter so that the bar catches on something other than your foot in case you lose your grip.
Next, ensure that the bar itself is also set in the appropriately leveled peg – this is usually about six inches below the tops of your shoulders. Add the desired amount of weight to each end of the bar. Make sure the weights are equal on each side – an unevenly weighted can result in injury due to dropping the bar or unequal weight distribution for your muscles.
If performing a back squat (the most typical squatting exercise performed with weights), step through the rack posts and position yourself in front of the bar (Do not forget to duck under the bar so you don’t hit your head) with the back of your shoulders against the bar.
We won’t cover all the exercises and how to do them but when using an angled squat rack, you always want to re-rack the weight by forcing the bar against the vertical posts.
Due to the angle of the rack, gravity will then help the bar fall securely into place whereas a traditional rack would need you to step over the j-hooks or spotter bars to rack the weight which requires more concentration and coordination.
Should You Face the Squat Rack When Lifting?
Does it really matter which way you are facing when lifting from an angled squat rack? Absolutely!
You should always lift the bar while facing the squat rack for more natural ease of movement, but also for safety purposes. It is far easier to lift the bar off the rack towards you and then replace it in front of you than to try and guess where to re-rack it behind you when you are finished with your squat or press.
From a safety perspective, it mitigates the risk of injuring yourself in case you lose your grip on the bar or trip. Falling forward with the bar allows for a greater chance of actually re-racking it or at least clearing your body away from the falling weight while falling backward can result in a greater potential to injure yourself.
Do not worry though if you are using the angled squat rack at the gym, they will most likely have positioned it facing the mirrors so that you can observe and perfect your technique as you do your squat lifts. If you are ever in doubt, just ask a trainer or gym employee – they will make sure you are using the equipment safely and correctly!
Squat racks come in many different shapes and sizes but one of the most used and favored over the years is the angled squat rack.
The reason some squat racks are angled by 10 degrees is to make it safer when re-racking your weight after squats or presses. The vertical angle allows users to lean into the rack and let gravity support the racking of the weight which is beneficial after a fatiguing lift.
While this isn’t the best option for most advanced lifters, beginner – intermediate lifters can definitely get the full benefit from this piece of equipment and it’s especially favored by lifters that train solo without a spotter as it offers an additional safety aspect when racking the barbell after a lift.
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