How To Set Up A Power Rack For Bench Press (Safety Guide)

You want to bench press but don’t have a spotter available to help you. Using the bench press inside a power rack allows you to train to failure on your own in a safe way. If you're unsure how to set up a power rack for bench pressing, this safe lifting guide will tell you everything you need to know!

Setting up a power rack for bench pressing is fairly simple to do, but there are some really important safety steps to follow in order to ensure the correct setup.  

1.  Select Your Bench 

Using a flat bench versus an incline bench will change the height of your J-hooks and safety pins. Remember to bring your bench into the power rack first so that you can use it to double-check your heights are correct.

Not all flat benches are created equal either. Some are slightly higher/lower than others. The height of your bench determines the height of your safety bars.  

Related Article - Best Adjustable Weight Benches

2.  Adjust the J-Hooks 

The J-hooks, also sometimes called J-cups, are the hooks on which the barbell rests. The height setting for the J-hooks will be different for each person. If you're sharing the rack with someone, the J-hooks should be set to the lower position of the two people.

To determine an ideal height, position yourself directly under the barbell in a bench press position. When you extend your arms straight toward the barbell, the bar should not be higher than your wrists. When you grip the barbell, your elbows should be bent and not fully extended or locked.

3.  Adjust the Safety Pins 

You’ll want to set the safety pins at a level that allows you to slide out from under the barbell without any assistance. This should be around 1-2 inches below the level of your arched chest.

Then, when you collapse your arch, there should be enough room to slide out. Attaching or setting the safety pins to the correct height is very easy to do,  but depends on your specific power rack. Some racks involve a hook-on or clip-on attachment, while others use poles that slide through holes in the rack.  

How To Set Up A Power Rack For Bench Press (Safety Guide)

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Use Appropriate Weights 

Ensure that the power rack you want to use can handle the weight you’ll be lifting. Gyms usually have power racks that can tolerate heavy weight, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Likewise, store-bought power racks (even though each model has its own weight limit) usually range between 500 lbs to 1500 lbs.

It is not recommended to use a DIY power rack for bench pressing. Even if you believe it is strong enough to handle the weight of your set, the rack has not been stress tested enough, and you should never use a DIY setup for overhead workouts.

Use Chalk 

It’s not uncommon to experience sweaty palms during your workout. Using chalk helps to absorb the sweat and achieve a stronger grip, which means you’ll be able to lift heavier too. Although it’s cheap and easy to apply, it can be messy. As a result, not all gyms allow the use of chalk, so be sure to confirm prior.  

Using chalk doesn't only help with grip; it can also be used to help increase your arch. When powerlifting, the idea is to arch your back as much as possible. This reduces the range of motion from the bar to your chest, and the more you are able to arch, the more you reduce the range of motion.

Adding chalk to your upper back and shoulders (lats, traps, and rear delts) helps to keep you in place and maintain your arch, allowing you to get the most out of your workout.

Read Also - Powerlifting Vs Weightlifting

Correct Grip & Hand Placement 

There are several grip and hand placement options you can use when bench pressing. While one isn’t more correct than the other,  knowing when to use a specific grip can help you to achieve your weight lifting goals.

The five grip types include; the traditional grip (hands shoulder-width apart, the wide grip, the close grip, the reverse grip (palms facing up), and the false grip (thumbs placed over the bar).

Use The Safety Bars 

The main benefit of using a power rack for bench pressing is to ensure your safety when lifting without a spotter. This is where your safety bars are important. When selecting the optimal level for the safety pins, it should be at a height where you won’t hit the safety bars with each rep. However, it should also be positioned at a height that ensures your safety if you fail the lift.

Use A Spotter 

While it may sound dramatic, injuries sustained from bench pressing can be fatal. Ideally, you should always have the safety pins in place, regardless of whether you have a spotter or not. Likewise, it’s always preferred to use a spotter even when you have the safety bars in place. Think of it as an extra fail-safe in case something does go wrong.

man doing bench press with a spotter

Can You Bench Press Inside Power Rack Without A Spotter?

Yes, but let’s first discuss what exactly a spotter is. A spotter’s role is to keep the weightlifter safe and to help avoid injuries. Added to this, having a spotter available during your lift will help you to lift more than you could on your own. Why? Because if you’re not worrying about being crushed under the barbell, you can focus on your set and train to failure.

However, the benefit of bench pressing inside a power rack is the ability to have safety pins set up. This means that, instead of a spotter preventing the bar from pressing on your chest or abdomen, the safety pins will support the barbell above your chest if you reach rep to failure. 

Additionally, it’s possible to drop the bar while bench pressing, and a spotter will likely not be able to catch it in time. Depending on your weight, this can crack your sternum.

Using the safety pins on a power rack will ensure that this doesn’t happen, as the pins will be able to block the impact. So yes, you can bench press inside a power rack without a spotter. However, it’s always good to have a spotter if one is available.

Read through our guide on the major lifts that require spotters here!

man doing bench press in sorinex power rack

Common Power Rack & Bench Press Set-Up Questions

How high should the rack be above the bench? 

This is completely dependent on the lifter’s height and arm length. Put simply, the bar should not be higher than your wrists when you’re lying on the bench with your arms extended toward the bar. You should be able to hold the racked barbell with bent elbows, and the rack height should be just high enough to raise the bar off the rack when you extend your arms and lock your elbows. 

How do you set up a power rack for an incline bench? 

For an incline bench press, you should set the safety pins to a height that positions the bar at around chin height. Raise the j-hooks higher than you’d use for a standard bench. When you stretch your arms straight toward the barbell, the bar should not be higher than your wrists, just like a regular bench press. 

Can you set up a Rogue power rack for bench press? 

Yes, you can. So long as your power rack includes safety bars, you can use it for bench pressing. This can be either pin pipes, bars, spotter arms, or even safety straps. In fact, you can purchase the Rogue Safety Strap system for any Rogue power rack.


Conclusion

That wraps up our safe lifting guide to setting up a power rack for bench pressing. Now that you know how to correctly set up the power rack and safely perform a bench press, you'll be able to achieve your lifting goals and build your strength without needing a spotter.

Last Updated on April 14, 2022