5 Squat Rack Exercises For Beginners (By a Certified PT)

February 26, 2024 11 min read

Squat rack exercises are crucial to any well-rounded weight training program. This is especially true for novices who want to establish a strong base of stability and strength. Including squat rack exercises in your workout program can have a number of advantages, regardless of whether your fitness goals involve muscle development, boosting general strength, or enhancing sports performance.

Over the course of my 35 years as a personal trainer, I have consistently used five foundational squat rack movements with my new clients. I’ll lay them out in this article, along with some squat rack essentials and extra tips for success.

These exercises can be done on any squat rack, power rack or even folding squat racks.

You can see why PRx Performance patented folding racks are so effective in the 60 second video below…

Benefits of Squat Rack Exercises for Beginners

The squat rack is a useful and important tool for strength training. It offers a solid and safe platform for carrying out a range of exercises that simultaneously work several different muscle groups. The squat rack allows beginners to safely test their limits, learn sound weightlifting skills, and gradually build up their strength and stamina over time.  

Learning how to perform squat rack exercises improves balance and coordination throughout the body and increases physical strength for beginners. High levels of stability and body awareness are required during these exercises, which promote the growth of greater neuromuscular control and improve proprioception.

Exercises with the squat rack are also beneficial for bone density and joint health. Exercises that put pressure on the bones, such as squats and rack pulls, cause an adaptive strength response within the bone tissue.

Squat Rack Essentials

Before we delve into the six essential squat rack exercises for beginners, it’s important to have working knowledge of all things squat rack related.

There are many types of squat racks.

There’s a squat stand vs half rack vs a full rack. A full rack is also known as a power rack or squat cage, and is a robust metal structure with movable horizontal bars or safety pins. These safety pins serve as a protective measure to stop the weight from collapsing onto you if you fail a lift.

Here are five basic squat rack safety measures:

Start with a Proper Warm-Up

It is essential to warm up the body with dynamic stretches and mobility exercises before beginning heavy lifting. This lowers the risk of injury by getting the muscles and joints ready for the coming workout.

Adjust the Safety Pins

Position the safety pins properly by adjusting their height. The pins should be placed just below the lowest point of the range of motion when executing exercises like squats so that the weight can be safely caught if necessary.

Use the Right Weight

Beginners should use a weight that will allow them to keep their form correct throughout the movement. Increase the weight gradually as your strength and form get better. A good set of bumper plates is crucial to do this step effectively.

Maintain Proper Form

Pay attention to keeping your spine neutral, using your core muscles, and keeping your knees in line with your toes throughout the exercise. Technique must always come first when lifting weights because poor form might result in injuries.

Use a Spotter

Having a spotter can add extra safety and support when trying maximal lifts or pushing yourself above your comfort zone.

The Top 5 Squat Rack Exercises for Beginners

The top six squat rack exercises for beginners are all compound exercises that involve multi-joint movement. I recommend performing them as a workout, doing 3 sets of each and resting about 90 seconds between each set.

Exercise#1: Barbell Squats

The barbell squat is a compound exercise that mainly works the legs, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It also stimulates the calves, lower back, and core muscles. You can find out how to improve your squats here.


  • Improved power and strength in the lower body
  • Increased lower body muscle mass
  • Improved overall athleticism and movement efficiency
  • Improved joint stability and bone density
  • Increased stability and core strength

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Place the barbell at the proper height on the squat rack, at around shoulder height.

2. Stand facing the barbell with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The toes ought to be slightly pointed outward.

3. Align the barbell across your upper back and shoulders by stepping underneath it. Place the barbell in a comfortable position, keeping it away from your neck. Put your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width.

4. Come to an upright position and step back to unrack the bar.

5. Breathe deeply, engage your core, and start the motion by simultaneously bending your hips and knees.

6. Slowly lower yourself while maintaining a straight back and a raised chest. Keep descending until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

7. Push your heels into the floor to return to the start position.

Common Errors to Avoid:

Excessive forward lean: Keep your torso upright during the motion. By keeping your chest up and concentrating on pushing through your heels, you may prevent excessive forward lean.

Allowing the knees to buckle: Throughout the entire squat, keep your knees in line with your toes. To keep your knees aligned correctly, contract your glute muscles.

Not squatting deep enough:Your thighs should be parallel to the floor or just below when you squat. Avoid performing shallow squats, which reduce the exercise's effectiveness.

Using too much weight: Begin with a weight that enables you to keep good form. Increase the weight gradually as your strength and form get better.

Some people prefer to do squats inside of a power rack. Check out the PRx Build Limitless Full Cage for this.

Exercise #2. Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are a type of deadlift that concentrates on the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.


  • Increased hamstring, gluteal, and lower back muscle strength and development
  • Strengthening of the spinal erectors and hips
  • Improved grip power and forearm growth
  • Increased pulling force and strength overall
  • Targeting specifically the muscles responsible for spine stabilization and hip extension

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Set the safety pins in the squat rack so that they are just below knee height.

2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart as you stand inside the rack. Put yourself in a position where the barbell is directly above the middle of the foot.

3. Lower your body by bending at the hips and knees to lift the barbell. Use an overhand or mixed grip (one hand supinated, the other pronated) to hold the bar.

4. Take a deep breath and brace your core and lats.

5. Drive through your heels to come to a standing position.

6. Squeeze your glutes and maintain your back straight as you extend fully.

7. Bend at the hips and knees, controlling the descent, to lower the barbell back to the rack.

Common Errors to Avoid:

Improper Alignment: Maintain appropriate alignment during the exercise by keeping your shoulders back and your back straight. Avoid hunching your shoulders or curving your upper back.

Not contracting the working muscles: During the upward phase of the movement, concentrate on squeezing your glutes and contracting your hamstrings. This ensures that the specific muscle groups are best activated.

Not controlling the descent: Control the descent instead of just lowering the barbell again. As you lower it to the starting position, maintain control by keeping your muscles tense.

Improper safety pin position: Experiment with several safety pin heights to determine which one gives your body the best range of motion. For a more difficult workout, lower the pins; for a more specialized one, lift them.

Be sure to check out if a squat rack or a power rack is best for you.

Exercise #3: Overhead Press

The overhead press mainly works the front, or anterior, part of the deltoid (shoulder) muscle. This exercise, which is also referred to as the military press, also recruits the muscle of the upper back, triceps, and core.


  • Strengthening of the shoulders and upper body
  • Enhanced mobility and stability of the shoulder
  • Better alignment of the upper body and posture
  • Functional power for pushing or lifting heavy objects overhead in daily life

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Set the safety pins of the squat rack at the proper height so that the barbell is positioned just below shoulder level.

2. Step inside the squat rack with your feet shoulder-width apart. The bar should be directly above your midfoot.

3. Grab the bar with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip position.

4. Brace your core, tighten your lats, and inhale deeply before lifting the barbell. Now lift the barbell off the safety pins and raise it to shoulder height

5. Press your arms into the air as you straighten the barbell and force it upward. Keep your elbows pointing slightly forwards and your core tight and solid throughout the exercise.

6. When the barbell is overhead, pause to ensure your arms are fully extended without locking your elbows. Be sure to keep your stability and alignment in check.

7. Bend your elbows and manage the descent as you gradually lower the weight back to shoulder level.

Common Errors to Avoid:

Overextending your lower back or hunching over when pressing: This will cause you to arch. Your lower back may be strained, and your stability may be compromised. Throughout the action, keep your spine neutral.

Excessive leg drive:While using some leg force to start the press is appropriate, take care not to rely entirely on your legs. Focus on using your upper body strength to press the barbell upward since the overhead press primarily works the shoulder muscles.

Shoulder shrugging:Avoid shrugging your shoulders in the direction of your ears during the push. Throughout the action, keep your shoulders down and your body in a calm but stable stance. This makes it easier to efficiently recruit the target muscles.

Locking your elbows at the top of the press:You should fully extend your arms overhead but stop just short of lockout. This will help protect your joints and maintain tension on the muscles.

Not bracing the core: Core stability is essential when doing the overhead press. Brace your core muscles throughout the workout to make sure they are working. This will help ensure correct alignment, stability, and force transfer are maintained.

Not controlling the descent: Dropping the barbell too quickly on the way down could result in loss of control. By controlling the descent, you will be better able to engage the target muscles.

Our flagship Profile folding rack is ideal for all of these movements but especially something like the overhead press.

Exercise #4: Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat works the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The stabilizer muscles involved are the transverse abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, and hip stabilizers.


  • Strength and muscle mass in the legs are increased
  • Better balance and stability
  • Unilateral strength development
  • Increased hip flexibility
  • Builds stability and strength in the midsection

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Place the barbell at the proper height on the squat rack, at around shoulder height.

2. Stand facing the barbell with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The toes ought to be slightly pointed outward.

3. Align the barbell across your upper back and shoulders by stepping underneath it. Place the barbell in a comfortable position, keeping it away from your neck. Put your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width.

4. Come to an upright position and step back to unrack the bar.

5. Extend your front leg and bring your body down. In the bottom position, your knee should be directly above your ankle with your front thigh parallel to the floor.

6. Pause briefly before driving through your front heel to extend your leg and return to the beginning position.

7. Perform all your reps on one side, then repeat with the other side.

Common Errors to Avoid

Misalignment: One of the most frequent errors is the front knee's misalignment. Make sure that your front knee stays in line with your toes when performing the Bulgarian split squat. It shouldn't crumple inward or go all the way down to your toes. The tension on the knee joint is decreased, and stability is maintained by this posture.

Uneven Weight Distribution: Not distributing your weight equally between the front and back legs is another common mistake. The weight on each leg should be distributed equally to ensure balance and stability.

Insufficient Depth: The Bulgarian split squat is frequently performed with a restricted range of motion, which lessens its effectiveness. Aim for a suitable depth in your lunges where your front thigh is parallel to the ground.

Lack of Core Stability: Your core muscles are essential for sustaining stability and balance during the activity. Draw your navel in towards your spine, keep your back straight, and prevent excessive forwards or backwards leaning to ensure that your core is engaged.

Exercise #5: Inverted Row

Inverted rows performed in a squat rack are a great compound exercise for beginners that primarily targets the muscles in your upper back, particularly the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and latissimus dorsi.


  • Develops upper body strength in the shoulders, arms, and upper back.
  • Can help resolve postural imbalances.
  • Inverted rows increase scapular stability by enhancing the strength of the muscles that encircle your shoulder blades, lessening your risk of shoulder injuries.

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Position a bar on the squat rack safety pins at hip height.

2. Lie on the ground directly under the bar on your back and reach up to grab it with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Your feet should remain on the floor so that your body forms a 30-degree angle to the floor.

3. Pull your chest towards the bar while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Focus on using your back muscles rather than your arms. Keep your elbows close together.

4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement and hold for a second.

5. Lower under control.

Common Errors to Avoid

Not maintaining a neutral spine:To prevent an overarching or drooping back during the workout, maintain a straight line from your head to your heels. Watch out for a rounded or drooping lower back.

Pulling with the Arms:The motion should start with your back muscles, not your arms.

Using momentum:The exercise should be performed slowly and purposefully for maximum muscle engagement.

Not coming up high enough: Your chest should touch the bar on each rep. The exercise will be less effective if the range of motion is restricted.


The five squat rack exercises described here will provide a great foundation to build strength and muscle during your first 6 months of working out. Do 3 sets of each exercise for a workout total of 15 sets.

I recommend that you use a weight that allows 15 quality reps on the first set. Then add some weight to the bar, and reduce the reps to 10. On the final set, add a little more resistance so that you are struggling to complete 8 reps with good form. As you get stronger, continue adding weight to the bar. After 6 months of consistency with this program, performed three times per week on alternate days, you’ll be ready to move on to an intermediate-level program.

Looking for your ideal squat rack? Check out our full squat rack collection here.


Steve is a personal trainer, qualified weightlifting coach, gym owner, and writer. With a career spanning since 2004, he has been an influential figure in the fitness industry, guiding thousands of individuals towards achieving their fitness goals.

Steve actively contributes to the dissemination of the most up-to-date and accurate strength training advice.

As the owner of My Gym (Hazel Grove - UK), his expertise has been recognized in notable publications such as Men’s Health, Kymira Sport, Strong Home Gym, and various other media outlets.

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