Training With The Power Rack

The following article was written by powerbuilder ‘Anthony Ditillo’. Back in the day he was quite famous for his strength and bulk training. He changed a whole generation of youngsters and helped them to become big, strong and confident. Here’s Anthony’s training philosophy (source: IM 1984 May) – Mr. Berg

“Training intensity and the application of this intensity is by far one of the most popular topics to be discussed in the various magazines today. Everyone seems to have his own opinion as to just how to develop this physical ability within the frame work of his own routine, or so it would seem. To many trainees, training intensity means to perform each and every set to absolute failure. Many do this. Many also will try to go beyond this point by performing additional forced cheated repetitions when this failure point has been reached. Still others will carry this one step further and after the cheating repetitions have been performed to momentary burnout, they will continue with negatives, so as to absolutely burn the muscle out to its fullest capacity. Such training is extremely tiring and is, of course, intense.

It is intense so far as the amount of nervous and physical energy expended within a given time is concerned. When you have performed a set of full repetitions to utter failure and then go into cheating repetitions to a complete failure and then go into negative repetitions to a complete failure, I would venture to say that such a set is quite intense, indeed. But I have found a more productive way of achieving this intensity without the complete physical exhaustion involved in the prementioned method. For my training intensity I strongly depend on the Power Rack.

Power Rack training HAS to be just about the most productive and intense method of training the muscles for greater size and power. Why this form of training has lost most of its popularity over the past eight or so years has remained and will always remain a mystery to me since this type of training has so MANY far reaching positive effects on the trainee’s physique and strength development that the thought of this type of training being discarded for obviously inferior training methods is quite ludicrous, to say the least!

I defy ANYONE to prove to me that properly performed Power Rack work for an adequate time, will not increase one’s muscle size and muscle strength faster and more thoroughly than ANY comparative bodybuilding method – Nautilus included! Power Rack training positively alleviates all ability to cheat during any repetition of any set, unless the trainee is so demented that he positions his body in such a way that he uses increased leverage to move the weight and not muscle strength.

But this problem is prevalent in ALL training methodologies so this particular fault lies within the ego development of the trainee and NOT in the training method itself.

Possibly, this is the reason why such a training method has lost its popularity with today’s younger trainees; it simply is too HARD for them to keep up with for any length of time.

Or perhaps it is a mistaken notion that the power rack is only for the lifter and not the bodybuilding enthusiast. This is simply not true.

I am doing primarily bodybuilding training at the present time and I am gaining quite well in muscle size, vascularity and strength by using the power rack the way I am going to outline here for you.

Power rack work is good for the bodybuilder who is after increased muscle size and functional training strength. By simply increasing the repetition scheme to work the belly of the muscle and not the adjacent tendons and joints, our rack work becomes more suited for the muscle building enthusiast and less for the sheer power addict.

It is also quite easy to combine the two, which is what I am presently doing and thereby gain in not only more muscle size but also more usable strength. In short: with this method you can have the best of both worlds.

One main advantage of rack work is the complete safety of such exercise and the lack of needing training partners and spotters. You simply do not have to depend on anyone else but yourself and you can handle maximum heavy poundages in any movement you desire without ever worrying about the weight coming down on you and injuring you or your becoming pinned in some way, since this simply is not possible with the power rack as your training method.

Training intensity is easy to develop since you can perform every movement and every repetition of every set to complete failure and then go on to more partial repetitions to failure with these being done STRICTLY and all in complete safety!

There are a few basic methods of Power Rack training. One is to simply choose a movement to perform for any given area, and place the bar in the rack so that it is supported on the pins at the BOTTOM of the movement. Then you merely place yourself under the weight and perform your repetitions from this bottom position.

This means that the initial repetitions will be complete in nature. Then when lactic acid build up in the muscles, and you become more and more tired, the repetitions will become shorter and shorter until you cannot move the bar at all!

And remember that each of these repetitions will be performed from the BOTTOM position of the supporting pins, with a short PAUSE for each repetition and with no bouncing or heaving of any kind.

You can be sure that when the bar simply cannot move at all, your set is completely performed and results are guaranteed. If this is not training intensity, what is?

Another productive system is to begin each movement as prementioned and when you feel you have performed enough sets in this manner, simply RAISE the bar so that you are just above the halfway mark and set the pins here and once again go through the same type of performance as just outlined. This means that you will be once again moving the bar from a pause on the supporting pins and once again the bar will be lifted initially to a complete lockout, with less and less of a movement performed as fatigue sets in.

This will enable you to hit any movement from TWO sections or positions and this additional work load should only add once again moving the bar from a pause on the supporting pins and once again the bar will be lifted initially to a complete lockout, with less and less of a movement performed as fatigue sets in.

This will enable you to hit any movement from TWO sections or positions and this additional work load should only add to the development of the used muscle groups. The only drawback to this method is that it naturally takes more training time since you are using two sections for each exercise instead of only one.

We also can use additional intensity at the end of each set by simply placing a SECOND SET OF PINS at various heights of our movement and merely perform the repetitions as prementioned and just touching these second set of pins until we come to the last FULL repetition we feel we can perform and at the top of this last full repetition, we push against these second pins with all our might, thereby performing an ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION at this point!

This isometric hold on the last full repetition will greatly increase our ability to generate tension during our exercise performance and also greatly increase training intensity and results thereof.

In most cases, increased definition and vascularity is developed simply due to the increased stress imposed on the various muscle structures and fibers within the used muscle groups.

There is also some documented proof of increased functional strength with this method and the ability to generate increased nerve fiber generation when using a maximum or near maximum weight for a single attempt, depending of course on the mental state of the trainee and his ability to generate mental tenacity during a competitive situation.

Finally, you can break down a movement into bottom, middle and top position and using the two sets of supporting pins simply begin with the bottom position, performing all possible strict repetitions against the top pin until after a isometric hold, further repetitions become shorter and shorter until no further movement is possible and then, after a short rest, increase the height of the bar until you are in a MIDDLE position and do the same thing all over again, with a final position being called the TOP position. In all three positions you are using full movements (from one set of pins to the other), an isometric hold on the last possible full rep and continued partial repetitions until no movement is possible AT ALL, and remember: the main point is that EVERY repetition is strictly performed with no cheating of any kind. I can assure you, this is one intensive way to train! ! !

As far as the amount and the frequency of such training, all I can say is that when my coach tried this method of training (and let us not forget that this man was an accomplished Olympic lifter with many years of training under his belt and the uncanny ability to perform MANY, MANY sets of strict full repetitions in the accepted training movements and possessing a muscular physique that would have equalled David Rigert, when Dezzi was in his prime) yet even this man experienced great pain in the joints and muscles when first trying this training method.

I, myself, used this method of training quite a few years ago when training for sheer size and bulk and odd lift proficiency. And for me, this training worked and worked quite well. I was especially adept at pressing from the rack overhead and pressing very heavy weight from various positions upward, within the power rack.

I did not have any trouble to speak of, concerning recuperation using this method of training nor did I experience any injuries when training within the rack.

But we must also realize that ANY routine you completely believe in will allow you to work even harder and with less negative effect than a routine you have definite doubts about; so perhaps this had some effect on my progress.

All I know is that I recently began to incorporate this method again, at greatly reduced bodyweight and with a different goal in mind, such as increased muscle size with no real regard to how greatly I increase my strength and once again, I am making great gains and quite regularly, at that!

I have chosen the following movements to use at the present time in the rack: The standing front press, the close grip bench press, the shrugs, the squat and the deadlift. For the front press I perform sets from the shoulders to forehead height.

I perform all the repetitions possible and try for one isometric hold and then carry the partial reps on to failure. I also press from eye level to complete lockout doing every full and every partial rep possible for each set.

For the close grip bench press I go from the middle to complete lockout (no iso hold) and from a few inches higher to complete lockout with a VERY CLOSE GRIP. Reps are once again done to failure.

For the shrugs I simply place the bar so that when I begin each rep I am in a completely STRETCHED position, thereby guaranteeing the longest movement possible. For the deadlift I chose two or three inches from below the knee to completion.

I also do deads from the toes outside the rack on alternate training days. For the squat I use two positions: from parallel to completion and from halfway to completion (no forced partials).

I wear no wraps; use a medium stance and have the movement revolve around the KNEE, NOT THE BUTT!!! In essence, I am doing an Olympic back squat within the power rack. These movements are all sandwiched into my present six day per week training routine.

There are other movements I am also currently doing outside the rack but that is not important to discuss here. As far as sets and repetitions are concerned,  this varies from workout to workout, how much training time I have at my disposal on any particular training day and how rested and-or recuperated I may feel on a particular training day.

One must become flexible with such a training routine to accommodate one’s lifestyle and training methodology together for best results. Rest assured; I train quite long and quite hard, just as I have ALWAYS done.

The beauty of this training is that it allows you to really work each set into the ground!! And you cannot cheat using this method so no exertion is wasted. You can be sure you will feel every effort in the muscles you are trying to develop. I have found it quite invigorating and result producing now, using it for bodybuilding purposes just as I did years ago when using it for Bulk and Power training. Why not give it a try yourself? I predict you will be pleasantly surprised.”

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