Racking weight is not exactly the hot topic of the fitness/bodybuilding community; it is often a part of the workout that is either done nonchalantly as a transition to the next exercise or not done at all. However, this is a topic that desperately needs addressed. No, this isn’t going to be an article that just tells you to rack your weight (much like everyone else in the gym already does with their glares and quiet mumbles under their breath when you’re seen walking away from a set of 100 lb. dumbbells you were just using.) This is also going to be addressed to those who already do rack their weight and need some quick, easy tips to make the process smoother and safer.
I know, I know; I said this was not going to be an article just telling people to actually rack their weights. But it also wouldn’t be a good one if it the subject wasn’t addressed at all. To those who find it the easy route to leave that barbell stacked with 315 after you finish deadlifting; what is this showing about your character? Cutting corners and laziness are not the optimal way to achieve the physique you may be aiming for (whether it is getting leaner or gaining lean mass.)
Second, you might as well get some extra benefit out of racking weights when done with them. If working with dumbbells, treat it like a farmers carry when walking over to the rack as an extra set to work on your grip. More often than not, grip is the limiting factor to performing heavy sets of pulling movements (without using straps), so you might as well get some functional training out of racking weight.
Racking your weight is also a courtesy to others and the gym you are using. Walking up to the leg press only to find that it has been completely loaded up with 45’s certainly isn’t something people enjoy (here’s where those glares and mumbles come in). So save the 140 lb. mother of two who is just trying to perform a good compound movement for her lower body the hassle of un-racking 1,080 lbs. (that’s 12 plates per side, math peeps) and just DO IT yourself.
This is quite simple. Whether you are using a barbell or dumbbells, carry the plates/dumbbells back to their rack taking the path of least resistance. Well, duh, right? You’d be surprised at how many times this is actually an issue. For example, let’s say Joe Big Daddy is flat dumbbell pressing the 130’s right in front of the rack of dumbbells. Meanwhile, Billy Buff Man is about to rack the set of 150’s he was just shrugging for sets of 10, but decides to walk right in front of Joe Big Daddy as he is finishing up his set of dumbbell presses. Joe Big Daddy has trained to failure and is about to unload his dumbbells by safely dropping them on the floor in front of him, coincidentally the same exact time Billy Buff Man is walking by. You can see how this would be a problem…just be smart about the paths you decide to take when racking weight to avoid confrontation and, more importantly, injury.
Really now? A technique to rack weight? You’re kidding right. Not a bit. There is risk of injury in anything you do in the gym, and racking weight is a silent killer. When picking up dumbbells or heavy plates, you should always have a safe spine and simulate a deadlift when picking the weight up. You should NOT just treat it as though you are picking up a wad of paper off the floor someone just threw at you. You should have good, safe form while performing your set, and the same should be true when putting weight away.
The act of actually racking the weight has some inherent risks as well. Pinched fingers are probably the most common and most annoying of those. As common sense as this may seem (common sense isn’t so common anymore though, right?) when you are putting plates back on the power rack or weight tree, make sure your fingers are clear when pushing the plate all the way back on. The same goes for dumbbells. Take the time to make sure the dumbbells are properly lined up with the rack when placing them. There has certainly been a time or two when I have personally ended up getting a nice gash in a finger as well as bloodied up a rack and some dumbbells due to carelessness.
Even though there is definitely no groundbreaking facts or knowledge unveiled here (or even anything most everyone does not already know), I hope this serves as a help to those consistently racking their weight and quick reminder to some things many have forgotten or have just chosen to ignore.
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