If you’ve hung around gyms enough, you’ve heard, “No curling in the squat rack!” Is this really true? Will you immediately be kicked out, membership revoked, and publicly shamed, if you curl in the squat rack?
The short answer is, haha maybe! Yes, curling in the squat rack is frowned upon. Here’s why.
If you’re reading this in January, happy new year! Check out this guide on how to make and keep new year fitness resolutions.
Why Squat Racks Are In Demand
Ah, the squat rack! The most fun, or the most intimidating piece of equipment in any gym. It’ll separate the men from the boys, put hair on your chest… or whatever silly phrase you want to use. It is often misunderstood, feared, or blamed for all kinds of aches and pains.
The truth is, the squat is one of the most useful and important lifts for everyone, male or female, young or old.
Because of this, you’ll often see squat racks fully booked in gyms whose culture supports lifting. Lifters often spend more time on the squat rack than at other gym locations, because the squat requires a smart and deliberate warm up. It takes longer than other exercises, both to warm up, and to rest between sets.
Additionally, the squat rack is the only safe place to actually squat heavy. Because of this, squat racks are often in use.
Squat Rack Etiquette
It becomes problematic when people take an entire squat rack to curl, which is an exercise that can be performed in pretty much any other location in the gym. There are usually dedicated straight bars already fixed with weights. There are dumbbells for hammer curls, concentration curls, preacher curl machines, and cables for more curls.
There are seated racks for shoulder pressing, and dumbbells for overhead pressing. There are shoulder press machines. Sure, these exercises can be a bit easier in the squat rack, and yeah, it’s fun to use the big barbell!
Squat in the Squat Rack
BUT- hold your horses, there! As mentioned previously, there’s nowhere else in the gym to safely squat, but a squat rack. Because of this, squatters should have priority in the squat racks.
The caveat is if the gym is slow and there are many racks available. In that case, it may be ok to use it for a few sets of presses or curls. Sometimes, the squat rack is a great place to modify an exercise for a client, such as for doing pushups from an elevated bar. In this case, the squat rack is extremely convenient.
However, squatters should again be given priority for this specific lift. It’s just a courteous thing to do.
How to Share a Squat Rack
If pressing or curling in the squat rack is important to you, consider going to the gym at off times when it is less busy. You might find you have time to get your training in without dirty looks from busy exercisers.
Consider the rest of the gym, and all the other dedicated areas to work specific movements. Be creative! Watch home gym exercisers. With a small home gym or garage gym, they figure out workarounds for everything!
Finally, if you do use the squat rack for something other than it’s intended purpose, just be courteous. If you’re a regular, you’ll know when people need the racks and when they are waiting. If someone is waiting, you can let begin working in while you finish your sets. Here’s a great goblet squat tutorial. Goblet squats can be used as a warm up while you are waiting to squat, or an accessory to get more volume after.
You can also use this time to work some of the best rear delt exercises, which are often overlooked but always valuable.
If you’re brand new to the gym and want to learn more of the etiquette as you do your exercise, try my program Square 1. This is meant to teach the brand new exerciser how to get a workout, and how to navigate a new gym. Also read How to Overcome Gym Intimidation. You really do belong in the gym!
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to do a free consult. Happy training!
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.