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Weight Lifting Basics: Equipment - Racks & Blocks

Squat racks

These are a very important piece of kit in the weightlifting gym, as it’s the only way to perform some exercises above a certain weight. You will need to be able to train with weights that are heavier than what you can safely lift from the floor to your shoulders! Of course the rack is used mainly for squats, but also other exercises such as presses and jerks.

Using a squat rack allows you to start with the bar at the height you need. Racks are adjustable so you can change the bar height both for your own height and also for the requirement of the exercise. Many racks can be adjusted all the way down to also be used for bench press. As you can see in the photos, the rack has hook shaped rests for the bar to sit in securely.

There are of course many options available. At Canterbury Strength we tend to use adjustable, single unit squat racks (see photo). However you can also buy individual uprights (space saving but less stable) and power racks. These take up more space but can offer more variation, higher max loads and even more stability. They often have attachments, such as pull up bars and can have inbuilt lifting platforms.


These are typically constructed of wood and sold in a stack of various height sections. This means they can be used separately or together to create different heights, useful for many types of exercises.

They are often called 'jerk blocks' as they are used regularly for jerk practice. Performing jerks from blocks is easier than from a rack, as you do not have to re-rack the bar to your shoulders between reps. Instead you can drop it straight back down on the blocks. This saves hurting your shoulders and also keeps the bar at the right height for the next rep. For jerks you will stack the blocks to approximately the same height as you would have the squat rack - this is somewhat dependent on your height and the possible block combinations.

There are many uses for the different height sections when used separately. They are commonly used for cleans and snatches that start from varying heights, for example 'from the knee' (more on block lifts in a later article).

Stacks of blocks usually include a pair of thin blocks that are suitable to be used as a riser (also more on lifts from risers later).

Blocks are commonly used for plyometric exercises too (e.g. box jumps), but you can buy soft boxes for this as the wooden edges are quite sharp!

- Team Canterbury Strength


Everett, G. 2016. Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches. 3rd Edn. Catalyst Athletics.

Haff, G. & Triplett, N. T. 2016. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 4th Edn. Human Kinetics, Leeds.

Lear, J. 1991. Skilful Weight Lifting. 1st Edn. A & C Black, London.

Rippetoe, M. 2011. Starting Strength - Basic Barbell Training. 3rd Edn. The Aasgaard Company, Wichita Falls.


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