The squat rack, also known as the 'power rack' 'squat cage' or 'power cage' is designed to let you shoulder a weighted barbell and perform the squat without the restrictions of machines such as the Smith Machine.
This piece of fitness equipment helped me the most in my fitness training and bodybuilding efforts. Using this I was able to squat my body weight (a milestone and achievement for me!)and build some really nice curves in my quads.
Below is a photo of what a standard power cage looks like:
This is super useful when you start lifting weight so heavy that you cannot get the bar from the floor to your shoulders. Remember, some of the leanest female athletes lift HEAVY in order to get the hard, dense muscular structure that gives that toned, tight look.
Bodybuilding for a woman will not get you bulky....it takes some outside help like steroids or testosterone (not recommended!!!!) to add the gladiator bulk. All lifting heavy weights did for me was burn fat and give me more shape, leanness and definition where I wanted it most - my butt, legs, abs, back and arms.
Some of these come with bars on the outside of the frame for pull ups or chin ups as well, depending on the model. Again, you can find one of these in most gyms or you can purchase one for your home gym.
The best thing about the squat rack is that you are using your WHOLE body, not just your legs to perform the move. This means you are strengthening and building your core, your back, your arms and your legs.
How to use it:
1. Use a spotter. Don't try heavy lifting alone. If you are at the gym, grab someone nearby. Guys are always willing to lend a lady a hand, right? If you are working out at home, have a girlfriend or your guy spot you.
2. Weight the bar. Try increasing your lifting weight in increments of 5 pounds. If you are beginning, just squat the 45 lb. bar. You can add more weight each workout. When adding plates, weight the bar evenly.
3. Use a weightlifting belt. It provides a great stabilizing support for your lower back.
4. Step back and get under the bar. position yourself so that when you are ready to put the bar back on the squat rack, you can go FORWARD. Tip: Use a barbell pad to keep the metal from digging into your neck and shoulders, especially as you start lifting heavier.
5. Stand directly under the bar. Let it rest on the tops of your shoulder blades and back muscles. Grip it with both hands in an overhand grip right outside your shoulders. Tighten your core, back, shoulders and legs and lift the bar up. Step back with one leg then the other.
6. Squat down, the bar resting across the top of your back. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and go down until your hips are lower than your knees. Half-squatting will injure your knees.
7. Push back up through your heels and glutes. Squeeze your butt really hard when you are done pushing up.
There's a really great website that I recommend if you are serious about your weightlifting and learning the tricks, tips and techniques of gaining muscle, burning fat and keeping yourself from being injured: www.stronglifts.com
This guy has some great articles and videos that I will most likely reference as well as his 5x5 Stronglifts plan that helped me to get into and stay in great shape.