In a totally surprising, not at all foreseeable sequence of events, Planet Fitness doesn’t have squat racks.
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Add this to the list of missing equipment including free-weight barbells and bench presses.
Well, what does the average wannabe squatter do in this case?
If you want to find alternatives to squatting at Planet Fitness, then read on.
Muscles Worked at The Squat Rack
Before we proceed, let’s first look at the muscles worked at the squat rack:
- Hip flexors
The quadriceps do most of the work for this exercise. These muscles, located on the front of your thighs, are responsible for extending your knees and flexing your hips.
During the barbell squat, they are heavily engaged as you lower yourself down and push back up to a standing position.
Next up, the hamstrings. These muscles, located on the back of your thighs, assist in bending your knees and extending your hips. They also help stabilize your body during the movement.
And last but certainly not least, the glutes. These bad boys, located on your butt (uh doy), help extend your hips and keep your body upright during the exercise.
Why Were Squat Racks Removed From Planet Fitness?
So there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Planet Fitness doesn’t have a squat rack (at least not anymore).
The good news is that they have a smith machine. So you can do the smith machine squat, which is similar to using a squat rack.
So why did Planet Fitness get rid of the squat rack? Well, it’s because Planet Fitness isn’t your regular gym (maybe a fitness club). Instead of getting equipment that caters to serious lifters, the company removes equipment that seems too intimidating to their members (like the squat rack).
Planet Fitness is really for the average gym goer, who’d rather avoid judgment and intimidation from other people as they use various equipment at the gym.
Squat Rack Alternative at Planet Fitness
So you’re at Planet Fitness and it’s not a half-bad gym…
But you want to do a squat and there’s no squat rack. What do you do now?
1. Bodyweight Squats
The easiest answer to that is to do bodyweight squats or air squats. Basically, squats with no weights.
- Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Keep your chest up, engage your abdominals, and shift your weight onto your heels as you push your hips back into a sitting position.
- Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor.
- Stand up and repeat.
How important are bodyweight squats, anyway? A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Physical Education, Fitness and Sports found that three sets of ten repetitions of bodyweight squats can induce PAPE or post-activation potentiation enhancement.
And depending on your current weight, bodyweight squats can be quite challenging. Be sure to routinely measure your body weight for a good reference point.
Unsurprisingly, you won’t find scales at Planet Fitness either.
Variations of the Bodyweight Squat: The Jump Squat
Another squat that doesn’t need much in terms of equipment is the jump squat. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your hips until your thighs are slightly higher than your knees.
- Jump so your feet lift off the ground.
- Land with soft, bent knees, and settle back into the squat position.
Variation of the Bodyweight Squat: The Overhead Squat
This squat does need equipment, but not much. All you need is a small weight, such as a kettlebell, a dumbbell, or a medicine ball.
Here’s how to do overhead squats:
- Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold your weight above your head. It should stay up at all times.
- From a standing position, bend your knees and push your hips back as you would for a regular squat. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Return to the starting position, squeeze your glutes while doing so.
Note: Your knees should not go beyond your toes at any point.
2. Smith Machine Squats
While there are no squat racks, Planet Fitness does have Smith machines which you can use to squat. Here’s how to use them.
Note: Below is how to do a back squat, which is easier to do for beginners and focuses more on strength and power. If you want quads and something harder, then change overhand grip to underhand and let the bar rest on the front of your shoulders.
Observing the Machine:
- Make sure you know where the front and back of the machine is. (The front of the machine is where the hooks face. The pointy ledges where the bar rests face the back of the machine.)
- Add the weights you want.
Note: Check the starting resistance label for the Smith machine. It should state the Smith machine has 20 pounds the minimum weight, so keep that in mind when adding your own weights.
- Put your back to the front of the machine and lean back to the bar.
- Carefully mime doing a squat.
- Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your knees don’t go past your toes.
- Be aware of how low your shoulders go.
Once you see how low your shoulders go, consider placing the safety around or a little below that height. You might think you don’t need it, but better safe than sorry.
How to smith machine squats:
- Stand with your feet around hip-width apart.
- Lean back into the bar.
- Rest the bar on your trapezius, NOT your neck.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Twist the bar backwards so it comes off the notches .
- Lower your hips until they are parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your knees don’t pass your toes.
- Stand up and repeat.
When you’re done, lock the safety hooks by twisting your grip forward.
Warning About Smith Machines
While a Smith machine squat might work the same muscles as a regular squat, according to a 2009 study between Smith machine squats and squats using free weights, the electromyographic average overall muscles during the free weight squat is 43% higher when compared to the Smith machine squat. They may both be squat, but they are not equal squats.
Similar to the assisted pull-up machine at Planet Fitness… you may overestimate how strong you really are.
So if you’re maybe thinking to yourself, “Oh, I can squat 200 pounds while on a Smith machine, that means I can squat 200 pounds on a free weight barbell!” Don’t. Just unthink that.
If you sign up for a gym with an actual squat rack or purchase a squat rack for your home, it’s best to understand how much you should start squatting based on your weight.
Thoroughly test the lighter weights before going to the heavier weights you’re used to on a Smith machine.
3. Dumbbell Goblet Squat
According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the goblet squat can better target quadriceps activity and increase vertical loading than a landmine squat.
But what is a goblet squat?
A goblet squat is a squat in which you hold a weight in front of your chest with both hands while squatting. This weight can be a dumbbell or a kettlebell or anything weighty you can hold in front of your chest, really. But for now, we’re only talking about dumbbells.
Here’s how to do goblet squats:
- Choose the weight of the dumbbell.
- Hold the dumbbell vertically with both hands underneath the top of the dumbbell.
- Hold it pressed close to your chest.
- Lower your hips, keeping your spine tight.
- Allow your elbows to track between your knees.
- Stop when your elbows touch.
- Stand back to standing position.
Note: Depending on the Planet Fitness location, they may only have up to 60 to 80-pound dumbbells to use.
Weight Belt or No Weight Belt for Squats?
Well, first off, what is a weight belt? A weightlifting belt reminds lifters to keep their spine straight while also preventing hyperextension and lowering stress on the back.
According to a study done in 2001, a weight belt helps improve a bodyweight squatter’s speed without hindering their joint range of motion or lifting technique, thus creating a better lift explosive power.
So does that mean you need to have a weight belt? No, of course not, but it could help both your training, especially if you’re focusing on lifting.
Planet Fitness Squat Rack FAQs
Does Planet Fitness have a squat rack?
No, Planet Fitness doesn’t have a squat rack. But you can still do some squat rack alternatives like the smith machine squat, dumbbell goblet squat, and bodyweight squats.
Why doesn’t Planet Fitness have a squat rack?
Planet Fitness doesn’t have a squat rack because they’ve deemed this equipment “too intimidating” for most members. At least you can do smith machine squats as a close alternative.
How do you use the squat rack at Planet Fitness?
There’s no squat rack at Planet Fitness, and the closest you can get is doing squats with their smith machines. So your options are doing smith machine squats or looking for alternatives like the goblet squat or plain old air squats.
Is it OK to squat on the Smith machine at Planet Fitness?
Yes, you can do squats with the smith machine at Planet Fitness without getting in trouble. The smith machine squat makes a decent alternative to using the squat rack. You’ll just miss out on working some stabilizer muscles in the process.