Rack Lockout Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameRack Lockout
Also CalledBench Press Lockout
Primary MusclesTriceps
Secondary MusclesChestShoulders
Required EquipmentBarbell
Alternative EquipmentWeight BenchPower Rack
Rep Range3-8
VariationsBoard Press, Floor Press, Close Grip Rack Lockout, Incline Rack Lockout, Overhead Rack Lockout
AlternativesClose Grip Bench PressTriceps Dip

Rack Lockout Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Place bench inside power rack.
  • Adjust safety catches such that elbows will be bent 90-120° at bottom of motion.
  • Lay on bench and grasp bar with a wide overhand grip.
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together and push chest out.
  • Plant feet on floor and arch lower back while keeping butt against bench.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend elbows and horizontally adduct shoulders to press barbell up until elbows are fully locked.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause for a split second in the lockout position and flex your triceps, biceps and forearms with emphasis.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex elbows and horizontally abduct shoulders to lower the bar onto the catches until the bar goes dead and stops moving.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the movement for the remaining number of reps in the set.
  • Rack lockouts are most effective in the 3-8 rep range.

Common Rack Lockout Errors to Avoid

Elbows flaredTuck elbows in. In the starting position, your upper arms should be approximately 45° to your torso (as seen from an aerial view). Flaring your elbows out is bad for your shoulders and reduces the tension on your triceps.
Bouncing bar off safety catchesIt’s okay if the bar hits safety catches hard, but you have to let it come to a dead stop before beginning the next rep. Don’t slam it into the catches and begin the next rep immediately, as this will give you some momentum and is considered cheating.
Not locking outFully extend your elbows at the top of the rep until they are locked. This should be obvious since the name of the exercise is “rack lockout,” but some people will still make the error of stopping just short of full lockout.
Butt off benchYou don’t want your butt to lift off the bench, as this dramatically increases the chance of injuring your lower back. So, keep your butt against the pad on the bench at all times. Flexing your glutes helps.

Rack Lockout Tips

  1. Drive through your heels while squeezing your glutes to reinforce your back arch and drive your shoulder blades into the bench. Think of lifting the bar by transferring force from your feet and legs, through your torso and into your arms.
  2. Perform the positive rep explosively. That is, go as fast as possible without messing up your form or losing control of the barbell.
  3. Slow down if you’re going too fast into the lockout to avoid pain/injuries from overextension or hyperextension of the elbow joint.
  4. Use the Valsalva maneuver breathing technique maximize power and safety. You can/should use the valsalva maneuver on most lifts. However, it’s especially important to use it on the rack lockout since it’s a strenuous exercise that involves lifting very heavy loads.
  5. Optionally, loosen your grip and relax your arm muscles for a split second at the bottom of the rep (when the bar is on the catches). This way, on the next repetition, you go from relaxed to a full contraction; instead of going from a partial contraction to a full contraction. I have no idea there’s any actual benefit to this, but I like doing it.
  6. Try using a close grip (shoulder width or slightly narrower) to intensify the focus on the triceps.
  7. Rack lockouts are best for building strength (low reps) or a mix of strength + muscle (~6-8 reps). This exercise is not meant for pure hypertrophy (muscle gains only), which is why I think 9+ reps is pointless. There are much better triceps exercises for hypertrophy such as the lying triceps extension.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The rack lockout is an exercise best for intermediate to advanced weight lifters who want stronger triceps to increase lockout strength on the bench press.

Rack lockouts need only be resorted to once trainees notice that their bench press progress has slowed noticeably or plateaued completely, due most likely to inadequate triceps strength…

…You can tell if weak triceps are the culprit of poor bench press progress, if the lockout portion of the bench press is your sticking point.

That said, rack lockouts don’t make sense for beginners, even if one of their major goals is to increase their bench press.

Beginners should have no problems increasing their bench press strength by simply doing the bench press. No accessory exercises required.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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