How to self unrack on bench press
This guide will cover how to self-unrack a bench press so you don't need someone to help. Watch the free video

How to self unrack on a bench press safely

In this short video below I explain how to safely perform a self unrack on the bench press when there is no one around to help. I am able to use this technique even when I’m lifting my 1RM. I’ll run through what you should be thinking about, some examples of how to do it including a live demonstration.

This is an example of the one on one or online coaching topics that I run cover which can help prevent injuries when bench pressing. The video explains the importance of the height of the rack, how your elbows or bum should be positioned and other topics such as; 

  • Adjusting the rank
  • How to lie down properly
  • Grip width
  • Feet positioning
  • Body position

Setting the rack height

When lying with your back against the bench press pad and grasping the barbell, the height of the rack should allow a slight bend in your elbow. If the elbows are too bent, the rack height is too low, and you’ll waste energy in pushing the barbell upward. If the rack height is too high, your elbows will be too straight, and you may find it difficult to lift the barbell over the lip of the rack.

Rack Height at Commercial Gyms

In commercial gyms, you often encounter preset rack heights on traditional bench press equipment. When faced with limited options, opt for a lower rack height rather than a higher one. Too high, and you may struggle to clear the bar from the rack. Alternatively, if your gym has squat racks, placing a flat bench within a squat rack may be easier as you can adjust the rack hooks to a height that may be more appropriate for you.

Bar Placement

When laying flat on the bench and looking up at the barbell, the bar should be approximately in line with your eyebrows. If your body is too under the bar (such as the barbell in line with your mouth), you’ll likely be too close to the bench press barbell racks and might hit them whilst bench pressing. If your body is too far away from the barbell, such as having the bar in line with your hairline, you may find it too difficult to unrack the barbell as the distance of the barbell relative to your shoulder joints is large.

Executing the Self-Unrack

When performing the unrack, set your shoulder blades into the pad of the bench press and your feet hard into the floor but lift your butt off the bench to result in your torso being in a downward diagonal angle. This generally brings your shoulders closer to the barbell, reducing the distance between the load and your shoulder joints. Due to the reduced moment arm, the barbell can b easier to unrack versus having your butt on the bench with a flat torso. Please refer to the video above for a demonstration.

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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