Safety Tips for Lifting Alone
In my last 9 months of training coming back into the sport of powerlifting, I have been training exclusively RAW. And with that, I have also been training exclusively alone. I have my reasons for this, but fact still remains, I lift without the aid and support of training partners. Being that this is how I train nowadays, I use certain training precautions to help reduce the likelihood of injury. I cannot recommend that an inexperienced athlete train alone, as this can be a dangerous way training even for the most experienced and knowledgeable powerlifter.
The two power lifts that are the cause for the most safety concern are the squat and bench press. Since the deadlift is a movement where the bar is always beneath you, there is no real need for spotters, but good technique to avoid injury. On the flip side, with the other two movements, you are always underneath the barbell. Obviously the risk for injury is therefore much higher. I’m sure everyone has seen the youtube videos of the people bench pressing alone in their home gyms, failing with a weight and ending up with a loaded barbell stuck on their chest, or worse on their necks.
When squatting, the best option for self safety is to squat inside a power rack that has adjustable safety pins. these pins can then be raised or lowered depending on the individual’s height. I will set these pins up right below the lowest point in my squat. If I lose my balance, or cannot complete a rep with a heavy weight, the weight can be set down on the pins. It might make a lot of noise, but it is better than being crushed to the floor with a loaded barbell. Another option is to loop truck straps or chains around the bar and secure it to the top of the structure you are squatting out of. Similar to what powerlifters do in a mono-lift.
With the bench press, a similar set up can be achieved by taking a bench pad and sliding it into a power rack. The safety pins would be lowered to a point that is slightly below where the bar is when touching your chest. If a missed rep is iminent, then the bar can simply be placed on the pins and you are able to come out from underneath it. Honestly however, this is something that i stubbornly almost never do. I simply bench alone on a normal bench. Is this stupid? Maybe. But it is something that I did when i first got into the iron game.
A 14 year old me is bench pressing completely alone at home in our living room. This was the way it was for at least the first year. I achieved my first 300 pound press alone at home. I developed a very strong mental attitude by training this way. No matter how big the obstacle was, or heavy the weight, I had to know FOR A FACT that I was going to be successful. I convinced myself every time that whatever weight I was going for at the time was possible, and that I would not fail. And this is a skill that I have continued to use to this whenever I have attempted something that seemed impossible. Was it risky? Yes, and it still is even today. But anytime anything in life is taken to an extreme, there is always some level of risk involved. If there is no level of risk, then why bother doing it?
When training alone, it is of somewhat common sense to use weights that you know you are capable of doing. But then this makes for a bit of a grey area. If you never push your limits, then you will never improve. So there is where that risk factor comes into play. You cannot be afraid to go for weights you have never attempted before, but at the same time, be somewhat cautious and make sure that you have all of your proper safety features in place. With RAW training it seems that progress and heavier weights come at a much slower pace, so this is a little easier to do. When I was in gear, it was not uncommon to have leaps and bounds and handle hundreds of more pounds on a movement than what was done the following week. But I was also heavily reliant on my training partners and their support, because it’s probably not possible to hand off a thousand pounds to yourself on the bench. Whatever you choose to do, RAW, geared, training with a crew or exclusively solo, always keep your personal safety in mind at all times.