It’s something every lifter should know how to do,How to fail a Squat? yet a fair number have never given it a second thought before they put that heavy barbell on their back: what to do if you’re squatting down—and realize you’re not going to make it back up.
Generally speaking, you have three options: 1.Yell “Oh my God, help!” in the hopes someone can hear you over their headphones and come to your rescue; 2. Get crushed under the weight; or 3. Learn how to bail successfully.
One of these—spoiler, it’s the third—is more effective than the others. If you’re going to be squatting, especially if it’s heavy weight, you need to be able to fail a squat safely.
Learning to do so can be a literal lifesaver: Getting stapled by a weight is never fun, but getting crushed at the bottom of a barbell squat can be very dangerous, causing irreparable harm to your body, particularly your knees or ankles, or even your spine.
How to Safely Fail a Squat
The good news, though, is it’s entirely preventable: You just need to do a little prep work first—and place your ego in check.
You know those pins that slide in and out of the holes up and down on the outside of the squat or power rack? Those are called safety pins.
They’re there for your safety. You don’t lose points on your man card for using them.
You just need to learn how to set them up correctly, so they can save you when that 275-pound squat suddenly starts to feel like a couple more plates were added once you’re trying to make your way back up.
First, do a test run with an empty barbell to determine your lowest squat depth—and then choose one that’s one or two notches below that. It’s really important you figure out the height for your squat depth, and not just use the same one used by the guy in front of you (Here’s how to do the perfect squat).
Just be careful not to set them too high. I’ve watched many experienced lifters start their descent into the squat only to come to an abrupt stop sooner than they if the pins were set too high. It’s not necessarily dangerous, but it can be jolting—and slightly embarrassing due to the loud noise it make.
Now, you’re set up. If you get to the bottom of your squat and know there’s no chance in hell of you coming back up, simply sink a bit further down, until the barbell comes to rest on the pins. Then, you’ll simply “roll” or step right out from underneath the bar.
All told, fails are going to happen, but they shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. And while those pins can give you a degree of confidence, don’t think of them as a crutch—the goal is to not use them. They should be there if or when you do need them, but the goal shouldn’t be to fail with your squat so you need to use them each time.