By JOANN BISHOP
The next time you drop by the Fitness Center, you’ll notice a new piece of equipment: the power cage.
A power cage is a place to perform free weight exercises safely. It’s an open cage with hooks to catch the weight bar when loading and unloading weights. If you are using a loaded weight bar without a cage, you need someone to hand it to you and take it from you. It is unsafe to use a loaded weight bar without a rack to catch it.
Exercises commonly performed in a power cage are squats, calf raises, lunges, and upper body presses. Squats and lunges target the muscles of the hips, thighs and lower back. Upper body press exercises target the muscles of the chest, back, shoulder and arm.
Strengthening the Body
The three basic movements for developing body strength and flexibility are the squat, the pull and the push. Because the human body doesn’t move in straight lines, performing a squat or a push exercise on a free bar allows the body to accommodate its natural path. .
Using a free bar forces the body to balance the weight, requiring the body to recruit more motor neurons in the muscle cells. Activation of muscle motor neurons improves strength in the body. Numerous studies have proven that everyone can improve strength regardless of age or sex.
Photo one illustrates an exerciser measuring the height of the bar for a squat exercise.
At the beginning, the bar should be set at the height of your collarbone as shown in photo two.
The squat exercise is exactly the same movement you do when you sit down onto a chair. Squat exercises improve the strength in the muscles of the hip, legs and low back.
Push and Pull
To perform push exercises such as the bench press or shoulder press, move the safety rack to the front of the cage. Set the height of the rack by the length of your arms (photo three).
Push exercises improve upper body strength: chest, shoulders, arms.
The power cage also provides several pull-up bar options. Pull-ups are difficult, but are one of the best exercises to improve back, shoulder and arm strength because it requires the muscle groups to work together.
Safety first! Always warm up with a light weight before attempting heavy sets. Ask for assistance on heavy weight sets.
Demonstrations of how to use the power cage happen in class ”“ sign up for weightlifting! Also, the director is happy to demonstrate how to use the power rack/cage any time.
JoAnn Bishop is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and fitness and wellness director .
(All photos by JoAnn Bishop)