While spotter pins and safety straps both serve the same general purpose, the way they do it differs significantly. Here’s a detailed look at squat rack spotter pins vs safety straps and which one is best for your home gym.
The squat rack is one of the foundational investments of a killer home gym.
Even though it is primarily used for squats, there are heaps of exercises you can do with a squat rack, from pull-ups to bench presses to even deadlifts.
But, as we all know, safety doesn’t take a holiday at the gym.
We all want to lift properly and without worrying about injuring ourselves or damaging pricey gym equipment.
Fortunately, spotter pins and safety straps are an excellent way to do achieve all of those things, while also allowing us to lift inside a power rack with confidence.
In this guide, we will look at both spotter pins and safety straps, the key differences, and by the end, you will have a clear idea of which (or both!) work best for your specific set-up.
Let’s get to it.
Why You Should Use Spotter Pins or Safety Straps
The primary function of both spotter pins and safety straps is helping you lift safely in the gym.
At the end of the day, nobody wants to get crumpled up under a fully loaded barbell like an empty bag of potato chips.
No matter how experienced we are, there are those moments when lifting where suddenly something gives out when we least expect it to.
I’ve had a knee go out on me when squatting under 315lbs of iron plates in the middle of a packed gym.
Lots of friends have commiserated about that weird moment when a disc slipped or a random muscle tweak interrupted a heavy lift.
Failing on a lift is going to happen at some point, whether because you incurred one of those freak mid-set injuries or simply because you were overly ambitious with the weight you put on a barbell.
Spotter pins and safety straps are the last lines of defense, acting as a spotter for when things go wrong in the gym.
Benefits of Spotter Pins
Spotter pins are long pipes made of steel that extend the full depth of the squat rack.
Unlike spotter arms, which extend out about 12” to 18” away from the rack, or J-hooks, which are primarily designed to store the barbell between sets, spotter pins give you a full range of coverage so that you can lift inside the rack with confidence.
Here are the key benefits of spotter pins:
Spotter pins tend to be on the inexpensive side of things, especially when compared to safety straps.
I purchased a set of spotter pins for my first squat rack for about $50.
When it comes to bang for your buck, spotter pins are the easy winners.
? Easy to adjust.
The simple design of spotter pins makes them easy to adjust (although I would argue that safety straps are a little easier to adjust).
Slide them through the front columns of the squat rack and as long as they go straight, will extend through the rear columns.
For most lifters, spotter pins are going to be more than sufficient.
They allow you to lift safely inside your rack, whether you are doing bench press, heavy squats, good mornings, or whatever else your workout includes for the day, you can lift with confidence.
Safety straps, however, take things up to the next level, as we will see.
Benefits of Safety Straps
Made of extremely durable nylon fabric, safety straps are an alternative way to catch the barbell at the tail end of a big set of reps.
The reasons that safety straps—in my opinion—are superior compared to spotter pins include:
The sound of iron on iron is loud, and while some of us enjoy that audible moment of feedback of a completed set, the clangin’ and bangin’ isn’t for everyone.
Particularly home gym owners who have kids sleeping in the next room.
Safety straps produce almost zero noise when you drop a loaded barbell into them.
? Easier to adjust.
Straps are also much faster and easier to adjust on the columns of the squat rack.
Pull the little pins out, slide the straps, and you are good to go.
Long spotter pins can be an iron-coated pain in the ass when it comes to trying to slide the pins accurately through both columns.
? Less impact.
Because the nylon fabric has a little bit of give, lessening the impact.
As a result, you extend the lifespan of your lifting equipment, like your barbells, which can be expensive and can bend over time.
The shock absorption of straps are my favorite aspect of this form of spotting.
When You Should Use Spotter Pins or Safety Straps
When Doing Big Lifts.
Chasing down a big PR today at the gym?
Spotter pins or straps are your safety net in the event you have to ditch the weight. Pins and straps keep the barbell from dropping into the floor, damaging your home and lifting equipment.
Additionally, if you have to ditch the weight, you can do it in a manner that doesn’t increase the risk of injury.
Many of the injuries I’ve seen in the gym come from lifters trying to “save” the weight from hitting the ground.
Load and unload plates more easily on deadlifts.
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises on the planet. But loading and unloading plates when the barbell is on the ground can be frustrating.
Tugging plates off one at a time drains time and energy better directed at your lifting. Place the straps or pins at the very bottom of the squat rack, so that the weight plates are just off of the ground.
This makes your deadlift technically a rack pull, but you are still getting almost all of the range of motion of a proper deadlift without the hassle of wrestling the plates off the bar between sets.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, we all want those sweet, juicy gains in the gym.
But we want to do it in a manner that is safe and isn’t going to fold up our spine like a bad hand of cards.
Using a spotter pin or safety strap when lifting, whether you have a pal there to spot you or not, is a no-brainer. Invest a few bucks into straps or pins, lift with confidence and peace of mind, and chase down those PRs like a boss.
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