For all our lives we have been led to believe that every single inch counts. Hopefully, after reading this article you will reconsider.
If you are new to gym equipment and looking at power racks and talking to an equipment aficionado, you will probably hear “Westside Spacing” and how important it is. What the hell is Westside? Is this what street gangs use?
Westside spacing refers to the spacing of the attachment adjustment positions in your Power Cage/Squat Rack/Rig or Combo Rack.
The centre hole distance for Westside spacing is 1” or 2.5 cm.
It was first popularized by the Westside Barbell in the US of A. It allowed equipped bench press enthusiasts to preserve their energy while unracking the barbell.
It also provided them with an additional safety feature- finding the right spotter bar/arm height.
With the west side spacing you could simply adjust the height to just 2.5 cm below your chest in an arched position. Once you fail the lift, you can simply flatten your chest and get away from under the bar with just a lightly dented ego.
Plus the finer adjustment allowed you to minimize your lift-off, saving some energy.
How exactly is it measured?
The Power Cage hole size is measure from the center of one hole to the center of the following hole.
Hole size for Westside or Short Distance Racks and Rigs is 2.5 cm (1” or 25mm).
The standard hole adjustment distance is 5 cm (2” or 50 mm).
Why is it more expensive to buy a rack with westside spacing?
As much as I would like to believe that every single manufacturer is paying royalties to Louie Simmons for the use of Westside Spacing brand name. The truth lies at the factory.
Each individual hole must be punched through the upright. The more adjustment positions you have in your rack, the longer it takes to manufacture.
Time is money and unlike the federal tax cuts which never reach you, the westside spacing tax comes straight out of your pocket!
Only half of the holes in your regular WESTSIDE Power Cage feature the 2.5 cm hole spacing. The rest of them are usually spaced out 50 mm part.
Why is that?
Well as I mentioned previously, it was designed for equipped bench press enthusiasts. By “equipped” I mean that they wear special bench press shirts, which allowed to lift far heavier weights they normally could without one.
Bench Press Shirts are like a knee brace for your upper body. They are super tight and hard to get on. Once on they act like an exoskeleton in that they give your body greater support.
Finding the right position for both the J-Hooks and the spotters is crucial for these lifters as they have reduced range of motion.
Is it suitable for Squats?
If you own a quality combo rack, only then you will be able to enjoy the benefits of short distance spacing in both squats and bench press.
However, on your regular power rack with short distance spacing, you will not be able to reap the “benefits”. Unless of course, your shoulders are lower than 110 cm-120cm.
So, what is all the hype about?
I do believe that we as humans are flawed in regard of constantly trying to find that silver bullet for everything that we do.
From magical 30-day diets to your pec decs which will allegedly help you to build that massive chest you have always dreamed of.
This obsession about the optimization of everything is so deeply rooted in your system that the minute we hear about something new we must grab it without considering if it will be useful. Especially when a lot of the information we are getting is from the US of A – where everything is marketed as essential.
It almost makes you wonder how old-timers were able to achieve these phenomenal results without access to westside spacing and a pec dec machines.
My problem with all the pec dec’s and short distance spacing propaganda is that no one tells you what sort of improvement you are getting over what you currently own and whether you really need that improvement for a single exercise?
If you currently training on a rack with 100 mm hole spacing, jumping to a rack with 50 mm spacing would be a massive improvement. But what about 50 mm to 25 mm? The jump is far less extreme and does not even compliment all the exercises as the spacing only goes to half of the upright.
Did ATX® jumped onto the hype train?
It does not matter what the manufacture thinks is necessary, ultimately it is the customer who decides. With short distance spacing being offered now on a lot more racks, ATX have decided to give their customers the option.
Firstly, they featured the short distance spacing in their Combo Rack. It took a while, but they eventually released the new line of Power Cages and Squat Racks.
Some of them will feature the short distance spacing. So if you cannot be convinced to save your money or want the access to the ever-growing list of optional attachments, perhaps give the new range a glance and see it you see something you like!
Can you prepare for World Bench Press Championships without Westside Spacing?
I would dare to say that the World Bench Press Championships is the pinnacle for most bench press enthusiasts.
Also, to kiss my own ass, I will tell you that in 2018 I had a chance to step on the world’s stage wearing a Green and Gold soft suit.
I placed 5th in a 93 kgs Junior Men’s weight class with a modest 182.5 kgs bench press.
And I achieved all of this while training in our showroom, on a regular flat bench, with Ram Power Bar, ATX® Chromed Powerlifting Plates, on the older style Barbarian Power Cage which did not feature the westside spacing.
I can only imagine what I would have achieved if I had the Westside hole spacing. I wasted so much unnecessary energy by lifting the bar that extra inch.I am just messing around. If you are not using a bench shirt, or are not diagnosed with OCD, your regular power cage will work just as great.
There are many more factors that will determine your bench press max. other than Westside Spacing. Your training program, consistency, intensity, recovery and diet will all far outweigh a couple of centimeters.
Years ago, when punching machines were not common in Australia and laser cutting was out of the question, they drilled the holes into power racks. The holes were spaced even further apart. Here is a picture of power rack in the Adelaide Institute of Sport.
This rack would have Olympians and World Champions train on it over the years, despite the fact it has hole spacing that would be deemed unacceptable by today’s standards.
It affects my pressing Power
If the barbell is too high, your shoulders will overextend, and you will experience tightness in your body. Especially when you are setting up your arch. That is why you should avoid setting the J-Hooks too high.
If the barbell is too low, you would perform a partial lift, before you even get into the pressing position. This could exhaust some of your triceps pressing power.
That would be an issue if you can only adjust your J-Cups by every 10 cm.
If your rack has 50 mm hole spacing, it will mean that you would only be lifting an extra 25 mm from your alleged perfect un-racking position before you start your lift.
Another point to note is that j-hook design has improved over the years. The lip that stops the barbell from rolling out has been optimized. They have been lowered to a height that secures the barbell. This lower height reduces the lift-off required.
Maybe because I was born behind the Iron Curtain, I cannot appreciate the “advancements” in sports technology from the western countries.
Maybe that is also why I am trying to convince you to save your money and not get rid of your power cage and the brand new one in the belief that Westside Spacing will magically increase your bench press by 50%. It will not.
After the covid induced in-home gym craze, there has been a corresponding increase in home gym enthusiasts. Social media groups have become a hotbed of guys sharing their new pride and joy gyms. Whether it is cars, bikes, fishing, stamp collecting, etc – guys and girls compete to impress.
This is great – having a hobby that you are passionate about is something that really makes life worth living. If you have got loads of money throw everything at it if that is what makes you happy.
This post is for those of you who do not. If you want to improve your gym or your training, there are better ways that you can spend your money and time (you have to get rid of your old power cage and build your new one).