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I'm using a power rack to squat and press. So far I still haven't missed a rep (I started Stronglifts a few weeks ago), but I'm wondering what exactly would be the safest way to release the bar into the safety pins when squatting.

For bench press I can imagine myself just lowering my chest so that the bar doesn't hit me when I'm releasing it. However, I have no idea what I'd do if I was at the bottom of a squat and couldn't go up. Letting the bar roll through my fingers seems like it could break some of them with enough weight, and laying my whole body backwards until the bar hits the safety pins seems even more dangerous since my neck or head would be absorbing the force.

I have seen videos of people dropping the bar in different manners. What is the safest way?

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    I like this video: youtube.com/watch?v=nlPE49zlez4 - He explains how you don't roll it down your back, but release it, and step forward at the same time. – Alec Feb 12 '16 at 10:51
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The safety bars should be set a few inches below the lowest the bar could conceivably go during a successful squat. This way, if the squat goes wrong in any way, you just lower yourself to the bottom of your squat. Do this fast if necessary; release tension in the core, if necessary; jump forward (if the bar is on your back) or backward (if the bar is in front of you) if necessary, but the goal is to stay as close as possible to a correct squat while the loaded barbell is still on your back. If you fall or stumble, the safety bars at this position will catch the barbell at a high enough position that it doesn't land on you in any way.

It is a good mental reassurance exercise to set the safety bars at this height and then practice a fake failure with an empty bar at least once. Squat down correctly, then slowly release tension into a bad, round-backed, slack-hip position so that the barbell comes to rest. Maneuver yourself out from under the barbell.

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Great question! Especially coming before actually having had bail out (that's the terminology) of a squat.

I'm guessing you're back squatting. When failing to stand up during a rep you'll at least have some power left to slow the weight down on the way back down. Use this opportunity and don't hesitate.

Release your hands, sit up so the moves backwards, and jump forward. All on one fluid motion.

That should give you plenty of room for the bar to fall to the ground while securing yourself. Be sure to check that the bar doesn't keep rolling away and over someone else.

With a front squat, make sure your elbows are clear of the knees and simply lean forward, sort of just letting the bar drop to the ground.

If you have bumper plates and are in a gym that can tolerate it, I'd suggest actually practicing bailing a couple of times. When lifting heavy enough you will eventually have to bail out and then you'll be happy you can do so instinctively.

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    This only cover's two cases. The method of bailing changes when you're completely in the hole or further (I've personally misgrooved a squat which caused me to drop to one knee with 295 on my back. There was no jumping involved.). I'd say leaning back while pushing the hips forward would be a more general cue to bailing from a back squat. There's also the case of being in a power rack (OP's case) where the safeties can simply be lowered to just below desired squat depth. If the squat can't be finish OP just has to go down a few inches until the bar is on the safeties. – Alex L Feb 11 '16 at 23:55
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As AlexL suggests, since you are in a power rack, you can simply set the safeties to a couple inches below squat depth. Then if you need to bail, simply lower your squat beyond your usual squatting depth, rest the bar the safeties, and wiggle your way out.

Similarly for the bench press. You should be able to set the safeties in such a way that when your chest is puffed out, and your back is arched, you can touch the bar to your sternum, but when your back is flat and you "suck in your chest" the bar rests on the safeties. Again, if your fail simply lower the bar to the safeties and wiggle out.

I recommend trying this ASAP with the unweighted bar. Once you have the safeties set in the correct position with the unweighted bar (this may take a little guesswork), try it again with a comfortably submaximal load. Then try it again with your working weight. This should give you the confidence you need to bail out without injury.

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