• Evan Schwerbrock

Run the Rack: More Pump, Less Logistics

Sometimes navigating the gym is tougher than the actual workout. In the spirit of flipping that on its head, I present the Run the Rack intensity technique. A classic bodybuilding technique used to extend a set and finish off a muscle group with dumbbells, it will serve a three-fold purpose for you.

1) It allows you to quickly transition from one known dumbbell pairing to another,

limiting fumbling for certain weights

2) It allows you to apply tough metabolic stress on a muscle group

3) To quote the great Chandler Bing “it hurts!”


Now what is the Run the Rack technique? Run the Rack is an adaptation of the drop set technique in which you quickly go to a lighter weight just after lifting a heavier one to exhaustion. In Run the Rack, you will be next to a dumbbell rack, quickly able to remove and replace dumbbells with minimal transition time. Let’s use a practical example to illustrate how it works. We will use curls because...well, you want bulging biceps like Chandler, right?

First, you approach the rack, locate the 20 pound dumbbells, remove them and back up one or two steps from the rack. You then perform as many reps as you can and once you reach exhaustion, step forward and return the 20s. Next, move your hands down to the 15s and line up to them. Remove them, step back again, curl them as many times as you can, and return them. Repeat with 10 pound and 5 pound weights.


You can see how quickly this style helps you to locate and operate with the next pair of dumbbells without the hassle of losing your bearings and costing precious time.


Some good exercises to perform this style with are variants of curls, overhead presses, lateral raises (front, side, bent over or all three as long as you are sure you have room to extend your arms so far outward, goblet squats and curls into presses).


Here is a workout option to utilize this technique and get plenty of work in.

Pick an exercise that makes sense with the Run the Rack technique. Warmup with 2 light sets of 12-15 then work your way up to three tough sets of 8. Immediately following your third set of 8, do the Run the Rack technique. Move down to the next weight and perform your exercise to failure or close to it with good form. Repeat this with 3 more weights and you will be good and tired out.


To wrap up, once you know the layout and order of the dumbbell rack at your gym, the Run the Rack technique is a simple yet effective way of pushing yourself harder without having to struggle finding weights. At the crowded Chicago college gym, this served me well. I would fold my cane up and leave it just in front of my starting dumbbells and people would tend to know to give me space to roll. Then I would simply feel my way back up the line of dumbbell pairs, bend over and pick up my cane with sorer arms than two minutes before.


Hope you enjoy it too!


Evan