SAFETY in the Garage Gym

Garage Gym Athlete
SAFETY in the Garage Gym

Hey, Athletes! SAFETY in the Garage Gym Episode of The Garage Gym Athlete Podcast is up!

SAFETY in the Garage Gym


  • Jerred dives deep into safety while following fitness programming
  • Jerred looks at squatting and how to properly squat
  • He also talks about the overall safety of the garage
  • And A LOT MORE!!

Diving Deeper…

If you want to go a little bit deeper on this episode, here are some links for you: 

Reference these studies for this week!

    • No study this week

 Garage Gym Athlete Workout of the Week 


Thanks for listening to the podcast, and if you have any questions be sure to add it to the comments below!

To becoming better!

- Jerred

Podcast Transcript

Joe: Welcome to the garage gym athlete podcast, where we talk about fitness, health, and anything to help you become the most optimal human beings. Let's dive in.

Jerred: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Garage Gym Athlete Podcast. Jared Moon here, and today I'm going to be talking about safety. And this wasn't what I originally had planned for the podcast, but Joe brought to my attention this man named Justin Vickie.

He was 33 years old, and he just died. He died a few days ago, back squatting somewhere between 400 and 500 pounds. And, I'm gonna, I wanna cover some safety tips. I'm just shocked, and I think that this is awful. What happened, it's so unfortunate, I feel so bad for his family, for everybody involved. So first off I want to say what I'm not doing.

You'll notice that this podcast is not titled anything with Justin Vickie or Clickbaity or anything like that. What I'm not trying to do is try and get more clicks, views, or listens from this man's death. I would never in a million years do that. So I want everyone to be very clear that's not what I'm doing.

But I actually watched the video of him failing on this squat. And it, be cautious if you go to, if you're queasy or whatever, be cautious going to check out this video. Okay, just, that's all I'll say. It might, I don't even know if it'll survive being on the internet for very long. I watched it and I just feel like there.

It's a lot of information I could give to keep everyone out there who's at least listening or in this community, keep you guys safe and things that I've done. So I'm going to say what happened to Justin. He was squatting a little bit more than he could handle. He did have a spotter. And what happened was he went down, he got stuck.

It was pretty apparent that he wasn't going to be able to get out of the lift. And I think because he had a spotter, he didn't want to bail with it off his back. And to be honest, the bar seemed high on his spine. Not like a low bar back squat or anything. It was high bar. Like pretty high bar. And so he couldn't bail out how you should if you are going to bail, which is the weight dropping off your back behind you.

He tried to let it go forward and when the weight goes forward, he tried to duck his head down to where the bar would basically roll over the top of his head and hit the ground. But that's unfortunately not what happened. It caught his skull and his neck really hard, probably severed his spinal cord. I don't know all the details.

All I do know is I saw the video. And the man is since deceased. So I want to talk about a few things about this in general. Again, I'm just, I'm blown away. I can't believe this happened. I feel so bad. But we're going to get into this stuff anyway. So first thing I want to talk about is how to spot someone on a back squat.

And I feel like I'm going back to everything I learned. When I was coming up in the fitness world, it was me and my, one of my best friends at the time. His name was Barrett. And we were the gym training partners. It was me and Barrett we were the two dudes who we were training no matter what.

We were probably the most serious people when it came to training that anyone else in the school even knew about. This was in high school. And his dad had played football for the University of Texas, UT, and he taught us a lot. He just taught us a lot about like safety and all these different kinds of things.

And I'll never forget, he was the one who taught me how to spot someone on the back squat because Barrett and I weren't throwing away, throwing around lightweight. I'm not even in high school, it's pretty heavy stuff. And he saw me try to squat, or try to spot Barrett once on a heavy squat. And I was doing what the guy was trying to do with Justin Vickie, which is just trying to help with the bar a little bit, right?

Like I'm just trying to put my hands on the bar and maybe help lift you up a little bit. But when you're squatting really heavy, you can't do a lot. Like you can't do a lot in that position as the spotter, just trying to put your arms on the bar. This is why it could also be silly. If you're a big strong dude and you're having if your wife is a small female if you're like, oh, you know I'm gonna try and back squat 500 pounds right now.

But you know what? She's got me. This is these aren't good ideas, right? You should have someone who of close to equal strength spotting you on something really serious like that. So that's thing one Anyway, so he saw me and he wanted me he corrected me. He this is how you He's like, when you're getting to serious weights, this is how you spot someone on a squat.

And this is how I've always spotted anyone, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not. If I am going to spot you on a heavy squat, we are basically doing this movement together, okay? Because the fact that you've asked me to spot you means that you think that you might not get it, right? Like you're doing something outside of your limitations, you might need my help.

And so I am going to squat down with you. I am basically going to be spooning you. Like I said, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you, we are getting pretty intimate if I am helping you on the back squat and what I'm going to do is I'm going to go down with you. I'm not actually spooning you. I'm not actually touching you, but what I'm doing is I have my arms underneath you.

Like your armpits. I'm not touching you yet. I'm only touching you if you need it. And I've had to help Barrett out of heavy squats and other people that I've trained with. And so what happens is when you go down, I'm going down with you. I'm prepared to give it everything I've got from my squat potential.

Okay, so what I'm gonna do and what has happened is, so say Barrett goes down, he's got 450 on the bar, I'm, I have my arms underneath him, I've also squatted down, I'm in a very good position to be able to squat a lot of weight just because of my mechanics, I notice he's stuck, he's not moving up anymore the, I'm, all I'm doing is staring at the bar on his back in relation to The wall, like in front of us.

And if I can, if I see that he's stuck, I'm giving him a fraction of a second to see the bar move again, because once you get stuck, like the bar's going somewhere. And so I give that fraction of a second, the bar has stopped. Once I see no, no movement, I'm now going to wrap my arms around the front of Barrett's chest.

Or whoever I'm spotting. And then we are going to squat up together. Now the job of the person squatting is to not drop the bar off their back because of how close I am and how engaged I am. But ultimately, if you did do that, I would still be able to separate myself, But the, there has to be a relationship there with the person spotting you.

Hey, I will not let you fail this rep. And two, you don't worry about having to bail out on the bar because I'm going to, I've got you. We're going to get this weight up together. And so when I place my arms around the front of my training partner, my, my palms are on his chest. I've locked the crooks of my elbows into his body and his armpits.

Now we're squatting together. I can probably exert a couple hundred pounds. worth of pressure upward in that position, because I'm in the squat position. I'm ready to go. If I'm just trying to do like a basic high pull with my arms on the barbell, I might only be helping 20 pounds worth, which might not be enough to get somebody out of that, that tricky of a situation.

So I just wanted to go over how to properly spot someone on a squat, because I've been watching some stuff about this unfortunate occurrence. And a lot of people were talking about this is how you need to bail. You need to learn how to bail, and I get that, but when you're dealing with weights like this, bailing shouldn't really be something that we're talking about.

Now, I've bailed on these weights. I've bailed on, I know I've bailed on a back squat at 430. I've bailed on a box squat close to 500, I think it was 495. I wrote about that on the blog a long time ago. And the one time I wrote about it, I bailed how Justin Vickie did. I just got lucky. I bailed exactly how he tried to bail, which was going forward.

I luckily got out of it. And the reason I did that is because there's a box behind me. And I just, I actually got pancaked by the way, my lower back couldn't handle it. So I got squished and that was one of the scariest moments in my life. Luckily I was okay, but anything could have happened. I feel very fortunate to have walked out of that unscathed.

So you have to know how to spot somebody on the back squat because I. Again this is such a terrible situation. I'm not trying to fault the spotter who was spotting him, but he just, if he had a little bit more training or if somebody had told him how to spot someone better, if he had a better spot or things may have been different.

So you have to know how to spot someone on the back squat. That was my main point after watching that video. And then, if we want to talk about bailing, I just, I'm at the point maybe in my life and in my training where I'm beyond that. I'm not bailing, I'm not doing weights that would cause me to bail.

Let me rephrase that. I'm not trying to say I never bail, like whatever. I just, I'm not interested in trying to bail on back squat weights or anything like that anymore. And if I am lifting that heavy, I absolutely, I'm just going to have Either squat spotter arms that are almost too high that are going to catch me at the bottom range of my position that way if I can't handle it, I'm just dropping to the ground and that bar is safe on the spotter arms.

One, if you're going to do it, have an amazing spotter. Other things, just don't bail. Okay, don't bail. Don't worry about bailing. And so what do you do instead of you bail? You get spotter arms attached to your squat rack. That's it. If you're like, those are expensive. Who cares? Is your life not, is your life not worth it?

Is your life not worth a pair of spotter arms? A couple hundred bucks, maybe a thousand bucks for an amazing power rack and spotter arms? You have to be safe. That's a big reason why I don't buy crappy equipment from these manufacturers I've never heard of before. Most of the stuff I buy is from Rogue, and it's for one reason, it's safety.

I trust that company to not break, for the pull up bar to not break when I'm... On it or the spotter arms to give out when I actually do drop the weight on it. Like those are the things that I'm looking at why I buy a more expensive brand now at a minimum, if you are like, Hey, I just don't have the money.

I can't do it. Go get some sawhorses. I used sawhorses for a long time, and I think the ones I had, each one was rated at five or six hundred pounds, meaning the bar could be up to a thousand to twelve hundred pounds before they would cave in, and I'm not obviously lifting anywhere close to that. And even sawhorses got me out of a couple precarious situations over the years.

And they're very inexpensive. That's not my go to. My go to is have an amazing spotter and have a spotter who knows what the hell they're doing behind you and then also Have the spotter arms and then last resort have really strong Saw horses if money is tight and you just absolutely won't buy the right kind of equipment.

So that's it on squatting Okay, just be careful be safe out there. Like it's more dangerous than we realize it's not like people are dying from the squat on a weekly basis, but The fact that you even can die. There was, I can't remember his name now, this is just coming to me. But I remember he was in the CrossFit community, and he dropped a snatch, I think behind him, and there was some weights that were like mis, misplaced or whatever.

They were mis stacked in the snatch, dropped, and bounced back up and hit him in the back of the neck, like in the spinal cord region. He lived, but he's paralyzed from the waist down. Even the cleanliness of your garage or your training space matters. They teach this stuff, if you were to ever go through an NSCA, National Strength and Conditioning Association, they teach this stuff in their certs for CSCS, for TSAC F, like, all these things.

They teach you, like, how much clearance there should be around racks and all these kind of things. That's why it's good, but a lot of, to be honest, most... People don't have that level of certification. Most gyms don't follow those rules. Most CrossFit coaches in that instance, they don't, they also don't try and get that kind of certification, but these kinds of things are important.

So having a clear space is very important. Having all the safety equipment every time, making sure your thing, everything in your garage is correctly installed. If you're hooking things to studs, making sure that you're well into the stud, if you're drilling into the stud with a pull up bar or like a wall mounted rack or anything like that, making sure that you actually have a place that equipment correctly is very important.

Now, I, this made me think of just some other things I would like to say, just for safety concerns. Because, if this ever happened to one of our garage gym athletes I would feel absolutely awful. I would, I don't know, I would just feel horrible. I couldn't take it. I wouldn't be able to take it.

If you're one of our garage gym athletes, listen to everything I'm saying right now. So other things that are dangerous and can be in the garage gym, too high of a heart rate for too long. I feel like I've been mentioning this for a couple of years, but just in case anyone's missed it, like the reason I don't like CrossFit, like the actual reason is I don't like high intensity done on a daily basis.

It stresses your central nervous system out too much. But also, if you're in zone 4 or zone 5, for 30, 40, 60 minutes, and this is, I'm not talking about CrossFit, I'm talking about, if you're just running, or doing Murph, or whatever, and you are, it's taking you that long, because you're not fit enough to be doing it, so it's taking, 60 minutes, and you're in zone 5 the whole time, you'll probably survive it.

I'm not saying that you're gonna die, but... It's not actually good for your heart, and I think we should throw that out there. Make sure that everybody knows, okay? It's not good for your heart. It's not good for your heart to be operating at max capacity, actually redlining it. For that long. Zone 4 and zone 5 are supposed to be reserved for Sprints with recovery and short bursts not meant to push yourself in that zone For an hour or 45 minutes or hour and a half or anything like that I the one time I did that it was like an hour and a half in Pretty much zone 4 zone 5 I went to the emergency room I've told that story on the podcast and I knew is dangerous, but I just felt you know what I could handle it I was ultimately fine.

I just had some like irregular heartbeats. I was a little bit concerned, like I was my wife was concerned as well. It just, it was like in an abundance of caution. We went and everything was fine. My heart is fine, everything checked out fine, but it was scary. And these, that's not good for you. Too high of a heart rate for too long.

So what that actually means is that you're not fit enough to be doing the training that you're trying to do. That's what it means. So if I tell you to go run five miles right now, But I tell you, I want you to run it in a certain amount of time. And you're like, I think I can do that. But you have to be in zone four, zone five, the entire five mile run.

Let's just say zone five. That the entire time and you do it. That's not what, that's not how training works. You should build your aerobic base to where one day it's way easier to run five miles in the time frame that you want at the time that I gave you, whatever. Not just try as hard as you can with this maxed out red line heart rate.

And I hope everything's okay. If you train like that all the time, it's bad for your heart. You're doing the opposite of good things. This is, we're no longer talking about fitness anymore. You're just crushing your body. Okay. Other smaller things. Anytime momentum is getting involved. You are at risk for injury.

And what I mean is a kipping pull up. So kipping pull ups, you're increasing your chance of injury because you're using some strength, but then you're letting momentum jerk your body around. And it's not like I'm necessarily hating on the kipping pull up. This could be anything. Like a kettlebell is no different.

If you're not properly Using a kettlebell can jerk you all over the place. Like I've seen it happen with people using a kettlebell too heavy. They try and do kettlebell swings and they can even end up taking a couple of steps forward or backwards cause the weight's too heavy and they don't know what the hell they're doing.

So anytime momentum is involved, which can also be on things like the push press or the snatch or the clean and jerk, you are increasing your risk of injury. If you don't know what you're doing. So make sure that you treat those things as serious as they are. Like, anytime momentum is getting involved, then we have to make sure that we are actually using our muscles to engage, slow down, utilize eccentric and concentric portions correctly in, in the movement pattern, and not let the weight ever control us.

That's just a quick one. This is to avoid injury. It's not necessarily to avoid death. Now, a bigger one that I think about all the time is if you have young kids. And you have a garage gym, you have a responsibility to be incredibly safe and to set that environment up in a safe way. Cause this is something that actually stresses me out.

Sometimes we recently were getting our house ready to sell and we had to put a bunch of crap in the garage, which I don't like the garages for the gym, but we had to put a bunch of stuff in there. So it was really cluttered for a while until I cleaned it up. But it got so cluttered, like I was having to put barbells in weird spaces and like things in other spots and I told Emily, I was like, Hey, it was just for one day.

I was like, don't let the kids go in the garage today. Like I like locked the door. I don't want them to go in the garage just because they'll get in there and they'll mess around with weights or whatever. But I also know what could happen if a trap bar fell over on top of my five year old or a kettlebell falls off something or a weight falls off somewhere.

Barbell gets unracked. There's just a lot of things that could happen. It again, it might not be death, but it could be serious injury, especially depending on the age of your children, the younger they are, the worst this could be. And so if you have a garage gym, it's your responsibility to keep that as a safe environment for your family.

And I don't feel like I should have to say that. I feel like we all know that, but. I think that sometimes we can get emotionally detached from what we actually have in our space. We have a garage gym. Most Americans don't have a garage gym, so we don't... Not everyone thinks about it as much, but a gym can be a dangerous place.

Lots of heavy objects, things swinging around, like it can be a dangerous place. So you have to set up that environment to make sure it's a safe place for even when you're not around. Now if you have older kids, or your kids are getting older, and you're teaching them how to work out, again, it's your responsibility to teach them everything that we're talking about here.

Like how to properly spot somebody, how to be safe when lifting, all of these kind of things. That's another thing. If someone's going to come into your gym and use it, whether it's your kids, whether it's your friends and your neighbors, Spouse, whatever, it's even if you're not a coach, it doesn't matter.

It's your responsibility to at least give some guidance because this, it's your space. You need to keep everyone safe in your space. And you need to make sure that they are doing things correctly and that they're not going to hurt themselves. And now the last thing I want to say is just to make sure that you have padded ground in your garage gym.

This used to be like a negotiable item for me, but it's non negotiable because you can really jack yourself up if you don't have a padded ground from jumping, landing, rebounding, and even... Like doing deadlifts, things like that definitely have a padded ground. So it doesn't have to take such a toll on your body and you will be a lot better for it.

And that's basically most of the tips I could think of. Some of them are general, some of them are serious. Some of them are not, but I just felt so bad for Justin Vicky and his family. Definitely. Thinking about his family this week, and I just think it's awful and it's something that absolutely could have been avoided, but there's no reason to dwell too much on that.

What's done is done. I think for any garage gym athlete out there listening right now, all I want for you is to be safe, just be safe. There's no reason. To lift insane weights alone. I think we've always said that, especially when we get into testing and stuff like that. If you're going to be trying for PR and you're concerned, you are getting a spotter or you're going to have spotter arms, or you're not going to do it.

There's no, I think I'll be okay. There's no, no reason for that. Okay. I'll admit, like I used to be that level of stupid. Like in my early 20s, like I was probably that level of stupid, but I'm not that I'm not that stupid anymore. I take this stuff very seriously

I take safety very seriously and I think that you should as well and that's all I want for you Be safe out there if you're gonna be trying anything hard stupid heavy Make sure that you have all the safety parameters in place, all the safety equipment in place. Don't do anything stupid. Don't push it for no reason.

Live to fight another day. Live to train another day. There's no reason to push the envelope. Really, unless you're a competitive athlete and your financial livelihood is on the line, maybe you have an argument for doing something stupid. But even then, you could lose that argument because your life is the most important thing.

Your safety and your family's safety are the most important things when you have a garage gym. Focus on those things. And that's all I have for today. Be safe out there everyone. For all our Garage Gym Athletes out there who are just hitting it every single day and being safe and maintaining your fitness, really appreciate you all being part of the community.

If anyone wants to be a part of Garage Gym Athlete training, feel free to go to garagegymathlete. com and you can start a free trial. But that's it for this one. Remember, if you don't kill comfort, we'll kill you.

Like these ideas? You need GGA. 

Garage Gym Athlete is the "tip of the spear" for our training. We identify training weaknesses, solve them through our program design, and validate it with science. 

For ongoing daily training that exploits everything we have discusses here and more, check out Garage Gym Athlete.  

Start FREE Trial