If you are going to pull the trigger on the squat rack, other essential accessories include barbells, plates and J hooks.
Okay...barbells and plates? Make sense. But what the heck is a J cup? Lucky for you, that's what we're going to cover in today's article.
What Are J Cups?
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J-cups - also called J hooks - are aptly named because of their J-shaped design. As the most basic function of a J cup is to hold your barbell, they are made of metal and lined with heavy duty ultra high molecular weight (UHMW) plastic, which helps protect your barbell's knurling from degradation (You know the rough part on your barbell that enhances grip? Yeah, that is its knurling. While I am not going get into it now, this article breaks down everything you might want to know about the purpose and types of knurling and why you might want to protect it).
J Cups For Squat Rack
Easy to use, J cups are made exclusively as an attachment for a rack and are often included in the purchase of one. There are a number of ways that you might utilize J hooks as accessories to your gym's rack:
Holding your bar before a movement.
Whether you are about to squat, bench, shrug, curl or shoulder press, you need to count on your J hooks to hold your weight while you mentally prepare to do your movement.
Re-racking your barbell.
Ah, those trusty J cups, the most loyal gym bro. They are going support you before and after your lift, no matter how it went.
Modifying a movement to fit your height or range of motion
This versatility is one of the major benefits of using free weights! Almost all J cups are adjustable, meaning that you can place them at different heights on your squat rack. This is incredibly helpful for people of different heights and for performing different exercises with only a few pieces of equipment.
Maybe pulling a deadlift from the ground just is not something your body is going to do right now. Or maybe you want to work on the power and explosiveness of your deadlift. Either way, your J hooks allow you to modify that same movement with a rack pull.
Changing weights with ease.
I do not care how strong you are or how many decades you have been lifting. Trying to change your weight for a deadlift on the ground is always awkward. Rack your barbell on your J cups for the easy removal and addition of weight. Your back will appreciate it!
Anchor points for bands.
Waiting for that next paycheck to come in so you can buy a barbell for your brand new rack? No worries! The J cup can serve as an anchor point for exercise bands. No excuses for a missed workout here!
Non-Power Lift Movements
Maybe you are looking for ways to use your J hooks other than squatting or benching. Some other exercises could include:
Triceps pushdown. Here you would use a band attached to your J hook instead of a cable and rope attachment.
Banded face pulls. Again, attach the band to your J hook.
Anatomy of J Hooks
While there are several kinds of J hooks out there, they all share the same basic anatomy:
The base: allows for attachment to your squat or power rack. The holes in your squat rack allow you to adjust your weight to different heights, which is super helpful not only in accommodating people of different heights but also in widening the range of exercises that can be performed on the rack.
The cup: the part which your barbell sits.
The stopper: plate-like piece on the end of the cup that keeps your weight from rolling off.
Types of J Hooks
Here are some common types of J hooks you might encounter at any given gym.
If you are all about old-school, this is the way to go. Shaped like a peg, these J cups may be pinned or slid into the holes on your squat rack depending on the kind you get. From personal experience, I consider those that pin in to be a little unsteady and are not my top choice, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Functionally, the barbell sits on the elongated peg and the plate on the end keeps the bar from rolling off. These J hooks are completely made of metal and lack UHMW plastic, which will be tough on your barbell and likely cause some wear and tear over time.
This is your standard J cup: a J-shaped piece of metal lined with UHMW plastic which, again, helps protect your barbell from wear and tear. This is a great piece of equipment, especially for someone who is not looking for anything fancy and just wants a pair of J cups to hold their barbell.
Sandwich cups are shaped like your standard J cups, but the middle portion is almost entirely composed of UHMW plastic and sandwiched between a piece of metal on either side. These heavy duty cups protect your all-around barbell as there is limited friction against metal when racking and un-racking your bar.
Roller cups are incredibly useful accessories and seem to have been designed with the athlete in mind. Both the convenience and user-friendliness of this piece make it a fantastic addition to your home gym.
So what makes this J cup different?
The cup part on which the barbell sits is actually a roller, which may be made of hard nylon or UHMW plastic, providing protection for your barbells.
This roller modification allows your bar to freely move side-to-side as you are setting up for your exercise, whether it be a shrug, bench press or squat. There is nothing worse than getting ready to lift and having to tug on the barbell to find your center. With this J cup, finding the proper setup is a breeze. While it is a good investment for anyone looking to improve their home gym, it will be especially beneficial for advanced lifters who need that perfect pre-lift setup.
How Do I Shop For J Hooks?
As there are several types of J hooks and many brands that sell them, I highly recommend trying out different kinds before buying a pair. See what kind of design you may like, consider how you will be using your cups, and figure out which ones are easy for you to use. You can do this at a local gym or even at a retailer like ours - do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have!
Even if the purchase of your squat rack includes its own J hooks, it would be worth doing some research to see whether those fit your preferences and needs.
The squat rack + J cup combination is an excellent choice if you are looking to build or upgrade your home gym. For a relatively low cost - err, low investment in your health - these accessories provide a plethora of versatile options for your training. Whether you are looking for something low in price or high in quality or whether you want minimum or maximum protection for your barbell, there is a pair of J hooks out there for you.