Power Rack: Best Selling Piece of Home Gym Equipment
There’s just no getting around it—much like a carpenter needs quality tools, a lifter has certain basic equipment requirements for productive training to take place. The power rack is the single most important piece of equipment in any home gym. This piece of weight training equipment functions as a mechanical spotter for free weight barbell exercises without the movement restrictions imposed by equipment such as the Smith machine. Using a power rack you will definitely be able to perform many of the exercises contained in most home strength training programs.
Standard power rack design & measurements
This open cage of solid steel has a footprint of about 4 feet by 4 feet. If you add attachments and apparatuses to the rack’s cage, it takes up even more space beyond its basic footprint. It also requires close to 7 feet of headroom (a typical height is 6 foot 8).
Its general design is four upright posts with two adjustable horizontal bar catches (also called “supports,” “rails” or “pins”) on each side. Many power racks also have accessory attachments, such as a chin-up bar, pulldown cable attachment, or pegs for storing weight plates.
Main reasons (benefits) for buying a power rack for your home gym?
There are so many benefits from having a power rack in any home gym. At some point, you’ll want to test your strength in exercises like the squat and bench press. What happens if you fail on a squat? Since the weight is on your back, you can’t stand up. Yes, you can let the barbell roll down your back and hit the floor. But think for a second about what 200 or 300 pounds would do to the floor.
Now think about what that weight would do if it were stuck on your chest during a bench press. You might be able to roll the barbell down your torso to your lap and stand up. You might be able to tip it to one side or the other and let it crash to the floor. Or you might not be able to do anything except lie there with 300 pounds slowly crunching the life out of you.
A power rack provides safety bars that you can drop the bar onto if you fail at a maximum. You can also rest the barbell on those bars for shrugs and curls. You can easily slide a utility bench in and out of the rack for any number of exercises. Enough?
Exercises you can perform using a power rack
With a good rack, you can do multiple variations of the squat, bench press (flat, incline, decline), goodmorning, deadlift, bodyweight or inverted rows, floor press, overhead press, hanging leg/knee raise, and pull-up, not to mention the countless exercise variations you can make up. Combined with a good quality adjustable bench, a quality power rack should take care of the majority of your training lifts.
Furthermore, if you decide to add a plate-loaded cable-pulley system to the back of your squat rack you will be able to perform many other beneficial exercises like lat pull-downs, cable rows, cable triceps push-downs or cable biceps curls.
Image credit: REP FITNESS
How much does a power rack cost?
If you’re serious about weight training, the $300 to $600 you’d pay for a power rack is the best investment you could make.
For about $189 or more, you can add a plate-loaded cable-pulley system to the back of your squat rack. (“Plate-loaded” means you use your own weight plates you already possess.) This doesn’t require a lot more room, and it allows you to do dozens more exercises, from lat pulldowns to cable rows to triceps pushdowns to cable biceps curls.
So, for $450 to $650, you can save yourself some fuss by getting a selectorized cable apparatus, which includes weight plates (the stack is usually 210 pounds) and allows you to select the weight you want by sliding in a pin.
Finally, some power racks have a crossbar on the front top that doubles as a chinning bar. (To use this you need about a foot of clearance above the top of the rack—about 8 feet from floor to ceiling.) You can also add dip bars to some power racks for about $50.
What to look for in a power rack?
If you’re considering buying your own, be selective, and don’t jump at the first hunk of junk you see on Craigslist. You can definitely find a great piece that will outlast you for under $1,000. However, even an affordable rack should meet the following requirements:
1. Close hole spacing
The holes that the pins fit through should never be more than 3 inches apart. If the holes are spaced further than this, you will not have enough variation for partial range movements like pin pulls and pin presses. The best racks have hole spacing between 1 and 2 inches.
2. Sumo base
Most racks have horizontal support beams on the sides that are too close to the bottom of the rack, limiting how far you can place your feet. In the event you want to perform a sumo deadlift, you will want a rack that has a few inches of clearance between this beam and the floor, so that your stance width is not limited.
3. Safety pins
The “pins” are the heavy duty pipes or beams that are attached from one side of the rack to the other, to catch the barbell in the event of a drop or failed lift. Not only are the pins protective, they are also a valuable training tool. By setting the bar on the pins at various heights, you can use exercises like pin presses and pin pulls to focus on different points in exercises like the squat and deadlift.
Power racks vs. squat racks
A “squat rack” and a “power rack” are not the same thing. A power rack is a multipurpose piece of equipment while a squat rack is designed primarily for squatting and will not offer the same flexibility. Although you can easily use a power rack as a squat rack, the opposite is not true.
A quality power rack should be the centerpiece of any serious home gym. If you think of a gym as a church, the power rack would be the altar. If you have a good quality power rack, you’ll honestly need little else to get strong. Have you ever seen those infomercials for cheesy home exercise equipment, where the spokesperson keeps repeating “it’s like an entire gym in one!”? A good power rack is about as close as it gets to actually meeting this claim.