What kind of power rack should I buy?
This is an overview of options for someone who is just starting out to buy a home gym for their garage, attic or basement. It is mostly geared towards individual users rather than gym owners. You will find links to relevant providers of material and tips for setups.
What are your goals?
The equipment you need should be helping you to achieve your goals. Therefore it is important that you have outlined what kind of exercises you want to do and how you want to do them. The main goals in fitness are usually a mixture of
- Increasing health
- Lowering weight
- Increasing performance
- Improving aesthetics
Decide first which one of these goals takes priority for you before choosing your program, diet and equipment. Otherwise you will be wasting time, money and effort by travelling down paths which do not take you to your desired results. If you are in the market to buy a power rack one of your main priorities should be to improve strength performance.
If you are considering to lose some surplus pounds after Christmas season, a pregnancy or after you moved out of home and got out of shape at university it might be too early for a power rack. For this goal pick a program like Jo Wick’s Lean in 15 or Bikini Body Mommy and buy some dumbbells from the local grocery chain to do them. Maybe invest the money you save in a Garmin watch to do a coach to 5K program.
For all the footballers, rugby players and general strength addicts out there who are fed up to waste time in the gym waiting on someone doing their biceps curls in the power rack and who have some space left in their garage or attic, an investment in a power rack might just be for you.
If you are about to build a new professional gym for your school, university, team or spa same rational applies. Think about the goals and plans of your ideal clients first and pick the equipment you buy according to their needs. For you the strategy and planning phase becomes even more important as it has a bigger impact on your purse.
What is your budget?
Your budget will be most likely the limiting factor to what you can do. Racks start as low as 150€ with no top ceiling depending on how much accessory you buy and which made you get. Expect to spent somewhere between 500€ to 5000€ for a proper set up. For most people that is a considerable investment. To do some research you can visit the following websites:
This is the first step to generally see whether you are in the market for a power rack or not from a budgetary perspective. The most important bit is the next one.
How much space do you have?
Exact measurements are key for buying a power rack. Consider the floor space you have. Measure everything and also get ideas from the internet on how you can lay out your storage and access. Think of safety and have some room around your rack. Make sure you measure the height of your ceilings. There is nothing worse than ordering a rack for your good money which you have to saw into pieces before even using it because you got the dimensions wrong.
The height becomes especially important if you want to be able to do pull ups with your rack. You would usually struggle to get this setup comfortably done in a garage or attic.
Types of racks
Depending on the available space and budget you can choose from a wide variety of options for your gym. What is often overlooked is the safety aspect. If you are only starting with lifting whilst on a small budget it is very likely that you will combine inexperience with an insecure setup. The less experienced you are the more you should invest into your safety to avoid injury. Some of the available options are:
Squat Stand with spotter arms
Squat stands are the loss costly option to get started with your home gym. The advantages of the squat stands are that they are easy to transport and setup in any place and the leftover budget for other things like a bench or some plates. The challenge with squat stands is that you have no possibility to attach safety, work with bands and there is a lot of room for setting them up improperly. In my opinion squat stands are ideal for experienced lifters who know their limits, how to setup for success and de-load a weight securely. Most garage gym users won’t have the space or tenure to work securely with squat stands. Leave that to the professionals who have coaches around at all times.
Wall Mount power rack garage gym example (pay attention to hieght when you measure)
Wall mounts are the next better option as they do not take up a lot of space. The fact that they will be attached to a wall also minimizes the possibility for an insecure setup. Compared to a full rack you will be limited to spotter arms for your safety setup. This is still better than with squat stands, but if you fail a rep there is a higher chance that you will bury yourself under the weight as it bounces of the spotter arms and from there anywhere. The space to store your plates will also be limited and you might have to buy an additional piece of equipment for this purpose.
Half rack with spotter arms
Half racks are in essence the same as wall mounts with two added bonuses. First is that they can stand on their own in case you have no free space at a wall. Second is that you will also have more space to store your plates on the rack itself. As there is more material involved as with wall mounts and half racks we are also slowly going up the price range here.
Power rack example from Elitefts
Power Racks are in my opinion the most suitable option for a home gym owner who is serious about barbell training. Expect an investment between 500 – 2000€ for a good setup. The big advantage of power racks is safety. You can use safety pins or bands to keep yourself secure and avoid injury without having someone around to spot you. Watch out for racks which have small increments between the holes in which you can place you cups and other pins. This usually leaves you with more options for your setup. From a transport perspective also take care whether the rack comes in one piece or not. If it comes in one piece make sure that all the doors and spaces it has to go through in your house are wide and high enough to fit the rack through as you are not able to dissemble it like IKEA furniture.
Rig example from Diamond fitness systems
Rigs are the “be all end all” for multiple users. If you own a gym this is the option to go for to get as many athletes as possible to train at the same time and make most use of the available floor space. As you will most likely be spending an amount which is north of 10.000€ get in touch with sales rep of the vendor and get some help with your purchase. They will gladly help you to be happy with a big shipment.
How do you want to store your plates?
Examples of storage solutions
Depending on your available space you might want to consider different ways on how you can store your plates. For home use I would always advise some good value bumper plates. Metal plates usually leave nasty marks on the floor when you drop them. Bumper plates are more forgiving. Avoid the competition bumper plates unless you have the budget and care for aesthetics. 100kg are 100kg, it does not matter for the average user whether they are competition plates or not and this will save you a good couple of hundreds which you can invest in something else.
Leave some budget for accessories
Most of the following items are not included in the purchase of a rack. It is recommended that you leave some budget to order these too. Again you do not want to unpack your rack, get it set up and then realise that you cannot start to train because you forgot to order some J Cups. Your shopping list should include:
- J Cups
- Safety pins / bands
- Plate storage solution
- Pins to attach bands to
- Storage solution for barbells
Wall mount for barbells
With no barbell no work will be done. The essential items for your serious home gym are the barbell, the rack, J cups and safety pins. I personally have used Eleiko, Rogue and York bars in the gym. York seems to be very popular in Ireland and the UK. While I can see the appeal of this option for gyms who have to buy 5 to 20 barbells at a time to save 50 – 100 each, for your own home gym you might want to invest a little extra and go for a mid-range option. Good barbells should cost you around 300 – 500. Whenever I had the chance to work out with a rogue barbell I was in for a happy day. The Eleiko option is the upper range barbell and is in my experience a bit overpriced for a home gym. If you ever walk into a gym that has Eleiko barbells only you know that they are serious about their lifting. If you are the only one using the barbell at home I am quite confident that you will get a lifetimes use out of an Eleiko or rogue barbell. With what I have seen with York bars you might have to buy two over a human lifetime.
Example of J cup fixed in a power rack
J cups are needed so that you can put your barbell into a racking position. Without the J cups you will not be able to let the bar rest at any of the slots provided by the racks. They are just a small, but important item which can easily be overlooked when you order your rack. If you forget you have to wait for the next delivery and missed out on the opportunity to get them for free on the bigger purchase. Always watch out whether J cups are included with the rack or not and try to get them as a free item on a bigger purchase.
Safety pin and band set up in a power rack
Safety pins or bands which do the same trick are also vital. The J cups and pins are a must have for a home gym owner. Same applies as with the J cups. They are usually not included in the rack purchase price and should be put on the “big bill” to give you room for negotiation / getting a free shipment or other goodie.
If you are considering a power rack purchase it is quite fair to assume that you are serious about lifting. Therefore your shopping list should include a good bench to do movements like bench presses, single arm rows and other exercises. A bench usually comes in between 100 to 500 euros. Take care to look at how the bench is build. There have been cases in which people have been impaled during bench pressing because the structure of the bench gave in. Saving here might be saving on the wrong end of things.
A solution to store your barbells and pins for attaching bands to are things which are not entirely necessary but nice to have. The barbell can rest on the J cups at all times when you are not exercising and the only one using your home gym. If you are in the lucky position that you can afford multiple barbells for different purposes you might want to have a nice storing solution.
Whatever your budget or floor space planning is key in getting the right equipment for yourself. Rather than spending ours on the internet searching for the best deal, spend a couple of hours or even days for understanding your needs, available budget and how to smartly use the space you have. This will go a long way in your purchase because the money that hurts most is what you have to pay twice due to stupidity.
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