So, you’ve decided to abandon the gym, but you don’t want to stop working out. You figure you’ll just set up a home gym, toss some old, dusty dumbbells in the corner of your living room, drag your yoga mat from the back of the closet, and call it a day.
That may work, but if you’re going to commit to home-training, there is one essential item that you will probably want to have – a power rack.
What is a Power Rack?
A power rack, if you don’t already know, is basically a steel cage that you stand in while exercising, and is often used specifically for barbell exercises.
They are also known as ’cages’ or ’squat cages,’ which are a little different from a full power rack. Squat racks are half cages, they have only two vertical posts instead of four; a squat rack is less of a cage and more of a stand (see here for a list of top cheap squat racks).
But you really don’t need a squat rack to squat. Power racks, or full cages, are the better option, as they allow you to perform not only squats, but also a myriad of other exercises. Plus, there are power racks with lat pulldown machines available for even greater exercise versatility.
It’s safe to say that virtually every commercial gym is home to at least one or two of these things, so if you’ve ever been inside a gym, you’ve probably seen a power rack before.
The power racks in commercial gyms are commercial power racks; they are more durable than the ones generally found in home gyms, and generally cost in between one and two thousand dollars or more.
However, the price of good power racks for home gyms is coming down, making the expense worth it, as long as you can afford to shell out the cash. An important thing to look at before I get into the details, is that power racks are not Smith machines.
A Smith machine might look similar to a power rack, but it operates on a vertical track. Smith machines can be useful for certain barbell exercises, but are dangerous when used to squat – because it follows a track built into the machine, it forces your body to stay far too straight, which increases your chances of injury.
Smith machines also make it easier to add more weight, as the track does some of the work for you. Power racks are a much better, and safer investment than Smith machines.
What To Look For in a Power Rack?
I said earlier that power racks are one essential item to have in your home gym. But they aren’t fit for everybody.
You have to identify what kind of exercise you are looking to do.
If you are interested solely in cardio and bodyweight training, don’t get a power rack. If you are interested in performing high-intensity strength-training routines, you should definitely be looking to buy a power rack.
When buying a rack, make sure you are aware of what amenities come with the rack. Many racks won’t come with a bench, barbell, or plates.
If the rack you’re looking at does not include these essential aspects, you can expect an additional expense, which is something to keep in mind.
When buying a rack on a budget, make sure to look at three things: weight capacity, steel gauge, and spacing of adjustment holes. Power racks are basically a steel spotter: the number one thing they are designed to accomplish is better, safer lifting.
With weight limits, there are two types of limits. One is static: how much weight can sit on the rack. The other concerns how much weight can be dropped on the rack, for instances when you have to drop your barbell.
It is definitely good to make sure the rack can hold up to the amount you plan on lifting. Steel gauge concerns the thickness of the steel (the thicker the steel, the more expensive the rack).
If you think it’s worth it to have thicker steel, you’re going to want to look at a lower gauge, and a little more money.
Adjustment holes are not as vital as the weight capacity, but allow you to customize your placement of the bars and safety hooks. Spacing of two inches apart or less allows for greater customization than a spacing of three or more inches apart.
None of these things should make or break a good power rack, they are just important to keep in mind. But even a cheap power rack is a lot safer than no power rack at all.
Without further ado, here are the top 3 power racks.
Best Overall: Fitness Reality X-Class Light Commercial High Capacity Olympic Power Cage
This rack is selling on Amazon, While it is clearly on the higher end (price wise) it is still under a thousand dollars, and its versatility makes the extra cost highly worth it.
For starters, this power rack comes equipped with a Lat pulldown attachment, which adds a huge amount of versatility to your workouts.
Lateral pulldowns are rarely part of a home gym set up, and while they are not as necessary as a good set of dumbbells and a bench, they are one of my favorite exercises.
Additionally, simply having the lat pulldown system as part of the rack allows for the possibility of other exercises, like tricep rope pulldowns, bicep rope curls, etc. Having that pulley system is just a fantastic addition.
The savings are significant, but if you’re spending that much anyway, there’s almost no reason not to splurge and get the lat pulldown. It’s sure to make home workouts that much more exciting.
This power rack has a real weight capacity of 1,500 pounds. This is one of the highest capacities of power racks you’ll find on the market, and it allows you to work out hard and heavy utterly without fear.
If you go to squat 400 pounds or more, and find that you can’t hold it, you can drop the bar onto the rack, with full confidence that the rack won’t crack, split, or warp in any way. This rack is beyond sturdy.
The two-three inch thick tubular steel frame comes with rubber strips, to protect from scratching, denting, and those annoying, loud bangs that come from dropping a heavy bar on the rack.
The rack comes with two J-Hooks and two adjustable rubber grip handles, each with a user-weight capacity of 600 pounds, enough for even the most intense of body builders.
It has two 11.5 inch safety bars, as well as two dual-mounted 35.5 inch safety bars, which is where the combined weight capacity of 1,500 pounds comes from.
The X-Class rack also includes two height-adjustable multi-grip pullup/chinup bars, each with a user weight capacity of 600 pounds.
It includes the lat pulldown and low row attachment, and also has pre-drilled holes in the bottom parts of the frame, which allow you the option of drilling it into your floor, for added security and stability.
The rack is highly durable, while still providing a large area to workout – you won’t feel restricted while performing any of the over two dozen possible exercises, including wide-stance squats.
The dimensions of this rack are 86.5 inches long, 52 inches wide, with a height of 82 inches (if you are planning on putting this in a room with a low ceiling, you might run into some height-related issues).
The whole system weighs 301 pounds, not including a bar, a bench, and weights, all of which you will have to purchase separately.
The reviews really speak for this power rack. It is long lasting, ultra sturdy, stable, and gives a strong feeling a safety, which is of course, the whole point.
The J Hooks are well built and properly places so as to not necessitate an awkward angle to the bench. The extended safety bars allow for versatility when placing your bench.
The only drawback of this rack is really in size. For many people starting to put together their home gym, this rack is far too large for the intended space.
Otherwise, so long as the price is not a concern, and as long as you would identify as a something of a gym rat, you should definitely look into the Fitness Reality X-Class power rack.
Best on a Budget: Rep Fitness Power Rack PR-100
This rack is selling on Amazon, and has an above-average rating which is definitely respectable.
The PR-100 has a real weight capacity of 1,000 pounds. It is less than the Fitness Reality X-Class Power Rack, but 1,000 pounds is still significant enough that it will allow you to work out hard and heavy, without fear of injury or damage to the rack.
Additionally, it has a 400 pound user weight capacity for the pullup bar, as well as for the dip attachments (which are purchased separately), which is definitely high enough to support most users.
It’s made of two inch by two inch steel, and includes adjustable holes with two-inch spacing throughout the rack, allowing for a maximum amount of customization.
The dimensions for this rack are 84 inches in height, by 48 inches in width, and 48 inches in depth. At the bottom brace, it is 58 inches wide. It allows for plenty of room while inside the cage to perform any of a variety of exercises, without scraping against the frame.
This rack is a budget rack – it doesn’t come with a lot of additional amenities. It’s a rack, and just a rack. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad rack; on the contrary, it’s sturdy, safe, and affordable.
But by saving a few hundred dollars, you end up missing out on certain benefits, namely the lat pulldowns and dip bars.
But it is a great starter addition to a home gym. This might not be worth the expense for more serious lifters, because it is so bare-bones, but for the more casual folks out there, this is a great option.
The Rack with the Most Additions: Force USA Monster G3 Power Rack
This rack is available on Amazon, I know what you’re probably thinking, why on earth spend over two grand on a power rack, when you can get one for under a thousand dollars?
Well, the answer is in the title. This is the Monster G3 power rack, a title that could not possibly be more fitting.
This rack combines your average, ordinary power rack with a smith machine and a pulley system: this one rack is your entire home gym.
Let’s look at the power rack itself first. It has a weight capacity of 992 pounds, which is not as high as the X-Class power rack, but is still definitely more than enough.
It includes J-Hooks and safety bars that can be easily adjusted and customized, as there are a multitude of closely-spaced holes throughout the frame.
The Smith machine component is specially angled to allow for the most natural bodily movements, which reduces the potential for injury.
The dimensions are 80 inches in width, 50 in depth, and 87 in height, making it the largest of the three power racks listed here.
It includes a pullup/chinup station, safety spotter arms, a Landmine station, Band Pegs, Weight Plate storage, and Barbell storage.
You also have the option to purchase a leg press, stability bar, or a lat pulldown seat separately. And, like with the other racks, the bench, bar, and weights unfortunately don’t come with the rack.
This machine will allow you to perform over 75 different exercises, keeping your routines varied and hard-hitting. Despite the expense, which is certainly significant, the Monster G3 makes a gym membership completely irrelevant.
Generally, home gyms have to sacrifice something, making them a little less complete when compared to a commercial gym. This power rack sacrifices nothing but cash, which is this rack’s one major drawback.
For personal trainers or bodybuilders that borderline on professional, this product is an absolute gem. For the average guy or gal, the expense might be too high.
And yeah, this rack is really cool, but having the smith machine is not really necessary when you have a power rack.
The pulley system is a cool addition, but the X-Class power rack includes a lat pulldown, whose pulley system may not be as extensive as the Monster’s pulley system, but sometimes good enough is still good.
Overall, the Fitness Reality X-Class power rack is the best option and the best value.
It may not be the cheapest option, but when shelling out several hundred dollars worth of gym-equipment anyway, the added expense, as long as it will get used, is definitely worth it.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org