A power rack is the perfect foundation for your home gym, and now is the best time to get one. It's a great investment in your strength training that's going to serve you for years. Fortunately, it doesn't have to break the bank. The best power rack for you comes down to some fundamentals you're looking for.
Power Cage Specifications
This table is best viewed on large screens.
Are you new to weight training with power racks?
If you've never owned a power rack before, you can do well with the basic features and a moderate weight capacity of a few hundred pounds. You're most likely interested in incrementally adding weights to give yourself some challenging squats, dead lifts and bench presses. In general, beginners can do well with a rack for less than $700, often considerably less. In general, you will want a relatively roomy work space, a strong frame, fine height adjustment and a safety bar. That will give you plenty of challenge to gradually and holistically increase your core strength.
Full or half power rack?
A full rack stands the wide with 2 sets of uprights. A half squat rack more closely resembles a gun rack, sometimes with a sawtooth design, and relies on one pair of uprights.
You can do the same exercises - deadlifts, shoulder shrugs, overhead presses, squats and, of course, incline presses - with either a full or half power cage, but there are tradeoffs between them. Half racks give you more space, but they may not be as stable with heavy weights. For example, the safety bars are a concern on a hack. When the barbell with excessive weight rests too far forward on them, there's a risk of the rack toppling (if the half rack isn't secured). Full racks, on the other hand, take up more space but generally have more stability, weight capacity and room for nice other addons, such has plate holders or resistance band pegs.
Comparing basic features of power racks
Workspace - this refers to how much room inside the rack you have to work with. You want to allow for a free range of motion an an incline/decline bench. If you have extra attachments, such as a lat machine, usually placed in the back, then that's just one more reason to have some room.
Weight capacity - definitely something to think about for ambitious lifters. It's pretty straightforward, but you might be surprised to know that even lower priced power racks can be impressively strong and have a high weight capacity, thanks to decades of innovation from our manufacturers. While the thickness or gauge of the steel matters a lot, some racks have especially good structural advantages. For example, bolted plates, elbow connectors and thick spotter bars. These add stability and ruggedness to even lighter racks, so pay attention to these little details.
Types of weight support - Half racks and squat racks usually have j-hooks or pegs to hold your barbell, and they might have longer j-hooks as a safety spotters. Full length safety spotter bars fully connecting across the cage are ideal, because wherever you drop the barbell, something's there to catch it. Still, you can get some pretty accommodating j-hooks or pegs for weight support, often included in the standard price of the product. Between j-hooks and pegs, we tend to prefer pegs but it's a matter of preference. Pegs are usually easy to take in or out and lock into the graduated frame.
Really, the flip side of needing a high weight capacity is that you will also need to take greater safety precautions. Fortunately for as much weight as a good power rack can support, it can also take on a lot of weight to protect if that situation comes. Unless specifically stated otherwise, you can apply the posted weight capacity of the frame to the capacity of the safety bars, which makes total sense. The spotter bars are just as adjustable, robust and supported as the rest of the power cage.
Nearly every power rack will come with a chin-up or pull up bar. Just like a power tower, a power cage can help you easily do this form of exercise. However, cages have a higher weight capacity, which applies to the pull up bar. They also tend to not shake as much which is plus.
That said, not all pull up bars are the same. If this is an important feature for you, then look for knurled or rubber gripped bars with different angles. That way you can target different muscles using palm up or palm down exercises. The weight capacity also comes in handy when you are wearing a weighted vest or chain weights on your shoulders. For even more added dimension, some people like to wear gravity boots, which allow you to do fully inverted sit ups. That requires trust in the strength and stability of your power rack, so if that interests you then get some good weight capacity!
Plate and accessory storage.
Racks usually don't come with barbells or plates, but you can score a rack with built in horizontal bars to hold your plates when you're not using them. The minor trade off is that holding the weights cuts down the weight capacity to an extent, but it's not a big deal. The racks that can do this are generally very tough in the first place. You just have to make sure that the plates will fit on the holders, and most of them will. If you have existing plates or are interested in plates from a manufacturer that doesn't make the rack you're interested in, we'd be happy to help match the right rack to your weights or vice versa.
Some power cages take storage to another level. Without even buying higher priced attachments, you can start holding and using simple accessories to give you more dimension to your exercises. Some racks have pegs not only for weight support but for securing a resistance band. If you've used resistance band before, then you know how effective they can be for targeting different muscles. You can set the pegs and band at any position on the cage. Then you just pull them up to the side or down to feel the burn all throughout your arms.
Nearly every rack comes with a pull-up bar, but you can also get a dip station. These are simply sets of horizontal, gripped bars coming off the side. You can't do vertical knee raises becuase you won't have a cushioned back support, but regular dips are another great form of body weight exercise. Dip stations are a smart use of real estate on power racks.
What about power rack accessories?
A lot of customers are interested not just in the racks themselves but what kind of accessories can come with them. We've touched on this before; if you're really focused on a few exercises, then a squat rack or half rack could be perfect for you. Though when it comes to accessorizing, power racks are the way to go. Let's take a moment to delve into the most popular kinds of accessories. These are things you might not get today, but down the road, they are really nice to make a part of your exercises.
Lat pulldown attachments are relatively easy to set up with power cages that allow them. Space wise, they're great because the weight stacks minimally intrude on your workspace. You can usually have the option of both an Olympic and standard weight stack. Lat workouts will give you more functional strength and an even bulkier, well-rounded build.
Often sold as an accessory, weight benches are of course crucial to exercising with a power rack. These don't have to be expensive, but we prefer a good incline/decline bench to use in conjunction with graduated power rack frames. It's generally a good idea to get a bench and power rack by the same brand so you know they can fit ideally.
As you're bulking up your upper body, don't forget about your abs. Shredded abdominals are aesthetically pleasing but give you fantastic functional strength for daily life. Ab slings, sometimes called "gut busters", attach to the top of your rack and allow you to slip your elbows in. Ab slings might be the ideal way to work your abs, since they allow completely full and natural movement. Using this type of product would be really hard to do without a great power rack to attach them to, so ab slings are just another great addition to really make the greatest investment in your holistic health and strength!