Gluck & Wynie August 2023
Bells of Steel Hydra Power Rack Review
Bells of Steel has officially brought themselves into the big leagues with their new line of Hydra Racks which puts them directly up against Rogue Fitness since these racks are fully compatible with Rogue’s Monster Lite line. This isn’t a metric budget alternative to Rogue, this is a true 3”x3” 11 gauge steel rack with ⅝” holes and Westside hole spacing. So if you’re looking to save a few bucks without sacrificing compatibility this is a rack you’ll want to take a good hard look at.
Listen, there comes a time in every serious gym equipment company’s life where they realize that we as Americans want, no need, everything in excess, enter the Hydra rack, large, overbuilt, and more than any of us will ever actually need but if your wife is asking remember, this is a budget line of racks, then show her a stainless steel Rogue Monster rack (as a bare rack it's over 4 grand) and she’ll celebrate you for saving the family so much money.
Bells has a ton of different ways to build these racks, including 4 and 6 posts, squat stands, folding, collegiate and more. They’ve also launched it with a lot of options for rack attachments which we've also reviewed. But remember if Bells doesn’t currently offer what you’re looking for and Rogue Fitness does, then there isn’t much stopping you from putting their stuff on your Bells of Steel rack or vice versa.
4 post Hydra rack
Hydra Folding Half Rack
Hydra Squat Stands
Power Rack Comparisons
We’ll get into the nitty gritty of this rack and talk about the finish, build quality, attachments and more as we go but I have to say that overall I’ve been impressed. But let’s address the elephant in the room, if you take a look at the Hydra racks and Rogue’s Monster Lite line it would be impossible not to notice the similarities down to the 1” holes for the Rogue Slinger cables to travel through. Now I’m not saying Bells copied Rogue, no wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Put in a nicer way, Bells has essentially created a budget Rogue rack which are two words I never thought I’d hear together.
Up until recently if you wanted a 3x3 rack your decision came down to whether you wanted to save money and get an imported metric rack or a high end American rack which for most people just meant Rogue Fitness. But Bells has made things interesting by making a rack that works with Rogue’s ecosystem. Take a look at this comparison of 3x3 5/8" racks below.
Now if you want to live in the 3”x3” world you can save a little money by getting a Bells rack instead of a Rogue Fitness Monster Lite Rack or save a lot of money by putting Bells attachments onto your Rogue rack. To be clear the Hydra rack is a ⅝” rack which means it’s in line with a Titan X-3, Rep PR-4000, and Rogue Monster Lite lines (as shown above). The higher end option would be 1” hardware racks, they have more holes on the sides of the uprights (except the PR-4000), and more high end touches. ⅝” rack are essentially cheaper versions of 3”x3” racks.
Attachment & Accessory Compatibility
I’m not going to go on record saying every single Rogue Fitness or Bells of Steel attachment will perfectly fit on the other because both Rogue and Bells have an insane amount of rack configurations available but it sure as hell looks like they will and in all of my testing so far, they have. Rogue offers more finish options but Bells has more height options and even the ability to change the racks width and we could probably go back and forth pointing out subtle differences all day but what it really comes down to is these are two highly compatible racks that perform very similarly.
There are a lot of different ways you can exploit this compatibility, for example if you buy a Hydra rack but like Rogue’s landmine better or want their dip attachment, nothing is stopping you. You can get some Bell's attachments for half as much, for example Bells Sliding Lever Arms vs Rogue’s 50 cal trolley lever arms. You can even add options the other doesn’t offer like getting Rogue’s Ghost Roller cups for your Bells rack or putting Bell’s Seal Row Pad on your Monster Lite. Actually you can even put the Seal Row pad on a Rogue Monster rack even though it's 5/8" and the Monster is 1" since Rogue has 5/8" keyholes (see below).
Basically, you can frankenstein attachments and racks to your heart's content but it does take some planning and knowledge but I know a guy (who might be me) that did video and article on home gym hacks and secrets so I'll link it at the end of this review. If you’re saying well I could’ve technically made most of that work before… sure, but if you tried to put metric attachments like onto a Rogue rack the measurements are off by just enough to make things awkward. When you try to use an attachment that requires 2 holes to connect with the rack, 3x3 metric racks are generally compatible with each. That's because metric tubing is 75mm x 75mm making it a little smaller than a true 3” tube. Thius means when putting an attachment from a metric rack onto a customary rack like Rogues’ everything is a little off and too tight. Conversely going from customary to metric means you’d have to shim things because they’d be too loose. The last thing you want to do after paying a lot for a fancy rack attachment is modify it before you can use it.
The real price difference in Bell’s rack vs Rogue’s is in the attachments. Sure you can save a few hundred dollars on the rack itself but as I’ve mentioned some of Bell's offerings are much cheaper. In general Rogue’s attachments are going to be better quality but there’s definitely a point where you’re paying more and getting no additional functionality.
To put their pricing into perspective I compared every Bells attachment to Rep Fitness and Titan Fitness and found Bells to be either around the same price or a little cheaper. And yes of course I compared their prices to Rogue’s but that didn’t take long because Rogue’s sandwich J cups and trolley lever arms are literally double the price of Bells of Steel’s. That's where you save a lot of money with imported racks and with Bells matching the specs of Rogue you can mix and match between them to your heart’s content.
Where The Hydra Could Be Improved
There are a few things I’d like to see tweaked on the Hydra though some of these apply to the Monster Lite as well. For example both Rogue and Bell’s spotter arms are rock solid and well done with UHMW on the top to protect your barbell but I'd like if they had added UHMW on the rack contact points like they did with the Seal row pad and dip attachment. These big heavy attachments can really scuff up your rack even if you’re super careful when putting them on and taking them off. Bells of Steel and Rogue share a theme throughout with UHMW on some attachments but not others. Sure I did add UHMW tape to the J cups and safety straps since they don’t have UHMW but I wish Bells had added it because it would've a touch Rogue didn't have.
Bell's landmine works well, rotates smoothly, and the UHMW on the top of the lip is a nice touch because Rep, Rogue, and Titan don’t have any but, they should add some kind of protection for the end of your barbell because it butt up against a bolt when in the landmine. I just threw a chunk of foam in there that I had lying around and I accept it as it is the cheapest of all the companies I’ve mentioned but it would be a nice addition.
Other Hydra Attachments
Bells of Steel has done a great job supporting their Hydra rack and since the rack released they've dropped even more accessories and options like a 47" rack width and their rack mounted Leg Extension and Leg Curl attachment.
We also reviewed the Bells of Steel’s trolley arms, seal row pad, and lat pulldown in a separate video if you want to check it out (the article is coming) but I don’t want to get too off track here. I will say they’re generally well done budget options. I’ll be the first to admit lever arms aren’t something I typically use but lots of creative people come up with all kinds of cool ways to program them into workouts and these have worked well for me so far. They are tanks, which I suppose can be good and bad. They’re heavy so be aware they can be tough to move vertically along the rack though if you set them straight out from the rack it makes it easier to move. If these are too expensive or cumbersome for you Bells does offer some lighter non sliding ones as well though they are less versatile as they lack the ability to be pin them to different starting angles.
As for the lat pulldown and low row attachment the movement on it is pretty smooth but with a 1:1 ratio it won’t be as smooth as something like the Rep Ares (2:1). The Seal Row pad is easily my favorite of their attachments. As a budget alternative to Sorinex's bulldog pad (nearly 3x the price) it's a fantastic option. It’s a versatile piece of equipment that you can do a lot with, rows, curls, flyes, and so on though I have to admit I mostly use it for curls and row variations.
Seal Row Pad
Lat Pulldown Low Row
If you want Rogue Fitness quality pick up something from them, if you want to save some money go Bells of Steel but I will save overall Bells surprised me with the build quality on most of their accessories at these prices. Their dip attachment is well done with UHMW added to all the contact points of the rack and pieces like their spotter arms and strap safeties are virtually identical to Rogue’s though the ability to pick a strap color with the Bells safety straps is a nice touch.
Overall this rack reminds me a lot of the Rep PR-4000 as I don’t see much of a quality difference. It’s got solid welds, the textured powder coat is applied well, and like with any of the big 3, Titan, Rep, or Rogue, their 3x3 rack options, even if maybe a little over the top for a home gym, are really well done. I suppose if Bells keeps this up it may become the big 4 because they’ve made things interesting with rack selections because before you’d pick if you wanted to live in Rep and Titan’s metric ecosystem or Rogue’s. But with the Hydra racks and soon the Manticore rack line that’s directly compatible with Rogue Monster racks, your choices just got a whole lot harder because these racks should definitely be on your radar.