Gluck - November 2021
How to Choose a Power Rack
This article (and it's corresponding video) took a ton of time to create and unfortunately that means I haven't finished the article yet. I apologize but I am working on it and adding to it every day!
Possibly the most important purchase you'll make for your home gym is a power rack. It can also be an overwhelming choice because every company makes one, or near countless variations of them, then there's size to consider, attachments, countless options, and terrible naming conventions... It can be a lot to take in and that's before you start realizing that many of them are compatible in some regard to other companies offerings. This article is my attempt to wade through all the options and present to you a clearer picture of what to look for when purchasing a power rack.
A good rack is the center of your gym. You'll use it during every workout and it'll add countless versatility to the exercises and things you're able to do in your home gym. Your fitness goals and lifting style should affect your decision but almost regardless of what you're doing at home, a good rack will enhance your options and benefit you.
This article is a longer version of my power rack video on YouTube (linked above) and will also evolve as time goes on. I won't cover all the options for racks or power racks but I will definitely highlight some of the best and justify my thoughts on each. So let's get started!
Why Buy a Rack?
The #1 reason to own a rack might be for the versatility they provide to your home workouts. Ok #1 is safety but that's not as fun to talk about. There's no single piece of equipment (sure, you could argue a barbell) that affects your workouts like a rack can. With the right attachments (and there are a ton) you can create a centerpiece that allows you to do more movements than anyone ever needs.
Safety is another major reason to have and use a rack. Even if you have a Wynie to stare down at you while you do everything (seriously watch her spot me in videos) the rack is a fail safe and worth every dollar you put into it for the 1 time you might need it. I remember being at a commercial gym once and failing my bench, and a tiny blond girl came over and lifted the bar off my chest. It wasn't even that I was embarrassed of needing help, or that she was super cute, but I miscalculated and if she wasn't there I was in a pretty bad spot. It's a lesson I only had to learn once.
Types of Racks
There are essentially 5 types of racks though depending how you break them down and spin things you can argue there are more. But for our sake, we'll categorize them into these 5. Which one you choose will be determined by your space, budget, and style of lifting but there's definitely enough options for everyone.
The Power Rack
The most popular choice for a rack or at least the most recommended. Much of this article focuses on these but many of the things we talk about here will apply to the others. Often called a power cage or a squat cage this piece of equipment (the right one anyway) can be built off of and added on to in near limitless ways. It also provides a ton of versatility and options with your workouts. Possibly the most important thing it provides is safety, without this thing many of us wouldn't dream of attempting the sorts of things we do. The only downfall, it's the biggest option which also often makes it a pretty expensive one.
If you've got limited space then this is probably your best solution. Personally I refer to my garage as my gym but there are some strange people out there that actually park in their gym. I'm not sure why but believe me when I say it's a thing. As the name suggests this thing folds into the wall when not in use which allows it to take up almost no space. When mounted correctly they can also utilize some of the same attachments as a full rack
Squat stands are essentially stripped down open power racks. You're left with the back two uprights and often the two bases are attached with a cross member. Now to be clear there are variations that are much more robust and have built in spotters but at their most basic (just two separate stands) I have never been in love with them. They don't have the same versatility (though there are some pretty good ones) but as you beef them up more and more I think you're better off getting a full power rack or another option though squat stands are often your cheapest option.
As the name suggests a half rack is a smaller, less deep rack. You'll get a much more solid base than squat stands but they're not nearly as stable or versatile when compared to a full rack. With that being said there are some really nice and robust options out there. If you need to save a little space and money and don't mind sacrificing some of the capabilities (and caged in feeling) of a full rack these can be a good option.
A combo rack that is designed for use in powerlifting meets. If you want to practice on what you'll be competing with than these are worth looking into but in general they're fairly rare in home gyms because of how specialized they are. They feature a bench that can lock in place when needed and uprights that can be adjusted for different heights based on the lifter. Combo racks don't offer the same versatility as a power rack but if you focus on the big three, bench, squat, and deadlift then one of these might be worth your time (and money.
How to Choose a Rack
Find a rack that is modular, meaning one that was designed to be added onto. Typically, if they're well developed and backed by a good company you'll have an overwhelming number of options down the road. You could take your 4 post rack and convert it into a 6 post, bolt it to a wall, build off the side, add a lat attachment and honestly probably more than you'd ever dream to do. I'm amazed at the racks my followers and subs send me. The creativity and options are incredible and a constant source of inspiration.
Size of the Rack
One of the limiting factors of your rack is the space it's going in. It sounds silly to say make sure it'll fit but you have to consider not only the rack but the space around it. I find about 10' in total width is a comfortable space to be able to rack and unrack plates. You can get away with less but it becomes tighter and harder to work with. The real issue sometimes becomes that you'll end up expanding your gym as you go. Attachments, wall storage, decorations, it's really a never ending hobby which isn't a bad thing but something you'll want to plan for.
You also have to decide the depth (think of it as length) and not only the rack itself but if you're storing plates on the back of it that takes up more space. My Rogue Infinity R-6 rack is listed at 80" in length but in reality with the plates off the back it's well over 7'. Factor in the platform I built off the front and I'm using up over 12' of space in length.
When selecting your rack many companies will give you options for the depth (length) of the rack's main section. Common options range from about 24"-43" and this determines the space you have to work inside of your rack. While you're lifting you're moving weight vertically but the bar doesn't always travel straight and personally I find it more comfortable to have more space than I need rather than a tight setup. With that being said I have a 41" deep PR-5000 and 30" deep Rogue Monster and find both to be comfortable but I do prefer the larger even if it's unnecessary. You'll have your own wants, needs, and preferences but it's something to keep in mind. What I often tell people is create makeshift space (PVC pipes, broom sticks, whatever) and go through a squat motion in it and visualize if that spacing is enough for you before your big purchase.
Gauge of the Metal
The thicker the steel the more stable the rack but like all else there needs to be a balance as cost and weight will eventually outweigh the benefits. Many racks are overbuilt for home gyms and 11 gauge steel is probably ideal while 7 gauge is overkill for a home gym. 12 gauge isn't bad but 14 is pushing that lower limit. That's not to say there aren't decent 14 gauge steel racks like the REP PR-1100 but I'd probably choose a Titan T-2 over it for the 12 gauge steel (and it has more accessories available). It’s not as much about the weight capacity (though I probably wouldn’t go below 1,000 lbs as a standard) but a bigger, beefier rack is safer and more stable. If the gauge isn’t listed they’re probably hiding it for a reason and I’d look elsewhere.
You'll also want to look at the tubing and hardware sizes as those two numbers will dictate what fits on your rack and what other companies you can mix and match with yours. 2x3 is probably all any of us would ever need in a rack but there's reasons many of us go to an overbuilt 3x3 rack.
It's what the industry is pushing and innovating with so if you want the latest and greatest (and also the biggest selection) you'll have to follow along. If I kept my old Rogue R6 I wouldn't be able to get safety straps and a lot of other things for it, eventually it became and issue and I upgraded. With a 3x3 rack the accessory choices are almost overwhelming there's so many. B
Another reason 3x3 racks are appealing (besides the big beefy over the top American look) is that they're modular. Since it's a square shape with evenly spaced holes on all sides you can build off and out from any direction. My old dip attachment on my 2x3 rack for example always had to face to the side but it would've been a lot nicer out front since that would've given me more space to dip and more stability from the rack.
Safety Part 2
Not only does the tubing size, gauge of steel, and size of the rack matter but can you anchor it to the ground or do you even need to? Does the company offer a version that doesn't need to be bolted down? It's a lot to consider but this is the centerpiece of your gym and I personally put a lot of time and research into my rack setups. Do you want or need a rear stabilizer? My Rogue R6 rack didn't come with one but I added one later because it would shake a good amount without one especially for dips. It might not have been necessary for other exercises but it sure didn't feel safe without it for those. But as well as that, what about spotter arms, drop safeties, straps, or pin & pipe safeties (I hate those things), you NEED at least one of those to truly utilize your rack but if the only option is so clunky you’re more apt to not use it then it should be avoided.
Build Quality & Company
What’s the build quality & welds like (and by weld quality we don’t necessarily mean pretty, though that’s a nice touch, we mean solid. Almost every video I make someone says, what about this obscure company selling this? I'm not downplaying companies with a short history but there's a reason people are willing to pay more for a product from someone with a long track record of quality. I want to know that my warranty will be there years down the road. I want them to innovate and improve and create things so that I always have the option to upgrade my rack. These things are expensive investments and I'll pay a little more to know that this is a long term relationship and that what I order is as good as it looks on the website and if it's not, they'll make it right.
Hole spacing on the rack dictates to some extent how easy it is to adjust things within the rack. Wynie’s heights are drastically different from mine so finding a middle ground on a rack with Westside spacing is a little easier than our current racks (we have 2" spacing now). What does that actually mean? We always set up for her lower heights and I deal with it. Meaning for bench she has to lift off for me, the bar is way too low for me to get the weight up after a few plates. It also means for things like squat or overhead press I need to be careful that I don't rack the bar into the rack and miss the j-cups because they're set much lower than I would've if it were just me.
Wynie and I didn't have as much of an issue with Westside spacing (1” bench, 2” otherwise) on our Rogue R6 when benching because that 1" made a difference (please create your best innuendo in my honor for that one). The tradeoff with Westside spacing is the hole spacing on the side of the rack isn't as evenly distributed so you don't have quite the versatility in building out or placing things on the side of your rack. 2” spacing is perfectly fine and workable but I’d ignore any company that has spacing > 2”. And to a lesser extent with those holes, are they offset from front to side like Rogue or Rep or on the same plane like a Sorinex Base Camp.
Another important consideration is the height of the rack and there can be a lot of factors at play there. Personal preference, your physical height, the types of exercises you'll do with your rack, the space you're working with, and what options does the company offer?
My Rogue R6 rack is 90" tall which is a bit short for me for exercises like pull-ups but any taller and Wynie would need a box (or step) to reach the bar. You'll also want some space above the rack if you're doing over head press or things like muscle ups. If you're hanging rings from your rack you'll probably want a pretty tall build as well. What about those of us in a basement gym? Then you'll have to consider a much stricter maximum height to make your rack fit. In our Rep PR-4000 video we installed the rack in my friend Matt's basement and his ceiling height not only limited his rack selection (he couldn't throw a Rogue Monster Lite in there) but he couldn't throw a multi-grip pull-up bar on his rack because it would rise above the 80" tall rack.
Saying racks come in a lot of configurations is an understatement. Companies try to create options that will work for every person in every situation, which is a great thing but sorting through them all can be daunting. Once you decide on a type of rack (power rack, folding rack, etc) you'll have a plethora of over decisions to make (if your type of rack allows) .
How Many Uprights?
Full power racks come in two main configurations, a 4 post and a 6 post with the difference boiling down to those extra 2 posts are normally used for plate storage. Of course it's your rack, and if it's modular you can do whatever you want and put things wherever you want but that's the most common setup. Storing the plates on the back of the rack also gives the rack some more stability and weight to it which can help with wobble or other issues if you have a lighter rack. Much of this decision is based on your space but some is preference as well. Of course most companies will allow you to buy more cross members and uprights down the road so you'll have a lot of options if you change your mind.
My Top Rack Choices
Rather than create full list of every rack worth looking at (an impossible task) these are my top choices that I've spent a lot of time in and think are the best choices for the majority of home gym owners. There are a lot of options here and I'll attempt to explain and justify each but no one rack is perfect for everyone so you'll have to make your own final judgement but I hope this article is a guiding force in helping you choose a rack you'll be happy with for a long time (if not forever).
Rep Fitness Racks
REP PR-4000 Power Rack
For those searching for a high end rack without a killer price tag, this might be the best option. 3x3" 11 gauge steel with 5/8" hardware and westside hole spacing.Check Current Pricing
Rogue Fitness Racks
Rogue Monster Lite
Rogue makes some killer racks and in a ton of different configurations, go ahead and click the link, you'll see. This is Rogue's 3x3" with 5/8" hardware and westside hole spacing rack.Check Current Pricing
Rogue Monster Rack
Rogue's premier rack, if you want the best Rogue offers this is it. The name perfectly matches what you'll be getting. These racks encapsulate everything Rogue is. Big, beautiful, and highly customizable with more options than anyone would ever need. Rogue's 3x3" rack with 1" holes and hardware.Check Current Pricing