Ultimate Power Rack Guide – Find The Best Rack For Your Home Gym

There are a few things you need to pay attention to when you’re interested in getting a power rack for your home gym.

This guide will cover the most important things you need to consider when buying a power rack.

These aren’t in any particular order, but some are definitely more important than others!

If you’re wondering if you even need a power rack in the first place, check out my post here!

Let’s check them out!

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Price Point

This one should be super obvious, but before anything else, you have to consult your budget before going off and buying a $1,000 power rack.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but heavy-duty steel costs money, and you need to accept this fact even though it hurts.

Luckily though, I’ve given you guys many options from around $250 all the way up to $5,000+.

They’re all quality power racks, so don’t worry too much if you can’t get everything you want in the beginning.

Not everybody needs a rogue power rack after all!

Almost every one of them is upgradeable, so you can add things over time instead of all at once.

Space Needed For Power Rack

Right after the price, you need floor space for your power rack.

If you only have a one-car garage with a super low ceiling, you’ll need something with a small footprint and short uprights such as a half rack.

Luckily, you have a couple of options other than a traditional 4-post power cage as I’ll cover in the next section.

I recommend you measure out the floor space you have available in your garage gym so you know what you can fit.

Also be mindful of your ceiling height for any attachments or pull up bars that might extend over the top of your power cage.

As long as you do this, you shouldn’t have a problem finding the perfect power rack for your home gym.

The Type Of Rack You Need

Everybody has different needs for their garage gym.

You might need one that’s more compact like my last point, or you need something compatible with a specific pulley system because you want cables in your gym.

The main types of power racks are as follows.

  • Power Racks/Squat Rack/Power Cage – Power racks, squat racks, power cages – they’re all the same basic thing but are used interchangeably for the most part. Power racks and a power cage is specifically are the same thing. Squat Racks can also be referred to as a type of half rack that is built mainly for Squatting.
  • Half Rack – Speaking of half racks, these are a pretty cool option for those with smaller home gyms. A half rack doesn’t have a full cage to stand in, and instead, you get a type of safety bar known as spotter arms to be used for bench presses and squatting outside of the rack. A half rack will also have straight pull up bars and weight plate storage as well.
  • Squat Stand – Squat stands are basically a half rack without the extra uprights in the back. A squat stand is mainly used for squatting and bench presses as well, and some tend to have weight horns on the back for storage as well as extra stability. If you just need a simple setup, a squat stand is usually the cheapest option.
  • Wall Mounted/Folding Rack – This is by far the best option for those that need the most space possible in their gym. The only main downside is you have to mount it to your wall studs. But once you do, it’s out of the way and saves a ton of floor space! If you get a folding wall mounted squat rack, then you can even fold them in when not in use. Maximizing your overall gym space.

The options are limitless, so it’s important to decide what type of strength training you will do and what you need to get the job done.

Weight Capacity Of The Rack

This is a big one you have to pay attention to!

If you’re a beginner lifter and have no need for a massive 1,000 lb weight capacity, you really don’t need to spend more money on an 11 or 7-gauge steel squat rack when you’re just starting out.

I recommend you do so because you don’t have to upgrade later on, but it isn’t completely necessary.

On the flip side, if you’re a competitive powerlifter or strength athlete, you most likely want a heavy-duty rack. That way, you can train safely without your power rack shaking around and crumpling when you miss a big squat.

Aside from the budget power racks I’ve recommended, every single rack in this guide has can at least 1000 lbs, so you’re set!

Structural Integrity

This goes right along with the weight capacity of your squat rack.

Ideally, you want a squat rack with a lot of stability, can bolt down and has high-quality welds with thick gauge steel.

The better the power racks construction, the safer you’ll be and the more gains you’ll be able to make over the long haul.

Just remember, budget power racks are fine; cheap power racks are not.

Attachment Compatibility

This is probably one of the biggest benefits of owning a squat rack.

If your power rack is compatible with many different attachments, you can expand your training arsenal considerably!

Adding pulleys for cable work opens up a bunch of exercise selections that can make a big difference if you’re trying to build the most muscle possible.

If you want to try your hand at building a basic pulley system into your power rack, I have a guide here that will help you do just that!

If you want something that will mimic many machine exercises, lever arms give you a ton of new variations to try out too.

Or you can even just add a smith machine attachment to your squat rack for more stable barbell movements.

Here are some of the main attachments you can get for power racks!

  • Pull Up Bars
  • Dip Bars
  • Landmine Attachments
  • Band Pegs
  • Lat Pulldown/Low Row
  • Lever Arms
  • Functional Trainers
  • Smith Machine
  • Weight Plate Storage
  • And a lot more!

The more attachments are available for your squat rack, the better.

Safety Bars

This is one of the more essential aspects of power racks you have to consider, the safety bars that your squat rack can use.

If you train alone or don’t trust your mom to spot you with heavy weights, having high-quality safeties to save your life is critical.

We’ve all seen people almost die from failing a bench press, and that really is a shitty way to go.

Here are the main safety bars you should consider for your home gym!

  • Pin Pipe Safety Bars – Pin Pipe Safety Bars are the most basic safety feature you can get for your power rack. They’re just a a solid pin that you run through a hollow pipe and that’s it. I don’t recommend these if you have a high quality barbell you want to keep in good condition.
  • Flip Down Safety Bars – Flip down safeties offer much better safety while training, and if they have UHMW plastic on them, will protect your barbell much better as well. These are actually the best option for most as they allow you to use them for more than just safeties. You can add attachments to them, use them for various movements with your lever arms, or even attach a utility seat on top of them as well. I highly recommend these for your power rack the most for the versatility that they offer.
  • Strap Safeties – Strap safeties, or safety straps are another great upgrade to standard pin pipe safety bars. These are a lighter weight option than flip down safety bars, but they also allow you better protection for your barbell than standard safety bars.
  • Spotter Arms – These are mainly used for half racks and squat stands that can’t use traditional safety features like safety bars. These can also be used on the outside of typical squat racks as well if you have multiple people strength training at once.

The best power racks are going to allow you to get different safeties for whatever fits your preference.

I recommend either safety straps or flip down safeties for most though as they’re the most reliable and protect your gym equipment the best.

Weight Plate Storage

If your power rack has optional weight horns or plate storage options, you can maximize your training space and add more stability to your rack by weighing it down.

This is just a nice way to keep your gym tidier and make loading/unloading your weights much more accessible.

If you need more weights for your home gym, check out my guide on the best ways to buy weight plates.

Saving time to focus on strength training and less time on excuses is always a good thing.

Pull Up Bars

One of the most important features of a solid squat rack is whether or not it has a pull up bar or not.

Having a place to do pull ups built into your rack is definitely a great way to save space in your home gym.

Most of them definitely do, but there are still a couple of factors you need to figure out for your specific home gym setup.

You can usually get a squat rack pull up bar in a couple of different options.

  • Straight Pull Up Bar – This will be fine for some people but you can add some grips such as Angles90 for different grips if you need them.
  • Multi Grip Pull Up Bar – Another common one is multi-grip bars which I recommend for most people. They’re usually just a little cheaper, add more overall support for your horizontal stability, and give you way more options out of the box.
  • Miscellaneous Options – Then you have other types like revolving bars, globe grip bars, etc.

Determining which type of pull up bar you want for your gym will guide you toward the right power rack for the job.

Or you could just get a standard straight bar for your rack and invest in a different set up for pull ups altogether.

J-Hooks

The J-Hooks, or J-Cups you have access to for your power rack are definitely important.

Just like the safety bars you decide on, the J-Hooks need to be strong enough to support any weight you plan to use with them.

There are a couple of different options for these as well.

  • Standard J-Hooks – These made of all steel are fine if you have a cheap bar and squat rack. But if you want to protect your equipment and keep it looking nice, I recommend you get J-Cups lined with UHMW plastic. This will protect your barbell and rack as metal-on-metal contact will wear down the finish no matter how solid they are.
  • Sandwich J-Hooks – These have UHMW plastic extending out of the J-Cups and are bolted between the steel plate construction of the cups. This basically makes it impossible to hit any metal part of the cup as there will always be high density plastic there to catch your barbell. Another plus is that you have more wiggle room as sandwich J-Cups tend to be less thick than standard options.
    • Companies such as Rep Fitness even make a rounded sandwich J-Cup that makes it easy to rack your bar as it has a deeper groove to catch it.
  • Roller J-Hooks – These allow you to slide the barbell side to side much easier to line up correctly. These are great for the bench press especially if you want an easier time getting setup.

All in all, make sure whatever J-Cups you choose are made of solid 11-gauge steel with the highest weight capacity possible.

Better safe than sorry after all!

Hole Spacing

Squat racks have holes punched into them to allow you to put the rack together in the first place, but it also

The hole spacing of your rack is pretty important for a couple of reasons.

  • Set up your safeties in the “safest spot” – This is important for your overall safety while training in your squat rack. If you only have 2″ or god forbid 3″ hole spacing in your power rack, you’re going to have a hard time setting up your safety bars in the best position. Too high and you’ll hit them without reaching your full range of motion, too low and they don’t actually help you when you fail a rep.
    • I recommend at least 2″ spacing as this will provide just enough spacing but not TOO much spacing. 3″ is awful just don’t do it.
  • J-Cup spacing is important for unracking/reracking the bar – Just like your safeties, you want enough spacing on your uprights to prevent lifting off the bar from a position that is too high or low. The more spacing you have available, the better off you are.
    • This is part of why Westside hole spacing is so popular. Usually, they have 2″ spacing throughout the upright, and 1″ spacing through the bench zone. This allows for much finer adjustments on the bench press which is important for your safety.
  • More power rack attachment options – This isn’t quite as important as the previous two points but it’s important nonetheless. If you plan on getting various squat rack attachments, and you should because some of them are truly amazing, you need the proper spacing. Once again, too wide and you won’t be able to setup your attachments in the most optimal position for your training.

As you can see, hole spacing is definitely an important thing you need to consider.

Like I said before, 2″ spacing throughout your squat rack should be the bare minimum.

3″ spacing is bullshit and Westside hole spacing is the best of both worlds!

Frequently Asked Questions

Conclusion

Now I turn it over to you!

What do you think are the most important factors when it comes to choosing a power rack?

Let me know in the comments section below, right now.

Until next time,

-Dante

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