March 02, 2022 11 min read
Before we explore the things you’ll want to consider before investing in a power rack, we’re going to explain the different kinds of racks available to you and how they differ from one another.
A power rack, sometimes referred to as a squat rack, is offered in different forms. Some being more suited for commercial gyms with others better for home or garage gyms. Some of the options listed below would be seen as alternatives to a full power rack.
Let’s look at each in more details;
This is a full size power rack and is sometimes referred to as a power cage. Full size meaning you can train either inside the rack or outside. These are commonly seen in commercial gyms as they offer plenty of versatility and include features making them a good and safe option for a gym environment. The main disadvantage of the power rack is its size, they are sometimes too large to be suitable for smaller gyms, personal training studios and home gyms. However, a full size rack is the most versatile and safest to use.
They also generally have more options for upgrading. For example, adding additional safety bars, monolift attachment, dipping bars, pull up bars and even incorporating a lifting platform.
If you’re set on a full size power rack but have limited space, it’s always worth approaching equipment manufacturers as they can sometimes customise the size to ensure it will fit into your space whilst retaining its functionality.
A half rack is exactly as it sounds, essentially a smaller version of the full power rack. It would typically be the same in terms of height and width but the length would be around half that of the full rack.
As well as being smaller, it’s also going to be cheaper than a full size power rack. It can often accommodate similar attachments to the full rack and is a good option for smaller gyms or home gyms that are limited on space.
As with a full power rack, some manufacturers can alter the sizing to accommodate specific spaces.
Squat stands are considerably more pared down when compared to a full or half rack. They don’t offer the same versatility and are available as two individual stands whereby the user can set them up as they see fit, or two stands connected by a bar on the floor (this bar would generally provide a little more stability for the user). Less common in commercial gyms but perfect for home gyms as they are easy to dismantle and store away after training.
Squat stands are used for just squatting with uprights that are adjustable and which can be set to the correct height for the user. You can incorporate a bench with the stands with the aim of bench pressing but it’s important to consider if the uprights will drop down low enough. Some manufacturers, us included, offer the option of purchasing combination rack uprights which would easily allow the user to both squat and bench (when a bench is added to the stands).
Essentially, a combination rack is a dual purpose item that allows for both bench pressing and squatting. Similar to the squat stands it also features a bench which can be removed or attached as necessary.
These are commonly made to competition specification, which means they can be used in a powerlifting competition environment. It’s worth noting that some competitions will require combination racks to be approved by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). This usually depends on the federation and whether the competition is regional, national or international.
IPF approved racks are usually more expensive as the manufacturer has to pay a yearly fee for approval.
Combination racks are commonly seen in gyms where they have a large number of powerlifters as their members. They are also suitable for home and garage gyms due to their dual purpose functionality. Whilst they cannot be dismantled and stored away as easily as a bench and squat stands, they are popular for those who have adequate space and need something more durable which is made to competition specification.
A wall mounted rack is self explanatory in that it is a very basic rack that can be fitted to a wall. Some are fixed with others being foldable. These kind of racks tend to be popular in garage gyms. These are not as versatile those mentioned above, mainly due to it being fixed to a wall and offering somewhat limited space for the user.
When searching for a power rack, half rack or combination rack, it’s easy to assume that they are all pretty much the same as they often appear to be at first glance. However, there are a number of important factors you’ll want to consider before investing, as not all racks are created equal.
At their most basic a power rack is commonly used for squatting. To do this; position the barbell holders / J Hooks either inside or outside of the power rack.
If you don’t have a spotter to hand and the rack offers the use of safety bars, you’ll want to squat inside the rack.
The J Hooks should be positioned so that when you are getting under the barbell, your knees will be slightly bent. This is to prevent you having to elevate your heels in order to unrack the bar.
When the J Hooks are in place, rack your bar and load with the required amount of weight. Position yourself so that the barbell is resting on your upper back / shoulders. To unrack, simply stand up straight and take a small step away from the rack to give you the clearance to squat.
If you want to bench press with your rack, you’ll of course need access to either a flat bench or an adjustable bench. An adjustable bench will offer more variety so you can flat bench press or incline bench press.
The bench should be positioned inside of the rack with the safety bars located sufficiently to catch any failed lifts. J Hooks should also be placed on the inside of the rack at a height suited to the lifter allowing them to unrack and rerack easily.
Before undertaking a bench press, lie back on the bench and ensure your head is positioned just underneath the barbell.
If you have access to a variety of accessories, this gives even more potential for your rack allowing you to undertake a full body workout.
Below is a list of exercises you can undertake with a standard power rack.
The below list of attachments is by no means exhaustive but the important thing to remember before buying any attachments for your rack is to ensure they fit. Often times you will need to purchase matching branded items due to potential size and fit constraints.
This would be located to the bottom of the rack and allow you to hold in place a barbell. You can load up the other end with plates and undertake back rows.
Sometimes these are included as standard. If not, you would need to purchase the same brand as the rack to ensure they fit correctly. Pull up bars would be bolted to the top of the rack and allow the user to undertake pull ups.
These tend to be sold as optional extras and as with the pull up bars, the same brand would need to purchased to match that of your rack, this is to ensure proper fit. The dipping attachment would allow you perform dips / weighted dips with plenty of stability.
Whilst power racks tend to also include J Hooks and safety bars as standard, it’s common to be able to purchase additional pairs for your rack. Ensure you purchase the same brand so they fit correctly.
These work in pretty much the same way as safety bars in that they would catch your barbell in the event of a failed lift. Some people have a preference for straps as they absorb shock when compared to bars, offer better versatility and protect more expensive barbells.
For gyms who don’t want to invest in a monolift, this attachment could be a good alternative. They are a pair of hooks which are set up either side of your power rack. They are designed in a way so that once a barbell is unracked, they pivot up and out of the way of the user allowing them to undertake a squat without having to walk out.
Jammers arms add a lot of versatility to your racks. Sold in pairs, they are attached to the front of your rack and allow for a wide variety of pulling and pressing exercises. They essentially turn your power rack in to more a multi gym.
Power Racks are a hugely versatile piece of equipment and with a range of attachments available you can truly obtain a full body workout with a fully decked out power rack. As we’ve touched on above, consider what you want to be able to do with your rack and any space constraints before investing in one.
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