When assembling a home gym, a squat rack becomes a go-to item, especially for lifters. But with so much variety on the market, it can become a little confusing navigating the names and styles.
Want to know a secret?
The key lies in knowing what you need, and then tailoring the purchase to it exactly. A great purchase lies in the details, so let us offer some suggestions on what to consider when making your decision.
This goes for basically everything in life, but especially in lifting - SAFETY first. You have to make sure you’re prioritizing your safety, whether you’re purchasing a Squat Stand, Half Rack or Wall Mount.
If you’re considering a squat stand (like our premium SD70), spotter arms are a must. However, the safest by far remains a Power Rack - its sturdiness and lateral safety pins guarantee you more peace of mind if you’re a solo lifter, or haven’t seen your favorite spotter since pre-COVID gym days (and if you’re wondering if it’s time to go back yet, check out our blog post for our best advice and recommendations).
You also want to bear in mind that it’s not just about how much static weight your rack can handle, but if it can withstand some abuse when the weight is not-so-gently slammed onto it from a few inches away. For that, Power Racks are structurally better suited for the job.
That being said, a Power Rack or Cage is bound to take up at least 10 square feet of space and has a much larger footprint, not to mention will cost you more. If your focus is squat variations and bench presses, a Squat Stand will see you through just fine.
If you don’t have the SPACE, forget it.
There’s no use browsing through top-shelf Power Racks, Cages or Wall Mounts if your home gym is a low-ceiling basement with plaster walls. Be realistic and start off with clear measurements in hand so you can customize your purchase to maximize the space you’re in. Power Racks and Rigs are typically tall, so if you’re short on space and height, you might want to opt for a good-quality Squat Stand instead. On the other hand, if you’re a little cramped but the height is there, a Fold-Away, wall-mounted rack could be your best bet.
If you’re ready to spend, make sure it’s for something that will stand the test of time.
Which brings us to the next point - QUALITY of material. Less expensive does not necessarily mean lower quality, but generally speaking you want to stick to nothing below 12-gauge steel, with cheaper racks using 2”x2” and more expensive going up to 3”x3”. Though some go up to 7-gauge, for a home gym, 11-gauge fits the bill and is sturdy enough to last.
Your Squat Rack’s holes are important too - that’s where your accessories, j-hooks and safeties go. Are they punched into the steel, or are they laser-cut? The latter is preferable, as it’s better for the overall structural maintenance of the rack.
As for the spacing, you’ll find that most new racks have Westside Hole Spacing, meaning the holes in the uprights are closer together (25mm) near the bottom of the rack and further apart (50mm) toward the middle and top of the rack, allowing for very precise safety bar positioning for benching.
And aesthetics are important too - if you don’t want your rack looking past its time just because the paint’s started chipping away, a powder coat finish is essential and will make a better impression.
All of the above is important to know, especially when picking out ACCESSORIES and ensuring their compatibility to your rack. What’re you going to do with a new set of spotter arms or safety pins that don’t fit onto the frame?
And those are vital as mentioned in point #1, because a home gym - especially in COVID times - usually means we’re on our own when it comes to our routines, and hospitals are full enough dealing with new cases without the addition of lift-related injuries.
Last, but certainly not least, NEED.
If you’re dead-set on being the most prepared for your next meet, a Combo Rack is designed for powerlifters and is great for squats, deadlifts, and benches.
Stuck between a Stand and a Power Rack? You might want to consider a Half Rack, which - like the Power Rack - allows for lunges, squats and bench presses, as well as more flexibility in barbell exercises. And, of course, it takes up less space. That being said, nothing quite replaces a spotter, or allows for more versatility of workouts - including pull-ups and bench exercises - like the Power Rack does, so keep that in mind when making your final choice.
!! BONUS TIP !!
Don’t forget EASE OF USE. What use is an expensive, high quality rack if you have to waste time because the adjustments are difficult and confusing? Save yourself time and gains and check out the reviews before you purchase.
If you’re looking to seriously invest your savings, try using these points as a guide next time you’re browsing.
If you do, you’re bound to get your value for money and - most importantly - be on your way to building the home gym of your dreams.