The Definitive Guide On Squat Racks For Home Or Garage Gyms - What Is A Good Squat Rack & What Makes A Bad One
There are squat racks and then there are things that try to be squat racks…
This conversation could go on at great length and be broken down into many separate articles (and probably will be in future), covering; quality, purpose, attachments and versatility, discipline specific uses and many other aspects.
What matters in a good squat rack is really very simple. What makes a bad squat rack is what to watch out for and you should be on a winner.
Knowing what you need it for, how you train and how serious you are, are all very important factors.
Section 1 - Brief look at quality to set the stage
Section 2 - What really matters and things to avoid
Section 3 - How you pick a rack for you
Section 4 - Conclusion
A common misconception is that a rack is just a rack - a place to hold a loaded bar for you to take the bar off, squat, bench, press or pull it and put it back. If you are serious about lifting and making progress in the gym with your weights and getting PR’s or just increasing muscle mass in safety, then the build of the rack is absolutely vital to know about and settle for nothing less than the best you can afford.
Lets take for example two like for like squat racks being retailed, one New Zealand made squat rack and the other an import being sold through a mass retailer. One very simple difference is going to be the thickness and quality of steels being used. In a Powercage made by Powerhouse Fitness which is a full, four post, power rack/squat rack, 3mm Hot Rolled extruded mild steel is used fresh from the mill along with all sheet metal parts being 5-6mm Hot Rolled high grade mild steel plate making for totally stress free materials and the strongest welds available. But the kicker is that this makes for a 100kg+ product and extremely stable without being bolted down.
Compare that if you will to the aforementioned import product that uses 3mm sheet metal that is usually pressed recycled steel around 3mm thickness with the extrusions being between 1.6mm to 2mm pressed recycled steels. The welds are weaker by about 4x and the weight of the rack is approximately 70-80% of the quality comparison.
This is just one tiny aspect of quality and there are many more to consider, from; design of the gussets and supporting sheet metal parts, cut-outs and methods of cutting in all the parts, jigging and alignment of parts prior to welding, weld penetration and quality, steel preparation and powdercoating is just the beginning of the list.
What Really Matters In A Squat Rack:
A few things really:
- Strength & Stability
- Minimalistic As Possible
- Specificity For Garage Gyms
- How Often You Work In The Squat Rack
- What Space You Have
Strength & Stability:
As covered in the quality section, the better the quality steels and manufacturing processes, the heavier the rack will be. The heavier the rack is and more precise the manufacturing, the better the stability. That's why any product that has been designed thoroughly with tight tolerances in CAD and the parts are all CNC cut out of good quality brand new steels and welded hot and full, the more stable and strong that rack will be.
Why is this important? It will be carrying heavy loads and it needs to be dependable so you can focus on lifting and not on worrying whether your $80 squat stands will tip over or crush under the load of a heavy squat, bench or press. This is specifically important in a Garage Gym where you may not want to bolt your rack to the floor.
Having numerous holes and spots where things can be bolted, multiple pull-up bar heights for different users and ceiling heights, and close increments of numbers and holes up and down each upright where the J-cups (bar hooks) and Steel or Belt Spotters (safety pins) can be mounted quickly and easily thorough the course of a workout is crucial to being able to hit PR’s and make working out about working out and not about working “around” poorly designed equipment.
All of Powerhouse Fitness racks have 50mm front of rack hole spacing for close adjustments and if you get in touch with us we can also provide 25mm increment uprights for even more precise adjustments for different squat racking positions and arm lengths in benching.
Now don’t misunderstand this - this is not about making the rack slim, small and useless. It is about making sure it does everything it needs to but doesn’t try and achieve a whole lot of other built-in functions that only complicate it, are the cause for failure, but most importantly, cramp your lifting style. A squat/bench press rack should be like a faithful wingman - never says too much or stands in your way, but always there for you when you start to fail or fall and will build your confidence for the big moments.
A classic issue with a lot of imported and flashy racks and bench press machines is they try to do too much! These alternative and accessory functions can often be done very well with removable attachments or specialist products, but they should not crowd out and overvalue your rack for what it is.
Kind of relates to quality - but thought it needed mentioning on its own. A basic acid prep and thin powdercoat with a continuous line baking process is not going to be a durable finish for a steel item in a gym where iron is thrown around on the regular.
Sandblasted components with a full etch, then powder coated to an industrial thickness and then baked at full curing temperature for the full curing time-frame with no disturbances is the way to get a finish that is chip resistant, but when it does inevitably chip, won’t flake and looks amazing for the life of the product.
Specific For Garage Gyms:
Now the major issue with 99% of manufacturers is that they “serve two masters” with their products. This never works - they become good at neither, or really good at one and the other is treated like poop.
What good is a rack that is cheap and nasty, to instead purchase a rack that is of commercial quality and is 2.8m tall and you have to pay an engineer to customise and lower to fit in your Garage.
How Often You Use The Squat Rack:
First look at your space - if you want the rack to be center stage and you have 12-20m2 available with no obstructions in the roof such as garage door openers then break a leg and go all out with a four post rack such as the Powercage from Powerhouse Fitness!
Then again, you probably treat floor space as a premium and may even want to park a car in there when the gym isn't in use. Powerhouse also offers a Wall Mounted Folding Half Rack which is a folding squat rack that goes from 800mm out from the wall when in use to 260mm off the wall when folded away! Wall mounting also benefits from using the structural stability of the wall as well which makes the lifting experience very confidence inspiring.
Then again you probably rent a home or don’t want to drill holes in the walls but you still want to have something that can press hard up against the wall and not take too much floor space. Go for a regular Half Rack. Sturdy and strong, still has safety spotters and will do everything you want.
Basically - the more work you do in a rack will determine what size and level of seriousness you should require from a rack. This is a little arbitrary however as you may just like the idea of four posts like a Powercage where you have a lot of space for attachments and storage and it can even grow into a six post rack in the future. Or you might only use a rack occasionally and have a simple training routine and a regular Half Rack will do fine. Personally - wall mounted was for me - saves the most floor space and yet does everything I need. I love deadlifting and need the room. My rack doesn't even get folded away.
What Space You Have:
Kind of already covered off above but some other factors are to be considered regarding space.
A two upright rack, called a Half Rack, can be positioned in many more ways and still have the attached pull-up bar useful. Whereas a four upright rack, called a Power Rack or Powercage, is more limited in this regard as they simply consume more space.
It all comes down to how much the rack is used and how much of an essential element it is in your gym, mixed with what type of space you have available and also budget, as the smaller the rack, typically the less costly it will be.
How You Pick A Rack For You!:
This is a really simple one. Taking into account the points in the previous section, ask yourself the following questions:
- How often do I use the squat/bench rack?
- How many people will use the gym?
- Am I likely to want to increase the size of the rack in future so I can have more than one person using it at a time?
- How much space do I have available?
- What other activities will I be doing in my Garage Gym?
- Will I still need to park my car in there?
- Is quality important - is my training important?
Once you start answering those questions with the previous knowledge in mind the answer should become pretty clear to you.
For most people with a dedicated single car garage or more for their space, and they either Powerlift or Bodybuild or some similar training method, the Powercage is the way to go.
Budget conscious would be a Half Rack configuration.
And then Wall-Mounted is kind of a category on its own with clear and distinct decisive factors for you to go by.
To conclude this discussion (for now!) the squat rack essentials and “what squat rack I should buy” questions are easily answered if you eliminate a lot of other questions by asking one simple one; how serious am I and how much does quality and purpose built mean to me?
With that answered - it is really just about choosing a format that works in your space and knowing how you want your space to be in 2 years and 5 years time and whether that rack is going to facilitate those demands you have of it.
And if you have any questions just fire them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll answer you asap!
Luke - Founder of Powerhouse Fitness