Power Racks – Training at Home with the Right Equipment
For many home gym owners, power racks are essential equipment giving them the freedom of free weights but with the safety aspect of a Smith machine.
What are They?
The general category of these frames is often expanded to include power cages, squat cages, squat racks, and the combo power rack. (And at times, Smith machines are sometimes included, but gym rats prefer to put them in a category by themselves since the bar carriage mechanism constrains the lift to one vertical plane.) Additionally, many racks have attachments to make a more versatile workstation.
These are safe cages for performing presses, squats, bent-over rows, shrugs, and partial deadlifts – or any heavy lift where a spotter would be required if the lift were done outside of the cage. Since a greater amount of weight can be lifted safely, power racks are ideal for people who lift alone.
Power cages and racks are the centerpiece of any home gym, with far more versatility than a half cage. They are useful tools for doing the very best core building exercises, and for using the frame (or an attached wide bar) for doing bodyweight work such as pull-ups and chin-ups. Pulls/chins are widely regarded as one of the best back building exercises around (better than lat pulldowns!) and a sturdy power cage is a solid platform for doing them.
What to Look For
These units have four posts forming a cage with moveable safety catches on each side, and have adjustable lift-off pegs for the barbell. Power racks can be sold alone (just the cage) or as a combo unit that can include add-ons such as a lat tower, which includes a rear pin-selectorized weight stack and cable/pulley mechanism. Other options include low row stations, front mounted pull-up bar, and a dip station.
The bench you use with a power combo rack should be adjustable for flat, incline, and decline angles. Used in combination with the safety catches and lift-offs on the cage, you can do bench and shoulder presses, horizontal pull-ups, and more.
Before making a purchase, be sure to check the height of the cage to determine if it will fit in your basement, room, or garage. You’ll want enough room between the top of the chin-up bar and the ceiling to do your pull-ups. Also, check the reviews on any cage you’re considering to read feedback from current owners on the pros (quality and construction) and cons (how well does a bench fit under it, were there missing bolts, etc.)
The bar and plates are not sold with a rack, of course, and while it can be economical to buy the rack online, paying to have heavy weights shipped is not. That purchase is best made locally. It is not recommended that you buy a rack from a local sporting goods store, however, as the quality is usually cheap and flimsy. Look for power racks, cages, and squat racks made by Powertec, Yukon, and Body Solid for the best deal and superior quality. Prices range from $350 to $700 online.