The Best Power Rack or Power Cage for CrossFit & Weight Lifting – 2020
So you’re interested in getting a Power Rack or Power Cage…but where do you start?
There are so many options, things to consider, and decisions to be made when selecting this central piece of equipment.
In this article we are going to break down what a power rack is, the benefits of these racks, what to consider when buying your rack, and share some of our top picks.
What is a Power Rack or Power Cage
A power rack or power cage is a workout station designed to be used for free weight barbell movements and exercises. These workout stations can also be used for pull ups, bench press, rings, and a variety of other exercises.
These structures were originally designed for lift safety, allowing free range of motion with rails to catch a dropped barbell. The power rack has since evolved into an all in one piece of workout equipment, allowing you to build your gym around this structure alone.
Designs vary, but typically you will have four to six “posts” connected to foundation bars and top bars; top bars will be designed for pull ups or chin ups.
Within these posts are holes that you secure safety rails, catches, or j hooks to…essentially these bars are there to catch dropped barbells.
One side will be completely open so you can freely move in and out of the structure and add a bench press for a variety of additional exercises.
The appeal of a power rack is that you can workout most muscle groups and expand your exercise options by adding several different accessories.
Power Rack Benefits
So now that you know what a power rack is, let’s discuss the benefits of the structure and why you need one.
To start, a power rack is convenient.
Whether you train in a gym, box, or your garage a power rack is a centerpiece. You can build an entire regimen around this one piece of equipment and workout alone without sacrificing load or technique.
A power rack utilizes free weights which uses both primary and stabilizing muscles for increased strength and movement effectiveness. This is unique, as most safety workout equipment use cables and tracks which can deter full exertion of stabilizer muscles and reduce the strain on the primary muscle groups for a less effective overall workout.
In addition a power rack can host a variety of exercises ranging from pull ups, squats, bench press, shrugs, dips, ring muscle ups, etc, etc…
Power Rack Home Gym Exercises
Some of the most common movements done with a power rack include; pull ups / chin ups, bar press, bench press, shrugs, row, curls, dips, and squats.
You can also add additional accessories allowing you to perform ring muscle ups, ring dips, rope climb, speed bag, heavy bag, and more.
Here is a video showing some of these movements.
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Power Rack Size
A power rack is a fairly large piece of free standing equipment that requires adequate room for the racks footprint, height, and corresponding weight and accessories.
A power racks footprint is simply the width and depth measurements of the structure, however you are going to need a space with at least a width of 9 feet if you plan on using a standard size Olympic barbell (7ft bar with 1 ft spacing on each side to add/remove plates).
Height is something else to consider as most racks are 7 to 9 feet tall and if you plan on doing pull ups you are going to want about a 12 inch clearance for your head.
If size and space are a limiting factor don’t be discouraged because you can always go with a folding power rack.
A folding power rack is a wall mounted unit that secures directly into your wall studs, they fold away easily when not in use to maximize your floor space.
Most folding racks have catch bars or j hooks and a pull up bar to allow for the same exercises as a traditional power rack, with the only downside being that these do not have nearly the same weight capacity of a traditional rack.
When considering the weight capacity of a power rack you will really want to think about what you will be using it for today and in the future.
If you’re getting the rack for general fitness and are looking to maintain 200 lb squats you’re probably safe going with a basic entry level rack. If you do however already lift heavy, plan to increase weight, or power lift, you will want something with a higher weight capacity.
Weight capacity starts around 300 lbs and can go up to support weights higher than 1000 lbs.
Power Rack Safety
A major benefit of using a power rack is the safety it provides for lifting, with that being said it’s important to make sure your rack is safe as well.
To start it’s important to remember that a power rack may have welded pieces but the structure is ultimately held together with nuts and bolts, so make sure these are tight and secure.
Beyond nuts and bolts using the safety catch bars or j hooks properly will be the most important thing for lifting safety, but stabilizers and anchoring are just as important when lifting heavy or doing additional movements such as pull ups.
Anchoring your power rack or purchasing a rack with a stabilizer will ensure your structure stays stationary when dropping heavy weight or doing exercises such as kipping pull ups.
Stabilizers are a good idea, but for most people they just seem to get in their way, so if buying a unit with a stabilizer make sure it lays flush with the ground or is removable.
For the best results and if using a commercial rack or completing kipping pull ups or ring movements, anchoring your rack to the ground is the best way to prevent rack movement.
Not every model can be anchored so it is important to check out the features before purchasing. Once you know you can anchor your unit you will need a masonry drill bit, an impact gun, and some anchor screws to complete the job.
Safety Bar Spacing
A power racks safety bar hole spacing is the distance between the hole used for safety bars or j hooks. Ideally the closer the holes, the closer you can set your safety bars in relation to your lifting height for heavy movements.
Safety bar hole spacing can range from 1 inch apart to 4 inches apart depending on the rack, with some common spacing configurations to look for.
The less expensive more basic racks will have a 3 to 4 inch hole spacing, which is completely acceptable for most people. Whereas higher end units use a 1 to 2 inch spacing; a 1 inch spacing throughout the center for bench pressing, called Westside barbell spacing and a 2 inch spacing on the upper and lower parts of the posts for squats and presses.
Power Rack Pull Up Bar
Almost every power rack is going to have a pull up bar or two, this is an often overlooked feature but something we recommend considering.
Pull up bars come in different diameters, textures, and designs but we recommend staying basic with limited variation.
The most sought after bars are smooth textured, straight, fat and skinny bars. The smooth texture will allow you to add tape for grip or leave untouched, the fat bar focuses on grip strength, and the skinny bar focuses on core back muscles.
Bench Press in Power Rack
The adjustable weight bench, barbell, and weights are almost as important as the power rack itself.
The width and depth of your power rack will determine the weight bench you get as you will need to ensure you have room to get in and out of the structure and that the adjustable incline and decline aligns within the racks safety hooks spacing.
Also, depending on the power rack you may use an Olympic barbell or a short barbell, steel plates or bumper plates, and so on.
Power Rack Accessories
There are several power rack accessories ranging from band pegs, parallel and stall bars, ring and rope attachments, weight and bar storage, speed and heavy bags, wall ball targets, and more.
The main thing to consider with your power rack is if the accessories you want are available or compatible with that rack. If you want weight storage but it’s not part of the rack and there are not add ons to equip with storage you may want to consider other options.
Power Rack Cost and Quality
Of course everyone wants an inexpensive high quality rack, but it’s worth considering what that means when making that purchase.
If durability and quality are what you’re looking for than you should plan on spending between $500 – $1000; getting a power rack made in the US, with high quality steel, a warranty, from a trusted brand such as Rogue.
Now if you’re wanting to keep the cost down and extended durability is not an issue, the great news is that you can still get a great rack for $100 and up. You won’t get the same steel, attention to detail, or customer support but you will still have some solid options.
Once you have identified the power rack that meets all of your wants and needs you will want to look into how it’s shipped and shipping costs.
Will the rack be shipped in several small pieces that you have to assemble or does it come in a few welded pieces?
If in several pieces are you going to assemble or hire someone to put it together, if it’s in a few large pieces are you going to be able to fit it through doorways or training space?
Once you know how it will be shipped you will need to know how much it will cost.
Check shipping cost before ordering as you may end up spending as much on shipping as you do on the power rack itself.
Luckily most of the power racks on Amazon offer free shipping.
DIY Power Rack
There are countless DIY homemade power rack plan out there…unless you are well versed in this area of expertise, just buy one.
A power rack is designed with safety in mind, these structures have been tested, and reviewed to keep you informed, provide a peace of mind, and save you time.
Don’t risk it, spend the money and stay safe.
You now have all of the information you need to make an informed decision and get the best power rack for your needs.
You know why you need a power rack, things to consider for purchase, and have seen several highly rated options.
If your still on the fence, click on some of the power racks on the table above for additional information.