Best Power Racks

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for Best power racks

A power rack is one of the most comprehensive pieces of home gym equipment you can buy. You can use it to perform a variety of upper body, lower body, and core workouts that help you tone and strengthen while improving your flexibility, balance, and overall fitness.

Also known as a power cage or squat cage, a power rack has a durable frame that allows you to safely perform lifts. You can position safety bars and J-hooks at various heights to assist with bench presses, squats, and other exercises. Some models are half the size of a normal power rack, while larger and more advanced models may utilize pulleys, resistance bands, and weights to create a versatile workout.

Because power racks have so much potential, it’s important to find one that suits your needs as you progress through your fitness journey.

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The squat is one of the most popular exercises, as it targets multiple muscles and boasts a lot of slight variations. Squats tone and strengthen your glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, abs, and core.

Key considerations

Rack type

There are a variety of home racks and lifts for fitness enthusiasts, but two types are commonly referred to as power racks: the half cage and the full cage.

Half cage: Sometimes called a “squat rack,” a half cage features two vertical posts connected by horizontal beams at the top and bottom. Half cages take up less space than full cages. The weight capacity and price tag also tend to be smaller. Half cages are great for beginners and intermediates. Experienced lifters may also find value in them, provided the weight limits aren’t too restrictive. Half cages also allow for better movement around the device, particularly when doing overhead lifts.

Full cage: A full cage has four vertical posts instead of two for enhanced durability, stability, and versatility. With a full cage, you can perform intense, high-weight workouts. Full cages take up more space than half cages and can sometimes be used by two people at once.

Size

You'll need ample space to comfortably fit a power rack in your home. Most racks are 4 x 4 feet, though some may be longer. Consider the fact that incorporating a weight bench will extend the length.

In terms of height, many power racks stand about 7 feet tall. You’ll want to situate your power rack in a room with a tall enough ceiling to accommodate it.

Bear in mind that you’ll need more space than the mere dimensions of the rack. When you work out, you’ll need a comfortable amount of space in, around, and perhaps even above the rack.

Exercises

A power rack allows you to exercise without a spotter by incorporating safety bars that catch barbells when dropped. Presses, squats, shrugs, and other lifts can be performed. Power racks incorporate free weights and free movements; the motions of the exercises aren’t restricted or guided like other machines, which means you can target more muscles and areas of your body.

In addition to lifts, some power racks allow for pull-ups, incline push-ups, lat pull-downs, dips, and other exercises that incorporate free weights or resistance bands

Additional investment

Most power racks are simple cage apparatuses that don’t come with accessories. You may need to need to invest in barbells, weights, pulleys, bands, and maybe even a bench to make the power rack a comprehensive exercise site. Plates can be particularly expensive, so keep this in mind as you budget for your home gym.

Weight capacity

Half cages have a lower maximum weight capacity than full cages. Check the weight capacity before purchasing a power rack to make sure it aligns with your current and future goals. Bear in mind that the weight capacity may differ depending on the exercise being performed. For example, bench presses may have a lower weight capacity than pull-ups, as the former incorporates more force.

Weight

Most power racks weigh at least 100 pounds, but larger models may weigh twice as much. Once set up, a power rack is difficult to move.

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Did You Know?
A power rack can help you improve strength and even lose weight, but it’s not the best for cardiovascular fitness. For that, you’ll want an elliptical, treadmill, or rowing machine.
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Features

Increments

The more increments a power rack has, the more personalized your workout will be. Some power racks have a limited number of increments, whereas others give you lots of options. You may appreciate a power rack with increments that are labeled or numbered. This can help you keep track of where to position the bar on different workouts.

J-hooks

Many power racks come with J-hooks. The hooks are used to catch and harness the bar when you perform bench presses and other exercises. The J-hook cradles the bar and prevents it from rolling off — a vital safety feature.

Not all J-hooks are created equal. The best J-hooks are durable and strong enough to withstand the force of a dropped bar … but perhaps not so abrasive that they dent or scratch the bar. Depending on quality, you may want or need to purchase additional J-hooks for your rack.

Attachments and accessories

Some power racks come with useful accessories, such as a weight bench or lat pull-down bar. This saves you from having to buy these items separately, and often, the price of buying the items in a bundle is cheaper than buying them separately.

Storage pegs

Some power racks double as plate storage, featuring heavy-duty pegs that can hold plates when the rack isn’t in use. As weight plate trees can be expensive and cumbersome, you may want to seriously consider a power rack with this type of storage, especially if you’ve got a lot of plates and bars.

Color

Most power racks are black or stainless steel. A handful of companies make power racks — usually of the half-cage variety — in different colors or with a splash of color to make an otherwise drab piece of equipment look more inviting.

You want to make sure the cage doesn’t slip accidentally during your workout. To that end, some power racks come with slip-resistant feet. Others can actually be bolted to the floor.

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Accessories


Adjustable weight bench: Marcy Adjustable Utility Bench
Most power racks don’t come with a weight bench, but it’s useful to have one, as you can use it to incorporate a variety of exercises. We like this inexpensive yet durable option from Marcy that easily adjusts.

Resistance bands: Tribe Resistance Bands Set
Resistance bands open the door to an array of flexibility and toning exercises. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to diversify your workout. This set by Tribe is comprehensive and works well with a power rack.

Yoga mat: Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
Stretch and exercise your core with a versatile yoga mat like this one from Manduka. A yoga mat can also provide comfort when performing squats and other exercises within the cage.

Barbell: Cap Barbell Standard Bar
Most power racks don’t come with a barbell, so you’ll have to buy one separately. This standard option from Cap Barbell is 5 feet long and particularly appeals to those on a budget.

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Did you Know?
J-hooks and safety bars may include plastic covers or inserts. This allows them to catch a  dropped bar without denting it, which in turn helps preserve the integrity of the bar.
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Power rack prices

Inexpensive: For under $250, you can purchase a half cage that allows for a variety of workouts. Notably, it may not have a high weight limit or any additional features or accessories.

Mid-range: You’ll find plenty of full power cages for $250 to $500. Items in this range may only come with a few features, but they’ll be of heavy-duty construction with reasonable weight limits.

Expensive: High-end power racks for fitness enthusiasts range from $500 to $1,000 or more. These products offer a large weight capacity and durable construction, and many come with a barbell or bench.

Tips

  • Create a plan. A lot of exercises can be done with a power rack, but for the best workout, you need a plan of action. Create a fitness plan before you start working out, and adhere to it in order to meet your goals.
  • Track exercises. With a power rack, you can adjust the height of the bar depending on the exercise you’re doing. Keep track of that height so when you return to the rack, you can start exercising right away.
  • Stretch and rest. Prepare your body for success by regularly stretching before and after exercising. Proper rest helps your muscles recover and avoid injury.
  • Add and remove weights evenly. Anytime you use a barbell, load and unload the plates by alternating sides to keep the weights as even as possible. Avoid leaving one side heavier than the other.
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Power racks welcome both types of bars: 1-inch standard bars and 2-inch Olympic bars. If you use Olympic bars, be sure to acquire a power rack that can withstand a lot of weight.

FAQ

Q. What’s the most effective way to use a power rack?

A. You may use your power rack in various ways depending on your fitness goals, but generally speaking, users focus on toning and building muscle. While power racks allow for a variety of exercises, it’s up to you to develop a plan with a trainer or through an online portal or app. Note that if your program doesn’t involve squats, bench presses, or other lifts, a power rack may not be the best investment.

Q. What are the assembly requirements?

A. Most power racks require careful assembly. Proper tools and attention are required to build a power rack that is safe and effective. Some companies may offer expert assembly for an additional cost. If you plan on doing it yourself, it’s best to assemble with another person due to the heavy nature of the equipment. Construct the rack where it will be used, as it will be too heavy and bulky to move from room to room.

Q. Does a power rack require maintenance?

A. Most power racks don’t require a lot of maintenance. After use, you should wipe down any parts you’ve had contact with using sanitizer. Regularly check to make sure there are no loose parts. Set up your power rack in a dry, cool location to prevent corrosion and rust from occurring over time.

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