The Ultimate Guide to Power Racks- Verve Fitness

Power Rack Buying Guide

Free weights are arguably the best way to build muscle and strength. There are literally hundreds of free weight exercises you can choose from and many have been in use for hundreds of years. Armed with nothing more than an Olympic barbell, some weight plat

However, if you train with barbells, you need a power rack. Power racks should be considered an essential piece of equipment both for commercial and serious home and garage gyms. A power rack will not only make your workouts more productive and safer, they also increase the number of exercises you can do in a relatively compact space. Add an FID adjustable bench and, combined with a barbell and weight plates, you have everything you need for a successful workout.

With so many makes and types of power rack on the market, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. This article will guide you through the functions and features you should look for and also help you understand how to put those features to good use.

What is a power rack?

A power rack, also known as a power cage, is a workout station that allows you to perform barbell exercise and some bodyweight exercises. Usually constructed from four or six pillars strong metal pillars plus adjustable horizontal safety bars, power racks are built to make exercises like squats, bench presses, and overhead presses safer.

Unlike a Smith machine, where the weight moves on rails or rods, a power rack allows the bar to move more naturally. This makes exercises performed in a power rack more functional which means the user must not only push up or pull down, but also balance and control the weight. This is not the case with the Smith machine.

While some power racks are freestanding, others bolt to the floor, and others bolt to the wall. Some, called half-racks, are open at the front, while others are fully enclosed, and the user stands inside the pillars. Strength training rigs are similar to power racks but are designed to accommodate more users and are popular with CrossFit participants.

Benefits of using a power rack

Considering their simplicity, power racks offer a wide range of benefits. Whatever your training goal, a power rack can help you achieve it. Those benefits include:

Convenience– power racks have adjustable J-hooks so you can position your barbell in the best place to start your chosen exercise. This will save you a lot of wasted effort and also make your workouts safer. 

For example, when squatting, you don’t want to rise up on to your tiptoes to unrack the bar, and nor do you want to half-squat it out of the rack before starting your set. The adjustable J-hooks means you can move the barbell up or down for much easier racking and reracking, leaving you free to focus on your set.

Safety– power racks have adjustable safety rails. These can be set at specific heights to limit the downward travel of your barbell. For example, when bench pressing, you can set the safety bars to chest-height so that, if you are unable to complete a rep, the barbell will come to rest on the safety bars and not your sternum.

This makes training to failure much safer, even if you are on your own. The safety bars can also be adjusted for squats, overhead presses and any other exercise where it will be helpful to prevent the bar from descending too far.

Versatility– power racks allow you to perform a very wide range of exercise. All barbell exercises can be done within a power rack, and there are some unique exercises that are all-but impossible without one. Examples include:

  • Bottom position squats – start each rep from the bottom instead of the top to increase starting strength and power.
  • Pin presses – bench presses and overhead presses that begin from a dead stop.
  • Rack pulls – reduced range of motion deadlifts that start with the bar raised to just below or just above knee height.
  • Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses against bands – to increase strength at lockout.
  • Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses with bands – to reduce load at the end of the rep, increasing overload at the bottom of the movement.
  • Anderson squats – starting with very heavy weights, set the safety rails so that you can only perform partial-range squats. As a means of progression, gradually lower the safety bars to increase the range of motion as you get stronger. When you can do full-range squats with the weight, increase the load and decrease the range of motion again.

Most power racks also allow you to perform dips, pull-ups, chin-up, and inverted rows. However, you may need to buy these add-ons separately. You can also hang a punchbag from a power rack, use it as an anchor point for gymnastic rings, suspension trainers e.g. TRX, battle ropes, or a landmine pivot attachment. 

Ease of loading – because the barbell is supported by the J-hooks, loading and unloading weight plates is very easy. Power cages are quite wide which means you can unload one side and then the other with fewer worries about tipping. However, even so, you should not take all the weights off one side at a time. 

Plate storage– many power racks come supplied with Olympic weight plate holders so you can keep your training area neat and tide. The feature will also save you energy as the plates you need will be right next to the barbell you are using so there is no need to have to carry your weights very far. That’s especially good news if you are using 25kg or 50kg weight plates.

Dedicated training areas– using freeweights can present a danger to other exercisers. It’s all-too easy to walk into the vicinity of someone using a barbell and either get in their way or get hit by the bar. A power rack creates a dedicated freeweight training area which will help make workouts safer.

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Benefits of using a power rack

Considering their simplicity, power racks offer a wide range of benefits. Whatever your training goal, a power rack can help you achieve it. Those benefits include:

Convenience– power racks have adjustable J-hooks so you can position your barbell in the best place to start your chosen exercise. This will save you a lot of wasted effort and also make your workouts safer. 

For example, when squatting, you don’t want to rise up on to your tiptoes to unrack the bar, and nor do you want to half-squat it out of the rack before starting your set. The adjustable J-hooks means you can move the barbell up or down for much easier racking and reracking, leaving you free to focus on your set.

Safety– power racks have adjustable safety rails. These can be set at specific heights to limit the downward travel of your barbell. For example, when bench pressing, you can set the safety bars to chest-height so that, if you are unable to complete a rep, the barbell will come to rest on the safety bars and not your sternum.

This makes training to failure much safer, even if you are on your own. The safety bars can also be adjusted for squats, overhead presses and any other exercise where it will be helpful to prevent the bar from descending too far.

Versatility– power racks allow you to perform a very wide range of exercise. All barbell exercises can be done within a power rack, and there are some unique exercises that are all-but impossible without one. Examples include:

  • Bottom position squats – start each rep from the bottom instead of the top to increase starting strength and power.
  • Pin presses – bench presses and overhead presses that begin from a dead stop.
  • Rack pulls – reduced range of motion deadlifts that start with the bar raised to just below or just above knee height.
  • Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses against bands – to increase strength at lockout.
  • Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses with bands – to reduce load at the end of the rep, increasing overload at the bottom of the movement.
  • Anderson squats – starting with very heavy weights, set the safety rails so that you can only perform partial-range squats. As a means of progression, gradually lower the safety bars to increase the range of motion as you get stronger. When you can do full-range squats with the weight, increase the load and decrease the range of motion again.

Most power racks also allow you to perform dips, pull-ups, chin-up, and inverted rows. However, you may need to buy these add-ons separately. You can also hang a punchbag from a power rack, use it as an anchor point for gymnastic rings, suspension trainers e.g. TRX, battle ropes, or a landmine pivot attachment. 

Ease of loading – because the barbell is supported by the J-hooks, loading and unloading weight plates is very easy. Power cages are quite wide which means you can unload one side and then the other with fewer worries about tipping. However, even so, you should not take all the weights off one side at a time. 

Plate storage– many power racks come supplied with Olympic weight plate holders so you can keep your training area neat and tide. The feature will also save you energy as the plates you need will be right next to the barbell you are using so there is no need to have to carry your weights very far. That’s especially good news if you are using 25kg or 50kg weight plates.

Dedicated training areas– using freeweights can present a danger to other exercisers. It’s all-too easy to walk into the vicinity of someone using a barbell and either get in their way or get hit by the bar. A power rack creates a dedicated freeweight training area which will help make workouts safer.


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