How to choose the best power rack in 2019
Outfitting your new home or commercial gym is a thrilling, game-changing process. For a lot of people, the power rack is considered the cornerstone of free weight training. There’s no comparison when it comes to versatility of strength training exercises you can do with one, and there’s really a power cage for everyone at any level.
Today we have more options than ever before. So what is the best power rack for you? We put together this power cage buyer’s guide to help you quickly narrow down your search based on the most important factors for your personal training goals.
The first place to start is by answering a few important questions. You can jump to any of the individual sections by clicking the links below. At the very bottom of this page, you can see our editor’s choices for the top power cages in different price ranges in other categories.
Ultimately, it’s up to you which one to go for, but with this guide, you’ll be set to make the optimal choice.
First, racks we do NOT recommend
Before we dive into how to buy the best power rack, let’s clear something up. Specifically, we strongly recommend getting a full power rack. That means you have 4 posts, making a fully enclosed cage. Half power cages have an open design. What they gain in space-efficiency they lose a little in safety and stability. That’s not to say that can’t be used effectively. Sometimes, though, they have a greater risk of tipping. Like full power cages, they should come with a safety bar in case you can’t rack the barbell. The potential issue here is that if you actually drop the bar on the safety catch, the whole rack can tip over. If you are still set on a smaller power cage, here are a couple of suggestions. You can simply get a bigger or commercial quality model. Alternatively, get one that is built into the wall. Either will work well and keep exercise safe.
Also watch out for squat stands, which are basically a pair of posts. We honestly cannot find a good reason why the majority of people would get these over a bonafide power rack. There’s no getting around the limitations on the types of exercises you can perform and obviously, safety! You have important training goals, and you deserve the best opportunity to make gains without hurting yourself.
Basically, we are convinced that you really need to get a full power cage. Of course, choosing one instead of smaller, cheaper alternatives come at a cost. That is NOT to say that we would necessarily recommend the most expensive model out there. As a matter of fact, we don’t think most people need to spend a lot of money to get a killer rack. We want you to get the maximum value from your power rack of choice. And full power cages will do exactly that!
What weight capacity do you need?
The amount of weight you can (or want) to handle makes a big difference. First, we need to clarify that the weight capacity of power cages or similar equipment is not actually standardized formally. That is not to say that the listed capacities for any given power cage are not accurate, but it is something to bear in mind. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to give yourself a margin of say, 100lbs when adding weight plates. In other words, don’t get right up to that max weight capacity listed by the manufacturer. The good thing is though for high-end heavy-duty racks with massive capacities (like 1000lbs), most people won’t likely ever get that close.
Your individual goals are relevant here. If you’re going for gains in muscle mass, then you will need to do reps with a lot of weight on the barbell. Another feature besides the obvious listed weight capacity that you need to look at is the gauge of steel. This is the measure of the structural strength of the frame. The bottom line is the more weight capacity you need, the thicker, heavier gauge steel you need. If the power cage is for any kind of commercial setting where you have clients using it regularly all day, then this feature is indispensable.
What size of rack do you need?
Bigger is usually better when it comes to power cages. More durability and versatility. Commercial gyms and most garage gyms won’t have an issue with space. It’s mostly home gyms that aren’t set up in the garage where you need to pay close attention to the assembled dimensions. As a good rule of thumb, give yourself at least 3′ of clearance on the length, width, and height. You will probably want to have space for weight storage. You also need room to do the exercises and not worry about hitting the wall with the bar if you lose balance. Clearance above and below is obviously critical for pull ups. No need to worry about hitting your head on the wall or your knees touching the floor during a pull up routine. If you are considering adding accessories down the road, then make sure there’s room for those too.
What about extra features?
All power cages have a very simple, straightforward design that gets the job done. For chest presses, shoulder presses, dead lifts, and squats, there’s no beating a good power cage, but their potential goes way beyond these exercises. They have a huge variety of both built-in and separate upgrades that can add new dimensions to your workout routine. Altogether, there’s no better piece of strength training equipment when it comes to customization. You can make a power cage the cornerstone of your gym, outfitted to handle your entire workout plan for free weights, functional training, body weight resistance exercises and more.
One of the most common built-in features is a pull up bar. It’s actually unusual to NOT have this feature, so you might as well opt for a cage with one. And it makes a lot of sense. You already have a tall metal cage, so why not have a pull up bar attached to the top? This is very straightforward, but there’s some variance that you might see across different cages. If you want the most out of a built-in pull up bar, then look closely at the different kinds of grips. Some pull up bars let you position your hands at different angles and spaced apart to engage your upper body in different ways.
A more subtle but useful feature are attachment points for resistance bands. Often these are simple but sturdy pegs where you can tie the bands to do any kind of exercise with them. Using resistance bands is not a highlight for every power lifter, but this is another feature that just makes a lot of sense.
Many power racks also work with a lat pulldown set up of some kind. Some racks have the lat pulldown included with purchase, but most have it as a separate accessory. Using the same workspace inside the rack with your Olympic bench, you can do lat pulldowns. They’re pretty simple, using a pulley system and either a weight stack or an Olympic weight plates. Similarly, some racks let you do seated rowing exercises with basically the same pulley set up.
Power racks are the most versatile kinds of strength equipment with the most potential accessories. Remember, the good thing is you don’t need to get them all at once, of course. You can come back later for the upgrades.
Home Gym or Commercial Gym?
Who is going to use this rack, where and for how long? We’ve already touched on this above, and it’s pretty straightforward. If you are setting up a commercial gym, then you need a commercial grade rack. The main issue here is, of course, the warranty. If people are using the rack all day every day, that’s more potential wear and tear. That’s to be expected and it’s unavoidable. Having the appropriate warranty in place is going to save you some headaches. So when you are shopping for a commercial rack, you should really be comparing the warranties as much as the features. The devil is in the details, as they say. Usually, the manufacturers will you give the most generous warranty on the frame. That’s the most simple part of the rack, and it’s the strongest. But also look closely at some of the finer details of smaller parts. As a general rule, let us add that when you’re investigating the warranties, check out the exhaustive warranties. You might see those around the web, but go direct to the manufacturer’s site, or ask the vendor for it. That’s the most high-resolution picture of how your purchase will be protected!
If you want a rack for home use, it’s also easy to sort through warranties. Just like commercial warranties, a lot of power racks are clearly labeled for home use. There’s an awesome point about home warranties to keep in mind: EVERY decent rack you buy new should come with a home warranty. Even if you’re looking at a commercial rack, take a look at the warranty for home use. Often, you get a LIFETIME warranty on home use. That’s simply because you’re not going to wear it out as much as a commercial gym would. So if you’re a home power lifter, then a commercial grade power rack can virtually guarantee you’re getting best now, 5 years from now and even far beyond.
Should you get a used power rack?
In most cases, we don’t recommend it. To get a valid warranty, you need to buy it new from the manufacturer or from a certified dealer. Although a power cage is overall a relatively simple piece of equipment, you can have a lot of little parts. There’s no need to risk having something missing when you get the rack second hand off an auction site. If you get it used online, you might also run into issues with shipping cost and delivery time, especially for the heavier racks. Certified vendors can more likely give you a good price on shipping or even ship it free. Individuals selling their used equipment won’t have the same favorable rates as an established retailer, and they might just pass the cost to you. And believe us, freight shipping cost can really add up. However, sometimes getting a used rack can work. If you go that route, we would just recommend finding someone local where you can actually see the rack before buying.
If cost is your main reason for considering a used power rack, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Some racks are household name-brands, and you might have already heard about them before coming here. But we can show racks that are basically as good often for less cost, especially when you shop on Amazon.
Putting all of this together, here are the recommended power racks in a few important categories. First is price, obviously. The racks in these categories have the basics down and for most people, they offer the best value. We have also considered versatility, modern features, and commercial use.
Best Power Rack under $500
You’ve got to hand it to the New York Barbell power rack station. It’s not as showy as some other racks and isn’t pushed as much as others around the web. But it’s an amazing find at an unbelievable price. It has the size and weight capacity of many other power cages at much higher price tags. New York Barbells has been putting out top-notch equipment for decades and this rack deserves the spotlight. Bottom line, we highly recommend this one.
Best Power Rack $500-$1000
The Powertec Workbench Rack (WB-PR) has a 1000lb weight capacity. With this power rack and with some affordable upgrades, you can do every strength training routine with it: bench presses, tricep presses, dips, chin ups, lat pulldowns and more. Trusted by serious weight lifters, this and other Powertec racks are killer and come at a fantastic price.
Best Power Rack $1000+
The Rogue RM4 Monster Rack is one of the best power racks for elite lifters and athletes up to the professional level. Like other Rogue racks from the Monster series, it’ meticulously crafted to optimize your workouts and performance now and for years down the road. Made in the USA, the RM4 has unbeatable durability. The 11 gauge steel frame is sturdy with a zinc finish, making it resistant to dents and scratches. There are more options for this rack than nearly every other, with unique, innovative models for safeties, J-cups and crossmembers.