More people are interested in strength training than ever before.
As such, the use of power racks has proliferated in fitness centers and home gyms around the world.
A power rack allows you to perform a huge number of exercises with a high degree of safety. Many also offer the potential for customization to further enhance their versatility.
However, certain power racks cost thousands of dollars and have quite a large footprint.
Here’s how to decide whether a power rack is worth it based on your budget, fitness goals and training set-up.
What is a Power Rack?
A power rack typically consists of four vertical posts connected by a series of horizontal rods.
Power racks stand upright and are often referred to as power cages or squat cages.
The structure is typically made of durable materials (such as steel) and constructed to safely allow for exercise with loads ranging from just a few pounds all the way up to a half ton or beyond.
The vertical posts of the power rack feature uniform holes to allow for a variety of attachments, most importantly J-hooks and safety pins.
J-hooks are small, J-shaped shelves that allow you to safely rack your barbell at different heights and positions on the power rack.
Safety pins are long, horizontal rods that connect to the upright poles of the power rack. They allow you to tackle heavy loads or reps performed to failure without fear of injury or property damage.
Safety pins also enable unique power rack exercises such as Rack Pulls, Pin Presses, and barbell overcoming isometrics.
The fundamental purpose of a power rack is to provide the exerciser with easy set-up for a variety of different movements while also providing a safety net that enables them to confidently exercise alone.
To help you decide whether a power rack is worth it, let’s breakdown their benefits a little more in-depth.
Power Racks Allow for Proven Barbell Exercises
A power rack easily accommodates classic barbell exercises like the Squat, Bench Press, and Overhead Press.
Attempting to do these sort of exercises without supporting equipment is often dangerous and impractical. Sometimes, it’s virtually impossible — good luck getting a hefty barbell in position for a heavy squat or bench press without some sort of rack.
A power rack thus allows you to comfortably perform multiple barbell exercises proven to boost your physical and mental health.
While a power rack is not the only way to accommodate these exercises — you can buy independent squat racks, bench presses, overhead press racks, etc. — it’s often far and away the best overall value.
A power rack consolidates the utility of various pieces of equipment into one apparatus, making it more cost- and space-efficient. It also includes safety features that are often missing from other stands/racks.
Power Racks Provide Safety and Independence
Independent squat stands and bench presses help the exerciser assume a good starting position and easily rack/un-rack the barbell.
However, they rarely provide insurance for failed repetitions.
If you want to really push yourself using these set-ups, you typically need a spotter or two on hand to guard against such catastrophes.
This is where safety pins are a huge benefit.
Pins are more reliable than even the best training partner.
By setting the pins just below the bottom range of motion for a given exercise, you can safely fail a repetition without causing harm to yourself or your property.
That means you can lift heavy weights all by yourself.
The increased independence and confidence that comes along with owning a power rack typically translates to more intense workouts, better PRs, and superior overall results.
Power Racks Offer Massive Training Variety
Let’s consider the number of machines it would take to recreate all the movements available on a power rack.
To start, you’d need a leg press to recreate squatting, a chest press to recreate bench pressing, and a shoulder press to recreate overhead pressing.
Then, since most power racks also come with an attached pull-up bar, you’d also want a lat pulldown machine.
And that’s just the basics.
A power rack also allows for moves like Barbell Lunges, Inverted Rows, Deadlift Rack Pulls, Pin Squats, Bench Pin Presses, Overhead Pin Presses, hanging exercises, heavy eccentric/negatives, and various overcoming isometrics.
That’s still just a small fraction of the exercise one can perform in a power rack.
Think of all the variations for each move. On the Squat alone, you’ve got Front Squats, High Bar Back Squats, Low Bar Back Squats, Pause Squats, Split Squats, Box Squats and much more.
The number of potential exercises becomes near infinite when you consider the potential for different attachments and accessories that can complement the power rack (dip handles, cable attachments, exercise bands, etc.)
In that sense, a power rack is essentially an all-in-one training station that empowers safe and proper execution of thousands of different movements in a relatively small footprint.
Cost and Space Efficient Compared to a Full Gym
With nothing more than a power rack, a barbell, an adjustable bench and a few weight plates, you have all you need for a lifetime’s worth of quality workouts.
While the power rack’s exact dimensions depend on the model in question, a single unit can replace the need for countless other stand-alone pieces or machines.
That’s incredibly efficient both in terms of space and cost.
The Potential Downsides of Buying a Power Rack
Nothing in life is perfect.
Power racks are no exception.
While power racks offer several impressive benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of.
Compared to owning numerous machines or stand-alone weight racks/stands, a power rack is the more space-efficient option.
Yet compared to a couple dumbbells and a jump rope, buying a power rack is a pretty big jump in terms of required space.
It’s not exactly something you can easily move around or throw in your trunk for a road trip.
A power rack represents a semi-permanent addition to your home gym or fitness studio.
But keep in mind that all power racks are not created equal.
While Rogue’s hulking RML-690 Power Rack stands over seven-and-a-half feet tall and covers nearly 30 feet of square footage, the HulkFit Power Cage comfortably fits into a footprint half that size while boasting a capacity up to 1,000 pounds.
That’s a big difference when you consider most home gyms are built in areas like garages or basements where space is at a premium.
Innovative brands have also begun to release wall-mounted power racks that retain much of the functionality of a traditional power rack while taking up considerably less space.
The price of a power rack can also be considered a downside for some.
Again, this depends on perspective and context.
A single power rack is almost certainly going to be more cost-efficient than individually purchasing multiple machines or racks/stands. Most will also last for years (potentially decades) with minimal need for maintenance.
But if your frame of reference is a medicine ball and a yoga mat, the price of a power rack can seem like a big plunge.
Consider that you also need a barbell and some weight plates to really reap much of the benefit of a power rack and you can understand why some individuals may consider a power rack too expensive.
However, you should be aware that all power racks are not priced the same.
Power racks were traditionally built almost exclusively for competitive powerlifters.
As such, many include niche features that far exceed the needs of most fitness enthusiasts. That design also drives up the price tag. For example, Rogue’s RML-690 Power Rack retails for an eye-popping $1,690 at the time of this writing.
But as strength training has spread from powerlifters and bodybuilders to the general population, innovative fitness brands have begun producing high-quality power racks that better meet the needs and budget of the average fitness junkie.
HulkFit’s Power Cage comes in at $399 — a relative bargain considering it safely handles up to 1,000 pounds and comes with all the same essential features of models that are over 400% more expensive.
The Final Verdict: Is a Power Rack Worth It?
A power rack is absolutely worth it contingent on two factors.
One, you should be serious about strength training and interested in the workouts you can perform with a power rack.
Two, you should find a model that meets your needs and won’t make you pay a premium for frivolous features.
If that’s the case, a power rack is absolutely worth it.
It’ll help you lift heavier, train harder, stay safer and ultimately see more significant results.
A power rack’s endless utility can also help you have more fun during your workouts and expand your training knowledge.
Whether you’re outfitting a commercial gym or fitness studio or finding a new centerpiece for your home gym, the right power rack is one purchase that will pay for itself many times over.