What is a Power Rack?
When I started bodybuilding back in the early eighties, I thought a set of weights, an adjustable bench and maybe a pulley on the rafters for a makeshift lat machine was all I would need for a home gym. To a large extent, I was right. I made great progress as a beginner lifting weights with little more than those basic things. At that time, I did not even know what a power rack was or why I would need one. Now I have what I believe is the best power rack home gym for most people.
As my experience grew and my muscles began to respond, I realized that lifting heavy weights at home, most of the time by myself, was getting to be a bit risky, especially when performing bench presses and squats.
I decided I needed a power rack. A power rack provides a safe and versatile workout platform which quickly became the “heart” of my home gym. If I were to start another garage or basement gym, I would start with a power rack.
Starting a Basement or Garage Home Gym
You can start a home basement or garage gym with just a few essential pieces of equipment. You will need a set of weights, a bench, and some adjustable dumbbells. This will be sufficient for beginners. Most beginners are not lifting weights that are so heavy that you can get into trouble. If you have a workout partner, you are able to “spot” each other which remove a lot of safety issues.
If you are going to be working out alone, a power rack is the one piece of home gym equipment I would not be without!
This video shows me performing just a few of my favorite exercises using my power rack with lat pull down attachment.
There are a lot of different pieces of equipment you can get for your basement weight room but if you’re just starting build a gym, I highly recommend making a power rack an essential part of it.
I have had a basement home gym for over 20 years and it gets a lot of use.
When I only had a bench and barbell, I quickly found that I was limiting myself on the bench press because I was concerned about getting stuck under a weight at the end of a set. So I was forced to stop my sets a rep or two before true muscular failure occurred.
Why do I Need a Power Rack?
Here are my reasons for why I believe this is a valuable piece of equipment to add to your gym:
This is the number one reason I bought my Powerline Power Rack. Since I primarily work out alone, I needed a way to push my intensity to the next level but I was worried about getting pinned under a heavy barbell at the end of a brutal set.
You do NOT want to end up like this guy:
A properly set up power rack solves this problem with the safety bars. You can push your set to the max and when you can’t budge the bar anymore, you just allow the safety bars to “catch” the barbell and you can easily slide out from underneath.
Let me demonstrate:
The power rack can be used for numerous exercises, and other attachments can be added to make even more exercises possible. If you look at the picture, you will notice that I use my power rack for many exercises. I have homemade TRX style suspension straps, Perfect Abs straps, Fat Gripz, and pull up handles all hanging on the pull-up bar.
Here is a partial list of exercises that can be performed with the use of a power rack:
- Bench press
- Incline press
- Decline press
- Pull ups
- Suspension training (TRX)
- Lat pull downs
- Cable rows
- Leg raises
- Military press
- Cable curls
- Wrist curls
And the list goes on.
Ease of Use
A power rack is not complicated. It is simple to put together, simple to use and simple to add accessories to expand its capabilities to help you build muscle.
If you are bench pressing on a conventional bench, simply move the bench into the power rack, set the safety bars at the right level, and off you go. You will no longer need stop your set if you are unsure you can complete the next rep. If you can’t get that last rep, simply lower the weight to the safety bars and slide out. No problem.
I recommend a power rack that has an optional lat pull down attachment if you do not already have one. This accessory will allow you to do lat pull downs, triceps push downs, low cable rows, upright cable rows, bicep cable curls, etc.
Lat attachments are available as “plate load” and ‘weight stack” versions. Plate load is less expensive, as it just comes with a carriage that you load barbell plates of your desired weight on to the pins. The weight stack models come with a selectable stack of weights similar to a commercial gym lat machine.
Powerline Power Rack Review
There are a lot of different power racks available and we will look at some of them here. The rack that I have is a fairly basic unit made by Powerline and it has served me well for over 20 years. I am not breaking any weightlifting records so this basic unit is plenty for me. You can spend more money and purchase a more heavy-duty unit if you’re going to be bench pressing 500+ pounds or dead lifting off of the safety pins upwards of 500 pounds.
When I purchased mine I also chose the optional lat pull down attachment. This turned out to be a useful option that I use very frequently for lat pull downs, triceps press downs, low cable rows, and I even use the low cable pulley to do biceps curls.
The chin up bar is perfect for chin-ups of course, but I also use it to mount my homemade TRX suspension training straps, and my ab supports to do leg raises. Another nice option I have added or pull up handles that allow you to turn your grip to different angles which has helped me greatly when I was suffering from tennis elbow.
Body Solid also makes an attachment to add a T-bar row exercise to your power rack. You will need a spare barbell bar and T-Bar handle as well.
There are many other power racks out there, I recommend this one because I have had it since 1998 and it has held up without any issues whatsoever, and survived disassembly and reassembly when I moved 18 years ago. The finish is still in excellent condition, and the lat attachment still performs flawlessly. The company that makes it, Body Solid, is still one of the most respected companies in the home fitness market.