Home Equipment – 11: Power Rack

Starting the next ten entries in the home equipment list we have a big one: the power rack. Also known as a "squat rack" or "power cage" or "squat cage" or "Arthur." OK, I made that last one up.

I went many years without one of these but now consider it indispensible. If you use a barbell (and you should) and have the space, get one.

This competes with a treadmill for the biggest piece of equipment in the home gym. It's not as long as a treadmill, or as heavy, but it's wider and taller. It really belongs in a dedicated fitness area, if you can manage one. Or maybe some hanging plants and colourful lights would help it fit in any room. Your call.

Power racks have rack posts and safety pins. The rack posts are short protrusions that hold the bar for you to grab (e.g. for squats or bench press) whilst the safety pins are long, exending all the way from the front to the back of the cage. They're called "safety" pins because they are most often used to limit the bottom position of the bar, allowing you to get out from underneath it if you get stuck. But you can also use the pins to support the bar for exercises like rack pulls, either inside the cage or using the short protrusions (posts) on them in front of the cage.

Posts and pins

On some racks, the pull-up bar is an option. Some also have cable attachments optional. I'd consider the pull-up bar essential, unless you already have another one that works. Other attachments are much less valuable but knock yourself out.

The power rack is a versatile piece of equipment but is probably best known for doing squats safely; hence the moniker "squat rack." For these, you stand inside the cage with the safety pins set to a height just below your bottom position. If you get stuck at the bottom, you can just drop the bar (or fall over) and it will stay on the pins.

Safety pins for squats

Since my stick-legs don't do very heavy squats and I don't squat to failure, I don't use that feature. But it's still an excellent squat rack from the front as it lets me easily get under the bar to lift it out, and put it back when I'm done.

I also use it for bench presses using my dumbbell bench. It's possible to do these inside the cage using the safety pins but it's a tighter setup since the bar comes all the way down to your chest. I've never actually seen anyone use it this way, but it can prevent potential catastrophic failure (bar on the throat) so it's potentially a nice feature.

Another great use is for rack pulls: partial deadlifts using the pins as the bottom. Again, you can do these inside the cage or outside.

Most power cages have some form of pull-up bar as shown in the post on pull-up bars (go figure). Mine works well for pull-ups, chin-ups, and neutral-grip chin-ups. Nice!

You can also use bands on the rack. Here's a recent example of using one on the neutral-grip pull-up bar:

Band pulldowns on the power rack

And you can also use the frame as attachment points for a variety of band exercises.

In addition to bands, you can use other attachments such as rings from the top of the rack. More on this in a future post.


Power racks often include pins for storing weight plates. Mine does. This comes in handy and adds stability to the rack. You can also store your resistance bands on the rack. Nifty!

One handy tip: I put tape above the holes used for the support pins in the two positions I use them: for squats and bench press. This protects the vertical posts from scratches when the bar hits them and makes it easy to find the correct holes when moving from one position to the other.

Power racks aren't for everybody but they're a versatile and sturdy addition for strength training with barbells. They can also provide good safety for folks who lift alone and train to failure, especially on squats. (Even if you don't lift alone, the rack is still valuable because squats are notoriously difficult to spot.)

Despite being big and sturdy, power racks can be surprisingly affordable. Mine was under $300 new. That's a bargoon.

Be seeing you.


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