May it be a powerlifting routine or bodybuilding exercises, you have to push yourself to the edge on almost every other workout session if you want to make some noticeable gains out of the efforts you are putting in.
For significant strength gains and muscle growth, you need to use heavy weights and there would high chance of a failed rep. And to be able to do that safely you have to take help from various pieces of gym equipment, a spotting partner, and your trainer. The power rack is one such gym machine that would keep you safe from falling weights on the failed rep.
Most of the people preparing a home gym setup do start with buying basic free weights and accessories and get stuck at the decision about buying a power rack. That may be due to any reason like space availability, priority, or lack of understanding about the functionality of the power rack.
This article is aimed at explaining to you whether having a power rack is a good fit for you. So, let’s start by answering the question itself. Do I really need a power rack? The short answer is yes, you do. If you want to uplift your home gym capabilities to enable you to lift heavy free weights without needing a spotting partner, then you must add a power rack to it.
The power racks are versatile, they can be used to perform more than a dozen exercises. They may take up some more floor space than the alternatives but for the type of safe workout environment they provide to perform your main lifts like squats and benches, they are worth it.
What Exercises Can You Do With A Power Rack?
A power rack in itself might not be very much use but when you pair it with free weights, it becomes a multifunctional gym machine. As most of the power racks have an overhead pull up bar, you can perform pull-ups, chin-ups, hanging leg raise, and other such bodyweight exercises on the power rack alone.
A power rack is a cage-like structure. you stand inside the cage while working out. It provides you a platform to load your barbell. You can rest your barbell on the J-hooks for loading the weights to perform barbell exercises by keeping it at a desirable height for the intended exercise.
The power rack has catching arms expended over the whole length of the cage. With such catcher arms, there is no chance that you can go beyond their reach and thus can push yourself to the point of failure without worrying about the weight falling down and causing any damage to you or the floor.
The power rack also provides an easily accessible platform to attach various accessories. The upper bar of the power rack can be used to hook the overhead cable pulley. If the spotters are moved to the base, you can use them to add the cable pulley there. There is provision for adding resistance bands too. All these accessories or attachments improve the versatility of the power rack and this single station can become a complete personal gym for you.
There are many moves and lifts you can safely perform using a power rack without the need for a spotting partner. Here is a list of a few of these for your reference.
- Barbell back squats
- Overhead press/Shoulder press
- Bench press
- Shoulder barbell pulls
- Barbell rows
- Barbell front squats
- Pull-ups and chin-ups
- Bicep curls with barbell
- Hanging leg raises
Power Cage Safety And Security
The safety catchers or spotter arms of the power cage provide you with a safety net in case the weight slips out of your hands while working out. With a power rack, you lift standing in between the four uprights of the structure, this cage like assembly provides you with a sense of security for lifting heavy.
The safety bars are height adjustable and can be placed according to the exercise requirement. For example, while performing bench press the spotter arms can be placed just above the lifter’s chest so that they can catch the weight before the weighed barbell crushes the ribcage in case of failure to handle the weight.
Similarly, the catching arms can be placed just below the deepest point of the squat while performing the barbell back or front squats. In this case, the spotters can be used as a safety net for catching the weight or can also be used by the user to dump the weight safely at the end of the set.
The power racks are made using heavy-duty steel tubes. It normally has a weight capacity of over and above 800 pounds. Such strong construction and huge weight-bearing capacity make it safe to be used with heavy loads.
The base of the rack is solid enough to take care of all the load and movement. There is an option to secure it with the home gym floor for added stability.
The power rack prevents the incident of weight falling at the failed rep from turning into a disaster. Performing heavy overhead press, benches, or squats without a power rack is very risky even when performed with a spotting partner.
Power Cage Alternatives
Like any other popular and useful thing in the world the power rack also has some alternatives that can be used instead of the full power rack in the cases it is either not feasible to use the real deal or your requirement varies a little from what it has to offer.
The most popular competition to the power rack amongst the alternatives is the smith machine. If one has to choose between a power rack or smith machine, the choice is driven by many factors including the budget, goals, and fitness level. a smith machine is better for the beginners while the power rack proves to be better for the intermediate and above level lifters.
Unlike a power rack, the smith machine doesn’t work with free weights. You can legitimately call it a machine as it has some moving parts in it. The barbell is attached to the machine through bearing and a guide rail, and it moves in the specified track. It is much safer to be used even by beginners. But the power rack has an upper hand when it comes to the serious lifters who wish to work on the stabilizing muscles too.
One can go for a squat rack instead of a power rack if their main focus is only on squats and all other exercises are to compliment the leg work. You can perform other lifts too with the squat rack but as it is designed specifically for performing squats, it won’t be as effective as a power rack when used for bench press or overhead press. It is also comparatively less safe as you have the chance of wandering off the spotter arm length while working out.
One can go for a half rack if they are low on floor space in their basement gym and want something that can almost be as versatile as a power rack. In comparison, half racks are unsafe than the power racks, also they have lesser weight capacity than power racks.
Squat stands are just two uprights on a sturdy base with cantilever spotting arms. You would be working beside them instead of inside a safety cage, and you have a chance of missing the catcher arm if you drop the weight.
When your garage gym is too small in floor space and height as well, then you have no option but to go for something like a squat stand. These are not rigid or sturdy as a power rack or even a half rack. You can use them as a barbell loading rack for moderately weighted lifts. Some squat stands even have spotter arms to catch the barbell, but these are not so reliable that you can not count on them.
If you wish to add multipurpose gym equipment to your basement gym that can allow you to work out with heavier weights with utmost safety then you should go for a power rack instead of any alternatives.
A power rack is the most versatile gym machine that along with a few attachments, barbells, and a lot of free weights can aid your overall muscle growth and strength improvement. It is the safest free weight training station one can add to their home gym.
The structure that looks like a cage is designed and built to free you from many shackles and limits. If you have a power rack it is no longer necessary to have a spotting partner for every weight training session. You can efficiently and safely push your body beyond the limits it was stuck to before the addition of a power rack in your garage gym setup.
A fitness enthusiast and lifter of any level should have a power rack in their gym. And if you are someone who wishes to make serious gains or someone who competes or wants to compete in powerlifting then you do really need a power rack, more than anyone else.