In recent years, we've seen a huge growth in the number of gym users incorporating more weight lifting into their training. With this increased demand from users, as a gym owner or home buyer, you'll need to make sure you have the right power rack to meet you or your member's needs. Here are some things to look out for when next outfitting your weight lifting space.
What Type of Rack is Right For You?
There are seven main types of rack for weight lifting that we'll cover, each might suit your needs in a different way. Most will allow you to perform a core set of movements in a similar fashion (barbell squats and presses being the most important) so actually, a lot of the differences lie in the extra features or accessories that racks offer. Here's everything you need to know about lifting racks.
Squat Stands / Squat Rack
The squat stand or squat rack offers the smallest amount of support you can get while still calling it a rack. These stands are typically the most portable and light-weight method of keeping the bar off the ground at shoulder height. The arms can often be moved up and down to adjust the bar height or J-hook positioning can be adjusted, making it a great option for simplicity and adjustability. Out of the types we'll cover, these generally come in at the lowest price point.
The Half Rack is the first of the traditionally recognised racks, offering support, adjustability, safety bars and usually an overhead bar for pull-ups and band attachments. A half rack will only have one set of uprights and won't form the enclosed cage you would see on a full power rack.
This type of rack provides you with great all around freedom in your lifting and is the perfect solution for a gym looking for small footprint equipment. The increments up and down the front columns allow users to position the J-hooks and safety bars precisely, making it a very versatile piece of equipment. Being 'open' at the front actually makes a half rack a good option for overhead lifts and movements like split jerks or overhead squats; when taking a couple of steps away from the rack would actually be beneficial.
Due to the dual vertical supports and horizontal connections, a standard half rack should safely support a noivce or experienced lifter. That being said, due to being lighter and generally less stable in comparison to a power rack, very heavy barbells being dumped onto the safety arms on a half rack (especially if not bolted down) could cause the rack to move.
Many half racks will come with plate storage and even weight bar storage round the back, so you don't have to buy additional toaster racks or weight plate tree.
While it can look a little intimidating at first glance, a power rack serves much the same purpose as a half rack. It does, however, provide more stability and safety due to its "cage" design. Having dual columns front and back, supported by horizontal bars top and bottom, the Power Rack can handle weights heavier than a half rack. It also means that any barbells being dumped are less likely to escape out onto the gym floor when released.
The other side of this is that a full power rack will take up some additional space on your gym floor due to it's larger footprint. A good gym designer will be able to work with your space to maximise it for your specific goals and requirements.
The dual-upright layout also means that Power Racks can often be used by two people at any one (one on the inside and one on the outside of the rack). Usually, a rack wouldn't come with enough J-Hooks and safety bars to do so but these are readily available. Look for weight plate storage and additional pull up bar options in your rack, as well as a strong steel build quality and plenty of increments for precision training and accessory placement.
At Origin Fitness, we also include a hybrid option within our range; the multi-rack. This offers a stable and heavy-duty solution with most of the features of a power rack but without the overhead bars which complete the cage. What this does is enable the user to perform the overhead movements that are traditionally difficult inside a power cage, but can be done freely using a half rack.
As the popularity of functional rigs has grown hugely on the gym floor many gyms opt to incorporate their rack offering within their functional rig setup. These are perfect in cross-training spaces as they won't take up more space and allow athletes to perform a variety of moves from stretching and mobilising to pull-ups, dips and gymnastics movements on the equipment when it isn't being used as a rack.
This type of system is a firm favourite for CrossFit and group focused training facilities because of their strong use of space and the high user numbers they can accommodate at any one time.
Functional rigs can include up to 8, 9, 10 or even more weight lifting stations within their configuration. As such they are generally made to order and offer a high level of customisation. We have designed a lot of these racks in custom colours and can offer a range of additional accessories (more on these below).
Wall Mounted Racks/Rigs
More frequently, racks and functional rigs are both being wall-mounted at installation. Some of the benefits of installing a wall mounted rig/rack are as follows;
Wall mounting maximises use of the gym space by ensuring that the racks/rigs (often the bulkiest equipment) can be installed as close to the wall as possible.
Fixing the rig or rack to the wall also minimises the footprint required to achieve stability. Secure fixing by a professional to the wall will mean you can be assured of the rack's integrity when under heavy loads.
Some experts would argue that a Smith Machine shouldn't have a place on this list of rack types. However, from our experience, there are a large number of facilities who chose to complement their power racks, half racks or squat stations with a Smith Machine.
The simple reason for this is that it offers a safer way for beginners or lone trainers to practice free weight movements that the otherwise might not be able to train.
The Smith Machine looks similar to a half rack or power rack (depending on the model) with the exception that the barbell is fixed on vertical runners which don't allow the bar to deviate from a vertical (or close to vertical) motion. Some Smith Machines will also allow forward and backward motion as well as vertical - an example of this would be a 3D Smith.
Things to Consider;
We've spoken about increments a few times, but they are a really important aspect of your rig. The more increments you have, the more control you have over your starting position, allowing for precise training and isolation.
Make sure your rack has its increments numbered; being able to enumerate that perfect starting position will save you lots of time during future workouts and will help users match the J-hooks or attachments on either side without trial and error.
Weight plate storage itself often comes as standard with half racks and power racks, but can also be added on separately depending on the manufacturer. When looking at the storage arms, check whether there's definitely enough space for the plates and weights you're looking to store, alongside any extra accessories you might use in your training.
Do you lift with chains? Do you want easy access to your fractal plates and collars? Many racks have specialised hooks and arms for storing various plates, so make sure you're covered.
Having an outward angled plate storage can also come in handy if you're looking to place multiple lifting racks in a row. The angle of the storage means users don't have to squeeze in between two racks to load/unload. However, keep in mind this will increase the floor space required for each rack, perhaps limiting the total racks you're able to place within one area.
If you're planning on offering a variety of bars to your users, or keep each rack equipped with a male and a female weight lifting bar, integrated bar storage will be useful. Short vertical shafts round the back of the rack allow you to store bars away safely while keeping them close by for immediate action.
Having small pegs at the top and bottom of the rack on which to attach power bands gives you even more versatility in your lifting. Attaching the band to your bar from the bottom means you'll experience increasing resistance the further up you come from a squat. Hanging the bands down from the top bars allows you to go through a range of pulling and pushing motions without ever having to leave the rack.
If the floor pegs are positioned flush against the floor, these will also allow you to carry out resistance floor work, among many other banded exercises. We've done a video showcasing the incredible versatility of power bands.
Many lifting racks will come with pull up handles or a horizontal bar that is meant to be used for pull-ups/chin-ups. When buying your rack, it is important you check that your gym has enough room above the rack to complete a full pull up motion (and that it doesn't force your head through the ceiling!).
It's also worth checking that the handles themselves have good texture and enough variety in the grip positions for your users.
If the rack you're looking to buy comes with J-Hooks included, it's worth inspecting them with a keen eye. Your J-Hook should be high enough quality to support the drop of a heavy bar, but also keep your bar intact while loading and racking. Many J-Hooks come with a plastic insert which is more gentle on your bar and its knurling, keeping your expensive bars going in great condition long term.
As mentioned in the Power Rack section, you may need to purchase separate J-Hooks if you are planning to have a rack available to use by two athletes at once.
Just like the J-Hooks, you're looking for a sturdy safety bar that will support a drop of a heavy bar. Check that the steel is thick, and consider a safety bar with a plastic insert on top to protect your bar when dropped.
We often see gyms choosing to include attachments on their lifting racks, the main three being the Step Platform, Core Plate and Dip Attachment. The adjustability of the rack makes it ideal for the three main attachments to be adjusted to any user and brings an element of functional training to the lifting zone. Other attachments we have supplied even include a prone row bench, grappler attachment and medicine ball storage.
Your accessories, safety bars and J-Hooks should all slot smoothly into position and show the number of your increment clearly.
If you're looking to buy a rack, it is worth keeping in mind the benches you'll be using with it. If you don't have any benches yet, it is worth considering multi-adjustable benches, as these will give you the most training options both inside your rack as on the free weight floor.
Some benches have the option to be secured on to a rack for perfect positioning, but these will likely have to be purchased from the same manufacturer.
As regular gym-goers become more proficient lifters, they may want to explore the worlds of powerlifting or Olympic lifting. Thinking ahead allows you to get some exciting looking lifting platforms options that don't necessarily have to be a huge expense.
Integrated platforms slot into your lifting rack independently and can be added at any time after the purchase of the rack. When buying your platform, make sure you have enough floor space in front of your rack to accommodate the shock absorbent wings. Also consider the width of the platform, so that it can sit flush within the rack.
A space saving solution is the inlaid platform, which is usually installed at the same time as your fitness flooring and before the rack goes in. Having an inlaid platform removes the height difference between the platforms, and allows racks to be placed closer together. They also look amazing and can be custom made to match your brand.
Hopefully this guide has helped you make your choice, but if you have any further questions our team is always on hand to help you make the right decision. If you're looking for inspiration, our case study pages are full of photos and videos of completed projects from over the years.