Choosing the right squat rack for your gym can seem like a daunting task. So many terms, so many choices, so many…. EVERYTHING!
So how do you know what to get and not have FOMO?
Here are a few things to look for when choosing the perfect rack for your gym - some or all of them might help you make a decision you can live happily ever after with!
Rack or Cage? Is there a difference?
The main difference here is the fact that a cage has 4 upright posts and looks like a “Box” where you’ll squat versus a rack that is only 2 uprights and you squat in front of it. Other than those obvious differences, the choice is mainly how much room you have in your garage gym and what’s going to fit better in your space.
There are other terms you’ll hear - half rack, wall mount rack, foldable rack - and it should be understood these all perform in basically the same way. But you can decide what you need in your gym depending on space. Are you limited in space? A wall mount or foldable might work for you. Do you have a single garage bay? The squat rack (stand) might be good as it takes up less space. Do you have a 3 bay garage where you can spread out like a week’s worth of laundry? Then go bigger and better with the squat cage of your dreams.
Construction - good vs. bad welds?
This is where rubber - or steel, to be precise - should meet the road. The construction of the rack should be your most important consideration. When your dad used to tell you “you get what you pay for,” he was right! And that’s something to think about as you make this investment into your gym.
STEEL: You want to look for a well constructed rack that has at LEAST 12 gauge steel. The most common size of steel in a rack is 11 gauge. It’s a super sturdy, heavy-duty-enough-for-daily-use gauge that can take on all but the heaviest weights. There are a few racks that have 7 gauge but that’s more for commercial gyms and not really necessary in your home gym. So look for the 11 gauge as a common factor.
WELDS: You will hear a lot of talk about good and bad welds - and even "ugly" welds. You know what a weld is - it’s the “joint” of the rack that will hold it together and keep it from falling apart while you use it. Welding is a very precise skill and you want the welds to look as clean and good as possible. Most racks have good welding that will hold them up during the harshest of workouts.
HOLE SIZE: Most often you’ll see both 5 / 8” and 1” holes - and these would be for the size of the hardware and the holes where accessories will be placed. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it will come into play with accessories that you buy, as well as the ease of moving those accessories and parts around on the rack.
SAFETY: What safety options does the rack offer? Obviously j-cups are a must - but can you get spotter arms? Safety straps? Pin pipe safeties? You’ll want at least one of those options, if not more, to insure your safety while lifting alone. Also, is the rack stable? Does it have “feet” that extend off the bottom of the rack to keep it stable? Can it be floor mounted? Check all of those things with the rack to make sure it won’t be dancing around the floor while you’re trying to use it to reach a new personal best!
Price - Do you get what you pay for?
As we stated above - you really do get what you pay for. We totally understand budgets - we all have one and they all make us cry.
But in doing your research for a new rack, you’ll see there are inexpensive racks which might seem cheap but end up being great bang for the buck, and big budget racks that look great but may not perform as well as they look.
In doing some research, you might read there is an acceptable “range” of $300-400 for a rack. That’s a sweet spot, because there are lots of racks out there in that price range, but really, there are racks for all wallet sizes.
Look around and find the ones matching your price range and your expectations. Then the fun begins. Read reviews on the product pages on the racks you are considering. Check out trusted garage gym experts and see what they have to say.
Post a question in a Reddit forum or on a Facebook group, then grab the popcorn and wait for the fireworks to begin. But, at the end of the day, what can your budget handle? Find the best rack within your range and go for that one.
Accessories - how many do you really need?
This is a matter of much debate. How many extras are too many extras? Most racks have the basic accessories available. They’ll usually come with a pull-up bar, a set of j-cups and maybe one or two more.
You can usually get lots of other parts and pieces to dress up the rack. If extras are important to you, find a rack with universal hole sizing that should accept both its own accessories and those of competitors.
And what can you find in the way of accessories? You name it, it’s probably out there. Safety features - spotter arms, straps, pin pipes. Barbell holders. Rope anchors. Band pegs. Shelves. Wall ball targets. Lat pull downs. The list is seemingly endless.You can find anything you want if you look hard enough - again, it depends on what is important to you.
At the end of the day you can talk to everyone you know, read everything you see and learn everything there is out there - but it all comes down to - what do YOU WANT in your garage gym?
The easiest answer when picking a rack, is to find the size of rack that fits in your space, then look for a company that offers that rack in your budget. Get the rack that you - AND your wallet - will be comfortable having in the gym when you're first starting out.
And remember - if you find that you need a bigger rack, it's almost a sure thing you can resell the rack you purchase and buy the bigger rack of your dreams. There are always folks out there looking to start their own garage gym on a budget.
If you have questions about what rack to get, give us a shout here at Fringe. We have experts who can help you design your perfect garage gym and save you money in the designing.
Let us know below in the comments what your favorite rack is and why - we want to know!
And, as always, lift heavy, lift happy!