Starting Your Own Garage Gym – The Power Rack
Got a garage? Then you’ve got space for a Garage Gym. What’s the benefits of a garage gym? How about these for a starter:
- Avoid the crowds – no more waiting in line for equipment, no annoying members, and minimal distractions
- No gym commute – Walk into the garage, you’re in the gym. No driving, no parking
- Workout anytime – Evenings, weekends, holidays – any time of the day becomes a workout opportunity
- Do your own thing – Do what you want, when you want
- Ditch the gym fees – no fees, no memberships, no contracts
Beyond that, it’s total freedom. It’s your place – your music, your routine, and not a ton of distractions. Wanna drop weights on the floor? Go ahead. Who is gonna stop you? OK, maybe your spouse or significant other. But beyond that, there’s a level of freedom and personalization you just can’t get in a commercial gym.
Of course for some people seeing and being seen is all part of the appeal of the workout. And some people need a trainer, at least to get started, and in those regards a garage gym is less desirable. And for some a group workout is best – they thrive on the vibe of the group workout, or enjoy the trainer led classes. And for those situations a commercial (or at least a communal) gym is probably best.
But we’ll assume you’ve arrived at this article for a reason – you are interested in having your own place to get real serious about strength and fitness – read on and find out what you need to build a good garage gym.
Goals of the Garage Gym
As we mentioned earlier, if you’ve arrived at this article – you probably already have an idea in mind of what you like to do in the gym, and what your goals are. But bear with us a moment – let’s review the basic goals that are required for a good garage gym.
For well rounded fitness, we need a mix of strength and endurance (also called cardio or metcon – short for “metabolic conditioning”). Optionally “power” (or strength applied quickly such as in the Olympic lifts) may be needed – but as you age this aspect loses a bit of its luster. We’ll aim to cover the basics. Feel free to modify these plans as you see fit. After all, it’s your garage, not mine.
The Power Rack – The Foundation of Strength Training Equipment
Firstly, let’s talk about the power rack. This is a large, sturdy metal frame that allows you to position a loaded barbell (or other implements) in a variety of positions for strength training. Is a power rack strictly needed for strength training? In our opinion, yes. The foundations of strength training are the squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift. Of those 4 exercises, only 1 can be done safely and with considerable weight without a rack (the deadlift). Attempt to squat, bench press, or overhead press without a rack, and you are selling yourself short. Leaving weight on the table, as it were.
There’s one exercise that seriously injures or kills more people than anything else in the gym – and that’s the bench press. Putting a heavily loaded barbell over your chest, neck, and face without safety mechanisms is dangerous, and can be deadly. Even if you have a spotter. Having the right equipment allows you to work out safely, and alone, if need be.
Why is a power rack an absolute must? Because it’s the only way to get a heavily loaded barbell in the proper starting position for the bench press, overhead press, and squat – and it can have safety spotter arms or other safety mechanisms. Don’t underestimate the importance of having safety spotter arms when working out alone in your garage gym. They are absolutely essential to ensure you don’t get stuck under a heavily loaded barbell – which is both dangerous and embarrassing.
The first consideration for a power rack is space – height, width, and depth. Therefore the first important parameter is how much space do we have to work with? Will a car be parked in the garage? Are we able to take up half of a two-car garage? Will we need to stow the equipment to put the car into the garage? Don’t worry – there are options for all these things.
Time to get out the tape measure. 90″ in height may sound like a lot, but it’s not – that’s 7.5 feet. If you are tall, or the ceiling is low, or both – you may have some issues with a pull-up bar. If you intend to use a pull-up attachment, things will work better with more overhead space. There are options for taller racks – but ultimately the ceiling height is going to matter as well.
A Power Rack For Limited Space
Need to keep a car (or two) in the garage? Then you need the ultimate in space saving technology. And that’s the Rogue Monster Lite RML-3WC Power Rack, as shown below. This innovative power rack design is mounted on the wall, and can fold nearly flat – reclaiming a lot of space. Far from flimsy, it’s from the Monster Lite line and the uprights are 3″x3″ 11-gauge steel. How tall? 90 3/8 inches, or about 7.5 feet, which means it should fit easily into any standard sized garage.
It’s also available in 21.5″ or 41.5″ depth (the distance the uprights will be from the wall. OK, so it “folds flat.” How flat? 5″ (for the 21.5″ depth model). We’d recommend the 41.5″ depth, to give a bit more breathing room, in case you need a spotter behind the uprights – but note that the 41.5″ depth rack doesn’t fold as compactly as the 21.5″ model.
It also comes with a pair of J-Cups (these hold the barbell) and a Quick Attach Pull-Up Bar and is compatible with all the standard Monster Lite (ML) accessories, if you want to add attachments. Since having a power rack is all about safety, we’d consider these a required purchase: SAML-24 Monster Lite Safety Spotter Arms (Pair). They are built tough, but feature a plastic insert along the top to protect the knurling on your Olympic bars.
Lastly, it’s available in 11 different colors (shown in Rogue Red above). Head on over to the Rogue page for this item, and check out the options.
Want yours in black? You can save about $50 by getting the non custom color version – known as the Rogue RML-3W Fold Back Wall Mount Rack. This is also a great image highlighting the features of these racks, and showing just how flat this unit can fold:
Be aware that this model lists the stringers as optional, but if you are mounting to the average garage wall with 16″ on center studs – you need the stringers.
Don’t miss out on one of the simplest and most effective exercises – the pull-up (or chin-up). Equip your power rack with a pull-up bar and you can use a wide range of exercises including: Pull-ups, chin-ups, hangs, leg raises, etc. Being able to do these exercises is really one of the huge benefits of a power rack.
Options When You Have More Space to Work With
How about if you’ve got more room to play with? Perhaps you have a full one half of a two car garage. In that case you can get the RML-3 Rogue Monster Lite Power Rack. What are the benefits of this unit? Well, it’s a little bit cheaper. And it’s got two different pull-up bars built into the unit (a thick grip and a thinner grip). Secondly, it’s got safety pins already provided with the unit. And as we mentioned above, safety is a big reason for buying a rack. Lastly, this unit provides band pegs. Band training is somewhat of an advanced training method, but it’s good to know we’ve got that option for the future.
What About Squat Stands?
Normally, we’re not a fan of squat stands. They just don’t have the stability and versatility of the power rack. But you can thank Rogue Fitness for overcoming much of this with the SML-2 Rogue 90″ Monster Lite Squat Stand.
What’s great about this unit? How about:
- It’s from the Monster Lite line – so it can accommodate those very necessary safety spotter arms.
- It’s got the fat/skinny pull-up bars
- It’s less expensive than the power racks
- It can be equipped with optional wheels to make it semi-mobile. Note that it still has a considerable foot print, so this isn’t a space saving option like the folding rack.
- It’s a free standing unit – so might be good for an apartment or town home garage, where you can’t drill into the walls.
Having said that, it’s just not going to be as stable as a four post rack (or a two post rack mounted to the wall). And it’s not going to give you as many options to expand to in the future (in the form of additional Monster Lite attachments). But this is a great low-cost option, that gives you nearly all the desirable benefits of a power rack.
In Summary – Garage Gyms and Power Racks
In summary, serious strength training requires a power rack (or a seriously stable pair of squat stands). There’s just no way around it. When purchasing a rack for your garage gym, the first consideration is available space. Once you know the space you have to work with, then you can start looking at options. And if you are buying a power rack – get some form of safety spotting arms or pins, and a pull-up bar. Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of what fits your tastes and budget.
We hope this information has been useful, and in the next article, we’ll discuss further all the proper equipment needed for a well equipped garage gym. If you have any questions, please let us know.
You may want to review our article on ideal garage gym barbells, which should also be considered an essential piece of gear for your garage.
Please also consider checking out our guide to Olympic weight plates. You can’t do much with a power rack without a barbell and plates.
We’re a Rogue Fitness affiliate – so if you order equipment after clicking the links in this article we receive monetary compensation. But that’s not why we recommend Rogue. It’s because their equipment is tough, durable, well-made, and a lot of their best stuff is made in America. Their equipment looks good, and works even better. Their innovative designs and diversity of options make your training better – allowing you to reach your personal goals faster. And that’s why we love them.
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