When you are looking for the right equipment to start a home gym, the choices could be many. The prime consideration often comes down to your ultimate objectives – which will guide you towards the type of exercise equipment you are looking for – along with a couple of other factors such as the amount of space you have available and whether you are likely to be alone most of the time while working out.
If you are into power lifting and toning your muscles with weight training, train alone most of the time (who doesn’t, when training at home?) and you have a bit of space available – say 40-45 square feet of floor space and an 8 foot high ceiling – you cannot do better than a power rack with a lat pulldown as the central piece in your gym.
Read on to find out why the power rack is an equipment that commercial gym owners swear by and every workout enthusiast makes a beeline for at the gym.
What is a Power Rack?
If you are unsure about what a power rack is, never fear. You are sure to have seen it and almost sure to have used one if you work out on a regular basis.
A power rack is a steel cage that you stand inside while exercising. Their prominent feature, besides the open cage structure, consist of the horizontal bars that can be adjusted to help spot you as you are lifting weights or doing squats.
Look for them in the area of the gym where people are doing squats or weight reps – you’re sure to have seen one.
What Can You Do Inside a Power Rack?
There are a plethora of exercises that you can do inside a power rack. Some of the more common forms include the following:
Back and front squats
Shoulder shrugs, etc.
As the list above shows, the use of a power rack typically begins with squats, but it is an amazingly versatile piece of equipment that can be used for many activities beyond squats.
A power rack may look daunting at the beginning, but its rare to find an equivalent tool to build and tone muscle, while minimizing the risk of injury.
The Safety Factor
The power rack allows you to lift heavy weights, do complex stretches and undertake as many reps as your body and form will allow – without needing to have a spotter or exercise partner looking over your shoulder (literally!) to make sure you don’t pull a muscle or hurt yourself more seriously.
The power rack will typically have four upright posts that could stretch up to 7-and-a-half feet in height. In addition, the cage has a minimum of two adjustable horizontal bars that can “spot” you for a variety of exercises. This ensures your safety, provided you choose the right weight and adjust the bars to the correct height for what you are about to do.
Are Squat Racks the Same as Power Racks?
The squat rack is sometimes called a “half power rack” – it consists of two upright posts instead of the four posts that form the power rack cage – and a stand that holds the barbell for you at the correct height while you do squats.
The squat rack, while simple and elegant, does not have the features or the safety aspects of the power rack. The latter is a more complete system, especially if you get one with some standard features and/or extensions.
A squat rack costs far less than a decent power rack, but the latter more than makes up for it with its functionality and safety features.
The power rack you buy or use at the gym can come fitted with some useful accessories, the top rated among which is a Lat Pulldown Machine or Cable. Other features that are often seen include chin-up bars and/or catchers and pegs.
Why are these additional features often coveted, especially the lat pulldown machine?
Getting a Lat Pulldown Machine with a Power Rack
The power rack allows you to exercise your lower body in many ways, but there are multiple exercises that apply to the upper body. A lat pulldown machine completes the picture, adding a series of exercises that complete your set – with special attention on the upper body.
The lat pulldown machine allows you to exercise your latissimus dorsi (“lat” for short) muscle. You can feel this muscle bunch up in the middle of your back if you raise an elbow at a 450 angle above the line of your shoulder and then make tilt it back at a 450 angle to the vertical plane. The lat machine allows you to develop and tone both your middle back and biceps.
A power rack with a lat pulldown system provides you with a complete body workout, to a level that very few exercise equipment can match in terms of both efficiency and safety.
How to Get the Most Out of Exercising on Your Power Rack
The basic exercises on your power rack and the lat pulldown machines are standard, it’s just that your equipment provides you with more support and safety to put in the reps without the need for a spotter while minimizing the fear of injury. However, the tips below will help you get the most benefits without harming yourself. Remember that the lack of a spotter lowers the margin for error somewhat.
A Few Safety Tips
It is easy to get carried away when using a power rack, once you have understood that it’s the ultimate set up for doing squats and weights while supported by the safety features strewn around the cage.
Don’t get careless, though, safety is too important to compromise.
Weight Capacity, Stability and Other Safety Features. We have discussed these in detail under the “Features” section below but check for weight capacity (comparing against the uses you are contemplating), stability and safety protocols. Don’t get surprised in the middle of a set.
Never Rack the Weights While Facing Away from the Pins. This might seem like common sense, but a number of people fall into the habit of trying to rack the pins while facing outwards (away from the pins) as they complete a squat or similar exercise. This is where you face the downside of working out without a spotter – if the barbell misses the pin on one side, for example, you could be hurt.
Add Weights in a Balanced Fashion. When adding weights to the barbell, even out the weights on both sides as you load them up. Don’t overload one side. Similarly, if you are bench pressing, make sure that the weights are distributed evenly – with the weight of the 20 lb. bar factored in to reach the weight you want to have on. Anything from a side strain to a bigger accident can happen with uneven weights.
Some Gym Etiquettes to Follow
If you are using a power rack at home, feel free to make maximum use of the machine.
If you happen to be in a gym, however, you should be aware of certain gym etiquettes. The power rack happens to be one of the most popular machines, especially among those interested in squats and those lifting without a spotter.
Among the unwritten rules to follow in the gym would be to not use the power cage for exercises that can be performed in isolation (e.g., bicep curls or triceps extensions). They are certainly doable in the rack, but its not necessary to be blocking access if you see others waiting to get in there.
Besides that, the normal courtesies such as wiping down the parts and the pieces used holds. The power rack has equipment and surfaces close to the user, the last thing they need is sweat or oily residue from you.
Features to Look for in a Power Rack with Lat Pulldown
When choosing the power rack with lat pulldown machines that is right for you, there are a few things to consider so you get the right value for your price. They could include:
Accessories. The more you crave a full body exercise, the more accessories (e.g., a chin-up bar) you could consider. They will increase the cost and also create concerns about stability and safety (see below), but you should work out a full list of the functionalities you desire before choosing your equipment and cage.
Size. This is dependent on the dimensions of the exercise space available in your home gym. We provided some average dimensions earlier, but power racks and accessories take up varying amounts of spaces – both for the structure itself, as well as the radius of space around the machine that you need to exercise comfortably.
For example, some cages have bars that thrust outwards (typically used for dips). You need space to operate comfortably. Also, the weight plates must be stacked separately, taking up extra space. In general, the more the frills, the more space will probably be needed.
Stability. Many power racks have sleek, modern designs with lightweight frames. While they will bear up to the weight specifications (see below), one of the concerns you must alleviate is that of stability. The cage may need to be bolted to the floor (or on top of a lifting platform if you do not want to mar the floor itself) to ensure that the entire structure is stable as you go through your routine and reps.
Safety. Besides the aspects mentioned above, check to ensure that the spotter arm and sling attachments are safe and secure.
Ease of Installation. For both the cage and its attachments, including the lat. pulldown, choose a model with easy to install features. Otherwise, get a professional – it may cost extra but it will add to your own safety.
Some Lat Pulldown Features. Besides the power cage, check for the grips and knurlings on your lat pulldown. You should also have a 39” bar, plus a 20” low bar with foam grips included with the equipment. The adjustability of the system is important for a flowing workout.
Do not ignore this step, an injury can result from an unstable power rack.
Weight Capacity. All power racks have a weight capacity advertised, as we saw above. The thickness of the steel frames drives the capacity. Have a definitive calculation about how much weight you are going to put on the machine with various exercises.
Having the power rack collapse while doing a pull up with weight plates, say, beyond a certain level, could expose you to injury.
Get the Highest Value for Your Purchase
You can find a good power rack with other accessories (including a lat pulldown machine) for $1000 or less, if you choose your options carefully. If money is not an object and you need something specialized, you can look into higher priced models.
The trick is to make sure that the features that are included suit you, be it the type of exercises you want to perform, the weight tolerance or your own body type.
We present a few options below, mainly to give you a flavor of what is out there.
A Few Options to Consider
Below are three options to consider when looking for power racks with lat pulldown machine options. These are presented mainly as points of reference to demonstrate the range of options that are out there. Hopefully, this will help you decide on what you want based on your personal preferences and circumstances.
Vanswe Fitness 1000-lb Capacity Multi-Function Adjustable Power Cage (with Optional Attachments): This convenient, all purpose power cage can be upgraded in terms of material. Accessories such as lat pulldown machines, cable crossovers and weight benches can be added.
Vanswe Fitness 1300-lb Power Rack: This model includes a squat rack, bench press power cage with a lat pulldown machine and a number of other accessories that create a complete home workout experience. The full array of equipment does require some additional space to be set up.
The weight capacities vary by equipment. For example, the bar catchers outside the power cage have a 500 lb. max load capacity, while those inside the fitness rack can support a max load of 650 lb. The safety bars have a 750 lb. max load for safety bars and there’s a 200lb. max load on the Lat Pull down.
A power rack with a lat pulldown machine is a complete body workout system, that can be further customized according to your preferences, budget and space allowance. If there is one machine that you would like to use for all weight and muscle development and toning, look no further than this one equipment.
Follow the guidelines above to better educate yourself with some of the prime considerations, so you are confident in the final choice of your very own power rack and lat pulldown machine.