14 Essentials For Your Home Powerlifting Gym
Everybody knows you need weight plates and an Olympic bar if you want to start powerlifting. A bench, too, since bench presses are key to so much chest and arm strength. And the centerpiece of any powerlifting gym will be a squat rack or power rack. Often, these racks do extra duty as pull up stations, lat stations, leg developers, weight storage, wall ball targets, and more.
But there are many items we do not think about when it comes to the well-rounded home powerlifting gym. Did you know that dry or wet chalk can help your grip? What about gloves or straps, or a glove/strap unit like the one we found? There are gadgets that don't work you out at all, just make it safer and easier to load a barbell.
In this review, we take aim at ten items to make your powerlifting sessions more productive.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 20 hours of research
Lightweight with a small footprint
Includes J-Hooks for squat bars
Easy to adjust barbell height
Has a pull up bar and dip station
Best 10 Essentials for Powerlifting
1. Titan Fitness Short Power Rack
Lightweight with a small footprint
Includes J-Hooks for squat bars
Easy to adjust barbell height
Has a pull up bar and dip station
Extra attachments must be purchased separately
This rack keeps you safe while making it convenient to store your barbells for squats and more. And it's compact, at just 93 pounds with a 48" by 45" footprint.Read more
In addition to squats, the rack lets you do pull-ups and chin-ups. It can act as an upright so you can do bench presses with a bench. Bodyweight dips, deadlifts, and regular arm curls are possible, too, with the T-2 giving you a stable spot for your bars and holding them steady while you load or unload plates.
What many of us don't realize is that, in addition to adding safety and convenience, a power or squat rack can help you with form. Having one of these low-cost units on hand will reduce injury, including protecting your spine and making sure you get a full range of motion without hyperextension.
Construction is solid, with two-inch by two-inch steel tubes throughout. The fixed pull-up bar is 68.5" from the floor, so you will have to cross your legs if you are of average or higher height. The entire unit height is about six feet. The rack is also upgradeable, with plate holders, leg extension attachment, dumbbell holders, a dedicated bench, and other extras all priced separately. The T-2 Tall Rack, which costs about $30 more, has an 80-inch pull-up bar so it is more suitable for tall users.
2. Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Rack
Ample weight storage on base model
Pull-up bar is 83" off the ground
Comes with a lat pull attachment
Rubber toe caps protect floor
Attachments cost extra
This power rack for barbell storage and a squat platform also includes a lat pull station for exercising your back, arms, and shoulders using a cable.Read more
Like the Titan Fitness rack, this one is made of two-inch by two inches 12 gauge steel framing. The footprint and working space are substantially larger than the Titan. There are 6 storage pegs for weight plates, four on the back and two on the side. An included pull-up bar comes 83 inches from the floor, to fit users of all heights comfortably.
The pull-up bar also has knurled handholds for comfort and grip enhancement. The barbell supports easily adjust to 27 positions, and user weight capacity tops out at 350 pounds. The squat bar holder and safety catch each has a 500 pound capacity for squats. You can also purchase separate accessories, which include a dip station, dumbbell holders, and more safety attachments.
We're impressed with the safety bar catch, a feature missing from many home gym squat racks. It catches a loaded bar if you start to drop it or can't complete a rep. For around $400, you can even extend the BD-7 into a full-featured cable crossover machine, while retaining all the exercise capability of the base model.
3. Clout Fitness Quick Release Collars
Made of reinforced plastic
Lined with rubber for good grip
Lightweight, easy to handle
Quick release lever is a single piece
Metal pins hold sides in place
Only fits Olympic bars, not standard
Quick-release barbell collars, like the quick releases on a bicycle, let you load and unload plates quickly for any barbell exercise using an Olympic bar.Read more
Inside, the collar is lined with grippy circular sheet rubber, so the collar will not slide or loosen while holding onto the bar. The quick-release latch is a single piece of plastic you push up or push down when you want to install or remove a plate. The rounded, caster-like outside is textured, too, making the collars easier to hold with sweaty hands.
Customer reviewers praised how durable the product is, stating their use for squats, overhead presses, dumbbell rows, bench presses, calf raises and other dumbbell or barbell exercises. The clamps are speedy, too, made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). ABS is a polymer made from plastic injection. It is known for its strength, rigidity, impact resistance, and environmental resistance. These collars may not look or feel like old-style steel screw-on collars, but they are just as tough and will last you a long time.
The collars come in black and 10 other colors. You could use them to color code sets of adjustable dumbbells by weight, making you more efficient and helping you get more reps in. Even if you drop a barbell, these reinforced plastic collars won't crack, chip, or splinter.
4. Telk Adjustable Dumbbells
Spin lock collars are big, easy to turn
Cast iron plates are long lasting
Plates are indented for easier handling
Can combine handles into a barbell
Baked enamel finish is resilient, resistant
Standard weight plates, no adapting for Olympic bar
This dumbbell pair comes with cast iron weight plates and collars to let you put anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds in each hand.Read more
The collars are the spinning star type, easy to loosen or tighten though not as fast as the Clout Fitness quick releases. The plates are exceptionally tough, with a rust-resistant enamel baked finish. The handles are chrome coated, with enough texture to help you maintain a firm grip.
You can also fit the plates onto any standard bar, using the spin collars or any suitable 2-inch collars you have on hand. Unfortunately, since the holes in the plates are 1.15 inches, there is no way to make them bigger for an Olympic bar.
The Telk sets come in different weights, too, including the heavy-duty 200-pound set that lets you lift up to 100 pounds per hand. The 45 and 65 sets include a threaded rod to let you combine the two dumbbells and use them as a barbell. Telk offers a five-year warranty on each set.
5. AmazonBasics Rubber Hex Dumbbell
Rubberized cast iron is tough and durable
Contoured handle for comfort
Hex weights won't roll away on flat surface
Comes with a warranty from Amazon
Fixed weight can't be added to, taken away from
Sometimes it's good to have fixed dumbbells in your favorite weight increments, so you can just grab and go. This one, from Amazon, gives you cast iron resistance encased in hard rubber for protection.Read more
These are called hex dumbbells, because of the hexagonal shape. It makes it easier to store on a flat surface. The cast iron won't break or dent, even if you drop them on a hard floor. Meanwhile, the rubber both protects your floor and prevents rust or moisture intrusion for the weight plates.
The chrome handle has ergonomic, hand-friendly chrome construction, with a widened center. The handle is textured, too, helping you with grip. The texturing is fine and will not bite into or indent your palms, even if you choose to lift without weightlifting gloves.
Amazon offers a one year warranty on their product. This exact same design comes in increments from 10 to 50 pounds. The dumbbell is sold individually, not in pairs. If you want a dumbbell for each hand, you will have to buy them separately.
6. Titan Deadlift Jack
Can lift a lot of weight (no capacity limit from manufacturer)
Powder coated steel is durable
Easy to operate from standing position
Lined cups protect your bar while it sits on the jack
Not suggested for standard bars, may not sit securely
The deadlift jack is something you don't see in every gym, even those with benches and barbells. We reviewed this one, which is an actual mechanical jack, as well as the lower cost and more compact Deadwedge Deadlift jack alternative in our number seven slot.Read more
This one is made of powder-coated steel. Although it uses the same principle as a car jack, there is no hydraulics. Instead, the handle uses mechanical leverage to lift your bar ten inches off the ground. This makes loading and unloading your plates easier, especially for your back and arms. You don't have to lift up the end of the bar or place it on a squat rack or upright just so you can struggle it to the floor for a deadlift starting position.
A progressively heavier routine, with multiple sets and lower reps each time, is one application we can think of. If you have a bar that is pretty much reserved for deadlifts, too, you can use the jack for storage. The cups that hold your bar in place are lined with foam to prevent bar or plate damage. The jack weighs 30 pounds, is 42.5 inches long, and has a handle height of 35 inches. You won't have to do a lot of bending over to jack the bar up and down.
Customers praised the jack's strength and sturdy construction. Titan does not provide a weight capacity, but users reported moving 500 pounds or more with the jack, without any problems. The jack assembles quickly with included hardware.
7. Deadwedge Deadlift Jack
Made of durable rubber with treads for grip
Securely hold Olympic plates as well as hex plates
Simple and fast operation
Can work for heavy dumbbells, too
No extra features, accessories, upgrades
This is a lower cost, smaller, and innovative alternative to a deadlift jack that helps you get your weights off the ground for more convenient loading. The wedges also hold the loaded bar in place for starting a deadlift.Read more
The idea behind the dead wedge is that you can carry it in your gym bag, or use it in your home gym where space may be at a premium. It comes in pairs, one for each weight plate on the ends of the barbells.
One ingenious feature is that each wedge is the exact same width as an Olympic plate. So if you have a 45-pound plate on each end, the wedge will not interfere while you add 25-pound plates. The plates won't roll, decreasing the likelihood of an injury or equipment damage.
The wedge is made of durable rubber, with the Dead Wedge logo stamped onto the treads. It is shaped similarly to a doorstop, letting you roll the barbell onto the wedge with your foot. The wedge is sold in a single unit. It is designed so you can switch from one side to the other, so you don't need a pair of the wedges.
8. RIMSports Heavy Duty Lifting Gloves
Neoprene comfort wrist guard
Hooks are metal coated in a polymer
Double stitching throughout
Straps are easy to put on bar and remove
Not safe to use for curls--could slip from your hands
These severe-looking lift assists look more like hooks than gloves. While they aren't useful outside the weight room, the straps and hooks will help you grip better when you perform deadlifts and other barbell exercises with heavy weight.Read more
To use the gloves, you attach the straps to a pull-up bar, barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell. You then wrap your hands around the lifting implement like normal, except that the hard plastic liners inside your hands give you a firm grip. This also helps transmit the load from your palm to your wrist, which also increases grip strength.
The reduced pressure on your palms can actually help you lift more weight, sometimes a substantial amount immediately after you put the gloves on. Though coated in plastic, the hooks are metal for added crush grip strength. Stitching is double-sided, and the straps are durable industrial quality. The gloves have neoprene padding around the wrist, which aids in comfort and will not slip even if you sweat from doing heavy reps.
The gloves are also great for doing pull-ups. RIMSports offers a warranty and a money back guarantee. In addition to the enhanced grip, the gloves can help you maintain proper form while lifting.
9. Dark Iron Fitness Lifting Belt
Made of soft comfortable leather
Approved by two international lifting federations
Covers entire lower back area-thick size
Fits waist sizes up to 49 inches
Won't be of much use if you do not do barbell exercises regularly
Lifting belts help protect your spine, lock you into better form, and even give you a boost when lifting heavy weights by making your muscle groups drill down on the task at hand.Read more
If you are going to do any heavy lifting, a weight belt is essential and indispensable. No matter how strong you become, the spine is still a delicate structure. Anything you can do to safeguard it is worth doing.
The genuine leather construction of this belt means it will not tear or become loose over time. The leather is buffalo hide, known for being soft and pliable while still giving solid protection. The leather will not dig into your hips, so pain and annoyance during lifting are eliminated.
This belt will stand up even if you lift 500 or 600 pounds. Your back and abs will be supported all the way. This belt can help you increase performance quickly while minimizing the risk of damage to your spine or injuries due to losing form. We wouldn't dream of deadlifting a car body without one of these belts.
10. Liquid Fit Chalk
Comes in two different sizes
Smaller bottle is refillable
Long lasting, won't need to reapply often
Liquid dries quickly on hands, acts like regular chalk
No dust or mess
Some of the chalk will flake off on equipment
It may not be obvious why we'd include chalk in our buying guide until you consider that chalking your hands is one more way to increase grip efficacy for performing pull-ups, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and other sports like gymnastics or rock climbing.Read more
If it's good enough for rock climbers, then it's good enough for us--in that sport, good grip can make the difference between success and a serious setback. This chalk is liquid and comes in a squeeze bottle, so you can coat both hands quickly without making a dusty mess or coughing when the dust gets in your mouth. Also, some gyms won't allow block or powder chalk because of the mess.
The liquid goes on easily, dries fast, and outlasts sweat. It is also antibacterial, helping protect your immune system at public gyms with shared equipment. Once it goes on, it stays on, never letting go completely until you wash your hands. You won't be stopping often to reapply, so you can stay focused on your workout.
The small 50mL bottle comes with a mini carabiner, so you can attach it to a bag or clothing. You can also get a two-pack of the 50mL bottle. The other size is 250, a larger bottle you can use to refill the 50mL one. You also have the option of bundling a 250mL bottle with one of the 50s, for a lower price and five refills.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Almost every piece of equipment offers an accessory, if you look hard enough.
On big units like the squat racks, it is easy to see. Leg plates, cables, lat handles, extra weight storage--these are all accessories. Sometimes they come with the rack, and others time you have to purchase them separately.
Even something as simple as the liquid chalk has a carabiner, for attaching to a bag. We consider that an accessory.
Accessories are important because they extend the equipment and enhance your workout experience. Anything you can do to keep your practice fresh and give yourself a new challenge is a positive. In our reviews, we looked for equipment that will offer you opportunities to take your training past a plateau and to a new level.
Athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
To us, someone who just started lifting today is no less of an athlete than a long-term powerlifter. There are skill and experience levels, of course. And there is a big difference between an athlete and a professional athlete. But if you enjoy athletic pursuits, and you partake in them regularly, we say you are an athlete.
Since we are not all the same height, weight, age, or fitness level, we put a priority on equipment that is adjustable. This could be a grip width, the height of a pull-up bar, the recline of a seat, or plenty of other elements we could name. We hope we have provided enough of a variety that everyone who is interested in the sport of powerlifting can find what they need to get started or to advance past where they are.
The workout can be harsh, but it doesn't have to be any more painful than necessary.
The kind of pain we're talking about is soreness, which takes place after a workout and can be a sign that your muscles are growing. A little soreness and tenderness can be good if it isn't chronic and doesn't get in the way of your daily activities.
Even while you are pushing and sweating, perhaps trying a new working weight that you are not used to, you can do so in comfort. Padded seats and grips, height adjustments, gloves, wraps, rubberized dumbbells--all of these are appreciated even by the most diehard lifter.
Features are something that can distinguish one product from another.
There are a lot of copycat products out there. How many sets of dumbbells with spinlocks and cast iron plates are there? We chose the Telk in part because it got such great reviews. When companies compete to make products just like those of competitors, you can sometimes lose out. That is because unscrupulous makers will cut corners.
You may have to pay more for the best features and the most reliable service. When you think about the frustration of having to replace something just a few weeks after buying it, you can see why the money is worth it. The replacement could be because the product broke. But it could also be that the product's features were too few to keep up with your progress. When you buy fitness equipment, you can always think about where you are as well as where you want to be. You want to make sure that whatever you purchase has the right features to take you there.
Not all of the equipment on our list is designed to be flexible.
If you have a deadlift jack, to get your barbells off the ground for safer loading, you really can't do much else with it. But if you have the Dead Wedge, a much simpler piece of equipment, you can use dumbbells with it. You can also rest hex head weights on the Dead Wedge. That is flexibility. A product does not even have to have moving parts to have more than one use.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Because of limited space, we did not cover everything you can find in a powerlifting gym. We wanted to give you more than one option for a few things, like squat racks and dumbbells. The items we have included are ones we see as the bare requirements. We have not included barbells or benches, because we reviewed those elsewhere on the site.
What follows is a list of some of the equipment you can use to round out your powerlifting practice. You can do just fine with what we have on the buying guide, but everything we are about to list can help you add variety and keep your practice fresh.
Olympic bar-this, the weight plates, and the collars form a barbell, the building block of many powerlifting routines. You definitely want to go with the Olympic bar, that has a two-inch diameter. Standard plates and bars are much more limited and won't be compatible with commercial equipment.
Weight plates--these attach to the dumbbells, barbells, and sometimes to leg developers. You can also tie a weight plate to yourself and do dips, or practice your grip with a weight plate connected to special tools. Weight plates are versatile and fundamental, though storing them brings on its own challenges.
Bench--the foundation of the bench press, and a presence at almost any gym. The bench press is absolutely essential to building strength in your arms and chest, which you will need for heavy squats and deadlifts. That means benches are vital, too.
Chains--these are used to add extra resistance, either to a dumbbell, barbell, or your body. Although relatively new, chains are not a fad or gimmick. They have real potential for progressive resistance.
Glute ham raise machine-this is a fixed, odd-looking bench that will hold your ankles in place between rollers while you lie prone and list your body up, with the fulcrum of your knees bolstered against a large foam pad. Glute ham raises won't give you huge muscles, but they are perfect for building up your hip flexors and knee flexors. These muscle groups both have big roles to play in squats and deadlifts.
Box--not a plyometric box, but one rated for doing box squats. In a box squat, you stand in front of a box with your weight on your shoulders. You slowly and deliberately sit down, then stand back up. Doing box squats helps teach you form, gives you greater balance, and can even let you keep lifting while injured (only for certain injuries).
Deadlift platform--this is an 8 inch by an 8-inch rubberized pad that protects your floor and allows you to do squats in one dedicated area of your home gym.
Foam rollers--one of the simplest and most endlessly versatile tools for treating soreness and massaging tired muscles. We looked at ten different foam rollers elsewhere on the site.
You don't have to be a heavyweight powerlifter to benefit from using wrist straps with pull up bars, barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells. They are designed to help you lift more effectively by providing extra support to your wrist.
During heavy lifts, your wrist can easily be pulled into a position that will make it hyperextend. An injury like that can put you on the sidelines for months and cause a real setback. This is why you often see competitive powerlifters on television using wrist straps.
But you don't have to lift a lot of weight to put your wrists at risk. If you have ever experienced sore wrists from lifting, we encourage you to try wrist straps. You may be surprised at how much they help and how much confidence they can give you.
Other Factors to Consider
Powerlifting, as a sport, really doesn't involve speed. In fact, the slower and more deliberate you are with heavyweight, the less likely you are to get injured. When we talk about speed here, we are talking about getting the equipment set up for use. A squat jack will let you prepare for your squat by loading your dumbbell much faster than you would otherwise. So while powerlifting takes time, you should not have to spend extra time setting yourself up for the next move.
When lifting heavy weights, stability is a vital factor. You do not want to feel any wobble or bend when you overhead press a loaded barbell. You need products that will keep you on your feet. Shoes for powerlifters, in fact, are like the ultimate in stability shoes, keeping your feet immobilized and grounded in a way that would make walking outside quite uncomfortable. We looked for equipment that we could say, with confidence, will support the weight of your body or equipment without causing discomfort and without making you twist your body into uncomfortable positions just to feel secure.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is the difference between a squat rack and a power rack?
A squat rack also called a squat stand, is usually more limited in features and use than a power rack. Home squat racks typically do not have safety stops, which limits the amount of weight you can safely squat. Typically, with a starter squat rack, you can do a few squat variations and a bench press, if you add a bench or if the squat rack comes with one.
Squat racks are designed as space savers and will often have a small footprint, especially compared to a power rack. A squat rack will have few options to customize. Some will have pull up bars, but few will have dip bars.
A power rack gives you more features and versatility in a less compact, more expensive package. They will have a more solid, stable look and feel. Safety pins, bars, and straps all help keep you from getting in danger, and you can squat without a spotter because of the horizontal safety stops. A power rack lets you do pull-ups, chin-ups, squats, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, and, sometimes, cable exercises. Power racks may have dip bars. They can be customized with storage pegs, resistance bands, chains, and, extra safety features. Some power racks can even be customized for use as slam ball targets.
q: How important is it, really, to change weight plates quickly?
It's not the most important thing about lifting, but we think speed gives you an advantage. Loading and unloading weight plates is hard enough when you start a workout. If you have to do it after you have already been through a couple of sets, you can see the value of a squat jack, Dead Wedge, or quick-release collar. When you get tired, and especially if your hands are sweaty, it is easier to drop a weight or make a mistake in loading.
q: Why would someone want fixed weight dumbbells?
The feel of a fixed dumbbell is different, and some may prefer it. The look and feel come from the hex heads and rubber-coated cast iron that usually form the design of the dumbbell. Also, fixed dumbbells have the weight stamped on the end for quick access. Not everybody trains the same, and not everyone will have the same needs. It is possible to lift the same weight of dumbbell for years, using it primarily as a warm-up or for practice, while steadily increasing your bench or squat weights. Fixed dumbbells are faster, too, because you can just grab the weight you want if you have a rack of them. There are no collars to adjust.
q: Do I need a lifting belt if I am not a powerlifter?
We think you should consider one if you do any standing exercises with dumbbells or barbells, particularly if you plan on increasing resistance and intensity as part of a lifting practice. The thick leather will protect your lower back and spine, which are both so vital to both fitness and continued mobility. You do not have to lift heavy weight to get an injury, especially when you are starting out and may have to learn proper form. The belt will help you with form, another way it protects you.
q: Are bodyweight squats effective?
They absolutely are. You may not be able to lift a lot of weight, or you may not want to. Don't be intimidated by the massive squat racks you see at the gym. Anything that uses resistance and works out your muscle groups will get you stronger over time. Bodyweight squats will target your back, legs, and glutes, and will help loosen up your hip flexors. If your knees are flexible enough, you can do a sitting squat, coming closer to the ground and getting a wider range of motion than you would with a barbell squat. You get all these benefits, without the extra strain that barbell squats can put on your spine.