14 Essentials For Your Home Powerlifting Gym
updated June 6, 2018
Powerlifters demand heavy duty training gear. They can’t afford to be putting up maximum lifts when working with sub standard benches , racks or cages. Up until a few years ago, that has presented a problem for guys who have wanted to set up a basement powerlifting gym. The home fitness market just couldn’t hack it. But, fortunately, times have changed. It is now possible to source heavy duty powerlifting gear for the home user. Here are the essential fourteen items that you need to get your home powerlifting gym functioning.
The power rack is the cornerstone of your powerlifting gym. You need to be totally confident in its ability to take whatever demands you throw at it. And it needs to be versatile enough to allow for the full range of moves that your workout demands. Look for a rack that has the following specifications:
- 3” x 3” 11 gauge steel uprights
- Minimum of three quarter inch bolts and fittings
- Westside hole pattern to provide a one inch distance in the bench press range and two inches in the squat range.
- At least one quality pull up bar that offers a range of gripping options including neutral
- The facility to bolt the unit to the floor
- Band pegs to allow for band training.
Click here to find out more about power racks with our complete guide.
You’re going to need a quality powerlifting bar. Look for a bar that has a generous amount of knurling, along its whole length. Your powerlifting bar should also be stiffer than a standard Olympic bar. Your bar should be seven and a half feet long, with 56 inches between the end caps. The steel tensile rating should be at least 180,000 PSI. Your bar also needs to have a decent amount of whip. This is difficult to ascertain from looking at the bar, so check online reviews for this. You also need to get a bar with revolving sleeves.
Click here for all you need to know about best Olympic barbells.
Make sure that you get round, as opposed to hexagonal, plates. Hex plates make it impossible to do moves like deadlifts. Look for a bundled deal that includes 6 x 20 kg, 4 x 10 kg, 4 x 5 kg, 4 x 2.5kg and 4 x 1.25 kg plates. Rubber coated plates will give protection to your flooring.
Read our guide for Weights/Bumper Plates here.
Collars are the lynchpin of your workout. There is nothing more frustrating - and dangerous - than having the plates start sliding from the bar half through a max effort on the squat. There are a lot of different collar options out there, from the basic spring version to the more rigid muscle clamp. You should buy a pair of solid muscle clamps. They are very user friendly, they won’t scratch up your Olympic bar and they are reliable.
You’re going to need a decent range of dumbbells to allow you to work all of the synergistic muscle that come into play when you’re performing your big lifts. You could purchase a set of fixed hexagonal bells, or you could go for Olympic sized dumbbell handles that will allow you to load the bar with your Olympic plates. The problem with these is that, when you start piling on 10 or 20 kg plates, your range of motion is severely compromised. Even though the fixed hex dumbbells are the most expensive option, they are the ideal fit for your powerlifting gym. Focus on the heavy range, between 20 kg and 50 kg, ideally with 5 kg increments.
Click here to read our review for best adjustable dumbbells.
Forget about those cheap multi-gym benches that you see at the big box stores and set your sights on a real Olympic lifting bench designed to fit a 7 foot bar. You need to know that the bench can easily handle your body weight plus whatever weight you are presing. That means that you’ll need a decent padded bed to lie on. To check if the padding is sufficient, you can press your thumb into the middle of the pad and see if you can touch the base. If you can, the padding isn’t thick enough. You’ll also want at least 2” x 2” 11 gauge steel uprights and a weight capacity of at least 1000 pounds.
Make sure that the bench pad isn’t overly wide. If it is, the natural movement of your lats will be restricted, negatively impacting on your exercise performance. The correct width should actually allow your lats to extend over the edge of the bench.
Ensure, too, that the bench isn’t either too high or too low from the ground. You need your feet to be firmly planted on the floor with a 90 degree bend at the knee. If the bench is too high, you won’t be able to achieve the ideal low back arch when benching. If it’s too low your overhead pressing work will be impaired. Don’t worry about finding an adjustable bench. The more moving parts your bench has, the weaker it will be. All that you need is a solid flat bench to allow you to safely and reliably work the flat bench press.
Click here for our review of the best weight benches.
Chains allow you to turn your power exercise into a variable resistance exercise. When doing a deadlift, for example, the chains come off the floor as you lift, increasing the weight as you bring the bar up. At the top of the lift, the load will be at its greatest. This forces you to counteract the increasing weight by maintaining the force of the lift.
You can buy chains down at your local hardware store. You’ll want five eighths inch links, looped around the end of the lifting bar. As a general guide, the weight of your chain should be 10% of the weight on the bar.
The glute ham raise machine is the best exercise that you can do to strengthen your posterior chain. A strong posterior chain is going to see immediate payoff in lifting ability. You’ll be able to use your glutes and hamstrings more effectively as your power base when performing any type of pushing movement.
Make sure that you get a solid, Glute Ham Raise Machine that has a triangular base for added rigidity. The fewer pieces that make up the chasis, the stronger the unit will be. It should also feature multiple adjustments to allow you to get a custom fit.
Having a dedicated area to perform your deadlifts that is situated on a reinforced platform will save your flooring from long term harm. A full sized platform takes up an 8” x 8” space, but you can also purchase half size platforms at 8” x 4”. Of course, you could also make your own platform using garage foam tiles, OCB boards, and 2 x 6, three quarter inch hardwood board.
A lifting belt is an essential piece of powerlifting equipment. Contrary to popular opinion, a belt will not make your core weaker. What it will do is to increase intra-abdominal pressure, to increase spinal stabilization during the lift. Wading through the options to find the right belt for you, however, isn’t easy. Here’s what you need to look out for:
- A sturdy leather belt that is at least 10 cm wide and 13 cm thick.
- Consider a tapered belt if you will be doing a lot of deadlifting. A lot of guys find that a wide belt interferes with their deadlifting motion. A belt that narrows to 5-7 cm at the front is the answer to this problem.
- Even though the double pronged buckle looks more heavy duty, a single prong is all you need. It will be a lot easier to get on and off.
- Don’t expect your belt to be comfortable when you first get it. It will require some breaking in.
Foam rolling, also known as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), has become extremely popular in recent years. The reason is clear – it allows anyone the opportunity to benefit from the equivalent of a professional sports massage whenever and wherever they need it.
Foam rolling will put within your power the ability to improve your flexibility while targeting specific problem areas.
Foam rolling will offer you:
- Pain Relief
- Improved posture
- Improved performance
- Improved range of motion