A power rack is a very big piece of equipment and not everyone will have the space to fit one in their home gym. Are there any other alternatives to still creating a complete home gym? Let’s find out.
It is possible to have a home gym without a power rack. The functionality of a power rack can be replaced with a pull up bar and barbell stand although you give up a little safety and versatility for smaller equipment. Another option is to replace the lifts with alternative exercises.
How you can do this properly and which alternative exercises are proper replacements without getting any other equipment? Keep reading to find out.
What’s a power rack used for?
So if we want to create a home gym without a power rack but still have all of the functionality, we need to know what a power rack does.
A power rack is a great piece of equipment since it is so multifunctional. You can do tons of lifts and exercises all with just one of equipment. The downside is that it’s quite large and takes up a lot of space in your home gym. So what if you can’t open up enough room to fit a power rack? What are you missing out on?
Power rack lifts and exercises
For an example of a home gym setup with a power rack, click here. Now for this post, we’ll take a look what you miss out on if you take the power rack out of that setup.
Here are the most important exercises a power rack is used for;
- Overhead press
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- Rack pulls
- Barbell bench press
As you can see there are quite a few exercises that you will want to do in your home gym. Especially for people that are into weightlifting, those are some of the mainstays in any decent weightlifting and bodybuilding program.
What are these exercises for?
- Squats: legs and back
- Overhead press: Shoulders and triceps
- Pull ups & Chin ups: Back and biceps
- Rack pulls: Legs and back
- Bench press: Chest and triceps
What DON’T you need a power rack for?
Pretty much everything else. Ok that’s obvious but let’s name some categories you definitely don’t need a power rack for.
- Dumbbell exercises
- Barbell exercises you do from the floor like dead lifts and rows.
So you can still do a lot of great lifts and exercises without a power rack but I’m sure most people want to do some of the lifts you need a power rack for. Or do you?
What are the alternatives to a power rack?
Is there another way to still be able to do those lifts without a power rack? Sure there is. The alternatives can roughly be divided into two categories;
- Alternative equipment
- Alternative lifts
What do you want from alternatives?
They should functionally be the same. So, exercise the same muscles. Have the same movement patterns. The equipment shouldn’t take up any more space than a power rack otherwise it would be pointless to not get the power rack in the first place.
The easiest way to still be able to perform all the lifts is to get equipment that does the same thing. As long as it doesn’t take up as much space as a power rack, it just might work for you. So what options are there?
- Pull up bar
- Barbell stand
With those pieces of equipment you can do all the important lifts that you miss out on if you don’t have a full rack.
A pull up bar is a small piece of equipment that allows you to do pull ups and chin ups. Especially in a home gym it’s hard to find alternative exercises that fully replace the pull and chin up so a pull up bar is an easy and cheap way to still be able to do them while taking up very little space.
Here is a pull up bar I really like (Click). It is easy to mount, cheap and has different grips for hand positions.
Next up is the barbell stand. There are a few different types of barbell stands. The one you want has two places to put your barbell. One low (for bench press) and one adjustable on top for squats and overhead press. That way you have the barbell at the correct heights. This way you can do all the lifts you want without having to lift the barbell from the floor.
Check out this barbell stand on Amazon. It does exactly the things you want and is a lot smaller than a full sized rack and is also much cheaper.
This is also the most important purpose of a power rack so what’s the difference? The biggest difference is stability and safety. A power rack has more fail-safes if you would fail on a lift.
If you don’t have enough space for a power rack, you might not have enough space for any other equipment.
Is it possible to find any alternative lifts and exercises without getting any additional equipment? Let’s assume we still have the same equipment from my ‘basic weightlifting equipment’ minus the power rack. What can we do with that?
What we’re left with is;
Luckily there is a ton of things you can do with just those pieces of equipment.
|Original||Closest alternative||Other alternatives|
|Squats||Dumbbell squats||Jefferson deadlift||Romanian split squat|
|Overhead Press||Clean and press into overhead press||Dumbbell shoulder press|
|Pull ups/Chin ups||Lat pulldown|
|Rack pulls||Use blocks instead of a rack|
|Barbell bench press||DB Bench press||Floor press|
Dumbbells are a great tool as an alternative to barbell exercises. While some alternative exercises don’t exactly have the same movement pattern as the original but require largely the same muscles.
The most difficult to find an alternative for is the pull up and chin up. The lat pulldown is the closest alternative with a very similar movement pattern. Many home gyms don’t have a lat pulldown option however since it requires a separate machine or an attachment to a power rack.
Since pull up bars are so cheap and small, there is really no reason not to get one. It makes your life a lot easier. If you really don’t want to do this the best alternative is to do other back exercises like rows.
Rack pulls are an exercise not too many people do but there are a few hard core fans. The power rack is easily replaced by a few blocks you put the barbell on.
The overhead press is another interesting lift to replace. The best alternative is the clean and press. This makes the lift a lot more technical and will require a bit of practice and maybe getting some coaching is a good idea. Once you master the movement, you can just clean the weight to your chest and then overhead press like normal.
Dumbbell shoulder presses are actually a very good alternative. Research shows that the DB shoulder press activates your shoulder more than barbell overhead pressing although you’ll have to use a lighter weight.
The bench press is a bit harder but you can still get a good chest workout with a combination of the DB bench press and a floor press. The DB bench press has the same or even a slightly bigger range of motion than a barbell bench. You can’t lift as much weight however.
The floor press is better suited to heavy lifting but has a smaller range of motion. The two exercises complement each other nicely.
So can you build a good home gym without a power rack that does everything you want it to? Yes, it is possible. A pull up bar and barbell stand will allow you to do all the important and popular lifts most people want to do. There are a few other things you can do with a power rack that you can’t do with the pull up bar and barbell stand especially related to attachments you could add on to a power rack. Compared to a power rack you might give up some safety and the versatility but you gain some space since it’s much smaller than a full sized power rack.
How can you bench press in a home gym? To do a proper barbell bench press in your home gym, you need a bench, barbell, weights and a barbell stand or power rack. A power rack with safety pins is the safest option in a home gym where you usually work out alone. Alternatively you can do dumbbell bench presses or floor presses.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.