There is one combination that reigns supreme when it comes to building your home gym.
The squat rack and barbell combo (well, and obviously plates to load the barbell, but you get the point).
So why are squat racks and barbells so important for a garage gym? I'm sure you've heard the old phrase - quality over quantity. Well, with the barbell and squat rack you don't have to pick.
Quality & Quantity?!
The quality of movements you can do with a barbell and squat rack is arguably the best of the best. Barbells allow you to heavily load exercises like overhead press, squats, deadlifts, and bench press in a safe manner. These movements are the foundation for a quality training program and for building muscle. Of course, you can do similar movements with dumbbells but it's hard to go heavy enough. Similarly, you could use machines but they take up more room and don't challenge your body in the same way.
The number of movements you can perform using a barbell and squat rack is absurd. From barbell rows, incline press, lunges, and even bicep curls, you really can target almost any muscle in multiple ways using a barbell and squat rack.
Now with most of the movements mentioned above, it is pretty obvious why the barbell is important. However, if you are somewhat new to lifting you may not see the importance of a squat rack. Squat racks are essential, simply put. Squat racks allow you to safely perform lifts like squats, lunges, bench press, and overhead press. The squat rack allows you to take the loaded barbell out from the rack at the desired height you want, which is not only more effective - it is much safer than other alternatives.
So, now that we've covered that. How do you find the best squat rack and barbell for you?
What To Look For in a Squat Rack
There are generally a few things squat racks tend to separate themselves from each other on.
The first is size. Squat racks can be massive. Now if you are looking at filling your commercial gym, this may not be a huge deal; however, home gyms generally have very limited space. For this reason, it's critical you choose the right squat rack in order to maximize your garage, spare bedroom, or whatever space you are looking at.
One of my favorite options for this is the wall-mounted squat rack. Essentially, this rack folds out from the wall. So when you aren't using it it takes up almost no space, but when you need it - you have all the benefits of a squat rack. The two other common types of racks are half and full. Half racks are obviously smaller, but apart from size, there aren't a whole lot of functional differences.
The second thing to consider is quality. Like anything, some racks are made cheaply. This usually boils down to what type of metal is used. Just be sure to read the reviews and be sure the rack is of high quality before buying. If you choose the right rack (and barbell for that matter) they can last decades.
Finally, a big differentiator is what I'll call features. This includes things like does the rack have a pull-up bar. If so, does it have the option for neutral grip pull-ups? What is the plate storage like on the rack? You ideally want to be able to store all of your weight plates on the squat rack for ease of use and to save space. There are a ton of other features (landmine attachments, band attachments, safety bars, etc.), and not all of them are important, so be sure to compare models to make the best decision.
Side note, if you are really looking for a cheaper, space-saving solution, you could consider a squat stand. Squat stands are essentially two independent poles that can be moved to hold a barbell. I wouldn't recommend this for a beginner as they can be unstable and fall over if you aren't careful. However, it can be an option depending on your situation.
What To Look For in a Barbell
The biggest thing to consider when it comes to barbells is choosing between a standard or Olympic barbell.
Here's what I mean. There are what we will call standard barbells. These are designed to handle all of the lifts we've mentioned to this point - squats, presses, etc. These barbells are very common and probably what you would find at a standard commercial gym.
The other common type of barbell is the Olympic barbell. This barbell is specifically designed for performing the Olympic lifts - the clean and jerk and the snatch. In these movements, it is important that the bar be able to rotate quickly. For this reason, the ends of the barbell spin much more easily and quickly than those on a standard barbell.
So what this really comes down to is you.
What are your goals? If you are looking at training in a style similar to bodybuilding or powerlifting - I would recommend the standard barbell. On the other hand, if you are inspired by Olympic lifting or CrossFit-style training, an Olympic barbell is the better option.
If you really aren't sure, it's not a big deal. You can still perform Olympic lifts with a standard bar, and you can also perform all the presses, lunges, and squats you desire with an Olympic barbell. They just have subtle differences that help if you do have a training style in mind.
Where To Find Your Barbell and Squat Rack Combo
Okay, so you now know what to look for, but where do you find such an amazing combination of muscle-building and fat-shredding equipment?
There are a few options.
First, the internet. Google is your friend to read reviews, find the exact pieces of equipment you are looking for, and compare prices. The only problem here is you likely never see the equipment and shipping can be expensive.
Another alternative is websites like Facebook Marketplace. Marketplace allows you to find local users looking to get rid of their equipment. This can be a great option - especially if you find someone looking to get rid of their entire gym setup. You could find yourself quite the deal on not only a barbell and squat rack but also dumbbells and weight plates.
Or check us out! At Freedom Fitness Equipment we have barbells, squat racks, weight plates, and so much more. Located in Charlotte, NC, we offer nationwide shipping as well as local pickup, so whatever is most convenient for you. We offer both new and used equipment, and we'd love to help you build the garage gym of your dreams at a reasonable price.
You're all set! You now are armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous in your search for the perfect squat rack and barbell combo.
As always, we are here for you and would love to help you in your home gym journey. We want to see you crush PRs, move well, and stay healthy. Please leave us a comment or question below. We'd love to hear from you!