The power rack (also known as the power cage) is one of the most important and versatile pieces of equipment that you could possibly buy for your home gym.
With nothing more than a power rack and a bar with weights, you can drastically transform your physique, performance, and achieve huge strides towards your fitness goals.
With enough time and smart training, you can use this piece of equipment to change your entire life. Many of the strongest humans alive have earned their gains in the simple, raw strength-building exercises a power cage allows.
If you’re ready to get seriously strong and commit to home gym training that works, proven by decades of results, it’s time to talk power racks…
- Power Rack vs Squat Rack: Why Not Just Buy a Squat Rack?
- Is 500 Enough to Get a Good Power Rack?
- Things to Consider When Buying a Power Rack
- Top 9 Power Racks Under $500
Power Rack vs Squat Rack: Why Not Just Buy a Squat Rack?
A squat rack is great, but it lacks a few things that a power cage does really well:
- It’s not as stable
- It’s not as safe
- It’s not as versatile
These 3 areas we going to be key parts of why you want to buy a power cage, so we’re going to discuss them one by one.
The stability of a power cage is significantly greater than an average squat rack. A good power cage is stable and secure in 3 dimensions, with a strong ‘footprint’, high-durability construction, and they’re designed for tough punishment.
While squat racks are a fantastic investment, they’re often not built with the same heavy-duty usage in mind and don’t bring the same stability. The power cage is a heavy piece of equipment that is often built symmetrically.
While squat stands can be tipped or wobbled during regular use, this is less likely with a high-quality power cage. Squatting inside a power cage feels incredibly stable and safe, which isn’t always the case with a squat rack – and especially with squat stands.
The additional weight and four-poster design of a power cage ensures maximum stability and really does provide a level of commercial reliability and stability, even under $500.
The security of the power cage is one of the key reasons why it’s a home gym favorite among those interested in heavy lifting. You can comfortably squat, press, bench, and perform other heavy barbell movements in a power cage without any concern for injury if you fail the lift.
While squat racks are a great choice, the safety bars are often an absolute nightmare. The pre-set kind offer excellent stability and safety but are reliably placed far too high for a full squat. On the other hand, many adjustable squat racks come with poorly-balanced or insecure safety pins, which unbalance the whole product or simply risk your health.
The power cage has absolutely no problem with this, as a good product will offer highly-adjustable safety pins/bars that are placed through 2 of the cage’s supporting stands. These offer a huge amount of stability and customisability, as well as safety.
The power cage is the best choice for powerlifting in a home gym for this exact reason: it’s customizable and incredibly safe, even when performing maximal lifts by yourself without spotters.
The versatility of a power cage is why it’s such an important piece of equipment. It’s not unrealistic to say that a power cage is going to be one of the most important and commonly-used parts of your home gym. It’s second only to the barbell you’re using it with!
Obviously, the power rack gives you access to any form of squat (back, front, Zercher, whatever), but it also allows you to bench press safely (as well as all the variations of that exercise), and countless others.
Rack pulls, pin squats/presses, heavy step ups, shrugs, and dozens of other exercises can be performed from a power cage. These are seriously important – they offer up a huge variety of training methods with a barbell and can be used for an effective program all by themselves.
If you get a power cage with grippy, suitable bars you can even use your cage for overhead pulling exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups. Meanwhile, the safety pins/bars allow you to perform inverted rows and bodyweight skull crushers.
The actual possibilities for a power cage are enormous, and that’s why we prefer it to a squat rack for home powerlifting and heavy barbell exercises!
Is 500 Enough to Get a Good Power Rack?
If you know what you’re looking for and you’ve got a keen eye for the details, $500 is enough for an effective, functional power rack. It won’t be the same as the kind of product you see at your local powerlifting gym, but it’s going to hit all the fundamentals.
When it comes to price, it’s also important to consider that you’re going to want to avoid any excessive flashy, useless junk. Everybody wants to sell you their power rack, so they’ll add on “features”, but the real value of a cage comes from its ability to hold a bar, stay put, and save your ass if you miss a squat.
If you focus on the important stuff, avoid the marketing hype, and pay attention to our guide then you can definitely get yourself a high-quality power rack under $500.
Things to Consider When Buying a Power Rack
✓ The Size + Dimensions
The size and dimensions of a power cage aren’t something you can ignore. You need it to fit in your gym space and these are obviously pretty big. They tend to be taller than you by a fair bit and take up a large footprint on the ground.
This is important to ensure stability and give you room to perform exercise within the rack. However, you need to finely measure your power cage to the space you have in your home gym. Remember that you also need to ensure a 7-foot width, since an Olympic size barbell is 7 feet long and there’s no point having a power rack that you can’t use because the barbell scrapes your walls.
You want to be looking at a power rack that is as close to being cube-shaped as possible for the additional stability and freedom to move. However, this isn’t always possible since the size and cost of these larger racks can be prohibitive.
Find something that meets the spaces of your home gym, while providing the maximum freedom to move around and exercise without worrying about contacting the upright bars.
✓ Frame Gauge (Gauge Steel)
The gauge of the steel used to build your power cage is a significant factor in the product you’re buying.
You’re going to be loading this cage up with significant weights – you want to feel safe in the cage and know that it won’t be damaged. The gauge of the steel describes the thickness in industry-specific units.
The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. This is going to be a pain to put together, since a lower gauge will almost certainly mean a heavier total weight, but it does also produce stability and better weight-tolerance. It also tends to scale with cost, so keep your eye on your steel gauges!
✓ Build Quality
Nothing ruins a power cage like poor construction. This often means poor welding, B-tier metalwork, or reliance on poorly-manufactured moving parts.
The power cage really is a simple beast. It’s effectively a 3-dimensional steel cube with holes in it so you can put in safety rods. Getting this wrong shouldn’t be an option, but it often is.
Poor build-quality on a power cage means feeling unsafe or insecure when handling the heaviest weights you can lift. Clearly, this isn’t an experience you want. S
Build quality for a power cage is a determining factor for stability, ease-of-use, and the actual life-cycle of the product. While the cages we’re discussing today are all under $500, good build quality means that you really shouldn’t have to replace a cage any time in the next few decades.
✓ Weight Capacity
How much can your power cage hold?
This is a question that you really want to be asking, but never want to find out the hard way. You want to be pushing your strength to the limits, but you want to be safe and secure in doing so – which is why getting a heavy-rated cage is important.
You might not think that you need your cage to hold 800lbs, but how do you know what you’ll be able to lift between now and buying a new cage? These are long-term investments and a better rating doesn’t just offer you the opportunity to continue to develop over the years to come – it also means better stability and peace of mind right now.
A cage that is rated for 2000lbs will be far more stable with 200lbs than a cage rated for 600lbs. Having excess weight-allowance is always better.
✓ Hole Spacing (Numbered Increments)
The spacing of holes for j-hooks (the bit that holds the barbell) and safety pins/bars (the bit that takes the bar’s weight if you miss) are important.
These holes make a difference to the height of the bar when you take it out of the power cage, as well as the height at which you “dump” the bar during a missed lift. These affect your performance and safety directly, so the ability to adjust the hooks and pins/bars is an important part of training.
A product with more, and consistently-spaced, holes provides more customization options to improve your experience. This ensures your safety, as well as allowing you to perform exercises like squats from the right height to full depth without worrying about clanging on the safety pins or having to tip-toe the bar off the hooks.
The upper holes should be wider-spaced, while the lower holes should be clustered closer together. This simply reflects the extra nuance required with safety bars, since they need to be very close to your bottom position without actually contacting the bar until you fail.
✓ The Potential for Add-On Options
You really don’t need to add much onto a power cage – it already does the fundamental thing you bought it for.
However, there are some (though very few) worthwhile attachments. Things like weight pegs for storing your plates can be a great option without changing the functional footprint of the cage. They also bring additional stability and convenience to your life.
This is one example of an add-on that helps. Other examples might include specific chin-up attachments, dip bars, or a landmine attachment.
There aren’t many add-ons that are worth having, but the capacity for them is a great choice and you can make serious savings if your power cage is compatible with these options.
This can only ever be secondary to the actual core functions of the power cage (stability, safety, and versatility in the basics), but it really can make a good product into a great one!
Shipping is very expensive when it comes to power cages because they’re big, bulky, and they weigh a lot.
You want to save whatever you can on shipping while getting the best possible service. It’s hard to know what the shipping service will be like until you’ve received the product but keep your eye on shipping prices and previous customer reviews.
These often paint a clear picture of the product and service you’re getting, so they’re worth a little time and effort. Think of it as an investment in reducing future annoyance!
Top 9 Power Racks Under $500
1. Fitness Reality 810XLT Power Cage
The standard model of the 810XLT is rated to 800-lbs which is a reasonable amount of weight-rating, though not comparable with others on this list. 800lbs of static weight is good but consider that you’re going to fail weight with velocity, rather than static – so a better weight-tolerance would be a good bonus.
This is a pretty good product for those who are new to weight training and don’t want a heavy-duty product. There are some pretty cool functions – such as the various pull-up grips and stabilizing bars that are designed to fit the back of the product.
However, this product is definitely out-classed by others on this list and only holds its own for beginners, or those on a budget. There are plenty of cage attachments but many of them are relatively ineffective, make the cage more difficult to use, and need to be purchased separately.
2. HulkFit 1000lb Multi-Function Power Cage
The stability and footprint of this product are great, while the 1,000lbs weight-rating provides plenty of extra space no matter how heavy you’re lifting. It also ensures that the differences that come from dynamic movement are accounted for and keeps you safe, even when failing significant weights!
This all comes at a great price. Again, we’re not going to discuss the lat pulldown attachment as it is a better independent product and doesn’t provide much in the way of core functions for the power cage itself. The cage is good, the unnecessary attachments don’t add much.
The problems with this product all seem to come from the poor quality assurance and manufacturing practices that have produced it. This includes some silly problems like missing pieces but extends to serious issues like mismatched safety bar holes, structural supports that don’t match, and a general sense of poor quality.
The design of the product is great, but the execution by the manufacturer is routinely horrible to the point of ruining the usefulness of the power cage altogether.
3. Rep PR 1,000lb Lifting Cage
However, the problems on quality assurance and the quality of execution are often poor. This doesn’t manifest as poor alignment, but rather repeated examples of extensive internal rusting. This could be due to poor treatment or simply poor storage/shipping practices.
This is obviously a serious concern to the structural integrity of this product, which significantly risks the original weight-rating and could seriously degrade the overall product. This isn’t what you expect from a significant purchase like this, especially since the price of this product is higher than others we’ve discussed so far on this list.
These aren’t entirely common problems – customer satisfaction outside of these cases is consistently great. The problem is that the risk of unnoticed internal rust and its effect on the quality of your product isn’t a problem until it really is. The risks are far too great for the benefits here, especially when other products on the market don’t have such significant problems.
4. TDS Power Rack
This product provides the definitive simple, effective, brutally-strong power cage that we’ve been looking for so far. It is rated for 1,050lbs with no problems, with extra safety features including locking handles on J-hooks and solid safety bars to support huge weights.
The addition of a well-knurled chin up bar is a great alternative to the smooth bars often found on other products. It provides a grippy, well-designed surface for pull-ups that is easily integrated into the overall design.
The only problems we’ve really encountered with this product are rare QA problems – such as holes that are not well-fitted to the safety pins or poor shipping options (which may or may not be due to manufacturer-responsibility).
This is a great product if you’re the 99/100 that gets the product as intended. We think this is a great place to start and respect the fact that the TDS Power cage goes incredibly strong on the basics, leading to an excellent product.
5. Valor Fitness BD-33
This is a significant downgrade from other products on this list and really does fall below the standard set by the TDS power cage just discussed.
This is a very generic looking product from Valor that does the job for those with weaker legs, but definitely doesn’t provide a significant reason to purchase when compared to other products on this list.
The power rack with cable crossover is one of the largest contraptions we’ve ever seen, and the cables continue to be the low-quality attachment we’d rather avoid. They’re also inexplicably placed behind the rack which makes them nearly impossible to use for anything other than dual-stack curling and requires the rack to be placed in the center of your home gym. Ridiculous!
The actual choice of J-hooks, which are not J-hooks at all but “bar catches” is absolutely awful, too. These are straight bars that are not designed to actually support a bar and will deal unnecessary damage to the knurling of your barbell because of the steel-on-steel contact that is unavoidable.
Because of this design, they’re also going to cause the bar to slide around on the catches and it will likely feel unstable in the rack. We can’t understand why any brand would continue to use such obviously-outdated design and it really makes this product dramatically inferior to others on the market – it’s not only a bad product, but it can seriously degrade your barbell(s)!
6. PowerLine PPR200X Power Rack
The product shares the exact same fatal flaws of poorly-rated weight tolerances, poorly-chosen bar catches, and a price tag that clearly alienates anyone who has read this list. It costs more than our current favorite – the TDS power cage – despite being as poorly-designed as the valor fitness model.
This is almost insultingly bad. This product does not bring anything new or worthwhile to the market, despite being significantly more expensive than models that beat it at every single turn.
For some products on this list, like the HulkFit or Rep PR, it’s the poor execution of a good design that makes them a problem. For Valor fitness and Powerline, it’s the design itself that is inherently bad – in such a way as to be entirely predictable and poorly-thought-out.
We’re not sure how companies continue to make these mistakes, but we’re convinced at this point that they’re not in charge of the design. If this is a blank-label/white box product that comes in from a foreign manufacturer and before being branded, it would make total sense.
Avoid this product.
7. Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Cage and Attachment Station
The description of the product as an attachment station really does go to show the priority of the manufacturer with this product. It is an even worse power cage than the BD-33, in favor of a larger range of accessories and attachments as-standard.
It comes with all the infuriatingly careless problems that we’ve seen with previous Valor fitness products, as well as the addition of being unable to remove the crappy cable attachment, which is obviously a contributor to the already-expensive price tag when compared to others on this list.
On top of this, new quality assurance problems like broken lat pulldown mechanisms are a risk, and the overall loading of the cable pulley systems is tragically low. The resistance is both “jerky” and the coating of the rubberized cable will break very quickly with heavy lifting.
Overall, it’s the BD-33 but worse.
8. Titan Short Power Cage
On the one hand, there’s not much that can go wrong and the product itself is both hard-wearing and stable compared to some product on this list. On the other hand, it doesn’t set the world on fire and is most well-regarded for being a simple and functional piece of gym equipment.
The rating for this product is just awful at 700lbs of static weight, which is actually higher than the bar-catches of other products. This could be due to the low-quality J-hooks, as the frame itself is produced from steel and 11-gauge, producing good thickness.
This is definitely one of the lighter products in the Titan T-2 range and we’re convinced that this light-weight design is a more cost-effective alternative to the Valor or Powerline alternatives, despite a nominally-worse weight-rating. We’re not saying the rating is wrong, but we trust this rack more.
The point of this rack, as the “short” version, is to provide a compact, basic power cage for home gym use. In acknowledging that fact it’s less of a problem that it is probably limited to somewhere around 400-500lbs of dynamic weight use. This isn’t great, but as a beginners rack it is far better constructed than competitors from the Valor or Powerline range!
This product definitely only works for the smaller, weaker people with a relatively small home gym, but within that niche, it is self-aware and exists as part of a larger product line that offers sturdier examples if you need them. The brand reputation isn’t outstanding, but the Titan racks are definitely shaping up well compared to many white-box, blank-label competitors on the market.
9. Merax Athletics Power Rack
Merax athletics uses the exact same design as the Valor BD-7, down to the poor-quality lat pulldown system and poor-quality footprint. The bar catches continue to ruin our pleasant demeanor and the fact that they’re still used has become a sign of poor concern for your home gym equipment.
Not only is this piece unstable, poorly-designed to hold a barbell, and likely to shred its own cable, but it will damage your barbell along the way! We really don’t have anything else to say about this product, as it repeats some of the most played-out and predictable problems of the designs we’ve seen with this exact same design before.
With a power cage, barbell, and some plates you can radically change your own physique and performance. This is a centerpiece for any well-rounded home gym and should be a top priority.
If you’re looking to get started with a home gym, you can get a high-quality power cage under $500. That’s been our focus today and it has led us to recommend the TDS Power Cage – easily the best product on this list.
This product provides a significant variety of benefits. It has the best weight tolerance, alongside a high-quality build with durable supports and solid hardware that comes with additional safety features such as hand-locks to prevent slipping and damage. This represents the very best of budget, at-home power cages and we couldn’t possibly ask for a better product.
Without a doubt, the TDS Power cage is the best power rack on the market and the clear choice for your cash!
There’s no alternative to strength. A power cage opens up dozens of key exercise options and ensures that you’re going to be safe, secure, and confident in pursuing your strongest self. It brings versatility and peace of mind that is almost entirely unrivaled on the market.
We think you should own a power cage – and we’ve given you the information and reviews to get the best power cage for under $500. Now all you have to do is put it to use and justify that purchase with huge lifts, improved performance, and total control over your own training!