Is it Time to Upgrade Your Squat Rack?


The following squat rack review was submitted by one of our customers and contained so much useful information that we felt the need to share it. Mike’s power rack analysis comes from the perspective of someone that works in commercial construction AND is a devoted home gym lifter.

 "Don’t get cheap. Help the economy. Buy the rack that Grandpa would give to the grandkids."

Hello everyone! I sold my power rack and purchased an elitefts™ 3x3 Classic Power Rack. First, let me present a review of some of the features and flaws of my previous rack. In general the rack was ok, but the more I used it, the more I didn’t care for it.

Annoyances with the Previous Rack:

Unsafe J-Hooks: The j-hooks consisted of a bulky, plastic rectangle that stuck out approximately a half-inch from the face of the upright column of the frame and only two inches from the bottom of the hook itself. This half-inch lip caught the barbell when trying to seat it upon the completion of a lift. This is very disconcerting and potentially unsafe. I was caught off-guard many times, while setting an over 300-pound barbell after squatting. I thought the bar was seated, only to find out that it was caught on the lip. This also means, that with nearly every lift, you have to slowly and deliberately re-rack the weight to ensure you won’t hit the lip.

Poorly-placed Floor Cross Member: The floor cross member caused two problems. First, when squatting, the floor member is a few inches too far in, which means your toes hit the member when trying to unrack the barbell during squats. For heavier weights, I actually have to step onto the cross member to unrack the weight, which sucks. You could squat reverse in the cage, which would eliminate that problem, but I have a mirror that I like to watch my form in. (And yes, I like the mirror, however, I’m sure some of you will tell me that I shouldn’t use it, but I like periodically checking the parallel on squats and like it when racking the weight)
. Secondly, the floor member also got in the way of my bench. The bench is either slightly too far away or too close for optimal position on the bar, as it has to either straddle over the floor member, or sit right in front of it. Of course, there are a few benches that are made for cages that will eliminate this problem, but the one I have does not.

More Trouble with J-Hooks: Since the j-hooks aren't removable, assuming you place the two that come with the rack on the back posts and an extra set inside, you can do lifts outside of the cage via the external hooks built in to the safety bar. The problem is twofold. First, to set the safety bar to a height for a lift such as an overhead press, you need to adjust all four hooks to their highest setting, which is a minor annoyance. 
Second, when you move all of the j-hooks to the top, the highest position the safety will go is approximately six inches below the j-hooks. This makes the bar a couple inches too low, and would be even worse for someone over six-feet in height, for an optimal position. 
Third, the j-hooks also have too much of a return on them, meaning when racking and unracking, it slightly catches. This is being picky, but can be noticeable – especially when bench pressing.

Poor Stability: When doing weighted dips and pull-ups, there's a little swaying movement, which I don’t care for. In addition, squats over 300-pounds cause the rack to move slightly.

Uncomfortable Dip Bars: I got (more or less) used to the dip bars, however the diameter of the bars are a bit too small, which makes them cut into my hands a bit. But hey, they were only 30 bucks.

Incomplete Floor Lifts: At their lowest position, the safety bars are approximately a foot-and-a-half off the ground and they can't be removed. Therefore, you can’t do deadlifts or other lifts in the cage on the floor. This can be a big deal if you don’t have room in your weight room at the front of the cage or somewhere else.

Cosmetic Flaw: Ever since I bought the rack, to me, it looks like quality home gym equipment...but it definitely does not have a commercial feel.

No Longevity: I can only speculate, but because of the plastic and springs on the j-hooks, I get the feeling that eventually the parts will need to be replaced.

Gut Feelings: As soon as I had the unit and even up until now, I didn’t have the feeling that I would be fully satisfied, nor did I have the feeling that this is the last rack I would own.

Quality Concerns: Although the quality is pretty good, there were washers missing in the sealed packing.

Place of Manufacture and Supply Chains: No one may care, but I’m getting a little concerned at seemingly everything being mass-produced in a factory in China. This might be cheesy, but there's a slight feeling of pride when buying a rack from elitefts™, which was made specifically for YOU by workers in the U.S.

Plate Storage
: Without plate storage on the rack, I have to walk around the rack to load up heavy work,. This isn't convenient and typically means I have to reach for the weights at one to two inches off the ground. With storage on the rack, it's so convenient to simply walk to each side and load up the bar. It isn’t an issue when doing curls or lighter weight, but when I have to load up several 45-pound plates and lower denominations, I wasted a lot of time between sets and hated bending over to grab 45-pound plates. 
Plate storage on the rack also adds size and weight to the frame, which provides added stability.

elitefts™ 3x3 Classic Rack Review

Yes, the elitefts™ 3x3 Classic Power Rack with a couple of accessories is three times the price of the squat rack I purchased and other racks of that caliber, so is it worth it? I have to say yes! The elitefts™ Classic Power Rack eliminates all of the issues above…EVERY one of them!

If you're planning on lifting for life at home, which I currently do and will continue to do, the power rack is the most versatile piece of equipment in your gym. My advice is to cough up the dough and buy right the first time. You're going to have it for life – aren’t you? If you’re not, then don’t. Some random thoughts on the rack:

Walk-Through Design: Read above, you need it.

Plate Storage: Not completely necessary to some, but when you look at what it does, I don’t think you should consider one without it.
 First, storage racks really free up space
. Plate storage also adds weight and stabilizes the rack. Second, it is ULTRA convenient to load plates
. Some racks don’t have six pegs, which I wouldn’t get, because I use every one of them and don’t want to put different sized plates on the same pegs.

3x3 versus 2x2: Sure they say it’s the same, but it’s not. I studied the strength of materials and I can tell you that even though there is the same gauge, it isn't the same strength when the approximate 30 percent more steel in the x and y planes is considered. It will have a better modulus of elasticity. This means that it's going to have a beefier structure with more mass that will more effectively limit sway and movement in the rack.

Made in USA: Keeping our country strong.

Aesthetics: You can arguably make a decent rack and you can buy other brands, but many of those racks are ugly and goofy-looking. Does this matter? Maybe not to you, but it is off-putting to me. I do get more pumped up with a good-looking ergonomic design...and there's always the “wife factor.”

Gut Feelings: After I used this rack, I could comfortably say, “This is it!” I don't have any problems with it. I don’t feel the need to get something else – ever. The elitefts™ Classic 3x3 Power Rack works better than any squat rack I used in a commercial gym.

Floor Lifts: Yes, you can do them in here, but the bar with 45-pound plates just touches the floor, so you will scrape the cross member. (This difference helps with the loading and unloading of the bar, but you're also about a half-inch short of a full-range on the deadlift. This can be handled by placing a rubber mat in the rack when wanting that full ROM).

Dip Bars: They aren't cheap, but I found even with the dip stations in the gym, they'd sway to some degree when you're getting frisky. The bars on this work the best of any I ever used, as there is over 1000 pounds stabilizing the squat rack on the backside storage pegs. I hate any movement on dip bars. This one offers NO sway whatsoever.

Stability: Rock solid. I can do weighted chin up with no movement (unlike my previous rack).

Monkey Chin Bar: I’m not 100 percent sold on it yet, as the bar diameter is smaller than I like. However, the different angles are blasting my rear delts, which is a hard-to-hit area for me.

Quick Release Pins: Don’t even think about getting a rack with the saber pins…

J-Hooks: This was the most pleasant surprise of the power rack. There are two things make them great. First, they are slightly angled forward, so the bar always rolls right to the edge of the hook, which means all of the required hand rolling of the bar forward on the bench press and other lifts is over. Second, other racks may have great hooks as well, but the back of the hook is nice and tall. This means after a set, the weight can be blasted back into the hook without worrying about it (unlike my previous squat rack).

Color: I got the white because my wife wanted it, but I wish I got the black. The black power rack looks like you're under the tutelage of a secret society of lifter assassins.

Buying Experience: I worked with Matt. He was easy to deal with and had a good attitude. Highly recommended.

Shipping: I received my elitefts™ 3x3 Classic Power Rack in approximately two-and-a-half weeks

EDITOR'S NOTES: Other benefits of the 3x3 Classic Power Rack

Sumo Base: If you squat wide, pull sumo or do any other wide-stance work, you no longer have to do it on the outside of the rack. The sumo base allows for your feet to go under the rack post.

Rod and Pipe Pins: These are designed to take the shock of the bar when doing pin-pulls, pin-presses or other rack work. This design allows for the force of the bar to be dispersed throughout the entire pin and not to just one section that can lead to bent spot pegs. The use of heavier bars or even our quick release spotters, are strong enough to handle the pounding, but will lead to bent bars. So, for spotting you can use the quick release option and for heavy rack work, the rod and pipe pins. This way your bars and spotter posts will be taken care of for a very long time.





The J-Hook: If you read and watched the So You Think You Can Bench? and the So You Think You Can Squat Series, you'll see the importance of pulling the bar out of the hooks when you bench, as well as arching out when you squat. These hooks are designed with this in mind. You should never have to do a top quarter tricep extension to get the bar out to bench, or a quarter squat to do a set of squats.