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A half rack offers a great way to maximise your options for lifting weights in a small home gym. Heck, a half rack can even squeeze in to your bedroom or dining room and not dominate as much as a full on power cage!
To make the most of your space then you should plan on getting a half rack with a pull up bar as well. Not only does it let us do pull ups and chin ups on demand, but it also adds a bit of rigidity to the half rack which helps it feel a bit more stable.
I think it’s even MORE important to buy smart when going for a half rack as by their nature there is a lot less to their build, so what we do have is doubly important and we want to make sure it is strongand SAFE.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the best half racks available here in the UK.
At a glance…
- The Bulldog Mammoth Lite squat rack is the best half rack with a pull up bar in the UK
- The budget choice is the Bulldog series squat rack
- Look for 11 gauge steel with reinforced joints for maximum stability
- If you buy a branded rack as you can then add accessories at a later date to spread the cost
Best Overall: Bulldog Mammoth Lite Squat Rack (MLSR3)
The best half rack available here in the UK with a pullup bar is the Bulldog Mammoth Lite squat rack. The Mammoth Lite range uses enormous 80mm x 80mm box section and here Bulldog have made an excellent half rack out of it!
- 80mm x 80mm, 11 gauge box section construction
- 1.2m square footprint for maximum stability without being wasteful
- J-hooks lined with UHMW plastic to protect your barbell knurling
- 2.4m tall so suits users of all heights (even 6 foot plus) with the adjustable pullup bar
- There’s a shorter version available @ 2.25m tall if you don’t have the space
- Rear crossmember set far enough back that it will NOT interfere with your feet when racking squats, or your bench when bench pressing
- Huge range of accessories – dip bars, spotter arms, safety straps, bar and plate storage (+ more!) are available
Overall the spec of this half rack is unbeatable for the price. And hey, there’s even a shorter one at 2.25m tall if you need a shorter rack)
Budget Choice: Bulldog Series Squat Rack (BSSR3)
If your budget can’t quite stretch to the Mammoth Lite rack reviewed above, there is a cheaper alternative available in the Bulldog Series range. This range saves steel (and therefore manages to be cheaper) by using a narrower 75mm x 50mm box section in construction. It is still 11 gaugehowever and more than up to some SERIOUS lifting.
Here are the highlights:
- Narrower 75mm x 50mm, 11 gauge box section construction
- The same 1.2m square footprint for maximum stability without being wasteful
- Similar J-hooks lined with UHMW plastic to protect your barbell knurling
- 2.5m tall so suits users of all heights (even 6 foot plus) with the adjustable pullup bar
- Again, there’s a shorter version available @ 2.25m tall if you don’t have the space
- Rear crossmember set far enough back that it will NOT interfere with your feet when racking squats, or your bench when bench pressing
- Wide range of accessories – dip bars, spotter arms and more are available. Range of accessories slightly less on the Bulldog series compared to the Mammoth Lite.
So if you’re looking for the best budget half rack in the UK the Bulldog Series squat rack could well be the one for you. You could even use some of the money you saved for a few extras – dip bars and spotter arms, anyone?!
Who are Bulldog Gear?
But who exactly are Bulldog Gear? They are a UK company knocking it out of the park just now with relentless high quality products – from barbells to benches and air bikes, they are covering ALL areas of gym equipment.
The power rack range is similar to Rogue with its modular nature, range of attachments and quality of construction. Think of Bulldog Series as the equivalent to the Rogue “R” line, and the Mammoth Lite is similar to the Monster Lite sold by Rogue.
The upside is that being UK based the prices are FAR more competitive than the imported Rogue alternatives. Downside? Well the brand is less recognisable than Rogue – which may, or may not matter to you.
What should I look for in a half rack with a pullup bar?
There is significant nuance to buying a half rack compared to a four post or similar set up. Why is that? Ultimately it due to… stability!
When shopping for a half rack the quality of what we buy matters a lot more – there is no cheating quality when the rack is pared back to its minimum form. Let’s take a look at what we need and why:
Heavy duty steel – 11 gauge or thicker
More so than with a full rack the quality of steel in a half rack is super important. We are relying on TWO uprights to do EVERYTHING. We need them to be up to the task.
Look for 11 gauge (or 3mm thick) steel as a minimum, preferably with bracing (see later) on top at the key joints to provide further support. As a word of warning – if a manufacturer does not advertise what thickness of steel they are using it is usually a bad sign!
I had a cheap rack (four post) a few years ago that used thinner steel (14 gauge in this case) and it distorted during construction as I tightened a bolt too far. That is not reassuring and I would NOT get a rack with anything less than 11 gauge as a result. By contrast I couldn’t over-tighten the bolts on my ATX 11 gauge rack. I was blown away at the difference this made – but no wonder – 11 gauge steel is 4.15x stronger than 14 gauge!
Buy cheap – buy twice. The steel is where we should be spending our money.
In my four post rack I chose a design that did not have crossmembers or feet on the floor, opting instead to bolt the rack directly to my floor which provided the support it needed.
In a two post rack you won’t be able to reply solely on your floor for support, so you will need feet and crossmembers on your half rack. Make sure the crossmember is sufficiently far back that you can still get your bench into position in your half rack. If it is too close to the uprights you won’t be able to get your bench under the bar far enough.
To be clear, crossmembers are desirable in half racks. Otherwise you spend a lot of time lining the two squat stands up as they move independently and it makes racking and unracking the bar a much more awkward and painful process. Stick to racks with crossmembers if you are going two post only – just make sure they are positioned intelligently.
Appropriately sized feet
I won’t dwell on this point, but given we are using this for some pretty heavy work (squats, bench pressing, overhead pressing, pull-ups) we really need to make sure the footprint is sufficient to support us.
We need approximately 1.2m of length for each foot to provide the stable platform for pull-ups, re-racking squats etc we need to avoid rocking the rack dangerously.
Bracing to enhance stability
Properly designed half racks will have additional plating to support the foot to upright join. This additional plate helps transfer strength between the steel sections. This reinforces the rack for forward to back stability – absolutely critical when looking to do chin ups or pull ups on a half rack.
Why is it so important? Well when doing a pull up we are exerting force at the absolute extreme limit of the rack – right at the very top of the uprights. We need to really root those uprights to make it as stable as possible up there. Think of a tree blowing in the wind – it needs strong roots to keep it stable, and the base is always thicker & more supported than the top!
A decent pullup bar
Of course if you want to nail pull or chin ups you will need a bar to do so. Make sure the rack you are buying does come with one – it is not as common on half racks as it is on four post ones to have a chin bar.
For design, I prefer a straight bar with either a very light knurl or none at all. This helps me keep hold of the bar for longer sets without ripping gym hands up. There are other options our there, but I would suggest a straight bar is all you need and it works well with the two uprights where there are less opportunities for multi grips etc.
Height of the pull-up bar
The height of the uprights will determine how high up you can put the chin bar. I would go with a rack as tall as you can fit in your space simply as it buys you options should you want to change it around in future.
I personally think uprights being around 2.4m is ideal as it fits most people height wise, and you can drop the bar a few holes down if you are a little shorter (like me!) Of course if you are in a basement or can’t fit this in to your space then compromise a little here, but you may need to keep your legs up when doing chin ups to avoid hitting the ground.
Range of attachments
Depending on how you train you might want to try different attachments out. The common ones are J hooks and spotter bars, but you may also want dip horns, weight storage pegs, band pegs, land mine attachments or something else weird and wonderful.
Buying a rack that has these available is therefore good as it lets you change your training style over time. The other great thing is if you buy from an established brand you can be confident they will still be around in a few years – so you can buy the accessories piecemeal over time as your budget or training changes. This is great when looking to build your home gym up from scratch as you can spread the cost out by buying the attachments as and when you need them.
Half or full rack: Which should I buy?
What does half rack even mean?
Well when I talk about a half squat rack I mean a frame that consists of two uprights only. These uprights then allow you to attach accessories to suit your training, such as:
- J hooks – essential for holding a barbell at the right height for your chosen exercise (squatting, benching, overhead pressing, etc.)
- Spotter arms – optional attachments that are there to catch the barbell if you drop it or can’t lift the bar back up to the J hooks
- Dip horns – these prongs allow you to do bodyweight or weighted dips on the half rack without needing a separate attachment
A full rack or power cage differs to a half rack as it has four uprights instead of two. Some power racks are even ‘six post’ which includes two extra uprights purely for weight storage.
Should you buy a full rack or a half rack for a home gym?
Another ‘it depends’ question. Here are the main things to consider when buying one for your home gym:
- Safety – in a four post rack you have no opportunity to miss the spotters as they run the full length of the lifting zone. A half rack has no rear upright so you are reliant on ensuring the spotter arms are appropriately sized and you lift in the right place for them to be effective.
- Style & positioning of feet – full racks can be bolted in to your platform or garage floor directly removing crossmembers from the structure. To maintain structural rigidity & stability good quality half racks have proper crossmembers and ‘feet’. If you do not want to drill in to your floor there is no real difference in feet styles.
- Size & floorspace – a half rack gives you a more ‘open’ space in the home gym. The feet will be shorter and therefore the whole piece takes up less room than a full rack.
- Flexibility – as noted above a half squat rack requires a little less room than a full rack – but it also offers a more flexible approach to your workout space. For example if you pop the safety arms off you can readily use the same space for dumbbell work, put your air bike or rower in there or similar to be as dynamic as possible. At the moment I have a four post rack in my gym and it means I need to ‘juggle’ things around if I want to do dumbbell work or pop my air bike into the gym space. If I had a half rack instead I could simply remove the spotter arms and have a pretty big area to work in.
- Price – power racks are expensive for a two reasons: material costs and labour costs to machine into shape. By going for a half rack we save a huge amount of steel from not buying two extra uprights and also on labour as they don’t need to be drilled, powder coated etc. That is why a good quality half rack generally runs so much cheaper than an equivalent power rack.
What does this actually mean for you & I?
If you have a decent budget, a big space where you can have plenty of room to work out and manoeuvre your equipment around then a full rack has incrimental benefits over a half rack and I would recommend a full rack.
If you have a smaller space or one you use for a multiple purposes such as a bedroom or living room gym then a half rack is a cheaper, more flexible way to build a home gym in to your house or apartment. As they are cheaper it is also better for those with a lower budget.
Pull-up bars are pretty commonplace on both styles of rack. I’ve got a straight bar for chin ups on my current ATX power rack, but I’ve had a ladder style pullup bar previously and used various “handle” style chin up attachments that other manufacturers put on their racks. When doing pull-ups or chin-ups you want stability in your apparatus. A half rack and a full rack have similar stability – all else being equal – as the chin bars are usually between two uprights in either style, and the legs of good quality half racks are heavy and sufficiently stabilised with bracing plates to hold the uprights rigid (even if kipping!)
It is essential to ensure you get a good quality half rack however if looking for pullup stability as you will really feel the difference between proper 11 gauge+ steel compared to thinner, lighter competitors because of this bracing. I can’t stress this enough – you will REALLY benefit from better materials here.
As noted I have a four post power rack in my garage gym. I love the rack and am glad I have it, but if I was buying today I would likely go for a top quality half rack instead as it would be a better use of space for how I train today.
In fact when we recently considered moving house I began dreaming guy plans of actually splitting my power rack in to two half racks, or possibly two wall mounted racks to give me TWO places to lift…
What about a wall mounted squat rack?
I love the idea of a wall mounted half rack, but have yet to use one. The key factor is that they are space efficient – most can be folded away flat against the garage wall meaning you can still get your car in the garage or simply move it out of the way for doing cardio etc when you’re not lifting weights.
In terms of day to day use I see little benefit in having a foldaway rack over a good half rack beyond the ability to fold it flat against the wall. If you have a dedicated garage gym space and don’t want the flexibility or hassle of folding your rack away to make space for other things then a half rack would likely suit your needs.
Another source of inertia for me is around physically attaching it to the wall. Building a stand alone half rack is a piece of cake and can be done on your own, anywhere in your house. When it comes to bolting things to my house or floor I usually call in the experts, which adds some hassle and cost.
This is ultimately one of the key reasons why I have gone for a stand alone rack and a lifting platform to bolt it in to. If you have more experience or confidence in bolting to your wall then a wall mount is likely an even more appealing option.
One downside is that the ability to move the rack adds some complexity and engineering – and therefore COST. Pound for pound (or should that be lb?) a foldaway power rack is MORE EXPENSIVE than a half rack as you get less steel for your money.
Do I really need a power rack anyway?
I’ve talked about this before, and I have been a huge supporter of making a rack of some description a focal point in a home gym. Over the years my views have softened a little as I’ve gained more and more experience in the sport & fitness industry.
Ultimately how and why YOU train will drive what YOU need. I need a rack as I enjoy lifting weights safely, pushing the weight on the barbell up and challenging myself to lift more where I can. This means I need a stable base to squat, bench press, overheard press etc from. A rack is this base.
If you are interested in cardio fitness only – maybe pass on the rack.
But if you want to bench press, squat, overhead press or any variant of these movements (including incline or decline work) at home you need a rack to do it safely.
When looking for a rack which will be used for chin ups, pull ups or any other CrossFit type movement that is quite intense and jerky we must focus on build quality. Sturdy steel and well engineered reinforced joints will be critical to stability.
So the overall best half rack for pull-ups available in the UK is the Bulldog MLSR3 Mammoth Lite squat rack which offers the most stability you can find in a half rack, and there is a budget alternative in the BSSR3 Bulldog Series squat rack which uses slimmer materials to shave around 20% off the price.