I love gym equipment, and one of the biggest purchases I have made for the gym was my power rack. I’ve had it for a few years now – but I remember agonising over which rack was the BEST… Best value, best quality, best all round…
As ever with these things, it’s not that straight forward and there is no one-size-fits-all. Ultimately it depends on how we train and want to use our rack. What fits in my life may not be ideal for you.
So lets break open one of the most discussed points on the web when it comes to buying a power rack, what is Westside hole spacing and when would you need it?
At a glance…
- Westside spacing is when holes on power racks are 1” apart
- It allows you to adjust J hooks and safeties more accurately
- It is not essential for training, but can open up variations for some
- Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons are responsible for this invention
- Rogue and CrossFit take some credit for pushing it into the mainstream
- Rogue offers good value squat racks with 1” spacing
What is Westside hole spacing and do I need it?
Westside hole spacing is the term for holes in power rack uprights that are 1 inch apart to allow more granular adjustment of power rack or squat stand safeties and J hooks. You do not need it, but it can be helpful for some trainees.
In a standard bench press or squat for ‘Joe public’ the benefit is diluted as when just used as a safety catch the precision becomes less significant. This is because wider spacing (typically twice as wide as Westside spacing at around 2” / 50mm) is usually suitable – for example if failing a bench press rep you can usually relax your arch and free up over an inch of vertical hight to get the bar on the safety bars. Alternatively some people add rubber or UHMW plastic to traditional safety bars to add effective vertical height if needed.
What are the pros and cons of Westside spacing?
The benefit to you is more precise placement of the safety bars. This is particularly helpful if you are deliberately using the pins for training – e.g. pin squats and pin bench press where the precision lets you load the movement more accurately.
One downsides of closer hole spacing is the lack of availability of different safety bar types. This is caused by the need to consider the integrity of the power rack upright as it has twice as many holes in it. Most manufacturers work around this by using smaller holes and thinner safety design. This pushes most Westside hole spaced racks towards a ‘sabre’ or ‘pin and pipe’ safety system.
These are strong and absolutely effective, but I have a preference for chunkier ‘box’ or ‘swing in’ safeties for a few reasons:
- I can’t guarantee the area in front of my squat rack will be sufficiently clear to allow me to pull out and adjust a sabre safety
- For safety work such as rack pulls I feel I’m less likely to damage a box section based safety rather than a single bar. I’ve seen a lot of bent safeties and it would trigger my OCD to have that in my own squat rack!
- Pin and pipe safeties are surprisingly stronger than a simple pin only mechanism, but they add noise
- Bar protection – swing in safeties can have UHMW or rubber added to the top to protect the barbell. Less easy to do this on a cylindrical surface.
- I’ve had 3x different power racks in recent memory with 3x different benches, and have always managed to set the safeties at an appropriate height. I therefore doubt the closer spacing would impact my day-to-day, bread and butter training much
Another consideration is the ease of adjustment of pin and pipe. Ensuring they are horizontal and not going from hole 10 to hole 12 (for example) takes some practice. I prefer not to mark my power rack with a sharpie so it’s a lot of counting or stickers to make sure everything is aligned properly. Manufacturers are turned on to this now however and many offer numbered uprights to get around this.
My power rack has 1 inch spacing – is that the same?
Pretty much, yes. Some manufacturers will simply space the holes 1 inch apart and not tag this specifically as ‘Westside’.
Rogue – one of the largest and most popular manufacturers of squat stands and racks – specifically names their power rack 1 inch spacing as ‘Westside’. I believe this might be to do with their wider affiliation with the Westside Barbell gym and team itself as they also manufacture a number of pieces of equipment that were invented by the Westside Team (or more specifically, Louie Simmons) such as the reverse hyper.
If they already have this working relationship it makes sense for both parties to leverage the affiliation where they can, and recognise that it’s good to give credit where it is due.
Other brands may not have the affiliation but have a similar 1” design.
Where did the ‘Westside’ phenomenon come from?
Westside Barbell is a gym in Columbus, Ohio which is run by lifter and coach Louie Simmons. Louie has coached some of the strongest trainees around – between them having more than 140 world records, amongst some other equally amazing accolades!
This pattern of continued success over decades has created a lot of mystique around the gym and the training methods – particularly as the gym is invite only to keep the quality of clientele being the ultimate top-tier lifters (i.e. not for people like me!)
It is only natural that some of the training methods (see Westside Conjugate method) and bespoke equipment trickles down to the wider lifting community over time.
That is where Westside spacing came from (alongside a load of other invention Louie and Westside Barbell have been using successfully.)
The rise to prominence is partly due to the Rogue brand, specifically the power and squat rack range and the rise in popularity of CrossFit which has become synonymous with the brand itself. Rogue are very open with their Westside Barbell affiliation and so when browsing their racks and rigs you end up intrigued by the Westside references.
Is Rogue overpriced? I’ve seen cheaper alternatives
I don’t think Rogue is overpriced – in fact if you stay in America I would go as far as to say it is pretty good value (good value =/= cheap however.)
The issue is whether can you (or I) personally afford the equipment. I am sure we can all afford some pieces, but not others. It is worth remembering that Rogue is commercial grade equipment and therefore it is designed to take a SERIOUS amount of use, and will often be overbuilt for home use.
Personally I like overbuilt so I am willing to save up for, or pay the premium – your opinion and priorities may differ.
I am not biased either. I don’t exclusive buy Rogue – far from it. I only have a few pieces from them and I regularly buy equipment for competitors if I think it is better for my needs or I can find a better value alternative.
In the UK I like the Rogue alternatives offered by the likes of Bulldog Gear and ATX. For the Americans amongst us I would stick with Rogue for most items. Particularly if you can grab a Black Friday bargain 🙂
So Westside hole spacing is when you can adjust your squat stands or power rack J hooks and safeties in 1 inch increments, where traditionally these have been 2 inches.
While 1” spacing has its benefits, there are some downsides to consider too. I am happy without the tighter spacing – but your training style may benefit from it more than mine!
If you are thinking of buying a squat rack with this feature then you should check out the Rogue website, if only because they have the official affiliation with the Westside Barbell brand. The equipment is fantastic and not overpriced when you consider the gear is COMMERCIAL grade, so could be used 24/7 by CrossFit athletes and last for years!