In every gym across the globe, you’ll find multiple pieces of equipment to squat and lift big weight in. As you get stronger and the weight on your back gets heavier, then the equipment in which you’re lifting in needs to be able to handle your needs, but also any potential misses.
This is why it’s incredibly useful to know the whats and whys behind different pieces of equipment like:
For strength athletes, knowing the differences and best uses for each can make or great performances in the gym and on the platform. In this article, we teamed up with Ghost Strong Equipment, Stefi Cohen, and Hayden Bowe to cover the benefits of using power racks, monolifts, combo racks, and when you should use each.
Power Racks vs Monolifts vs Combo Racks
What Is a Power Rack?
A power rack (also referred to as power cage) is a versatile piece of equipment that is used for exercises like squats, rack pulls, bench presses, pin presses, and much more. Gyms will use power racks because they’re sturdy, durable, and offer the best security for lifters who lift alone and need to potentially utilize safeties.
Power Rack Benefits
Whether you’re lifting in a commercial, strength sport gym, or home gym, the power rack is an essential piece of equipment. Typically, this is the most common type of squat-centric and multi-purpose piece of equipment gyms will use due to their durability, stability, and overall functionality.
The biggest benefit that comes along with power racks is their versatility. In every power rack, you’ll be able to perform multiple types of exercises and some of the most popular include:
- Bench Presses
- Pin Presses
- Overhead Presses
Every power rack will be slightly different in their construction, however, the better quality power racks will come equipped with things like pull-up bar attachments and additional weight storage on the back.
2. Band Usage
Another benefit of power racks is how easy they make using bands, a.k.a accommodating resistance. If you’re an athlete that likes using bands for squats — whether reverse or traditional — power racks are great because of their stable base and construction.
For example, it’s easy to attach all types of bands without causing the rack to move, which can be a problem with regular squat racks. Not to mention, you can’t even perform reverse banded squats in regular squat racks, and you must have a power rack to do so.
3. Safest Option for Missing
If you lift alone and push the upper limits of your strength, then you’ll absolutely want to lift in a power rack due to its safeties. The safeties in power racks will vary, but generally, this will be safest option when dumping weight is a possibility. Great safeties can help prevent you from getting trapped under heavy weight and seriously injuring yourself.
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This might be my least favorite exercise of all time, but doing regular deadlift after these feel like going from swinging a weighted bat to nothing. If I miss deadlifts I miss them at or just below the knee so this is a good way for me to work on keeping tension and building strength in this ROM. @hybridperformancemethod @steficohen
Who Should Use Power Racks?
Since power racks are so versatile, nearly every type of lifter can benefit with using one. Below, we’ve provided a couple populations that can really benefit with the use of power racks.
- Lifters who use accommodating resistance.
- Recreational lifters who lift alone.
- Strength athletes that own home gyms.
What Is a Monolift?
A monolift is a slightly more advanced piece of strength training equipment that is regularly used by powerlifters pushing the upper limits of their strength. This piece of equipment limits the walkout portion of squats, which can be a limiting factor when moving certain weights for athletes.
The monolift can be an intimidating piece of equipment at first, but once the mechanics of the equipment are understood, then there are multiple benefits with using one. In general, athletes will want to use monolifts when they’re lifting with a partner or group, as someone will need to move the hooks out of the way if it’s not a self-monolift.
1. Easy to Adjust
Unlike power racks and combo racks, monolifts are incredibly easy to adjust for multiple heights, so training partners can lift with one another without exerting energy stripping, loading, and adjusting j-hook height. Additionally, nice monolifts like the Ghost Strong Equipment example utilize hydraulics to adjust height.
2. Limit the Squat Walkout
The walkout in the squat is essential for most powerlifters, but not in every competitive scenario. For example, some federations utilize monolifts in competition, so for athletes that compete in these federations, then it’s best for them to acclimate to what it feels like to lift in a monolift.
3. Adjustable Rack Width
Another monolift benefit that is highly specific to this piece of equipment is the ability to adjust a rack’s width with ease. Every athlete will have different squat grip widths, so being able to accommodate for multiple needs is a must when training in groups. The Ghost Strong Equipment monolift easily slides to adjust rack width with literally no additional energy exertion.
Who Should Use Monolifts?
The monolift is highly specific to the sport of powerlifting. More than likely, you won’t need to utilize a monolift unless you have a very specific training or competition goal. The two main populations that will benefit using a monolift include:
- Powerlifters that compete in federations that utilize monolifts.
- Powerlifters that train in groups and want to push their upper limits without walking out weight.
What Is a Combo Rack?
A combo rack is versatile piece of equipment that has the capability of being adjusted to accommodate for squats and bench presses. Generally, powerlifters who compete in the USPA and USAPL will be the main populations that use this type of rack on a regular basis in their training.
Benefits of Combo Racks
Combo racks come with a plethora of benefits and are useful for both athletes and gym owners. Outside of being versatile for athletes, combo racks are great for gym owners because they save space and kill two birds with one stone (a squat rack and bench press setup).
Like power racks, the combo rack can be used for multiple exercises. It’s a solid option for lifters that need a simple squat rack and for lifters that want to push their bench press strength — some combo racks like the Ghost Strong Equipment example above have safeties — which are also called face savers.
The only thing to keep in mind with combo racks is that while they have great safeties for the bench press, you’ll need a training partner for a spot when lifting heavy squats. Yes, combo racks have safeties, but most of the time they’re not truly equipped to handle heavy squat misses and can flip if weight is dropped on them from a standing position.
2. Easy Height Adjustment
Similar to the monolift, a big benefit of using a combo rack is how easy it is to adjust the height of the rack. This is ideal for every lifter that trains with partners, or competes regularly and wants to acclimate themselves with using this type of rack.
3. Rack Width Adjustment
For lifters that have shoulder mobility issues or need a tighter/wider rack, combo racks are easy to adjust. Compared to traditional squat racks and power racks, combo racks are much more versatile with accommodating for individual squat needs.
4. USAPL and USPA Approved
If you’re a competitive powerlifter and compete in the USAPL and USPA, then you already know that you need to be familiar with a combo rack prior to competition. Both of these federations (among others) use combo racks in competition.
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I don't think I've been this excited for a piece of equipment since we made our power bar. Working in manufacturing the last few years I've developed a big appreciation for attention to detail and the @ghoststrongequipment guys knocked it out of the park. Every piece of this rack was done extremely well.
Who Should Use Combo Racks?
Combo racks can technically be used by every lifter in the gym because their setup is easily customized and they offer safeties for the bench. However, powerlifters who compete with them will benefit most due to the specificity of their sport’s demands.
- Recreational lifters.
- Powerlifters that compete in federations that use them.
- Lifters that want safeties set up for heavy bench presses.
Power racks, monolifts, and combo racks are all incredibly useful pieces of equipment for strength training, and each piece of equipment comes with its own list of benefits and best uses. If you’re on the fence of buying your own or you’re wondering which to use in the gym most often, then scale each pieces of equipment’s best uses on your goals and needs.
Power Rack, Monolift, and Combo Rack FAQs
What is a power rack?
A power rack is versatile piece of equipment that supports movements like squats, presses, pull-ups, and much more. Gym will use power racks because they’re a safe option for lifters to use when lifting alone, and often offer additional plate storage.
What is a combo rack?
A combo rack is a versatile piece of equipment that is designed to support squats and bench presses. Generally, powerlifters will benefit most with this piece of equipment due to multiple federations using this style of rack in competition.
What is a monolift?
Monolifts are pieces of equipment that are designed for powerlifters and maximal squats. This piece of equipment allows you to squat without having to walkout weight, and is a great option when working out with a training partner or group.
What are the benefits of power racks?
There are a ton of benefits that come along with power racks and this is why multiple types of gyms use them. Some benefits include: