Intro: Is This Your Kind of Rack?

This post is for you if:

You know you want a power rack, and
You want to keep your spending under $400, and
You don’t want to get stuck with a crappy rack you’ll have to replace

Experienced lifters generally prefer more expensive, heavy duty racks, $500-$1000 or even more, with the extra security, stability and features they offer. It can lead you to believe that you’re risking your life by going with a cheaper rack. That really isn’t the case. If you’re careful with your choice, understand proper use of a rack, and understand any particular limitations of the rack you get, you could save some cash and be really happy with your choice of a basic rack that will do the job for your personal gym.

Some of this will depend on your needs, and I’ll go over those possibilities. Your best pick might not be the same as mine.

Shortie Racks: I have not included any of the 6ft tall power racks out there, only ones that are a normal 7ft. The short ones are kind of a whole different thing. I have already written a post comparing some short power racks.

Titan T-2 Power Rack

Titan t-2, the best budget power rack

Pull Up Bar81″ High, 1.25″ Diameter, Powder Coated
Weight107 lbs
Steel12-gauge 2″x2″*
Price$399.99 Titan Fitness
* See note further below about tubing size

We featured this as perhaps the best power rack under $400.

A T-2 rack from 2013, or even from a few years ago (we’re in 2022 as of writing), is not the same as a T-2 rack today. The latest model is made with a better hole cutting method that doesn’t indent the steel, the alignment on welded parts is more consistently good, they stopped leaving sharp burrs on welds, the J-cups are now fully protected inside with UHMW liners, the feet have holes for optional bolting to a floor, and the safety pins have a pipe cover. There have also been improvements in optional attachments, such as longer outside spotter arms.

Above is competitive powerlifter BJ Whitehead squatting 720lb on an older Titan T-2 rack. Before seeing this, I never would have expected the rack could take that much weight, or more so that an experienced lifter like him would trust it to do so. Note that he has the pegs in back heavily loaded with plates to keep it steady, which is what they’re designed for.

On that note, any otherwise lightweight racks like this redeem themselves by having weight storage pegs in back, that you can use to load the unit down. When you do that, it’s kind of like having a super heavy duty 300lb rack, but not entirely. It will still wobble. Being able to do this is a matter of whether you have the extra plates to spare to make this a good option for you. I like the positioning of the storage pegs. The plates won’t interfere with your range of motion for any exercise, unlike some limiting designs where the plates are stored on the same upright as the J-hooks.

Assuming you want a normal height rack and not the short version, be sure to select the 83″ (6’11”) tall one.

Titan provides a large number of optional attachments for the T-2. They come out with more attachments every year, across their whole range of racks.

Be aware that Titan’s rack tubing is not actually 2″x2″. It’s 50x50mm, which is 1.97″ tubing. That’s close enough when comparing the strength and stability to other 2×2 racks. Other brands of attachments will mostly fit, depending on what it is. This same sizing issue goes for Titan’ 3×3 racks, which are really 75x75mm.

Best Fitness Power Rack

best cheap power rack
Pull Up Bar82″ High, 1″ Diameter, Smooth, Painted Finish
Weight117 lbs
Steel14 gauge 2″x2″
Price$399 Fitness Factory

Body Solid’s “Best Fitness” line is their cheap home-grade equipment. The Best Fitness Power Rack is the little brother to the Powerline rack that’s been around for a decade or more. It’s actually the same dimensions, so maybe like a weaker brother. The 12 gauge steel is downgraded to 14 gauge (higher gauge = thinner steel), there are no holes drilled for a lat pull attachment, and the warranty is reduced. Otherwise the design is the same. It’s lighter.

I used the heavier Powerline rack for a while. The Powerline rack is not bad at all for a starter rack, but its price is a bit over the $300 range I’m limiting this post to. It’s light enough that when you walk into the uprights with a loaded barbell hard enough you can potentially tip it. Not that easily, but it can happen if you really try to test it. It’s still miles better than those cheap portable squat stands that tip from just a few pounds of pressure. Under normal use, you won’t tip it. Being that the Best Fitness is 20 lbs lighter, that’s something to keep in mind. Not a big deal unless you’retrying to walk right through the rack at full speed with 300+ lbs. If you’re more reasonable about it, you could use this rack with 500 lbs or so.

The bar holders are not even J-cups. They’re the old style, solid steel, maybe unchanged in Body Solid’s 30 or some odd year history. When you re-rack your weight you always wonder if you missed the holder, because you hit the top lip or the upright itself because the bar holder isn’t very tall, and as you let the bar go it clips the top of the holder and falls down into the body of it. A little unnerving.

I’m not a big fan of the Best Fitness rack.

TDS Power Rack

affordable power rack
Pull Up Bar80″ High, 1.25″ Diameter, Knurled, Powder Coated
Weight160 lbs
Steel12 gauge 2″x2″
PriceCheck price on Amazon

The TDS brand, based in China, is sold by New York Barbells, in Elmira, NY, since at least 1978. No relation to the iconic York Barbell, based in York, PA since 1932. It’s the old brand name similarity trick.

TDS equipment is known for being inexpensive. They also make lots of unique pieces that are hard to find elsewhere. I’ve heard occasional complaints about things like burrs left on welds, pieces not aligned right, or paint that scratches off easily. No doubt they’re cheap, and quality control wouldn’t be their specialty.

bad welds on cheap gym equipment
Not a pretty sight. Keep in mind this pic was from 2010, and they might have improved their quality control. Photo by Michael Blair.

Fun facts: Their current website was designed in 1999, each page raw html coded with a text editor. They’ve had an email address since 1999. They sell on Amazon too, and quite frankly that’s a better experience. I’m just going to send you to Amazon. Old websites have a tendency to not secure your personal or payment data very well.

They have made many models of power racks over the years. This happens to be the current one that is selling the best.

Just like the Titan T-2, they have the weight pegs on the rear so you can really load it down to stabilize the rack if you feel the need to for your heavy lifts.

The pull up bar 1.25″, a good size.

The rack comes with solid steel J-cups, with no UHMW liners to protect your bar.

When you compare this rack to the Titan T-2, it’s hard to find significant differences. It appears to me to be a toss-up. One copied the other, or they copied a shared copy. It’s almost the same exact rack. The pull up bar is situated a little more forward on the TDS rack. That doesn’t really mean much. I’m just looking for differences, and that’s all I see.

TDS H-92550-B Open Top Rack

cheap power rack alternative
Height57″ Front, 82″ Rear
Pull Up Bar80″ high, 1.25″ Diameter, Knurled, Powder Coated
Weight120 lbs
Steel13 gauge 2″x2″
PriceCheck price at Amazon

They call it the “Power, Squat, and Open Rack Station”. It’s like a half rack, but extra

See above in the other TDS power rack notes for company info on New York Barbells and some heads-up on their equipment in general.

The big feature here is you can do standing overhead presses without banging your bar into the top of the rack, while still having a pull up bar at 80″ high.

This rack uses the same solid steel red J-cups as their other rack.

I don’t know of any other rack in this price range with this kind of design. Possibly a good choice!

Fitness Reality 810XLT Rack

very cheap power rack
Pull Up Bar83″ High, Multi Grip
Weight105 lbs
PriceCheck price on Amazon

Back when I originally wrote this post, this was easily the lowest priced rack.It was about $200, but now it hovers closer to $300 like all the rest of the racks here.

Anyway, this also is arguably the worst rack out of the bunch. In a post like this I have an obligation to include it or I’ll get questions about this. You can regret buying a seemingly affordable power rack.

The company is Paradigm Health and Wellness. I never heard of them. Some quick research shows has been around since 2007, selling saunas for the first couple years and at some point expanding to a complete array of fitness equipment. It’s a mix of equipment with crazy low prices and normal prices. Some of the “buy now” links on the site don’t work.

They advertise this and their $100 bench as having an 800lb weight capacity. The price is nowhere near the ballpark of any other manufacturer advertising a high weight capacity like that.

The height of the rack itself is more like 77″, with the 6″ pull up bar sticking up. So it’s almost a 6ft shortie style rack. They almost get away with it, with the way a 6ft tall user can walk under the arched pull up bar without a headache… but look what happens when you try to re-rack a squat, in the screencap I took from the product video. You’re walking right into the rear cross brace.

The bar holders are the old style steel lift-offs, like the Best Fitness rack. So it’s another very dated model.

If you try this one, I’ll be interested to hear how it works out for you. I would steer clear. You aren’t saving money if you have to replace it.

My Recommendations

Out of these, I’d strongly lean toward the Titan T-2. Titan’s early models had flaws, and over the years they have done a good job of fixing them in response to the feedback from lifters, while only raising their prices a little. The T-2 is, 12-gauge steel, which is thicker steel than some cheap 14-gauge racks.

I like the plate pegs in the rear, which, as I mentioned in the longer description above, is meant more to stabilize your rack than store your plates conveniently (it’s not that convenient for storage), and in that it’s quite effective.

As mentioned, the TDS power rack is virtually the same rack for about the same price. If you can find some reason to buy it over the Titan, it’s available on Amazon.