The Problem with Racks and Low Ceilings

Power racks’ typical 7ft height poses a problem in typical residential apartments with 8ft ceilings. Basically in any home without high ceilings you’re in danger of banging your head into the ceiling as you do pull ups. It’s even worse in a basement with 7ft ceilings.

Quick way to eyeball ceiling height: The height of the top of the upper door frame on standard interior doors is about 7ft. In a basement you probably don’t have such a door to eyeball with.

With an 8ft ceiling, say in a bedroom or garage, the issue isn’t technically fitting a rack, but doing full range of motion pull ups can be iffy. Sure, the ceiling may be 8ft from the subfloor, but when you add carpet plus the layer of 3/4″ plywood and 3/4″ rubber on top that we like to put down for home gym areas, plus 12″ of headroom above the bar, you could run out of room doing full range of motion pull ups. Sometimes it works. Many years ago I was using a rack with a 82″ (6’10”) high pull up bar, and even given the extra layer of protective flooring I was getting an inch or two from the 8ft ceiling and never hit it.

With a 7ft basement ceiling it’s pretty tight. Even if your chosen rack is just under 7ft, such as 82″, you have to account for any protective (rubber) flooring you add and the fact that your head will go above the pull up bar as you do pull ups. A rack that close to the ceiling you would have to assemble upright and get help, instead of assembling it laying on the floor and tilting it up, because it will hit the ceiling in the several inches of extra needed height in the arc going up.

Worse, some basements ceilings are actually a little under 7ft, totally eliminating all racks around 82″.

I’m giving you two types of solutions in this guide:

Solution 1: 6ft Power Rack. There are several of these. They will fit in virtually every basement or low ceiling. With it you can lift way more safely than a small lightweight squat stand would allow you to. Or go ahead, get stuck under a failed lift with no safety bars and hope someone hears your whimpers coming from the basement before you pass out.

Solution 2: Good 2-Post Squat Rack. Unlike a power rack, this has only 2 uprights, which doesn’t offer the best safety bar options like a power rack does but also means no horizontal supports in front of or behind you to bang your head on. This is the best solution for users above about 5’9″.

To determine the absolute lowest height of pull up bar you can use, kneel on the floor and reach as high as you can, and add a few inches. It’s possible to do pull ups by bending your knees.

Now let’s look at the short racks available…

Titan T-2 Short Rack

Titan short power rack for low ceilings
Height71″
Pull Up Bar68″ high, 1.25″ Diameter, Knurled, Powder Coated
Weight132 lbs
Steel12-gauge 2″x2″
Price$380 & free shipping

Titan’s T-2 rack is what we rated as the best power rack under $300 (when it was cheaper).

Titan basically sells low-cost Rogue imitations made in China. They’ve been at it a while and have gotten better with their design considerations. They make weird decisions with new products, or they don’t always think things through or do enough testing. Over the last few years they’ve improved some designs, but it reflects an initial lack of understanding of why other brands of equipment are designed the way they are. To put it simply, their management does not lift.

We’ve done an overview of the full-height Titan T-2 rack in a separate article including several written and video reviews.

Rogue doesn’t have a short rack for low ceilings quite like this, making it a relatively unique design for Titan and not a direct Rogue imitation.

First thing – 12 gauge steel! That makes for a nice strong feeling rack. It’s no 3″x3″ rack, but the difference is noticeable over 14-gauge racks. Titan insisted to me in the past that it was 11-gauge steel. At some point I heard from another source that convinced me that the rack is 12-gauge, and finally Titan started putting 12-gauge on their product page. It tells me that they barely know what they have.

It’s a lightweight rack, redeemed by having weight pegs in back that you can use to load the unit down. It can wobble, but it doesn’t shift or tip easily. So it’s all 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 pegs behind the rack out of the way. The plates won’t interfere with your range of motion, unlike some bad designs where the plates are stored up on the same upright as the J-cups. Those type of designs are at best annoying, and at worst dangerous if you aren’t conscientious about it.

I like the extended feet on the base too. I don’t think the ones going out laterally in the back do much, because a rack doesn’t hardly ever tip sideways (unless you use their dip attachment I guess), but the ones sticking way out in the front, plus the extra frame in the back for the aforementioned weight pegs, helps keep it stable even if you don’t weight it down. It does make for a big footprint, which could be bad if you’re as short on room space as you are on height.

In the past the J-cups included were all steel with no protective liners. Then they upgraded to UHMW-lined J-cups but with only 2 liners. Now they have included UHMW-lined J-cups with a UHMW liner on the bottom, back, and front inside of the cup so as to protect your bar no matter which way you roll it.

Titan offers a fair number of attachments, including safety spotter arms, a monolift, and roller J-cups.

Rep Fitness PR-1050 Short Rack

Rep Fitness short 6ft power rack for low basement ceilings
Height72″
Pull Up Bar68″ high, 1.25″ & 2″ Diameter, Smooth
Weight144 lbs
Steel14 gauge 2″x2″
Price$360 & free shipping

Rep Fitness has been selling equipment since 2012.

This is similar to Titan’s rack design, 6ft tall to fit under a low ceiling.

The first thing that stands out to me from the specs is this rack is really thin steel. 14 gauge is what you see in the cheapest weight benches and racks (the higher the number, the thinner  the steel). What this means is it can wobble on you. You’ll also see that the overall weight is listed as higher than the Titan rack. I don’t know about that. I believe Rep is giving the net weight only, ie: with 20 lbs of packaging. But that 2″ thick pull up bar in the rear could be adding some weight, if it’s solid and not a pipe. Anyway, all three racks are pretty light, and going with which ever one is 10 lbs heavier is a dumb move. It’s not going to matter. Make your choice another way. If the steel gauge is the factor that steers you away from this one, that makes sense.

Rep includes two pull up bars, a 1.25″ and a 2″ in the back. Sweet! All you freaks who find pull ups way too easy can make it double hard. Fat bar pull ups are no joke. Imagine gripping a 2″ olympic bar sleeve and doing pull ups on that. Well, without the rotation.

One thing you really might like about Rep’s rack over the others is the laser-engraved hole numbers, every 5th hole. It helps when you move the J-cups or safety bars often. Without the numbers you end up having to mark them yourself to keep track.

UHMW liners on the J-cups are standard on this rack as they are on other brands. They have the liners all throughout the inside of the J-cups (ie: triple padded) to protect your bar no matter which way you roll it.

A slight drawback is Rep does not make a lot of attachments for the 1000-series racks. They focus more on developing attachments for their heavier duty models, which do not have short models. Some Titan T-2 attachments will fit.

Bells of Steel Residential Power Rack

best squat rack for low ceilings
Height72″
Pull Up Bar71″ high, 1.25″ 2″ Diameter, Smooth
Weight147 lbs
Steel14 gauge 60x60mm
Price$450 + free shipping

Bells of Steel started as a one-man Canadian company in 2010 selling kettlebells. They grew and started offering more products, and in 2018 they opened a distribution center in Michigan to serve the larger US market. For that reason their US-facing site is at bellsofsteel.us, while the original bellsofsteel.com appears nearly identical but it’s for Canadian customers. (it’s easy to get on the wrong site until you enter checkout and see the problem)

BoS focuses partly on powerlifting equipment. As such, they do a pretty good job making some of their stuff on the heavy-duty side of things so it will stand up to big loads.

As of writing, the Residential Rack is now in version 4.1. They upgraded their J-cups to have padding all throughout the inside of the cups, the same way the other brands do.

Like Rep and Titan, this low-ceiling style rack is exactly 6ft tall.

A unique feature here is the bare steel pull up bar. Unlike painted pull up bars, this gives you the best grip possible. The unprotected steel could develop a patina layer over time. Regardless, this is a good feature.

The tubing size of 60mm square is about 2.3″, making it incompatible with any other brands of attachments. Fortunately BoS is staying on top of making the latest popular attachments like roller J-cups, sandwich J-cups, a monolift, and others. They do not yet have the popular safety spotter straps to replace the pin-and-pine safety bars (which are perfectly safe but very annoying to adjust). However, they do have suspension spotter straps that hang off the top of the rack, which are arguably just as good, depending on your preference.

Alternative Solution: Rogue SML-1 Monster Lite Squat Stand 2.0

Rogue short squat rack for low ceiling
Height72″
Pull Up BarNone
Weight122 lbs
Steel11 gauge 3″x3″
Price$395 + $175 Spotter Arms = $570 total

Yep, I know, this kind of squat rack aint a power rack. But it will be more comfortable for users taller than about 5’9″ who would be banging their heads on the pull up bar of 6ft power racks.

If you get this squat rack, you’ll be in pretty good shape safety-wise. Not as safe as a power rack where you’re fully enclosed and the safety bars have the maximum amount of support. Of course, you also sacrifice the pull up bar.

With a squat rack like this, be sure to add the 24″ safety spotter arms shown in the options on the page! The whole reason I’m recommending this unit is because it has long safety arms that work good.

Besides the safety arms, you can add wheels to make it mobile, or brackets to bolt it down into concrete with.

If you browse Rogue’s site you’ll see the cheaper S-1 and more expensive SM-1. The S-1 is lighter and has shorter safety arms. You don’t save that much money. The SM-1 is the Monster version, as expensive as they could make it. The middle of the road SML-1 is the right choice here for most people.

The SML-1, with the spot arms, is higher priced than short power racks I went over above. It’s also a lot beefier, to help make up some safety and stability in lieu of being a full power rack. For what it is, the Rogue unit doesn’t have any flaws. If you really want to do pull ups, find another way to do it. Doing pull ups from a 6ft bar isn’t going to work for tall users anyway.

Let me know if you disagree with my assessments here, or if there is another rack I should include!