Are Power Rack Safety Straps Safe?

By | 2018-05-13T14:30:27+00:00 April 22nd, 2018|Categories: Equipment Guides|Tags: , , , , , |5 Comments

These things are one of the biggest innovations, in my mind, in recent years to power rack design.

Now you can fail a heavy rep halfway up without destroying your bar and/or the power rack spotter pins. They also open up the possibility for more comfortably (and quietly) doing rack lockouts, ie: setting the bar down at the bottom of each rep and having to start the rep at the bottom.

Warning: Not all safety straps are created equal.

Those straps ripped right apart at the stitching from 405 being dropped on them. That’s 200 lbs per side. At a 10,000 lb rating each, they should have held up even considering the shock load from the falling weight.

In April 2018, this Youtuber received a letter from Titan Fitness warning him not to use their safety straps anymore, that there are quality problems leading to failure, and that they will be sending out replacements at the end of the month.

Presumably this letter was sent to all owners of their safety straps. They’re also offering refunds for the straps when requested.

Quick Rant on Safety

He and another lifter suggested using the normal steel safety bars as a backup, sitting just below the straps in case the straps fail. 

The spirit of that suggestion I like. Mitigate a risk by creating a redundancy. An engineer would be proud. Here, that’s a bad solution, in my opinion, even temporarily. Maybe I’m just more adverse to risk, but if I don’t feel like each element of my redundant system can be trusted on its own then it’s not redundant system at all.

Plus, you should be setting the straps at the lowest height you can to keep them out of the way while still saving your bacon as needed. If you’re going to set the safety bars below that, the safety bars will serve little purpose. 

The whole point of a power rack over a smaller squat stand – or a bench press unit – that has no safety spotter system is the SAFETIES! If you can’t trust the straps that you carefully set at the perfect height, the whole system is pointless. 

I’m really not that annoyed at the lifters who suggest using the safety bars as a backup. They’re working with what they have at the moment, I’m sure will be careful, and they plan on getting a better solution established soon with replacement straps. I’m mostly just annoyed that Titan never tested these or would let such a critical safety issue slip through.

I should note that I have a Titan X-3 rack and am happy with it. Titan has been responsive to customer feedback, and they have made several iterations of improvements on their racks. Hopefully Titan will learn a big quality control lesson with this mistake, and it will never happen again.

It’s the Stitching

It’s not the strap material. It’s the stitching that fails. Or it could be both, but the stitching is what’s failing first. 

This knowledge sent me to do research on the stitching, and stitching material, used on Titan’s straps. Maybe I could get a high res image and start comparing. Alas, as of writing, Titan removed all of their safety straps from their site.  I figured they would just be marked out of stock, but no, the pages are actually removed.

image credit; Jason Sebastian

Luckily, I found a video close-up of Titan’s straps. This is called a box-x stitching pattern. That’s fine, as far as the pattern. A box-x is used all the time, particularly for applications where the direction of force is variable. 

Of note that is that there is only a single box-x. Two would be better, as StrapWorks does. But with the way Titan’s straps were failing, I don’t expect that would have made a difference. It appears to be the thread that was the problem. They needed stronger thread, or possibly only because they were using the box-x pattern.

So as we go through some other designs below, I’ll point out the stitching and how it differs from Titan’s.

So What Brands of Safety Straps Are Good?

The Original: Spud, Inc

Spud Inc’s suspension straps

Spud, Inc was the first one to innovate these as their “suspension straps“. At the time, everyone was doubtful. How could a piece of nylon be trusted like a big steel bar? Well, they have held up by all accounts.

Ropes and webbing made of nylon and other materials have earned trust in the last 20 years in the boating, climbing and aviation communities, where the consequences for failure are just as severe as a failed rep with 405. Once you get used to it, and test it safely, you’ll realize how strong the stuff is. Gym equipment is simply catching up to the technology. Steel power racks with safety bars were invented 100 years ago. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Spud’s suspension straps universally fit any power racks. They hung from the upper frame of the rack, on either side of the bar, so you would be touching the straps as you lowered the weight down for each rep, reversing your rep just short of the loop at the bottom of the strap. Works pretty good!

However, Spud Inc’s strap design has some issues. The straps can slide around, and you want to make sure the chain is in the right position, either on the top, bottom, or right in the middle, depending on whether you want it to scratch up your rack, your bar, or clink against your bar as you go up and down in your reps. This prompted another design.

Sorinex

Around 2011, Sorinex noticed how reliably they worked and came out with straps designed in the same manner as traditional safety bars, attaching to Sorinex rack uprights via brackets and hanging horizontally. They are a better solution, because they are easier to adjust precisely via the upright holes and don’t touch your bar at all until they’re needed.

Here’s a lifter testing the Sorinex straps with 365 lb.

That’s some serious confidence in the straps to be dropping 365 on your neck. Sorinex passes the test! Theirs is 42.5″ long to attach to 3″x3″ tubing.

Rogue Fitness

Rogue, of course, has excellent straps as well that no doubt have gone through plenty of testing as they do with everything. Rogue has never been known to cut corners on safety. They have several models to choose from:

Rogue’s stitching goes all the way up through the loop, and they have an additional layer of material stitched on top to prevent wear from the bar knurling to the structural stitching underneath. Smart!

Unlike some attachments, the pegs on any safety strap brackets don’t have to fit well into the holes on the rack uprights for these to work. The straps just hang down anyway. So the Infinity and Monster Lite straps work for 5/8″ holes, 1″ holes, or anything in between.

Rep Fitness

Rep Fitness has some heavy duty 30″ straps made for their PR-5000 series rack, with the same sizing compatibility as the Rogue Monster Lite (30″ long, 3″x3″ tubing, 1″ holes). Unlike Rep’s current 3000 series straps, these have a better locking system that doesn’t require a tool to adjust.

Their stitching extends in their case all the way down the straps, going through the loop and overlapping into the first pass of stitching. It doesn’t look as clean as Rogue, but it’s good. These just came out in April 2018 (this month, as of writing), and Rep has not yet added much of a description to the product page yet.

Replacement Straps for Titan

If you’ve already got Titan straps, you can keep their brackets and replace the straps from another source. Nothing wrong with the brackets.

The below is a sponsored link. StrapWorks kicks us back about $1-$2 if you order a pair of straps.

You can get these replacement straps from StrapWorks that will hook into the Titan brackets the same way. The length choices are in 1-foot increments, but what you do is just round up in length and put a note on your desired length in the order comments. They cut and sew all these on demand, so a custom length is easy for them to do.

They are also good for replacing Rep Fitness’ straps, which in my opinion are too tight and do not allow fine tuning the height as per the section below.

The thing about StrapWorks is they are experts in making these. You know for sure that there’s not going to be a problem with the strength or stitching.

Unfortunately they do not make brackets to fit power racks, so you will need to have existing brackets.

A member of /r/homegym on reddit had this to say about the StrapWorks straps:

First observation I had was the webbing material is top notch. The stitching is no exception either. The stitching material is very high quality, either nylon or some similar composite. Also appears that its heat treated during stitching so it’s got a welded type stitch construction that’s very strong.

Did an empty bar drop test from 1.5 feet, and 135lb loaded drop from the same height, no issues. Loaded up 315, and sat on it for another 200lbs, no issues. For the sake of not sacrificing a good barbell, I did not drop anything of substantial weight from shoulder height since our failures have all happened in the hole and not while reracking.

For the specs, I ordered 31″ custom total length 2″ webbing with 3″ loops for my Rep PR1000 rack with a 26″ inner width which is the same as the Titan T2 and other similar 2×2 racks.. This is a little more than 1″ shorter than the titan straps. When I contacted them, they had me order a size up and put the custom length requirements in their order comments.

(see thread)

Important: Strap Length

When the straps fit the rack too tightly, the bar resting on them wants to roll to the middle. This isn’t good, because it can mean it’s going to roll back into you when you bail a squat, or it will crush your midsection when you fail a bench press.

To prevent that, attach one bracket of each strap higher on the rack upright, moving the low point of the strap to where you need it. You can do that with the Rogue and Sorinex straps. The Rep straps might be too tight to do that. If you’re ordering the Strapworks straps above, you can get the same size as Titan’s are, or subtract an inch or so like the above reddit poster did.

Being able to adjust the height on each side has the added advantage of fine-tuning the strap height to where you need it, just below the bottom of your range of motion. For example, if the hole spacing of your rack is 2″, this method allows you to adjust the height in 1″ increments.

Next, load your bar with some weight to test the height. For testing the bench press height, keep the weight well within what you will be able to lift comfortably after setting the bar down on the straps. The straps may stretch a little under load, and you want to make sure it’s right.

Wear Guards

Your bar’s knurling could start to cause the nylon straps to fray, or even damage the stitching.

Rogue has wear guards built into their straps. For any other brands, consider getting wear sleeves like this to protect it. It’s a cheap and easy solution that’s used in other applications to protect polyester or nylon straps from abrasion wear.

 

Any other straps you have your eye on? Any other thoughts you have about using straps instead of traditional safety bars? Share in the comments below!

About the Author:

David Kiesling
David founded Adamant Barbell in 2007 and Two Rep Cave in 2018. Lately he spends his free time practicing archery and hang gliding.

5 Comments

  1. John May 28, 2018 at 4:05 am - Reply

    Besides the possibility of scratching the bar or the rack, is there any other downside to the suspension straps in regard to the safety straps?
    I’m asking because a suspension strap is an easy thing to diy so they may come really cheap and without any worries about stitching (because one would buy straps that are built for shipping pallets aka built to withstand tones of load). The pricing of proven-as-good safety straps is really breath taking (most come ~200 dollars)

    • David Kiesling
      David Kiesling May 29, 2018 at 8:10 am

      Suspension straps will also rub against the bar. If you’re going DIY, test it out by dropping weight. Typical tie down straps with buckles are only meant to secure things pretty well and will slip when tested in this application.

  2. Pants May 26, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Why not run a heavy duty 2 to 3 inch wide, 8-12 foot long safety strap over the top square tubing of the power rack that connects to the 4 power rack posts (all dependent upon how tall your power rack itself is) to form a hanging U. You could then smaller 2 inch wide 8 – 16 inch long straps loop tied to your bar to create a ring and run those loops around the bigger loops that you created out of the bigger straps to create a guided setup of sorts that if the weight drops it will pretty much guarantee to catch itself. It would end up similar to this: http://www.johnphung.com/blog/7662/diy-power-rack-safety-suspension-strap-system/

    It would end up being a rather cheap setup with the weak points being whatever the quality of the straps are and the fact that the top bar usually bolts across (unless you have a fully welded rack) to the 4 posts. Those bolts, which are usually built for strength, would be the other weak points. Another example: https://garagegymguy.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/positions.jpg

    Btw great blog. Lots of useful info especially when it comes to weight specifications and such.

  3. Patrick O'Flaherty April 22, 2018 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Due to the straps sagging in the middle and would sag even more under load, it might be difficult for them to safely bail you out of a failed bench press especially considering that the bench presser would be positioned closer to the rack frame to make it easier to un-rack and re-rack the barbell wheeby the strap is hanging down at an angle causing the bar to slide down toward the middle of the strap due to the momentum of dropping the barbell?

    • David Kiesling
      David Kiesling April 22, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Patrick,
      Yep, straps that fit the rack too snugly will have that problem where the bar wants to roll to the middle. The best method is straps that fit droopy enough that you can attach one end higher, moving the strap’s low point to your chest. Then for back squats, reverse the positioning to move the low point safely behind you. I’ll add a note about this to the article. Thanks!

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