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Dumbbell squats and dead-lifts have their place in any hypertrophy routine, but when it comes to building serious strength, you’ll be hard-pressed to do it with a set of dumbbells. This is where barbells come in. We’re not going to debate the pros and cons of training with barbells and dumbbells in this article, but rest assured, a barbell strength training setup is a necessity once you’re ready to move some serious weight. And the centerpiece of any barbell training setup is a proper squat rack.
Squat racks come in a variety of flavors, but they all serve the same primary purpose – they allow you to handle heavy weights on a barbell when you squat, safely. Many rigs on the market offer added versatility by allowing you to press and bench as well. There are a plethora of brands to chose from, ranging from cheap, knock-down kits available at the local Walmart; all the way to expensive, heavy-duty rigs that are custom-built and shipped from specialty manufacturers.
While I do have a garage, I don’t have a lot of free space within it, because I try to park both my cars inside, as well as squeeze all my other gym equipment, including a full dumbbell rack.
As a result, I was looking for a product that offered mobility, i.e., something I could move to the center of the garage when I needed to use it, but that I could shove into a corner when not in use. As a result, any squat rack that would need to be bolted into the floor or a wall was ruled out.
And while I’m a reasonably strong individual, I don’t have a 1000-lb squat. Not even close. So I didn’t need a rack that was built like Optimus Prime. Any rack made with 2”x3” 11 gauge steel tubing would suffice.
While doing my research, I came across the Fringesport Commercial Squat Rack. The price was quite attractive, especially after looking at the prices of similar products from Rogue and Titan. And this squat rack was designed to offer mobility, which made it all the more appealing.
You can find all the technical specs of the rack here, but here’s the highlight reel. The rack is made with 2” x 3” 11-gauge steel tubing. It has a black powder-coat finish. The footprint is 46.5” wide by 51” deep, and 72” tall. It comes with two j-cups with thick pins to hold the barbell. And it has a weight rating of 1000 lbs. The uprights have holes spaced 1.5” apart, from 21” off the ground all the way to the top at 72”, so there’s plenty of configuration available depending on your individual preferences.
The rack also comes with four pre-drilled holes at the base to secure it to the floor. However, for folks like me who are looking for a more mobile solution, they offer a simple alternative that I will highlight below.
Fringesport also offers spotter arms as an add-on accessory to the rack, which I added to my order. While not exactly necessary, I think anyone who trains alone and lifts heavy weight should invest in a pair of spotter’s arms. They offer the mental reassurance that you need when going for broke on a max attempt.
It’s a comfort to know I don’t have to worry about being crushed to death under hundreds of pounds of metal, should I fail at my attempt.
Ordering was quick and hassle-free. And Fringesport offered free shipping, which was especially attractive. Anyone who’s tried to ship heavy stuff across the country knows how expensive it can get. Similar products from Rogue and others charge an additional fee for shipping, which can add another 20%-30% to the overall package cost.
Packaging & Delivery
The total shipping weight of the rack & the spotter’s arms was about 150lbs, but the entire rig is designed to be bolted together. As a result, the shipment arrived neatly packed in flat shipping containers. The packaging was sturdy and well designed, and there was no damage to the product. Delivery was a breeze, and the UPS truck dropped them on my front porch.
The entire rack took only an hour to assemble because there are about a dozen nuts & bolts to fasten together. I was able to put the rack together with just a pair of pliers and an adjustable spanner; no power tools, special sockets or wrenches required.
I have to admit that this review comes a full year into my ownership of the rack, and I’ve put it through the paces. As a result, you’ll see some signs of general wear and tear that I feel anyone should expect with regular use. But that aside, the quality and construction of the rack feel top notch. The powder-coating is smooth, consistent and doesn’t flake or chip.
However, the J-cups themselves are a different story. As you can see, they’ve seen some significant wear right where the barbell rests on the shelf. Now, this is partially my fault.
Every time I set up for a squat set, I eyeball the barbell and twist it a bit to get it nice and centered. Unfortunately, this results in the knurling doing a sanding job on the j-cup lip. The scars you see in the image are the result of a year’s worth of twisting and adjusting. While I’m not concerned about the j-cups failing on me anytime soon, it is worth noting that this is going to happen. I use a Bomba bar, also from Fringesport, and the knurling isn’t very aggressive. My Rogue Ohio bar has much more aggressive knurling and I’m sure it would have caused more wear if I used it the same way.
But this is a minor issue, and if I ever feel that my j-cups are close to retirement, I’ll order a replacement set.
Given that I wanted a solution that could be moved around as needed, I chose not to drill into my garage floor. Instead, I used Fringesport’s suggestion from their website. They recommend heading down to the local hardware store, grabbing four 50-lb sandbags and putting them on each corner. This forces the rack to stay rooted to the spot.
Which is precisely what I did, and for a measly $20, I’ve been able to craft a solution that works exactly the way I need it. You could argue that the stacking/unstacking of the sandbags is a pain in the butt, but I treat it as an extension of my workout for the day.
Granted, I’m probably not going to win any awards for ‘Most Beautiful Garage Gym’ any time soon, but I couldn’t care less, because it gets the job done!
I’ve used this rack for more than a year now, and I’ve never once felt unsure about the rack’s ability to hold heavy loads. When the frame is secured down, it does not budge. The footprint is broad enough to allow most stance widths during a squat.
However, I do feel the rack is less-than-ideal for benching, for a couple of reasons.
- You have to fiddle with the positioning of your bench to make sure you’re right in the center of the rack, under the bar, as there are no visual cues or markers to guide you. I plan to fix this by using some duct tape to establish markers.
- The spotter arms, which are 46.5” apart, sometimes tend to scrape my elbows when I bench. Not too much, but once in a while. I figure this is partly because of my long arms, but other benchers with long arms might face this issue as well.
Editor’s Note: If you have issues with the safeties/spotters scraping your elbows while bench pressing, it will happen with other power racks or half racks with safeties, because they are all pretty much the same width. This can become an issue you run into when moving from a unit with no safeties. Some lifters with long arms experience this more than others because they flare their elbows out more when pressing to recruit their pecs more and lessen the load on their triceps and front deltoids, which may be intentional, or it may be an instinctual adjustment for the individual to recruit his strongest muscles as it gets heavy.
EASE OF USE
The J-cups feel sturdy and are very easy to slip in and out of the holes. Some people have complained about the j-cups being a little loose, but I disagree, I think they offer the right amount of ‘give’ to allow for quick-changes in height and still feel stable enough to support hundreds of pounds.
I’m a bit compulsive when it comes to maintenance, so I spend five minutes tightening all the bolts, every couple of months. But anytime I’ve gone at the bolts, I’ve been pleased that there was never any noticeable loosening of the fasteners.
As for the spotter’s arms, the word to describe them – is functional. They are built to support heavy barbells, and they do that job well enough. The plastic on the spotter’s arms is meant to protect the knurling on the barbells, but to do so, they have to offer some give, which means that they do pick up a few scars.
After a year of using the Fringesport rack, I have to say I’m happy with my purchase. It isn’t the fanciest rack on the market, but it gets the job done, and there’s no arguing its utility. The rack has held up well and shows no alarming signs of aging other than from regular, frequent usage. I appreciate the mobility this rack offers, and the fact that I’m able to secure it when I need to with just four sandbags is a game changer.
If I had two pet peeves, it would be that it’s not the most convenient rack for benching when you need the spotter’s arms, especially for guys like me with long arms, and the j-cups see a much faster rate of wear and tear than the rest of the rack. But neither of these are dealbreakers.
If you’re in the market for a budget-friendly rack that holds a decent amount of weight and has a small footprint, you won’t be disappointed with the Fringesport Commercial Squat Rack.