Squats, and bench, and deadlifts, oh my!
Whether you’re a competitive powerlifter, an aspiring powerlifter, or just someone who wants to build total body strength centered around the main three lifts, having the right equipment is paramount if you want to make real progress.
A great way to do that?
Build a powerlifting gym at home.
The problem that arises for powerlifting-minded people is that commercial gyms generally don’t offer the right platform (pun intended) on which you can build an efficient and intelligent training program.
You see, the vast majority of commercial gyms cater to the masses. They provide isolation machines for as far as the eye can see. Smith machines are a staple. The one squat rack they have is probably being used as a curl rack. And perhaps worst of all, the dreaded HEX PLATES!
You want to know the truth of the matter?
It’s typically going to be more difficult to realize your strength goals in a commercial gym setting, and unless you have access to a specialized facility built for it, your home is the best option. There are many highly regarded powerlifters who train from home. Guys like Chad Wesley Smith, Mike Tuchscherer, Brandon Lilly, Dennis Cornelius, etc… they have reached awesome strength levels by lifting in the comfort of their own home.
So click your heels and say it with me… “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home..”
Join along as I present the ultimate guide to building a badass powerlifting gym at home.
Part #1: Essential Powerlifting Gym Equipment
Your equipment is your lifeblood. If you want to squat, bench, and deadlift, there are a few pieces of equipment that are absolutely essential. Once you have your foundation, you can add to your collection with ‘nice to have’ accessory pieces and specialty bars.
Let’s tackle each in order:
There are 5 items that you need in order to maximize your powerlifting potential and make the most of your space. They include the following:
- Power Rack
These items will serve as your training foundation, and they will, for all intents and purposes, provide everything you need to start your own powerlifting gym and hit the ground running in serious strength gains.
#1: The Power Rack
This is an essential piece of equipment that will facilitate your primary barbell movements while also keeping you safe.
There are two primary types of racks I would recommend:
Power Racks are the ideal rack choice for powerlifters because of their enhanced safety, versatility, and customization options.
The first is the full power rack, which consists of either 4 or 6 steel posts and a section inside from which your movements will be performed. These racks are the most commonly used because of their durability, usability, and versatility. The distinction between the 4 and 6-post racks is that 6-post racks normally have more lifting depth and they also offer a convenient section to easily store your plates out of the way of your lifts.
Full racks can handle extreme weight loads, and because of this, they are often the selection of choice for powerlifters. From a safety perspective, a full rack is preferred because there are several safety systems available: pin & pipe, spotter arms, safety straps, and drop-in safeties primarily.
As it relates to customization, full racks can’t be beaten. There are seemingly an endless number of ways that you can pimp out your rack. Things like monolift arms, dip attachments, pull up systems, etc… are all at your disposal. Talk about versatility!
Half Racks are another great option for powerlifters. They include solid safety features, a lot of versatility, and on-rack plate storage
The second is the half rack, which is mainly different from a full power rack in that movements are performed on the outside of the rack via J hooks and spotter arms. The price point is typically less than a full rack, which, depending on the brand you choose, is a potential benefit if you’re on a budget.
Ultimately though it comes down to preference. Some people like to lift outside of a rack, while others like the feeling of being inside of a 4 or 6-post full power rack. You can of course also lift outside of a full power rack. If you’re someone who lifts a ton of weight, I would suggest you focus your attention on full racks.
That said, I’ve seen some pretty awesome half racks that are certainly strong enough to handle heavy loads. Another benefit of a half rack is the ability to store your plates on the back posts without them interfering with the movements like you may see on some 4-post full racks with limited interior depth.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Racks.
Where to buy
There are literally hundreds of power racks to choose from. They can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on manufacturer, specs, and finish level.
Your choice will be determined by your specific needs and your budget; however, I’ve put together a list of a few of the most regarded manufacturers of racks below:
Rogue Fitness offers some of the best and highest-quality racks on the market. They have a large catalog to choose from at various price levels.
Rogue offers the most impressive lineup of racks because of the sheer number of options. From squat stands to 8-post power racks, they have something for everyone. Their racks range in price, specs, colors, and more… but their quality is strong across the board.
I started with a Rogue Bolt-Together R3 in my first home gym. It’s a very solid power rack that offers good versatility while taking up a minimal footprint. If you have a larger budget, however, I would suggest checking out the Monster and Monster Lite racks. These 3×3 racks have more features and more attachments – they’re the future of Rogue’s rack catalog.
REP Fitness offers several high-quality and versatile racks with solid attachments and always free shipping
REP has turned into a home gym juggernaut, providing great equipment at solid prices. Their rack lineup has evolved to include some of the best racks for the money in the PR-5000 and PR-4000. These 3×3 racks are similar to the Monster and Monster Lite racks from Rogue – they offer excellent versatility, and REP is constantly bringing new and innovative attachments to the market.
Titan Fitness offers numerous rack options ranging from basic to advanced. Their racks all ship free and they offer some of the best prices around
Titan Fitness has grown into one of the most popular home gym equipment providers because of their low prices, free shipping, variety of products. Their racks are very closely designed off of the Rogue Fitness catalog and, while their quality isn’t has high, it has improved tremendously over the years. They also have a wide assortment of attachments.
#2: The Barbell
Not all barbells are created equal. In the sport of powerlifting, specificity is extremely important. Because of this, you want to buy a barbell that is suited for squatting, benching, and deadlifting. You’re not going to buy a bearing weightlifting bar used in the clean & jerk, snatch, and other Olympic lifts.
Nope, you’re going to buy a power bar. A stiff power bar. A power bar more stiff than a 17-year old boy on prom night. After all, this is what you would compete with.
There are a few important specs that are basically required in order for a bar to be considered a powerlifting bar:
- Tensile Strength should be high, thereby creating a strong & rigid barbell with little whip. The band, Devo, really hates these bars. Generally speaking, anything over 180,000 PSI is going to be sufficient for tensile strength. Most quality powerlifting bars will be over 190,000 PSI, getting as high as the mid-200,000 range.
- Knurling should be aggressive and deep in order to provide a better grip on the bar for working with heavy weights.
- A center knurl is important in order to prevent the bar from slipping down your back when performing back squats.
- Powerlifting Knurl Marks should be present in order to regulate grip width. These markings are 81 cm (~32 inches) apart from one another.
- The Shaft should have a girth….errrrr… diameter of between 28-29 mm in order to strike a balance between pushing and pulling movements. You will notice the biggest difference in shaft diameters on pulling movements, particularly if you have smaller hands.
- Bushings should mechanically spin the sleeves. A bushing system is good at providing enough spin, but not nearly to the level that a bearing weightlifting bar would provide. This is a a good thing in powerlifting because spin isn’t necessary for the big 3 lifts.
What to Buy
The following list is my personal list of recommendations for powerlifting barbells:
Rep Fitness Power Bar EX
The REP Power Bar EX is a very aggressive power bar with a fully stainless steel body, a mountainous knurl, and smooth sleeves.
The REP Power Bar EX is one of my favorite barbells in my entire collection.
The bar is stainless steel throughout, including the sleeves, thereby giving it supreme oxidation resistance. The knurling has a very aggressive, mountainous profile that is outstanding for the big 3. I particularly love it on deadlifts and low bar squats.
The shaft has a tensile strength of 200,000 PSI and its diameter is 29mm, which is consistent with most other power bars.
If you’re looking for a bar with a bite to it, this is one of the very best options. It’s extremely well-reviewed, and it’s been a go-to of mine since it was released.
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is an excellent bar with aggressive knurling and multiple finish options. It's a strong pick as a daily powerlifting driver.
I have owned the Rogue Ohio Power Bar in both stainless steel and black zinc. The Ohio Power bar is arguably the most popular power bar ever created.
It’s built to be a workhorse for all powerlifting movements. It is a rigid barbell with 200,000+ tensile strength and a knurling that is considered to be among the best on the market. I don’t personally consider the knurling to be particularly aggressive, but it strikes a great balance between medium and aggressive.
For the 45 lb bar, there are several different finish options at various different price points. This includes bare steel, black zinc, e-coat, Cerakote, and stainless steel. It’s an accessible barbell for many and, in my opinion, it’s the best all-around power bar available.
Vulcan Absolute Power Bar
The Vulcan Absolute Power Bar is an awesome bar with aggressive knurling, a black oxide finish, and a more subdued center knurl... all for under $350.
The Vulcan Absolute Power Bar (black oxide) is one of my favorite powerlifting barbells of all time. While Vulcan has two “Absolute Power Bars”, one in stainless and one in black oxide, it’s important to note that they aren’t the same bar with different finishes.
This bar has one of the most impressive knurls I’ve ever felt. It also offers a 221k tensile strength, which is one of the highest available in the power bar market. The shaft is finished with black oxide and the grooved sleeves have a matte chrome finish. This bar looks very nice and performs very well, but you will want to maintain it with oil and a brush if you train in a humid environment.
Kabuki Strength Power Bar
The Kabuki Power Bar is one of the finest power bars on the market. It has several great features including an ultra-high tensile strength, aggressive knurling, and more.
The Kabuki Power Bar is a mammoth of a powerlifting bar. It boasts the highest tensile rating of any bar out there, ranging from 250k to 258k. The shaft is 29 mm in diameter and the knurling is considered “indestructible.” There’s actually a video out there of Chris Duffin shredding the knurl on another power bar with that of the New Generation bar. Scary stuff, folks.
The bar itself comes in two different coatings: Cerakote and Black Oxide. This is a premier offering from Kabuki that is certainly not cheap. The bar is great, but the value as compared to some other quality powerlifting bars may not be as high.
Buddy Capps Texas Power Bar
The Texas Power is an iconic 28.5mm power bar with aggressive knurling, multiple finish options, and a stellar reputation.
This is an old-school iconic power bar.
Having been manufactured since 1980, this barbell offers a ton of history and a proven track record of being utterly badass. Some of the most elite powerlifters have trained on this bar.
As for specs, the Texas Power Bar offers a slightly smaller diameter shaft at 28.5 mm. To some, this is preferred for pulling movements as it makes it more “gripable.” The bar comes in a variety of finishes, including bare steel, black zinc, and Cerakote. The knurling is quite aggressive and does have a sharp feeling that isn’t agreeable to some.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Barbells.
When it comes to choosing weights for your powerlifting gym, you basically have two choices: iron/steel plates or bumper plates. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that I will outline below.
Iron/Steel plates are traditionally the go-to plates in the world of powerlifting. They’ve been around for ages, you can fit more of them on the bar, and they’re used on the actual platform if you’re a competitive lifter.
Advantages of iron plates include:
- Price – They’re typically cheaper than bumper plates. In some cases, they’re much cheaper. I say typically because you can choose to buy calibrated steel plates that are fine-tuned and platform-ready, but these will cost you a pretty penny (around $2/pound minimum) new. You can find standard steel plates for closer to $1/pound new.
- Thickness – Steel plates are thinner than bumper plates, which means you can fit more weight on the bar.
- Sound – This could also be a disadvantage (see below), but the iron sound is awesome, in my opinion. The clanking of the plates is something you either love or hate, but no matter your preference, the sound personifies powerlifting.
- Durability – Steel plates are pretty damn durable. They are made to be picked up and put down repeatedly with force.
- Restorability – Yep, just made that word up. Steel plates are unique in that they can fairly easily be refinished and made to look brand new again. If you buy used plates off Craigslist, this can be especially attractive because you can find awesome deals and then bring the plates back to life inexpensively.
Disadvantages of steel plates include:
- Rust – Steel plates are prone to rust over time, particularly if you live in a humid environment or train in a garage. The good thing is that they can be restored as mentioned above.
- Loud – Remember when I said the sound can be good or bad? Well, steel plates are loud. They sound cool, mind you, but your neighbors just may hear you. This is something to keep in mind if you live in an apartment, have close neighbors, etc…
- Weight Tolerance – Unless you buy calibrated plates from Rogue, Eleiko, Ivanko, etc… there are going to be some wider weight tolerances. This means that if you buy a 45lb pair of standard steel plates, one may weigh 47 lbs and one may weigh 43 pounds. If you’re loading up a bunch of weight, this discrepancy may feel quite noticeable.
What to Buy
I encourage you to check out the used market in conjunction with your search for new plates to give you an idea of what’s available and what kind of deals you can get.
Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, LetGo, etc… are all good resources to consider. Depending on your location and your willingness to be patient, you can usually find really good deals on used steel plates.
RELATED: Best Craigslist Tips for Buying Used Gym Equipment
As far as buying new, however, here are plates that I recommend:
Strength Co. Olympic Iron Plates
The Strength Co. Cast Iron Plates are USA-made high-quality plates with a thin profile and a beautiful aesthetic.
The Strength Co. Olympic Iron Plates are some of the best cast iron plates on the market. These plates are made in the USA and they offer an ultra-thin profile. In fact, they’re closer in thickness to a calibrated powerlifting plate than a deep dish plate.
Finished in e-coat, they have a great look to them that will be well-protected against oxidation. The smooth edges are a very nice touch, and they’re just a dream to use.
These plates have a weight tolerance of 2% on all variants, which is consistent with similar-style plates. In my opinion, if you’re looking for this style of iron plate, the Strength Co plates are the best out there.
Rogue Calibrated Steel Plates
The Rogue Calibrated Steel Plates are extremely accurate competition-approved weight plates with an ultra-thin profile.
If you’re a competitive powerlifter or if you have aspirations to become one, calibrated plates may be a wise investment. This style of plate is known as being the thinnest on the market, which means you’ll be able to load a lot of weight on the bar. Actually, you can load up to 1,500lbs with these plates. Calibrated plates are also used in competition, so specificity may be important to you.
The Rogue Calibrated Plates, specifically, are some of the nicest on the market. They have a beautiful aesthetic, and they’re extremely accurate, as expected. With a +/- 10 gram tolerance, you can be confident that you’re lifting virtually exactly what’s stated. These plates are also cheaper than what you would pay if you purchased from Eleiko, Ivanko, etc…
Rogue Deep Dish Plates
Rogue Deep Dish Plates are USA-made iron plates with a beautiful aesthetic, tight tolerance, and great performance.
Sticking with Rogue, their deep dish plates are also a great option. These plates have an iconic look to them and, with their deep lip, they’re very easy to grab and load. Also made in the USA, these are very high-quality plates.
Similar to the Strength Co. plates above, the Rogue Deep Dish Plates are finished in e-coat, which will provide a level of protection from oxidation. These plates are also accurate to +2% / -0%.
The downside to deep dish plates is that they take up more space on the bar. A 45lb plate, for example, is 1.97″, which can still allow for loads over 700lbs, but which will also trail behind other thinner plates.
REP Urethane Coated Equalizers
The REP Urethane Coated Equalizers are heavy-duty & accurate plates with easy-to-use cutouts and a thin profile.
Another good option for powerlifting is to use rubber or urethane-coated cast iron plates. I recommend urethane over rubber since it’s more durable, less smelly, and generally better-looking. The REP Urethane Coated Equalizers are a great choice. I’ve owned these plates since their release, and I’ve been very happy with them.
The REP Equalizers were designed after the shooter-style plates, but they offer a unique twist with their cutout shapes. These hex handholds are comfortable and they make loading and unloading plates much easier than traditional cast iron plates.
These plates have a moderate thickness (1.83″ on 45lb plates) and they’ve accurate to +/- 3%. As with all REP products, these plates ship for free.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Weight Plates.
Alright, we’ve talked about steel plates, but how about those ever-so-sexy colored bumper plates?
Generally speaking, bumper plates are a more versatile option, as they can be used in more ways than steel plates. With respect to powerlifting, it’s important that you focus your attention on low-bounce bumper plates.
Do not buy Hi-Temps or crumb bumpers for powerlifting.
The reason you want low-bounce is that you’ll be far less likely to throw off your bar path on deadlifts and also because they typically have a thinner profile.
Bounce is measured through what is called a durometer rating. The higher the number (max 100), the harder the material, and therefore the lesser the amount of bounce. As it relates to powerlifting, I’d recommend staying at or above a 90.
As with all pieces of equipment, there are advantages and disadvantages to using bumper plates.
Advantages of bumper plates include:
- Versatility – Bumper plates have more practical applications than their steel plate counterparts. Namely, you can use them with traditional weightlifting movements where you drop the bar from overhead.
- Durability – Did I mention you can drop these from overhead? They’re built like a friggin’ tank, folks.
- Aesthetics – Bumper plates are just nice looking. From their steel center inserts to their sweet color schemes, they just look awesome.
- Less Noisy – Unlike steel plates, Bumper plates have no rattling noise, which is a sure benefit if you’re worried about that sort of thing.
- Consistent Diameter – Bumper plates offer the same diameter from 10 lbs to 55 lbs, so you’re pulling from the same spot regardless of plate selection. With steel plates, diameters increase as weight increases.
- Tighter Tolerance – Bumpers tend to have a tighter tolerance around the stated weight than steel plates.
Disadvantages of bumper plates include:
- Price – Bumper plates are typically more expensive than steel plates.
- Thickness – Bumper plates are thicker than steel plates, which means you won’t be able to fit as many of them on the bar.
- Odor – Some bumper plates can emit an unpleasant odor. This isn’t common in nicer bumper sets, but your rubber sets may have this issue. The smell does normally dissipate over time.
What to Buy
The following list is my personal list of recommendations for bumper plates:
Rogue Competition Bumpers
The Rogue Competition Plates are extremely accurate, high-quality, and beautiful bumper plates. They're ideal for serious lifters
Competition bumpers are among the best bumpers you can use for powerlifting because they’re thin, accurate, and low bounce. The Rogue Competition Bumpers are very high-quality and aesthetic plates. I’ve owned them since 2016, and they have held up very well getting used multiple times a week.
These plates have a durometer rating of 94 (rated out of 100), which creates a virtually dead bounce. This is good news for powerlifters, of course. They’re accurate to within +/- 15 grams, which is almost to the same level as calibrated iron plates. They’re also very thin. When it comes to bumper plates, competition plates are among the thinnest you can buy. With a thickness of 2.15″ on a 45lb plate, you can load over 600lbs of these on a traditional bar.
REP Competition Bumpers
The REP Competition Bumper Plates are highly accurate and thin plates with a full center hub for durability and a low bounce.
REP also makes a quality competition bumper option at a lower price point than Rogue. These plates have a slightly lower durometer rating of 92, but that still results in an extremely low bounce. In terms of accuracy, these have an even tighter tolerance than Rogue at +/- 10 grams.
Unlike the chrome hubs on the Rogue plates above, these REP plates have a zinc hub, which is very common. While they may not have the mirror-like finish, they do a better job of hiding smudges and fingerprints. All-in-all, these are some of the best budget-friendly competition plates you can buy.
Fringe Sport Black Bumper Plates
Fringe Sport Black Bumpers are quality basic bumper plates with a great reputation and solid specs
Fringe Sport generally has one of the strongest reputations in the bumper plate market. They make very high-quality plates at solid prices. Their basic black bumpers are some of the best for the money in my experience. These plates are thicker than competition plates, but they’re very durable and they have a strong tolerance of +/- 1%.
These plates use a stainless steel insert with an anchored hook embedded into the plate to increase durability. They have a durometer rating of 85, which isn’t as high as comp plates, but which still results in a low bounce. They’re also much less expensive than comp plates, and all products from Fringe include free shipping.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Bumper Plates.
#4: The Bench
Buying a bench seems like a pretty easy decision, but with all the options out there, it’s not all that simple. In fact, there are some pretty big considerations to pay close attention to before purchasing a bench.
Because we are looking at essential equipment here, I’m only including flat benches, as that is what you absolutely need.
Let’s tackle a few of those considerations before getting into the list of recommendations:
- Weight Capacity – If you’re powerlifting, you want a rock-solid foundation from which to bench… one that is capable of holding not only your body weight, but also the bar weight. Cheap benches are lightweight, and their maximum load is underwhelming. You can find quality benches rated for 1,000 lbs that aren’t much more expensive than their cheaper competition whose weight capacities are significantly less (400-600 lbs).
- Height – This is an important consideration because you want to be able to utilize leg drive effectively. If your bench is tall, you may not be able to maximize this advantage because your legs aren’t in an optimal position. If you compete in powerlifting, you should also consider your federation’s bench height rules. The IPF, for example, requires that a bench be no less than 42 cm (~16.5 inches) and no more than 45 cm (~17.7 inches). Lastly, your federation may or may not allow you to bench with your heel off the ground. You will need to select your bench with all of this in mind.
- Width – Pad width is a very important spec because it directly affects the bench’s stability, it helps protect your shoulders, it’s more comfortable (for most people), and it will also be a requirement in your federation if you’re a competitor. 12″ width is in my opinion the optimal pad width, and certainly anything above 12″ is good. 11″ is suitable, but 10″ or less I feel is inadequate.
- Padding/Foam – To go along with the width, you want a pad that is comfortable and one that will withstand the amount of weight imposed upon it. Trust me, you’ll know the difference between high-density foam (what you want) and cheaper alternatives. Look for benches with at least a 2.5″ pad.
- Pad Covering – Have you ever benched on a piece of equipment where you kept sliding up the bench? It’s likely because the covering sucked. High-quality coverings not only hold up over the long haul and under heavy weight, but they also provide a certain degree of “grippyness” so as to not have you slipping and sliding everywhere while under load.
What to Buy
The following list is my personal list of recommendations for weight benches:
The REP FB-5000 earns top flat bench honors because of its price, three-post design, IPF height, wheels, and wide pad option.
The Rep FB-5000 is my favorite flat bench – it’s a competition bench that is perfect for powerlifting. Not only is it designed to meet all IPF specs, but it also includes a tripod design that eliminates any issues with foot positioning. It’s also compatible with the popular Thompson Fat Pad.
The height of the bench is 17″ and it comes with a pad that is 48″ long and 12″ wide. They also sell a wide pad that is 14″ wide. Keep in mind that if you elect to add the Thompson Fat Pad, you will add 0.5″ to the overall height. The bench is constructed with 3×3 11-gauge steel and it has wheels for easy transport. Considering the bench weighs in at 62 lbs, this is a helpful feature.
Rogue Monster Utility Bench
The Rogue Monster Utility Bench 2.0 is a premium flat bench with features including IPF height, wheels, a wide pad option, and even a stainless knurled handle option.
The Monster Utility Bench 2.0 is Rogue’s latest release to improve upon the prior Monster bench. This bench comes in two heights, which will depend on the type of pad you’re using. The shorty version is only 15.25″ with the standard pad, but if you add a Thompson Fat Pad it becomes 17.5″, which is ideal. The Standard height bench is 17.5″ with the standard pad, but if you add a Thompson Fat Pad it becomes 19.75.”
The bench is built using 3×3 11-gauge steel. It includes wheels for easy transport and a tripod design so that the base of the bench doesn’t interfere with foot positioning. Unlike the Rogue Flat Utility Bench below, the Monster 2.0 is bolted together vs. welded. It’s priced about $95 more than the flat utility bench, but you can add a Thompson Fat Pad for only $50 extra.
In my opinion, it’s a much better option than the Rogue Flat Utility Bench.
Titan Single Post Competition Flat Bench
The Titan Single Post Competition Flat Bench is a no-frills bench option with IPF specs and a great price tag.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly flat bench option, check out the Titan Single Post Comp Flat Bench. This bench has a tripod design similar to the two above in addition to a 17″ height, 3×3 construction, etc…
The biggest difference on this bench is that the pad isn’t as thick. Instead of a 4″ thick pad, on the Titan, you get a 2.4″ pad. Considering the overall height is still 17″, that’s totally fine, but just know it may not be as comfortable. The real value of this bench is the price. It sits well under the price of the two benches above and it’s frequently on sale for even less.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best weight Benches.
#5: The Platform
Ok, I’ll be honest, this isn’t absolutely essential, but it’s pretty sweet and it does make a difference. At the very least, you should be deadlifting on horse stall mats or something similar that can absorb the hits.
I will say, there is something about having a legit platform that is just cool. You can perform all three power lifts right on the platform, and it looks awesome in your gym.
Building a DIY platform is actually quite easy… and rewarding. There are a few online instructions outlining exactly what you need and how to build it. I personally followed these instructions.
And boom, just like that – you have everything you need for your powerlifting gym.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some other fun stuff that will really take it to the next level.
Part #2: Specialty Bars and Accessory Equipment
Specialty bars and accessory equipment are made to supplement your main lifts in order to get strong as hell and ultimately help you lift the most weight on squat, bench, and deadlift.
While you can absolutely create an effective accessory program with the essentials above, adding a few pieces of nice-to-have equipment can have a massive carry-over.
Let’s look at a few of the most popular pieces:
The Safety Squat Bar
In my opinion, the SSB is one of, if not the best specialty bar you can own. Read more about all of the SSB benefits.
It’s an extremely versatile piece that will get you insanely strong while minimizing stress on the upper extremities, particularly the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
With the SSB you can perform back squats, front squats, good morning variations, unilateral work (great for rehab), and even lying triceps extensions!
This bar will destroy your back (in a very good way) and it carries over very well to the deadlift.
The REP Safety Squat Bar is my top recommendation. Titan Fitness, Bells of Steel, and Elitefts also make great SSBs.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Safety Squat Bars.
Suggestion: If you’re a beginner lifter, focus on mastering the straight bar squat before jumping in head first with an SSB.
The Trap Bar
I really love the trap bar. I think it’s a great implement for general strength and an excellent teaching tool for the hip hinge.
In fact, this is one specialty bar I would actually recommend to beginner lifters. I used one when I first started deadlifting and I felt it helped me tremendously.
Read more about all of the trap bar benefits.
Greg Nuckols over at Stronger By Science has a great article discussing how Trap Bar Deadlifts are Underrated.
When purchasing a trap bar, there are a few key considerations to pay close attention to:
- Handles – Not all trap bars have high and low handles.
- Sleeve Length – Some trap bars have shorter loadable sleeves. This is something to consider if you plan on lifting a lot of weight.
- Weight Capacity – Speaking of lifting a lot of weight, not all trap bars are built to load massive amounts of weight even though most people can lift more weight on a trap bar than on a straight bar. Pay attention to the weight ratings.
- Rackability – Definitely just made up another word (haters gon’ hate). Not all trap bars are rackable. This is an important distinction to make if you want to do movements such as overhead pressing with your trap bar.
The REP Open Trap Bar is my favorite and top recommendation. Other popular options include the Rogue TB-2, Titan Trap Bar, Cap Mega Trap Bar, and Kabuki Trap Bar.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Trap Bars.
The Football/Swiss Bar
This style of bar is great for pressing movements as well as some arm gains with hammer curls and triceps extensions. Read more about all of the swiss bar benefits.
The bar can either have straight or angled handles, with several grip widths to vary your training. The bar became a popular option for football players because it was more suitable for their shoulders and also because the hand positioning closely mimics how the linemen hit the man in front of them at the line of scrimmage.
There are several companies making quality football/swiss bars. Popular options include the REP Cambered Swiss Bar, Rogue MG-2, Rogue MG-3, and the Kabuki Kadillac Bar.
The Buffalo bar is uniquely constructed with a curved shaft. People who don’t know about the bar are likely to think you’re lifting so much weight that it’s causing the bar to bend.
The bar was designed in an effort to reduce the amount of stress on the shoulders during squats and bench. Your hands will actually sit lower than on a straight bar, which creates a more optimal positioning for those with shoulder issues or poor flexibility.
A major benefit of this bar is that unlike other alternative bars such as the SSB, you can relieve shoulder stress while still applying the same technique and form that you would use with a straight bar.
One of the best options for this bar is the Kabuki Strength Duffalo Bar.
I own the Vulcan Strength Buffalo Bar, which I’m a big fan of. Fringe Sport also makes a version called the Longhorn Bar.
Glute Ham Developer
The GHD is one of the best posterior chain developers you can buy.
It hits the hammies from the knee all the way to the hip because it works the musculature through simultaneous hip extension and knee flexion.
If you have lower back issues, the GHD can be an amazing tool because there is little shear force placed upon the structures in and around the lower back.
If you want to see your big lifts, especially your deadlift, go up, consider adding a GHD to your home gym.
As far as buying a GHD, there are several places to focus your search. I would first encourage you to check the used market for a quality commercial-grade GHD. I own the Power Lift GHD, which is a 200 lb tank that many elite athletes use in their training. They don’t pop up often but keep your eyes peeled. Other manufacturers to look for include UCS, Legend, and Sorinex.
As for new, the Rogue Abram 2.0 is probably the most popular option for home gyms. The Titan GHD is another very popular, budget-friendly option.
Dumbbells give you a level of variety in your training that is unmatched by anything else. You can hit every major muscle group in a seemingly endless number of ways.
Unilateral work is easy, drop sets are a breeze, supersets are seamless, and hypertrophy gains will make your veins pop (not literally, that would suck).
In a home gym setting, space is typically a limiting factor. If this is the case for you, adjustable dumbbells are the perfect option. I personally prefer fixed dumbbells, but sometimes space doesn’t allow for it.
RELATED: Read our breakdown of the Best Dumbbells
There are two manufacturers that stand above the rest when it comes to adjustable dumbbells for powerlifting: Ironmaster and Powerblock.
The Ironmaster Dumbbells are bomb-proof DBs that are built to withstand anything you can throw at them. They're ideal for heavy lifters and they can be expanded to a whopping 165lb.
The Ironmaster 5-75 lb system is the pick for you if you like the pro-style dumbbell feel. These dumbbells are built to last years and are constructed in such a way that you can actually drop the weights and not have to worry about parts and pieces breaking. The weights can range from 5-75 lbs, but you can purchase add-on kits up to 120 lbs and even 165 lbs. While they don’t provide the fastest plate change system, they are certainly adequate in that regard. This adjustable system also comes with a nice stand that takes up a minimal amount of floor space.
The PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells are affordable adjustable DBs that can be expanded up to 90lb and are lightning fast to operate.
Powerblocks are the pick for you if you require fast weight changes. Their innovative system makes it incredibly easy to adjust weights in a matter of seconds, which is perfect for supersets and drop sets. Powerblock sells several different systems, with a maximum weight of 125 lbs. Their unique handle design is not for everyone, as it does not replicate a traditional dumbbell in any way, shape, or form. These dumbbells are not meant to be dropped. Like the Ironmasters, they take up minimal floor space, but unlike the Ironmasters, you will need to shell out some extra cash for the stand.
Loadable Dumbbell Handles
The Rogue DB-15 loadable handles are a space-efficient adjustable dumbbell option that utilizes normal Olympic plates and barbell collars.
Another option for space-saving dumbbells is a loadable dumbbell set such as the Rogue DB-15 or Titan Loadable DBs. With these dumbbells, you add on traditional Olympic plates with normal barbell collars. They are not quickly adjustable and some complain that they are a bit awkward to work with, particularly on pressing movements. These things are definitely built to last though. Feel free to throw these around with little concern. They are essentially mini barbells.
RELATED: Check out our breakdown of the Best Collars to buy.
There are several excellent powerlifting accessories that can elevate your training. These training tools are affordable and very space-friendly, making them great for home gyms.
- Weightlifting belt: A weight belt will increase intra-abdominal pressure and help you lift heavier weights more safely. For powerlifting, focus on leather belts with prong or lever fastening mechanisms. A leather belt is far more rigid than a nylon belt and will support your back better for the squat, bench, and deadlift. I also recommend a 10mm or 13mm belt for the best support.
- Lifting Straps: Lifting straps help you increase weight and reps by eliminating grip fatigue. While straps shouldn’t replace direct grip training, they’re effective for overloading the deadlift during training.
- Wrist Wraps: Wrist wraps are helpful for pushing movements because they stabilize the wrist and promote better form. When worn properly, wrist wraps can prevent wrist pain and help you lift heavier weights.
- Knee Sleeves: Knee sleeves are a staple in powerlifting because compression around the knee has several benefits. Sleeves increase warmth, improve blood flow, and provide a rebound effect in the bottom of a squat. These benefits result in more comfort and possibly bigger squats.
There is certainly no shortage of other accessory equipment on the market.
Bands, Chains, 45-degree hypers, reverse hypers, and adjustable boxes to name a few.
Powerlifting Gym Inspiration
At the beginning of the article, I mentioned some stud lifters who have powerlifting gyms at home. let’s take a more in-depth look at some of their spaces:
Cody is an all-around great guy who has helped a ton of people in the powerlifting community. Not only does he have a sweet powerlifting gym, but he’s also a well-known lifting programmer. Give his GZCL method a look if you’re searching for a great powerlifting program.
Brandon is another awesome dude who made a name for himself on YouTube and brought a lot of popularity to the sport of powerlifting. He has a sick powerlifting gym in his basement full of goodies.
Brandon is an extremely accomplished powerlifter with a wealth of experience in the sport. He’s the creator behind the Cube Method and he has world-class totals in several weight classes. His powerlifting gym includes some awesome gear, like a Sorinex power rack and Titex plates.
Garrett is an absolutely elite powerlifter. He has put up monster numbers and he trains at home in his own powerlifting gym. He also provides coaching to other lifters in their quest to set PRs.
So, what now?
We’ve looked at a lot of equipment in this ultimate guide.
Before going gung ho on every type of equipment available, consider your current training level, your training goals, and your ever-so-important budget.
You don’t need it all at once. You need the essentials to get you started, and from there, you can add whatever you consider appropriate for you and your powerlifting gym.