The sound of the power rack’s metal feet scraping across the floor was almost unbearable. Real nails on a chalk board type sounds. I had attached a heavy band to one of the uprights and was trying to do banded rows. Every time I pulled, the rack moved. This wasn’t the only time I was having problems either. I looked at my buddy (this was his garage gym) and asked him, “Don’t you think you should bolt your squat rack to the floor?”.
A squat rack should always be secured in place before use. Not doing so could result in unwanted rack movement or tipping. Bolting the rack to a lifting platform or the floor is the most secure option. If it can’t be bolted down, ensure the rack is heavily weighted and has a wide base for stability.
Safe and Secure
A full-size power rack weighs, on average, between 200 and 500 lbs. depending on how beefy a rig you have. They are typically made of steel and are built to last a lifetime (if you buy a good one, that is). Features will vary from rack to rack. They will come in different sizes and offer different attachments. One thing that you find consistent across all well-built models, though, is a way to permanently secure them to the ground.
In fact, almost all modern fitness equipment that involves weights will have this feature. If you spend any time in a commercial gym, the next time you are there take a peek. Almost every piece of non cardio equipment is bolted to the ground. And no, that’s not to keep people from stealing it. It’s so that the equipment doesn’t “walk” across the floor during use. It’s also so that there is no danger of that equipment falling over on someone.
It’s important enough that the method of attachment is a permanent part of all of those machines and racks. The manufacturers build it right onto each piece of gear that they make. You’ll see little plates with bolt holes in them on every foot of those machines, benches, or other training gear. Whether you are installing in a commercial gym or in your very own basement or garage gym, that feature should be used if at all possible.
As a note, I don’t bolt my rack to the ground because I bought a rack specifically designed not to be bolted down yet still be secure. You can see that rack here on Titan. Fitness.
Staying in place
Every time you rack a bar on your squat rack, you exert force on it. Some of that force is downward, but not all of it. There’s always a portion of that force that is lateral. Over time, that lateral force will cause your rack to move. The harder you rack your bar, the more force you impart. The same happens when more weight is loaded on your bar. If you are using your rack, it’s almost guaranteed that you are exerting enough force to make it move.
In addition to racking your bar, there are a variety of things that will make your rack move. Attaching bands for any reason can cause it to slide. Using the bars for calisthenics can also cause it to scoot out of position. Heck, even pushing or pulling on it while stretching can cause it to move!
In the end, unless the rack you are using is secured into position, odds are that you will end up having to relocate it back to its proper place at least occasionally.
A much bigger concern than movement is safety. Many people don’t care that they have to nudge their rack back into place occasionally. It’s inconvenient, but often times easier than finding a way to bolt it to the floor. Those same people, however, all will most definitely care if their rack tips over. Especially if they are under it.
Some exercises exert lateral force that’s above the center of gravity of your rack. Kipping pull ups is a great example. I’m not a fan of that move for other reasons, but doing them on a rack that’s not bolted down is asking for that rack to tip over.
The same is true for an exercise like the scrape the rack press. This exercise and several others can easily cause the rack to start to tip over. I can’t imagine many less safe positions to be in than to have a loaded barbell over your head while the rack you are standing inside tips over. I’m cringing just thinking about it.
Lastly, a nice power rack can often have a number of accessories attached. In many cases, these accessories are installed up high on the rack or even outside the bounds of the rack itself. Pull up bars, pull down attachments, dip stations, plyo steps, and weight storage all fall into this category. All of these things can cause a rack to tip if it’s not bolted down.
One area that might not apply to everyone, but is important to cover anyway, is kids. Being that we are building a home gym, the safety of our children is an important concern as well. If you have kids, they WILL end up in your gym. Whether you like it or not, they’re gonna be in there.
While those kids are in the gym, they are going to climb things. To a kid, your gym looks like the best playground set in the world. It’s full of bright colorful things for them to play and climb on. With that in mind, one of the first things they’ll try to climb is your squat rack, especially if it’s a full cage. It’s just begging for someone to get on top of it!
This is where securing your rack to the floor becomes critical. The little monkeys are bound to not only climb the rack, but to swing on it as well. And that’s when the danger of tipping rears its ugly head. Our gyms are filled with big, heavy, and potentially dangerous things. If you have kids, please take the time and effort to secure your power rack.
How to do it
There are two ways to bolt your rack down so it doesn’t move or tip. You can secure it to the floor or you can secure it to a lifting platform.
When securing it to the floor, the first step is to cut out the flooring under the rack’s feet so it sits directly on the concrete or sub-floor below. Next, mark the locations of the mounting holes. With a concrete bit, drill pilot holes into the cement or sub-floor. Finish by sinking concrete anchors securely into the floor. Many companies that sell racks also sell concrete anchors as an accessory. Rogue put together a nice video on how to do this:
If you are using this type of anchor, you’ll want to rent or borrow an impact hammer if you don’t have one. While you can drill the pilot hole into cement with a drill, you’ll never be able to sink the bolts with one. An impact hammer will make short work of the hardware needed to bolt your rack down into concrete. You can see how easy this tool makes the job in the above video. You can also get one right here on Amazon. If you’re a tool person, they are fun to have around!
For me, I prefer the idea of bolting the rack to a lifting platform. A lifting platform is usually constructed of 3-4 layers of 3/4” plywood and will also have rubber in places you might drop or set down a loaded barbell. They are designed to protect your floors, protect your weight plates, and also help to deaden the sound generated when a barbell is dropped.
Many lifting platforms you can purchase don’t extend under the power rack. Most people, however, build their own. A best practice for a DIY lifting platform is to build it to extend completely under your rack. Doing things this way, you’ll be able mount your rack directly to the platform. Countersink the bolt heads on the underside of the platform, point them up through the feet, and secure them with a washer and nut.
Doing it this way will not only make your rack safe and stationary, it will give you a truly awesome looking and functional set up. Having a lifting platform is an easy weekend project that will pay dividends for years. It’s also the perfect way to secure the rack on top of it without having to permanently attach anything to the concrete or floor below.
While I strongly recommend one of the two methods just described, some people will not want or have room for a platform and will also not want or be able to secure the rack to the floor. There are others that may want to move their rack from time to time. For those folks, all is not lost.
If you find yourself in this situation, find a way to load your rack with weight. You can do this with a loaded barbell on j hooks that you aren’t using. You can also buy weight storage pegs for the outside of many racks. Install those pegs, place some heavier weight plates on them, and the weight should help to keep the rack in place. The more weight, the more secure the rack will be.
This isn’t the optimal solution, but it is better than nothing. If using this method, please be careful and proceed at your own risk.
One more option is to buy a rack extension. Many of the better rack manufacturers will offer a 12″ or 24″ rack extension. This will give you room for a spotter inside your rack, a place to store weights, and more weight with a larger footprint. Combine the weight storage with the larger footprint and you suddenly have a much more stable rack.
Lastly, many rack manufacturers offer “flat foot” options when you buy their rack. This is an extended foot that adds stability to a rack that won’t be bolted down. If you decide to bolt it down later, you can always add on the bolt down flanges that will be sold as an accessory.
In my experience, if you have a 3″x3″ steel rack that’s 36″ or more deep, have weight plates stored on the rack itself, and have an extension on it, your rack isn’t going anywhere. If that was my rack (it’s not, I don’t have an extension), I would probably still bolt mine to a platform but I wouldn’t panic if I couldn’t.
Enjoy your rack!
A squat/power rack will be the centerpiece of most home gyms. Taking a few minutes to make sure it is safe and secure only makes sense in the grand scheme of things. If you haven’t done it yet, make it your next project. You’ll be happy you did.