Laine Norton

Author Archives: Laine Norton

I am a strength training enthusiast that loves discovering new ways to get stronger. As a certified trainer and powerlifting competitor, I'm always looking for different training methods and advice. I hope to pass some of what I learn on to my fellow lifters.

Best Weight Lifting Straps 2018 – Which wrist straps for the gym?

Should you use weight lifting straps? When should you use them? What are the best weight lifting straps?

For some reason, the use of lifting straps is a topic of a fair bit of some controversy among lifters.

I’m not sure why people get so worked up over a couple of little pieces of material, to be honest.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the use of straps is an often-argued point and with this article, I hope to settle that argument for you.

I have put together the definitive guide on the best weight lifting straps, why you should or shouldn’t use them how to use them and which ones I recommend you buy.

best weight lifting straps

Best Straps (updated for 2018) - Quick View

Straps for Olympic weightlifting

The use of straps in Olympic weightlifting is a very common practice and is generally much less controversial than in powerlifting or general gym training. This article is aimed towards clearing some of the confusion for the latter two training approaches.

There are still some guidelines that should be followed for the Olympic lifter, though.

If you wish to find out how you should be using straps for the Oly lifts, you can read this article on the topic from IronMind: Straps – what, why, how and when to use them.

As mentioned, that one focuses only on Olympic weightlifting. For everything else, read on.

What are weight lifting straps used for?

As you know, lifting requires you to grip different objects of different weights for varying lengths of time or reps.

Sometimes, your own grip on those object, mainly barbells or dumbbells, becomes weakened or loose. Usually, fatigue, sweat, lack of strength or the object being too big for your hands causes issues with your grip.

Enter the weight lifting strap.

Lifting straps are very tough and durable (at least they should be!) lengths of material. One end loops around your wrist, the rest of the strap is then wrapped tightly around a barbell or dumbbell handle.

Weight lifting strap around a barbell image

Doing this means that much of the weight is actually being supported by the strap, which is wrapped around your wrist. Obviously, this decreases the need for you to actually be holding and gripping the bar as hard.

As a result, you should now be able to lift more weight for longer without worrying about dropping it. Your grip strength is no longer the limiting factor.

Sounds great, right?

Well, it can be in certain situations and not so great in others. I will come to that later.

What exercises are weight lifting straps suitable for?

To cover it broadly, you can use straps for any exercise that starts to really tax your grip strength.

For the most part, these exercises will be the ones where gravity is pulling the weight away from your body. So, think of a dumbbell row, where the weight is actively being pulled away from you by gravity.

An example of the opposite is on the bench press. Gravity is pulling the weight towards your body. Please don’t let me catch you using straps for benching, I may well laugh at you!

Some good examples of exercises where lifting straps can help you out are:

· Dumbbell or barbell rows

· Deadlifts

· Rack pulls

· Farmers walks

· Cable rows

· Pull ups or chin ups

· Cable lat-pulldowns

· Barbell or dumbbell shrugs

There are probably more that I can’t think of right now, but those should give you a good idea. I have seen people use straps for curls and dumbbell raises. They do fall in the category of gravity pulling the weight away from you, but you really shouldn’t need them for those exercises in my opinion.

Advantages of using weightlifting straps

They take most of the emphasis away from your grip strength, meaning that you don’t have to worry as much about dropping the bar.

Knowing that your grip is secure is one less thing to think about. So, you are able to focus more on the exercise you are performing and how you are performing it. Quite often, removing grip strength as a limiting factor can help to improve technique on most exercises.

Straps can allow you to use a slightly heavier weight or do more reps with the same weight. In many exercises, your grip will give out way before the much bigger and stronger muscles that are involved.

Using your bare hands, you may not get the very most out of the main muscle you are trying to work because your grip will give out first.

Weight lifting straps will let you do those extra reps without tiring your grip. You may even be able to use a bit of extra weight in some cases.

You can also continue to train through torn calluses or other minor hand injuries. Constantly lifting weights can leave your hands pretty beat up from time to time.

If you have already been lifting a while, you will probably be more than familiar with torn calluses. Minor injuries like this, while not serious, are very annoying and can hinder your usual training.

weight lifting calluses meme

Instead of skipping lifts that irritate the injury, throwing on a pair of straps will usually allow you to work around it until it heals.

Disadvantages of using straps

You can get too used to them. This is something that I definitely find myself.

When using straps for a period of time on certain exercise, most notably the deadlift, I find that going back to training without them feels a bit foreign.

Using straps exclusively for a period of time causes me to almost “forget” what it feels like to have the full weight of the bar in your hands. This can make lifts seem much heavier to you than they should do.

Your grip could get weaker over time. If you do rely too heavily on straps and pay no attention to training your grip strength, you will start to lose grip strength. It is the exact same principle as if you were to stop training any other muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

To make sure you keep on top of grip training, read my grip strength training guide.

Straps can alter your technique. The way you lift with straps is always going to be slightly different to how you lift without them. The main difference will, of course, be how you grip the bar.

Such a small change at the hands can impact how your body moves further up the chain. For example, gripping the bar differently on a pulldown can alter the angle of your elbows as you perform the exercise.

It might not be a huge deal for most exercises. However, if you use straps for an exercise that you perform in a competition, and straps aren’t allowed for the exercise on competition day then you could be in trouble.

When to use lifting straps. My recommendations.

I myself own some straps, Until very recently I had only ever owned one pair of iron mind straps. They are so tough and strong that they’ve lasted years.

If you want to get yourself some, here they are on Amazon. Be warned if you buy them, they are strong as hell but they are not comfortable so prepare to man up! For a more comfortable pair on the wrists, you can go for these ones from Rip Toned, which I now also use.

I use those straps regularly in my own training and have only ever seen them be of benefit to me.

Here are a few guidelines for how I use weight lifting straps and my suggestions for how you may want to use them in your programs.

Firstly, I believe you should use them sparingly on competition lifts. I'm talking about powerlifting here, strongman competitions allow straps.

Eddie hall using weight lifting straps for deadlift

Since most of my training is centered around powerlifting, I really try not to use them much for deadlifts due to the reasons I mentioned earlier.

If I do use them for deadlifts, I will use them for a variation like a stiff-leg deadlift or rack-pull. My reasoning for that is because those variations are in my program to target areas other than my grip strength.

That leads me on to this point, use them on exercises that you have included in your program for reasons outside of grip strength.

If you are doing an exercise for your back and not your grip, by all means, you can use straps.

If you are worried about your grip strength getting weak, train it in other ways. Have a read of this article to learn how to train your grip effectively.

A better spin on this approach would be to train the exercise without straps until your grip starts to give out and then throw your straps on for an extra set or two to get more work out of the primary muscle group.

I have bolded those last few lines as I think that is generally the best way to go about it. Don’t overthink the use of straps too much. They are an accessory, a tool to compliment your training and should be used as such.

How to use weightlifting straps

I really wanted to make this a pretty in-depth and complete guide on the use of straps for lifting. So, I had to include a section on how to use them properly. They are pretty simple things but can cause some confusion if you have never used them before.

Instead of me trying to write out how to use them properly, I thought it would be 100 times easier for us both if I just linked a perfectly good video tutorial on using lifting straps. And, here it is…

What are the best weight lifting straps to buy? - Individual reviews

Firstly, there are a few different styles of straps that you can get, I’ll give you a quick list of the most common ones with a bit of info about each so you can decide which would suit your training needs best.

Standard lifting straps

These are usually made of a single piece of material that has a loop sewn in one end. You wrap the strap around your wrist and then pass the end through the loop to secure it.

The left-over piece of the strap should then be long enough for you to wrap it around the bar a few times. Wrapping the strap around the bar is how you secure it inside the strap.

These are often the cheapest style of strap and I really like them. They are simple, they don’t have much sewing on them or a bunch of different pieces so breaking them is quite hard, as long as you get the right brand.

Up until very recently, I would always recommend the IronMind straps below. After all, they are crazy strong and are used in professional strongman competitions.

However, I have since come across a very popular pair of lifting straps by a brand called Rip Toned. They are slightly thicker, softer and longer than the IronMind ones and feature a strip of neoprene padding.

The Rip Toned straps are certainly more comfortable to wear as the material doesn't dig into the wrists. The only downside to them is they don't wrap around the bar as nicely as the thinner IronMind straps and tend to bunch up slightly.

To be honest, either pair will be absolutely fine for the vast majority of people. So, here's a picture of both and links to them on Amazon.

Figure of 8 straps

As the name suggests, these are made in a figure of eight design with too bigger loops sewn together. The idea is that you pass your wrist through the first loop, pass the other loop under the barbell and then put your hand through that loop.

These straps are less awkward to get into place around the bar. However, I do find that there is a little bit more movement between the strap and the bar since you don’t actually wrap it round tightly like you would with a standard strap.

This isn’t really a problem; the bar won’t come out of the strap but I just like it the feel super tight around both my wrist and the barbell.

You can grab yourself a pair of these on Amazon too by clicking below. There are a few different brands available, the ones below seem to be the best reviewed on Amazon.

Versa grips

Versa grips are actually the brand name for a new style of strap the company invented.

As always, I will be honest and state that I have personally not tried these straps out.

I wanted to include them because I know they are very popular. I remember a period when it seemed like everybody on Youtube was using them, paid advertising no doubt, but it did its job and made them a popular choice.

These straps are secured to your wrists via a separate wrist-strap. They feature a plastic kind of hook that is wrapped around the bar in a similar fashion to a normal lifting strap.

Personally, I used to be cautious of straps that seem to have a lot of elements attached since there's more stuff that could break. However, I have now seen these used by enough top lifters to have changed my view. Cailer Woolam, for example:

What I can also say is that a bunch of people seem to like it on Amazon, over 1000 reviews and great feedback. You may want check them out over there and hunt through the reviews before you decide.

In conclusion...

I think weightlifting straps should probably be a tool in most lifter’s gym bags. Just don’t rely too heavily on them if you care about your grip strength.

Oh, and my top pick for straps is to keep is simple with the Iron Mind Strong-Enough straps or the Rip Toned ones.

Deadlift Shoes Guide 2018 – Best shoes for deadlifting in

Are you looking for ways to increase your deadlift quickly? Usually, I would say there are no shortcuts and it takes time and consistency. However, finding the right pair of deadlift shoes is something that can have an almost instant benefit.

Wearing a shoe that feels comfortable, stable and allows you to get in a good position for deadlifting can make a real difference.

This article will give you an overview of the best shoes for deadlifting available and provide you with all the info to help you choose the right ones.

best deadlift shoes

Just like running, football, basketball and squatting, there is a whole range of footwear options. There are some great and not so great ones.

Here is a quick list of my top picks for deadlift shoes, click on the links to be taken to their purchase pages. You can read an in-depth review on each further down the page.

How to find the best deadlift shoes

Here are, in my opinion, the key elements your deadlifting shoes should include:

1. Flat and solid soles

A completely flat sole means that you will have more surface area in contact with the ground, which allows you to feel more stable and in control during the lift. It should lead to greater force output against the resistance.

2. Thin soles

Ideally, you want to be as close to the ground as possible for a deadlift. The closer you are to the ground, the higher the bar will start on your shins.

You won’t have to lift the bar as far, which should make things a lot easier. It's the reason many people like to lift barefoot or in just socks.

However, some gyms might not like this and if you ever plan to compete in powerlifting, you will be forced to wear something on your feet.

3. Traction and grip

Your soles must offer you enough traction on the platform. Having your feet slip when you are half-way through a heavy lift is something that you certainly don’t want to experience.

This one is especially true for cheaters. I mean sumo deadlifters (Only kidding! Can you tell I pull conventional?)

Seriously though, sumo pullers will be pushing out with their feet so need to make sure there is sufficient grip to prevent a very painful attempt at doing the splits.

4. Snug-fitting and supportive

Finally, your shoes should feel nice and compact around your foot with very little movement inside them.

Ankle support is also quite important, you don’t want your foot to be shifting from side to side inside of the shoe as you lift. High top shoes are quite a popular option for that very reason.

A word of advice for wearing high tops. You need to make sure you still have enough mobility and range of motion at your ankles. If your shoe starts to limit ankle dorsiflexion (the ability to point your toes towards the ceiling), it could alter your leverages and technique.

powerlifter wearing deadlift shoes

A powerlifter lifting in a pair of SABO deadlift shoes.

3 Signs of a bad deadlift shoe

1. Spongey, air or gel-filled soles

This pretty much disqualifies all running shoes. These types of soles are great for absorbing the impact from pounding the pavements on a run but they will not make for a good deadlifting trainer.

As I stated earlier, you need maximum stability throughout your foot. The spongey soles of running shoes compress very easily, they are supposed to. Under a heavy load, more compression can cause uneven foot to ground contact and possibly lead to injury.

2. Thick soled shoes

Your shoes could tick the box of a flat, sturdy sole but if they too thick then you probably want to look elsewhere.

Again, a thicker sole will mean you need to pull the bar further. You will essentially be doing a deficit deadlift all the time.

Converse chuck Taylors are a popular deadlifting shoe and they have a 4mm thick sole. This is about the maximum thickness I would go for.

3. Poor lateral support

When you are performing the lift, especially in sumo again, there will be a lot of pressure on the outside of your shoes. The pressure should be there if you're using your glutes properly to prevent your knees from caving in.

If your shoes aren’t strong enough or supportive enough to hold up to the constant pressure on their sidewall, they won’t be lasting long at all.

Olympic weightlifting shoes for deadlifts?

In case you aren’t sure what Olympic lifting shoes are, they look like this:

Adipower weightlifting shoes

One of my Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes. Slightly scuffed but they've held up well for 4 years worth of squatting

They are a heeled shoe that artificially increase your range of motion at the ankles to help users stay upright at the bottom of a deep squat. Keeping very upright is important for Olympic weightlifters since they usually catch the bar in an extremely deep squat position.

As far as using Olympic lifting shoes for deadlifts goes, I don’t like them and most people probably would do better with a completely flat shoe.

However, there are a select few that may find they benefit from a bit of extra quad activation at the start of the lift due to slightly greater knee bend forced upon you by wearing the raised heel.

All you can do to be certain, is to try deadlifting in Olympic shoes for yourself and see how you feel.

You should be squatting regularly anyway. Since I recommend that most people use an Olympic weightlifting shoe for squats, you should already own a pair that you can try.

In fact, I suggest sorting out your squat shoes before you think about deadlift shoes. I have a guide on the best lifting shoes for squats and oly lifting.

I feel footwear is likely to play a much bigger part in your squat than deadlift.

Best deadlift shoes reviews

Ok, if you didn't skip straight here and read the guide above, you should now be fairly certain on what to look for in a good pair of deadlift shoes.

In this section, I wanted to go through my picks for the best deadlift shoes in a bit more detail. To help you make a better informed decision, I have given a description and some reasons for and, in some cases, against each shoe.

Chuck Taylors (great for a budget)

Overall, these are kind of a “they will do” type of shoe. Meaning, if you are on a budget, “they will do”. If you already have a pair laying around, “they will do”. If you only other option is a running shoe, “they will do”.

These are very cheap and not a bad all round weight training shoe. Probably not the best if you plan on doing any type of running or plyometric work, but this is about deadlifting so I will judge them on that.

The sole is fairly solid and flat, although they can curl up a little at the toes over time. The canvas uppers on the shoe are flexible to allow good ankle mobility in the high-top versions.

However, they can come away from the soles on the side of the shoe over time.

These shoes really aren’t built to take the kind of wear and tear that weightlifting can cause to them.

Generally, they are pretty comfortable. The flexible canvas versions can be pulled very tight with the laces so your foot will be snug in the shoe.

As I already touched upon, the support of the canvas isn’t great though so your foot will still move from side to side, despite being tight inside the shoe itself.

SABO deadlift (built for purpose). My winner.

These are very good deadlift shoes. You would expect them to be, it’s what they were made for. Many people use wrestling shoes for deadlifts and you can see some similarities here.

The soles are super thin at around 2.5mm, which is very close to deadlift slippers. These shoes are certainly going to be a better option than slippers for sumo pullers, due to the increased traction of the soles.

The SABO shoe is pretty supportive on foot, more so than a wrestling shoe, as they do offer some extra support to the arch.

The metatarsal strap across the forefoot of the shoe is an excellent addition. It means you can adjust the fit of the shoe to be as tight and snug as you like.

Obviously, these are a higher-top shoe so the ankle support on offer is also very good while still being comfortable.

For deadlifts, these are my winners. They beat the Metal deadlift shoes for me because they offer a bit more comfort and look better (I know that looks shouldn’t matter for deadlifting shoes, but it definitely does for many people).

You could use them for your other lifts but I like a heeled shoe for squats personally. If you squat better in flat shoes, then you could very well wear these for those too.

Pricing is actually really good on these. Much cheaper than you would normally expect to pay for a specialist kind of shoe.

Update: Sabo have recently released a new pair of all-round powerlifting shoes called the "Sabo Goodlift". In the Sabo goodlift vs deadlift argument, I would still choose the deadlifts since I don't feel the difference in price makes the goodlifts worth it.

Metal Deadlift shoes (built for purpose).

These shoes are also purpose made for deadlifting in. The upper is strong leather so you don’t need to worry about driving your foot into the sides of them, they will certainly hold up to it.


These are pretty comparable to the SABO shoes to be honest. I think they may mould around the foot better due to the leather upper which is made from two separate pieces.

The Metal shoes also feature the strap across the forefoot for an extra tight fit and minimal foot movement during lifting.

Two drawbacks of these shoes are the price, about double the cost of SABOs and the appearance.

In my opinion, they look pretty ugly, too. Kind of like little elf boots.

Reebok TR Lite (most versatile)

Now these shoes are very similar to look at to the Converse shoes. They actually took some inspiration from the Chuck Taylors since so many people were already using them to lift weights in.

However, they have some serious design improvements over the converse shoes.

Don’t be fooled by the “crossfit” branding on them, these shoes were designed by very high level powerlifters.

Where the converse shoes fall short, the Reebok Lite TRs shine. They basically take all of the bad points I made about the Chucks and improve on them one by one.

The uppers of the shoes are much more sturdy, especially in the leather versions. They have a reinforced side wall that they call the “stability zone”. You can drive your feet out against the shoe without worrying about it breaking.

The grip on the bottom of the shoes is very different to the Chuck Taylors. The Chucks aren’t too bad for grip, but again, the Reebok TRs take it to the next level. With a kind of mini suction cup design, these bad-boys stick to the floor like glue. They feel very solid indeed.

The toe box on these is another differentiating feature. It is much wider than on the chucks.

I have heard a few different reviews on the toe box, though. I really like the extra space and the extra ground contact you get as a result of it. But, I have heard people complain that there is too much movement within the shoe. I guess if you have narrow feet, this may be a drawback for you.

Price-wise, I think these are pretty well priced. Especially when you consider that these can be used for pretty much all of your lifts if you wanted to.

At a recent strongman event I attended, there were a whole bunch of competitors wearing the high-top version of the reebok Lite TRs.

That shows you how versatile and rugged they can be, Strongmen go through so many different events and their shoes take almost as much of a beating as their bodies do.

For an overall lifting shoe, these would be my winner. Of course, this is a deadlift shoe article so the purpose built SABOs have to win.

Get the Reebok Lite TRs if you want a more versatile shoe.​

Deadlift slippers (cheapest option)

These are your cheap and cheerful option. You can pick these up for around $15, so they could be worth testing out either way.

I think the very biggest advantage of the slippers, is that they are extremely thin soled. Around 1.5mm, which feels like you are pretty much barefoot. You will be very close to the ground in these.

Obviously, they provide no ankle support and there isn’t anything to push your foot out against on the sides. For sumo deadlifters, I say to forget about these. It just feels to unstable and there isn’t enough grip.

If you are a conventional puller and want to be very close to the ground, these could be an option.

Keep in mind that you clearly have to change out of them once you are done deadlifting, they aren’t really useful for anything else.

They also look a little silly in my personal opinion, not very stylish at all. But again, you don’t get any style points in lifting heavy weights.

If you can’t justify spending much money on dedicated deadlift shoes, these could do the job for you.

Conclusions

Budget conscious lifter go for the chuck Taylors but be aware performance and longevity will probably not be of the highest standard.

Test out some Olympic shoes if you have them. If you haven’t got a pair for squats, then I highly advise getting some anyway.

If you have the budget and want to get the most out of your deadlift, then opt for the SABOS. They are purpose-built for deadlifts so it stands to reason they would be the best deadlift shoes.

The only drawback is that you can’t use them for too much else and the slight increase in performance may not be worth the higher price to you. That’s something you will have to decide for yourself.

Hopefully, you find this guide useful. Here are a couple of other equipment guides that could help with your training: Best lifting belt, lifting straps guide, grip strength equipment.

If you did like this article, be sure to share it and let your friends know about it so you can help them with their own deadlifting as well.

I really wanted this to be the definitive guide, so if you feel there is anything that should be added, feel free to comment and let me know.

Until next time, happy bar-bending.

Best Weightlifting Shoes for Squatting and Lifting in 2018

Finding the best weightlifting shoes can be confusing with so many different options available. Obviously, you want the best for your training so getting the right pair is key.

This article goes into all the detail you need about lifting shoes. I also round up, review and recommend the very best squat shoes available.

If you have seen any of my other articles, you know I'm all about making my stuff as in-depth as possible.

best weightlifting shoes

This guide is going to be a long one so use the table below to navigate.

Best weightlifting Shoes 2018 - quick view

The boxes below show a quick view of the best weightlifting shoes in a few different categories. The full reviews and other shoes are included later on.

ADIDAS ADIPOWER

Top Pick! 

ADIDAS POWER PERFECT II

All-round value option

VS ATHLETICS WL SHOE 2

Best budget option!

VS Weightlifting Shoes

POSITION USA P2.1

Sexiest looking (in my opinion)

best weightlifting shoes from Position

Do I need weightlifting shoes? - Who should buy them.

I understand that lifting shoes are specialty shoes. Most types of specialty sports shoes are a fairly big investment.

So, that being said, I will go through some of the things you may wish to consider for you as an individual.

Firstly, I will get the Olympic lifters out of the way. If you want to Olympic lift, buy the shoes.

I’m not an expert on Oly lifting by any means but I haven’t seen a serious Olympic lifter that doesn’t wear lifting shoes. I could well be wrong and I’m sure there are a couple of exceptions but those are the outliers.

On to powerlifters, an area where I have much more expertise.

I will cover squat style a bit more later. But, If you squat with a more high-bar, Olympic style squat that requires you to be very upright, then weightlifting shoes will help.

If you purposefully squat with more forward lean in an effort to use your posterior chain and hips more, elevated heels may hinder you.

I will say that there are so many individual nuances in this, it’s almost impossible to make a set-in-stone rule for everybody. All you can do is test it out.

Borrow a pair from a friend, buy a really cheap or second-hand pair or even see how a couple of plates under the heels during squats feels for you first.

As far as mobility goes, if you lack range of motion at the ankles then a raise heel will certainly help you out.

To reach good depth in a squat, your knees must travel forwards a bit. If your calves are too tight and limit the amount of forward travel at your knees, hitting depth in a squat will be much more difficult.

Tight calves were an issue for me and my weightlifting shoes were a god send.

I have since spent a lot of time and still do spend time on improving my ankle mobility.

I recommend you do even if you decide to invest in the heeled footwear.

Lastly, general gym-goers and people that don’t compete in a sport that tests some kind of squat.

You guys can take the advice I just gave for the Olympic lifters and powerlifters and apply it to your own training styles.

You may not be competitive in one of those sports but if you are serious about progressing in the same lifts, you may want to consider getting the right shoes.

Likewise, if you have the mobility issues covered above and still want to get the most out of squats, buy the shoes.

On the other hand, if you aren’t worried about performing squats to the best of your ability or at all, weightlifting shoes probably won’t be a justified expense.

It’s up to you to decide if or not they are worth purchasing at all.

To help you make think about their value, let's talk about the real advantages of using weightlifting shoes for squats and your other lifts.​

The advantages of weightlifting shoes

The obvious advantage of owning a pair of weightlifting shoes is that were made with the very purpose of lifting weights in mind. Hence, the manufacturers would have looked at and thought about all of the different demands that heavy lifting puts on a pair of shoes.

Those demands are not going to be met by a regular pair of shoes, especially once you start getting strong and lifting some heavier weights.

They are the tools purpose-built for the job. Just like I mentioned in my deadlift shoes article, you wear specific footwear for basketball, football and running, so why wouldn’t you wear shoes for weightlifting?

Getting into the more specific benefits of the shoes, the most stand-out feature is the raised heel. The heel is there to make reaching very deep squatting positions much easier.

A higher heel reduces the demand on ankle mobility and makes staying upright throughout a squat so much easier.

Staying upright in the squat is key for Olympic lifters but will also help powerlifters with their squat.

One example of when a powerlifter may find heeled squat shoes a disadvantage is if they like to use a more hip-dominant squat.

In some cases, a lifter that squats wider and with a bit more forward lean in order to utilize their hips more, may find that a heeled shoe throws his or her weight forward.

For the majority of lifters and gym-goers, weightlifting shoes will make squatting movements a whole lot more comfortable.

As you can see, the elevated heel is really the main feature of a shoe designed for weightlifting.

Adipower weightlifting shoes

Above: My Adidas weightlifting shoes. A couple of scuffs but in great condition for 4 years worth of use.

Here are some other features that can help your lifts. Note that some of these will vary from brand to brand, as I will discuss later.

- Almost perfectly flat soles to increase ground contact, which can help maximize power production as you lift.

- Solid soles. Having a sole that is firm and not spongey or compressible helps with stability and balance. You will notice this much more as you lift heavier.

- Reinforced and durable uppers. Due to the demands of lifting, most standard shoes or trainers would not last very long at all. A lot of force is put against the upper part of the shoe during the lifts, weightlifting shoes are strong enough to cope with this.

- Metatarsal straps. The straps across the foot are the to keep your foot snug and secure inside of the shoe. You do not want any lateral movement of your foot in your shoes while you are lifting.

What to look for in a good weightlifting shoe

There are some variances between the different brands and styles of lifting shoes, but there are some minimum standards that I think you should look out for.

I have taken the features from above and made a quick checklist. Go through it to make sure you're chosen shoes meet the minimum requirements.

This one may vary a little between shoes. Some shoes may feature heels that compress a bit under heavy loads so you need to consider your strength levels.

If the shoes you are looking at don’t match up to all of those three points, then you need to search elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you can check them all off then you are off to a good start.

To help you make your final decision, I have written up a more in-depth piece on each of my chosen products for the seven best weightlifting shoes.

Seven Best Weightlifting Shoes - Individual reviews

In no particular order.

Adidas Adipower Weightlifting Shoe

Originally released for their 2012 Olympic range, these shoes became crazy popular and are still going strong in 2017.

They were originally only available in the bright red colourway but Adidas have now introduced a few more options. The latest option, the all-black, look super sexy in my opinion.

The shoes have the now common heel height of 0.75inches. This height for heels is pretty much the norm now and should be perfect for most people.

I know some Olympic lifters may prefer a higher heel and those with seriously tight ankles might need more as well.

The material of the heel on these is a seriously hard plastic. It means, these heels will not compress to a noticeable degree, even under some seriously heavy weights. A definite plus.

I have owned a pair of these for the past 3 or 4 years and they are still in very good condition. They are a bit narrower on the foot than some of the competitor’s shoes but for me, that’s a good thing.

I like the feeling of a super tight fit around my foot but if you have wide feet, these may not be for you.

Overall, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with these. The only reason to look elsewhere would be if you do have quite wide feet or if you really need a higher heel.

Since the adipowers, Adidas released a version called the Adidas Leistung, which I was not overly keen on. However, they have updated that with the Adidas Leistung 16.ii. This updated version may be worth a look but I am yet to review it properly.


Adidas Power Perfect 2

These are kind of the step down from the Adipowers. Not quite as good but still a very good shoe.

The price reflects the slight drop in quality. These are a good alternative if you feel like the Adipowers are too expensive.

The power perfects only come in the one colour way, which is obviously annoying if you hate red and white.

The heel on these is around 0.6 inches, slightly lower than the other shoes in this guide. These heels are also made from a high-density foam material. It will compress very slightly.

Due to this compressive heel, I would rule these out for Olympic lifters. You guys really need a more solid sole.

For general gym use, these are a great option, the price is much lower and you will still get most of the benefits of a decent weightlifting shoe.

Many powerlifters might even consider these. Dan Green has used them to squat over 800lbs in the past, so they can't be too bad.​

I actually started with these and then upgraded to my Adipowers. I'm somewhat ashamed to say, the reason for the switch was mainly vanity.

I just preferred how the Adipower shoes looked. 

If you want a good pair of shoes for squatting at a reasonable price, these will do just fine.


Nike Romaleo 2

Nike have now released the Romaleos 3 weightlifting shoes so you can check those out if you wish.

I, however, am including the 2s because they are so popular and have been the direct rival to Adipowers over the years.

On another note, I actually hate the look of the Romaleos 3 and really like the look of these.

In many ways, these are very comparable to the Adipowers. Same heel height of 0.75 inches, same kind of material and quite similar in overall performance.

These shoes do differ in a couple of big ways, though.

Firstly, they are a bit wider and have more room in the toe-box. If you were put off the Adipowers by my comments about them being narrow, then these could be the shoes for you.

Secondly, they include an extra metatarsal strap to keep the fit as tight as possible. I think this was a very wise move, it allows the shoe to cater for the wider foot but also provide a snug fit for people with narrower feet too.

You have a great range of colors to choose from here as well. I like the red and black. Just be warned, these shoes are getting harder to get hold of. Probably due to the release of the new version so get in quick if you want a pair.


Reebok Legacy Lifter

reebok logo image

Reebok have been hitting the weightlifting community hard in recent year with all of their products.

Mostly under their crossfit brand. As a result, most of their products have tried to cater to crossfitters. Nothing wrong with that, but it has meant that they haven’t really released a proper pair of dedicated weightlifting shoes.

Until Now. The release of the Legacy Lifter, means that Reebok have a proper specialist lifting shoe.

I think the Legacy lifters can be grouped among the Adipowers and Romaleos.

All three feature the same heel height of 0.75 inches and are all made of quite similar materials.

Like the Nikes, these are a bit wider than Adipowers and feature the double foot straps. You certainly won’t get much lateral movement of your feet inside these shoes.

Honestly, if you are choosing between these and the Romaleos, you just need to go with what you prefer the look of. I do like the black and gold version of these.

You might want to stand out from the crowd a bit, since everybody seems to have the Nikes now. In that case, grab a pair of these.


Do-Win by Pendlay

The Do-wins have been very popular in the Oly lifting community. The Do-win weightlifting shoes by Pendlay has a more classic look to the upper than most on the list.

However, for all of the classic looks, this shoe gets away from traditional Olympic weightlifting shoes by opting for a hard-plastic heel instead of wood.

The height of the heel is 0.75 inches, the more common height nowadays.

The Do-Wins are very wide so will certainly be suitable if you have wide feet. The manufacturers actually recommend opting for half a size below your usual.

The double strap does mean you can tighten them up nicely around your forefoot.

I have seen some reviewers say that half a size down is even still too big. So, if you have narrow feet then you probably want to stay away from these ones to avoid sizing headaches.

They are some very sturdy and hard wearing shoes and should last you a good while. The pricing is reasonable too.

With a few colour options to choose from, you should be able to find a style that suits you. I actually quite like the classic-looking white version.


VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe 2

VS lifting shoes front view
VS weightlifting shoe rear view

These are the cheapest shoes out of my picks. I have included them, for that reason but they still perform well.

I would call them a perfect entry-level shoe. Good features but falls slightly behind the top brands. Then again, for the price, they represent excellent overall value.

The heels on them are a little higher than most at 1 inch, a good thing if you need that extra height due to limited ankle mobility.

The only downside, as far as the heel is concerned, is that they are made of a very hard rubber on the bottom.

Obviously, rubber is going to compress more than the plastic or wooden heals available.

To tell the truth, for an entry-level lifter, it probably won’t be noticeable.

Looks-wise, I think they look alright. Nothing too flashy about them but not ugly either.

I have heard a couple of complaints about the material not being breathable so if your feet get rather hot when you train, comfort might be an issue at times.

If you are looking to "test the waters" and want to try some cheap squat shoes, these are certainly an option.


Position USA P2.1

P2.1 side view shoe
Position oly lifting shoes image
p2.1 back view

I have to admit, I didn't know a huge deal about the technical side of these shoes.

I had heard some good things, seen them before and just really loved the look of them.

Instead of recommending them on looks alone, I did do a bit more research to help you out.

Position USA are an Olympic weightlifting brand so it stands to reason that these are my top choice for Oly lifters.

The wooden heel is a feature that I think the Olympic lifter will appreciate more than a powerlifter or general gym trainee.

The heels are also a little higher than most of the other shoes I have reviewed. They have an effective heel height of about 1 inch so they make staying upright in a squat quite a bit easier.

Vibram rubber soles and the tapered heel, provide grip and added stability​

I have been extremely tempted to get myself a pair of these for a long while now but my Adipowers are still in perfect working order and have served me well.

I have to say, writing this review has tempted me further towards these.​

If I got more into Olympic weightlifting, I would certainly snatch a pair (ha! See what I did there?).

Seriously, they look stunning. That blue suede sitting on top of the hand-crafted and stained wooden heel. Beautiful!​


Final Recommendations

For the majority – Take your pick between the Adipowers and Romaleos based on how wide your foot is and which shoe you prefer the look of.

For Olympic lifters – Position USA P2.1 all day!

For the new lifters or the budget conscious – VS Athletic Weightlifting shoes 2 are the way to go.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will do what I can to help you out.

Finally, if you do think this was a useful guide, help out your fellow-lifters by sharing it around social media!

For more equipment recommendations, click to take a look at my deadlift shoes guide, best belt guide or knee sleeves guide.​

Full Body Workouts vs Split Training – Which is best?

Full body workouts vs split routines is a question that crops up very regularly among newer lifters. 

What's the difference? Which is better for strength? Which will give you the best muscle gains? Which is the most sustainable? All very common questions.

Depending on where you get your information, you could end up getting some quite contrasting and confusing answers. This article aims to provide you with the truth on the topics above and leave you with a clearer vision of where to take your training.

Let’s take a look at both types of training, including how to perform them effectively and the pros and cons of each;

full body workout vs split routines

What is Full Body Training?

Girl performing a front squat

The concept behind a full body workout is straight-forward, you simply train your entire body, both upper and lower body muscle groups each time you head to the gym.

Training in this way brings about the need to look at certain variables in more detail to make sure you get the most out of each session.

Since lower and upper body are both trained, it leads us to the first variable you will need to consider: your exercise selection.

Some people will plan full body workouts that focus mainly on different exercises that target/isolate one particular muscle group, where others will focus on compound lifts in order to work multiple muscle groups at once.

The compound exercises route, which makes use multiple muscle groups per exercise is going to be more effective for the majority. This doesn't mean you can't use some isolation exercises but most of your time should be spent performing compound lifts.

Your main lifts during full body workouts will include things like presses, squats, deadlifts and chin-ups to name just a few exercises that effectively work several muscle groups on both lower and upper body.

Volume and intensity of a full body workout are also crucial. This includes the number of sets and reps (volume) you’re performing during the workout as well as the amount of weight you're using (intensity).

Your focus should not be on lifting a new PR every sessions, but on building strength by progressing within your target rep ranges.

It is important that you match the volume and intensity to your goal and recovery abilities if you want to make progress. Prilepin's table, below, gives a guide of the optimal volume per workout for a given intensity.

Load/Intensity

(% of 1 rep max)

Reps per set

Optimal reps

Range of total reps

55 - 65%

3 - 6

24

18 - 30

70 - 80%

3 - 6

18

12 - 24

80 - 90%

2 - 4

15

10 - 20

90%+

1 - 2

4

1 - 10

Training frequency should also be managed. How often you can and should train will differ very slightly for each individual but we can provide some general rules for the majority.

Other factors such as the intensity and volume you are training at have to be taken into the equation also. It is important to manage your full body splits as overworking your entire body could lead to under-recovery, which will affect your progression in the gym.

Most individuals will benefit from training 2-4 times per week. Check out my article on the topic to find out more about training frequency.

If you are repeating the same workout as the day previous, you may encounter some problems such as muscle fatigue and connective tissue damage, a great way to stop this is to have an alternating "A & B" workout, using each workout twice a week on alternate days.

Pros of Full Body Workout Programs

Full body training is a great method of training for beginners or newbies to the gym, it will elevate protein synthesis on a more regular basis for their whole body, allowing them to acquire faster results.

Better quality of training throughout the workout as you’re able to go from a lower body exercise to an upper body exercise, meaning you get more recovery time and are fresher to start your next exercise.

In general, you will burn more calories performing full body training. You are working your whole body and multiple muscle groups are under stress when lifting, leading to a greater number of calories being burned.

Increased physical preparedness. Due to the increase in frequency and total volume over the week, it will prepare your muscles for a greater workload and force your body to enhance recovery speed, great high-level athletes.

Less muscle soreness (DOMS) than a split body routine. As you are not focusing on hammering one or two muscles groups, you won’t shouldn't be doing enough volume to cause significant tissue damage.

Therefore, you shouldn't be as sore and will be able to train your muscles with the same intensity on your next workout.

You get to work more muscle groups, more often. Training with full body workouts multiple times per week will allow you to hit all muscle groups at least 2 times a week.

This video from Dr Mike Israetel explains the benefits of full body workouts against body-part split training:

Cons of Full Body Workout Programs

In my opinion, there really aren't too many downsides to full body workouts for the vast majority of people. But, there may be some disadvantages for some; more advanced bodybuilders are a group that might need to bear some of the following in mind:

More advanced bodybuilders might need to spend more time and increase their training volume for particular muscle groups, With full body workouts, it can sometimes be difficult to find enough time during a workout to dedicate to those individual muscle groups.

Getting the frequency and intensity wrong can make full body workouts harder to recover from. This would then hamper progress as you struggle more to recover from each workout over time.

how often should you train a muscle group? SRA curve

Some muscle groups may not get enough recovery time. Again this is usually down to poor programming, which may lead to a lack of intensity in workouts later on in the week.

Full body workouts might lead to weak points. This is usually down to genetics; some people will find they need extra volume on certain muscles compared to others. This will only really become a worry as you reach a more advanced stage.

If you like the ‘pump’ you get from isolation exercises during a split workout, you may not get it to the same extent during a full body session, although you will most likely sweat more and work harder.

What are Split Training Routines?

image of bodybuilder training in the gym

Strictly speaking, split routines simply apply to any type of training program where you do not train the entire body during each workout.

Instead, you focus on a specific muscle or group of muscles. A common style of split training regimen used by bodybuilders is what’s called a “body-part split”. In the case of body-part splits, 1-2 muscles are normally focused on per workout. For example, you would have a leg day, arm day, chest day and so on.

For most trainees, particularly natural ones, body-part splits make it difficult to correctly balance training volume, frequency, intensity and recovery. Hammering one muscle group per workout often leads to a lot of soreness and makes it hard to train the same muscle group again within the next few days.

A slightly better type of split routine would be to split your upper and lower body into separate sessions or to use a push, pull, legs (PPL) split.

The push, pull, legs routine has grown in popularity over the past decade with trainers and fitness professionals adopting it as their go-to split routine to achieve their goals.

This training split typically consists of three working days, performed 1-2 times per week. The videos below outline a typical routine.

Push workouts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffsGEdCMeMM

Pull workouts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSFReCp-_pg

Leg workouts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIBqH4FvEOc

The push workout typically focuses on your upper body, performing pushing exercises and movements. The major muscle groups worked in this section of the split are typically Chest, Shoulders, and triceps.

When designing a PPL workout split, your workouts will generally revolve around barbell and dumbbell pressing – military, incline, flat, and decline presses, along with dips which will work your triceps and shoulders/chest. Isolation exercises tend to be used for extra triceps work and are typically performed at the end of workouts when your muscles are already fatigued.

The pull workout also focuses on your upper body, but instead of pushing, you are of course performing pulling motions/exercises. The major muscle groups worked on this day are typically your Back and Biceps.

When designing this section of your workout it will revolve around pulling motions from all different angles, to hit every section of your back. Popular exercises are deadlifts (although, these are a heavy lower body so could be placed on the leg day), pull-ups, chin-ups, pull-downs and rowing movements. As with Push workouts, people tend to focus on isolation exercises for biceps at the end of their workouts.

Lastly, your third day on the split will focus on your Leg workout. This focuses your training on your Hamstring, Quads, and Glute muscle groups… and calves… occasionally.

This section of your split is the most straight-forward. These workouts generally revolve around exercises such as squatting, lunging, and a few isolation exercises – extensions, curls, calf raises, hip thrusts.

Pros of Split Training Routines

Typically, split body training will allow for maximum focus and high volume on one muscle group. While not necessarily a plus in all cases, it does mean you shouldn't have many worries about not reaching enough total volume.

Repeated sets on one specific muscle group will build up your endurance for that area. For example, training legs, set after set, at a high intensity, will build up your endurance for that muscle group.

This approach to training will allow you to train more often than a full body program. You can easily rest one muscle group for up to two days a week with this approach, allowing adequate recovery for that muscle.

It will allow you to focus on your weak points and train them more often, leading to progression on certain lifts. For example, if you have a week bench press, focusing your chest sessions around pressing movements will lead to an improvement in that muscle group and strength in that lift.

This may be a Pro and a Con, but split training can lead to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which means the muscle group trained previously will be in pain for up to 48 hours post workout. Some love it, some hate it!

Cons of Split Training Routines

It can be hard to keep up the same intensity and lift the same weight during the workout. As you work through different exercises you may notice you can’t lift as heavy or for as many reps, this is perfectly normal, but it is a con associated with this approach to training. It can also be known as progressive overload.

DOMS, as described above, if it is something that you hate and it prevents you from training that body part for days, even weeks, this will not lead to the results you want.

Fewer calories burned per workout compared to full body training. As you are not working the same amount of muscle groups at once, you won’t burn as many calories as you would during a full body exercise. For example, you won’t burn as many calories doing a bicep curl as you would with a pull-up.

This approach to training requires you to train more often if you want to reach an optimal training frequency, taking up more of your time.

It may suit people who just enjoy being in the gym but in order to hit every muscle group with enough frequency to progress, you probably have to train 4-5 times per week.

Conclusion

There are different pros and cons associated with both approaches to training.

At the end of the day, both methods can lead to great gains.

While, I strongly believe most people will see faster, more consistent progress from a full body workout program, it really does come down to choosing which one you are more likely to adhere to.

Board Presses for Raw Lifters – Will they increase your bench?

At some point in your lifting journey, progress is going to stall slightly, or you are going to find a certain weakness with one of your lifts. In such a situation, it is only natural to seek out some options to help you overcome this plateau.

When it comes to the bench press, one of the most popular variations is the board press. Many people swear by using board presses to increase their bench press strength and there can be little argument of their usefulness for equipped powerlifting but…

How effective are they?

Will board presses help a raw bench press?

This article will give you an idea of how useful board pressing is for raw lifter as well as some tips on how you may be able to use them for your own training.

board presses for raw lifters

What is a Board Press

A board press is exactly how it sounds. It is a bench press variation where you lower the bar to a wooden board, instead of your chest, to decrease the range of motion of the exercise.

Each board is usually made from a piece of wood around 2” thick. So a 2-board would be somewhere around 4” in thickness.

The common range for a set of boards is a 2-board up to a 5-board if you want to work on various ranges of motion throughout your training.

Board presses found their popularity in equipped powerlifting initially. This is because the bench-shirts worn change the strength curve and make the lift harder towards the lockout when compared to a raw bench.

However, a lot of individuals that bench completely raw have taken to using board presses in their own training, which is why I’m writing this article.

Benefits of Board Presses

The benefits below are for raw lifters and you should keep in mine they are only potential benefits. What I mean by that is each benefit below may or may not be a benefit to you as an individual; it depends on your circumstances (I will cover that later on).

Prehab and rehab

Benching with a reduced range of motion reduces the stress around your shoulder joints. This can be useful in a couple of ways:

1. Getting extra total volume with heavy weights without putting excess strain on your shoulders.

2. Maintaining some form of bench press during a period of injury. Could you to continue benching while you are working through a shoulder injury.

Here is an excellent article on board pressing with shoulder pain from Barbell Medicine.

Increase triceps strength

Using a thicker board and reducing the range of motion can allow you to use a larger weight during the lockout portion of the lift. Since the lockout relies heavily on your triceps, this can be an effective way to build some extra triceps strength.

I am not convinced this is a great use of a raw lifter’s time since lockout strength is not commonly the issue for them.

However, if you are wanting to build bigger and stronger triceps, it is much more specific and likely to have better carry over to the bench than many other triceps exercises.

Handle heavier weights

Using board presses to overload a specific portion of the movement may help some people gain more confidence with heavier weights. The shock of feeling a heavy weight in your hands for the first time can be quite daunting so I could see why some people benefit from this.

From a personal perspective, the point of a lift where a new weight feels the “scariest” is just as it is about to hit my chest. In this situation overloading with board presses is not going to help.

Break through sticking points

This is probably the most common use for using board presses. As I mentioned earlier, it is much more prevalent in equipped lifting due to the use of bench shirts.

When it comes to raw lifting, sticking points tend to be in the lower portion of the lift and comes as a result of not having enough power or momentum off the chest.

If you do have a genuine sticking point that can’t be fixed by improving technique and speed in the bottom part of the lift, board presses could certainly be useful.

How to use the board press in your training

Firstly, you need to decide if board presses are even necessary for your situation. I believe them to be useful in the following situations:

You want to build bigger triceps with a bench-specific movement.

You have an injury that is currently preventing full range of motion presses.

You really do have a sticking point as you approach lockout that can’t be fixed by improving technique or bar speed off the chest.

For raw lifters, specificity is crucial, so I don’t ever really see a need to replace your bench press with a board press for extended periods of time.

Of course, you may have a training session where the focus is your board press, but you should still be spending a lot of time on the raw bench as it is done in competition.

If you are using board presses to enhance your lockout strength, be sure to select the right height board. You should work from a board slightly below your actual sticking point since this will be where you are actually losing your momentum.

For those of you who do wish to give board pressing a try, you may want to have a look at these BenchBlokz:

BenchBlokz

They eliminate the need for carrying large planks of wood in your gym bag and you don’t need a partner to hold the board.

It’s a simple bit of kit that works well for board pressing. Click here to have a look at BenchBlokz on Amazon.

Should beginners use board presses?

The vast majority of new lifters have no business messing with board presses. The only time where there may be a case with them is for cutting range of motion during injury rehab.

Otherwise, beginners need to focus on performing their basic lifts with the correct frequency and mastering the technique in those. Newer lifters have so much room for all-round progression that just getting stronger in general needs to be the target.

Final Thoughts – Board Presses for Raw Lifters

To wrap this up quickly, I think most raw bench pressers will need to spend time on improving bar speed off their chest before deciding they have weak triceps.

This usually requires enhancing technique and maximising tightness as the bar reaches your chest. I may write longer articles on each of those subjects in the future but the advice in this bench press post from Mike Tuchscherer is golden.

If, after reading this, you do feel your in a situation where board presses could increase your bench press then simply give them a try. After all, that is the only way to know if they will benefit you for sure.

As with any new method or technique, give it long enough to see improvements (at least 3 months) and then reassess the effectiveness after that.

Barbell vs Dumbbell Training – Which is Better?

An age old and common debate around the strength training world is the barbell vs dumbbell argument; which piece of equipment is best for building strength and gaining muscle?

I have seen a lot of very similar answers to the question and I don’t really think many of them are correct.

The answer always tends to be “dumbbells activate more muscles and fix imbalances while barbells are good for going heavy. Therefore, rotate between both”

Now, some of those statements may be correct but I really feel that is a poor answer. In this article I want to explain why and give my reasons for which really is better: barbells or dumbbells.

barbell vs dumbbell training

Barbell vs Dumbbell Common Arguments

Below, I have listed some common “advantages” of dumbbell training and I am going to present to you why I feel they are often wrong or misguided.

Fixing Imbalances

This is usually one of they key points individuals like to make when promoting dumbbell training over barbells. The argument is that using each arm individually will fix any strength and size imbalances between your right and left side.

The fact is barbell training should have that exact same benefit. After all, if your hands are placed evenly on the bar, each side is responsible for applying the same amount of force to the bar.

The only time you should worry about an imbalance is if you are using poor technique. With proper technique, barbell training is more than capable of building a very well-balanced body.

But, what about all those times you see the barbell moving like a see-saw?

This is usually down to one side simply being a bit more dominant than the other. The slightly weaker side still needs to apply the same amount of force, it is usually just a bit slower.

Over time, the barbell can correct the discrepancy. However, you are always likely to have one side that is slightly more dominant than the other. That’s just how it goes for most people.

Building Stabiliser muscles

Stupid stability push up image

Instability = gains??

Another argument for the supposed superiority of dumbbells is the recruitment of the stabiliser muscles in your shoulders.

There is no denying the fact they do require extra stabilisation than the barbell and there are studies that show increased activation in the stabiliser muscles.

What people tend to forget is that barbells also require work from your shoulder stabilisers and it will strengthen them. A lot of the time, people dismiss this fact and behave as if stabiliser activation is completely devoid in barbell exercises.

Barbells might not activate those stabilising muscles as much as dumbbells, but they will sure as hell make them stronger. In fact, they will probably make them stronger than they would ever really need to be.

Therefore, in my opinion, making this stabiliser argument a little irrelevant.

Greater Range of Motion

Now, this is the point where I can safely say that dumbbells are better for many exercises.

I am a big proponent of full range of motion training and while barbells can provide a good stretch and range of motion, there are certain cases where the bar gets in the way.

An easy example to take is the bench press; the movement must stop when the bar touches your chest. With dumbbells, you can get a bigger stretch on the muscle since they allow your hands to go below chest level.

Obviously, all of this is only a benefit if you are making a point of using the complete range of motion, which is something many gym-goers do not do.

The major downside to this benefit is that once you get strong, the heavy dumbbells tend to get much longer. These longer dumbbells then get in the way and can prevent you from performing a full range of motion.

Once you reach this point, the barbell is king again.

Higher Muscle Recruitment

There are studies that have shown higher degrees of muscle activation when comparing the barbell to dumbbells for some exercises.

A study on overhead pressing shows dumbbells to activate more total shoulder muscles than barbells.

Another one on the bench press shows varying degrees of activation in different muscles depending on whether a bar or dumbbells are being used. For example, dumbbells showed greater anterior deltoid activation while the triceps were recruited more in a barbell press.

These are all interesting things to look at and valuable information to have. I feel their downfall is muscle activation doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle gains.

shoulder muscle activity barbell vs dumbbell

Shoulder activation comparison between seated and standed barbell and dumbbell variations. Chart Source.

There can be no denying the greater potential for heavier weights to be lifted with a barbell.

And, we know what an important driver of hypertrophy lifting heavier weights is. So, while total muscle recruitment may be higher with dumbbells, it might not be higher in the primary muscles you want to build.

It would also only really matter if you could consistently load those exercises with the same amount of weight as you can with a barbell.

When are dumbbells useful?

I know this article seems like a bit of a rant against the use of dumbbells. I guess it kind of is for most situations.

And that is the key right there: MOST situations.

I genuinely believe that barbell training should be the true focus of any strength training program. Particularly for the general population.

With that being said, dumbbells do have their place at times.

As mentioned earlier, any exercise where dumbbells provide the advantage of a greater range of motion is the perfect place to use them.

Other circumstances such as an injury or other issue that makes barbell training painful or impossible could be better suited for using dumbbells.

In such a situation, my aim would be to rehab the problem, so barbells could be used again. But, in the mean-time, dumbbells can be used during that process if you are able to.

Finally, dumbbells would be preferred in any athletic endeavour where they provide a more sports-specific training effect.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat?

People are always looking for the latest fat burning workouts and supplements. Of course, almost everybody would like to be a little leaner and feel more confident with their bodies.

However, it can be difficult to decide the best route to take for your workouts; should you do CrossFit style workouts, HIIT training, steady-state cardio or something completely different?

How about strength training? We all know it is essential for building muscle but does lifting weights burn fat?

does lifting weights burn fat

On the path to a leaner physique, most people tend to veer towards standard methods of increasing calorie burn like adding extra Cardio or HIIT training while manipulating their diet so they are in a calorie deficit.

Obviously, that stuff will work. After all, if you are burning more calories than you consume over a period of time, you will lose weight.

The trouble is, for strength athletes and trainees, those methods can sometimes detract from your goals of being bigger and stronger as well as being lean.

If you want to be strong (who doesn't?!), strength training needs to remain the main focus of your programming.

But don’t worry, strength training still has many fat burning benefits.

Cardio Training vs Strength Training for Fat Loss

This purpose of this article isn’t to prove whether traditional cardio or resistance training is superior for fat loss. In fact, a combination is likely to be the best approach.

Cardio is a fantastic way to reduce your bodyweight, get leaner, and improve your overall fitness levels.

However, there can be some disadvantages to cardio if it is not programmed alongside a good strength training regime.

The main downfall of doing copious amounts of cardiovascular training while consuming a lower-calorie diet is muscle loss. This happens as a result of creating a calorie deficit that's too big as well as hampering your muscle's recovery.

You may lose weight on the scale with a lot of cardio but it may not be the weight you want to be losing. You must perform the correct type of cardio to avoid muscle loss.

Strength training, however, can be an effective way of burning fat while allowing you to keep muscle, if not gain some in certain situations.

Why? Let’s discuss how strength training burns additional fat, and how you can manipulate your training program to accelerate your fat loss results.

Weight Training Boosts Metabolism?

One effect that strength training has on your body that traditional, aerobic cardio doesn’t is that it increases what is known as EPOC, (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which, in simple terms, relates to the processes that take place when you rest to bring your body back to a level of homeostasis.

Strength training has been shown to have a positive effect on EPOC and, therefore, metabolic levels.

Increasing metabolism and burning fat as a result of high intensity exercise is a pretty great benefit if you ask me.

Please note, high intensity cardio will also increase EPOC but is less likely to increase your strength and help maintain your muscle mass.

Do Heavier Weights Burn More Calories?

It has been observed lifting heavier weights, with the correct form, in comparison to moderate weights (around 70% of your 1 rep max), will create a longer lasting EPOC in your system.

So, to increase your chances of elevating EPOC for longer periods after training, try lifting heavier weights on your main lifts (80%+ of your max), with correct form to avoid the risk of injury.

EPOC high intensity vs aerobic training graph

If you are unsure of the weight percentages, aim for a weight you can lift in the range of 3-5 reps.

Calorie Burn During Weight Training

So far, I have discussed the big benefit of Post-training calorie burn.

What I haven’t touched on is the fact your body will still be burning calorie during your resistance sessions. While a 90-minute run may burn more calories than a 90-minute lifting session, you do still burn a respectable number of calories while strength training.

Plus, the 90-minute run doesn’t have the muscle-maintenance, strength gaining or post-workout calorie burning effects.

Exercise calorie burn chart

Choosing the right exercises when you are lifting will also have a big impact on the total number of calorie being burned.

Best Exercises for Fat Burning

If you were to follow the typical routines of bodybuilders and celebrities found in magazines, you will likely end up performing a bunch of different isolation exercises for each body part during your workouts.

All-round this doesn’t really make sense but it makes even less sense when it comes to burning fat.

Working more muscles during a given time period is surely going to produce a higher calorie burn. So why would any effective workout ever be based around isolation exercises?

Compound movements (exercises that require the involvement of multiple joints), bench, deadlift, squat, pull up etc, are known to burn more calories than isolation movements. Why wouldn’t they, they put a whole lot more stress on your entire body, rather than one muscle group.

compound exercise chart

An effective way to burn extra calories throughout a fat loss regime is to focus the majority, if not all of your workouts on compound movements and perform them at higher intensities as discussed earlier.

But how will this burn more calories?

When performing an isolation exercise, let’s take a bicep curl for example, you are only really working a small number of relatively small muscles; your body doesn’t really need to work that hard.

Compare that to performing a chin-up, which will work not only your biceps but back, shoulders and core as well.

It make sense that an exercise consisting of several muscle groups should have the potential to burn more calories than a single-joint exercise.

How Often Should you Lift Weights for Fat Loss?

If pure fat loss was the only consideration, high-intensity strength workouts every single day would yield remarkable results.

Unfortunately, there are factors like recovery that must be thought of.

It can be difficult to determine the optimal amount of training for the best results as every individual is different. Some may respond positively to extra loads of training, and some may experience some negative effects.

For more detail on this topic, view my training frequency article.

As a general recommendation, I would suggest that you strength train 3-4 times per week. As long as you are training every major muscle group in a balanced fashion at least twice per week, you should be good to go.

I would also emphasise leaving at least a complete day before training the same muscle group again.

A full-body workout routine could have you training all your muscles on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This should provide enough frequency and enough rest.

Remember that I said cardio is still an effective fat burning tool?

Well, the off days from your strength workouts is where you can implement it. Feel free to experiment with the types of cardio you are doing but pay attention to how your body reacts.

If the cardio work starts to impede your strength training, you may need to back off or adjust the intensity of it.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat? - Conclusion

The overall takeaway from this piece is that you CAN burn fat when performing strength training, and in many cases I feel it is has more benefits than traditional cardio.

For the majority of people, I would prefer to see them base their training routine around strength training while manipulating calorie intake to achieve fat loss.

Cardio can then be added on top to burn extra calories and for the additional health benefits.

You will be able to maintain, and even build muscle if you have never tried lifting weights before. you won’t realise the full benefits of strength training until you try!

Best Wrist Wraps for Powerlifting and Bodybuilding 2018

I am of the belief that wrist wraps are a fundamental piece of lifting equipment. Find the best wrist wraps for powerlifting and bodybuilding is a key step to take.

The trouble is that there seems to be a whole lot of options for something that is essentially rather simple.

I'm sure you'll agree, it makes it hard to know if you are getting a good, supportive pair or wraps or a flimsy piece of stretchy fabric.

This guide will give you all the information you need to know about wrist wraps as well as my opinion on the best pair to buy.

best wrist wraps for powerlifting

Best Wrist Wraps for Powerlifitng - Quick View

To save you some scrolling, here's a quick overview of my suggested wrist wraps.

Titan Signature Series Gold Wrist Wraps

titan powerlifting wrist wraps

Why Wear Wrist Wraps for Powerlifing?

Wrist wraps are generally thought of as a piece of safety equipment for presses and, in some cases, squats and deadlifts.

It isn’t likely that you will see a big increase in your bench press numbers from using wrist wraps. Unlike a powerlifting belt or knee sleeves for squats, wrist wraps don’t tend to increase your lift by a large amount.

What wrist wraps will do is provide you with support around your wrist joint and enable you to keep it straight while pressing.

For most people, a straighter wrist is going to lead to a better transfer of power to the bar.

bench press wrist position

Bent vs straight wrist position. Photo found at Kaizen Strength. Check out their full bench press mistakes article here.

Wrist wraps can help to enforce this stronger position under heavier loads.

So, if you do struggle to keep your wrist straight when pressing, wrist wraps might add a little bit to your one rep max.

Personally, I feel the tightness of the wrap provides and stiffness of my wrist helps me get a stronger grip on the bar. This, in turn, makes the weight feel lighter upon un-racking.

It also make sense that wearing wrist wraps allows you to forget about any pressure on your wrist joint and put more focus into your lifting instead.

Do wrist wraps prevent injury?

As I mentioned earlier, if you are somebody that struggles to keep your wrist solid during the bench press, wrist wraps can help you.

While there is little scientific research to show the benefits of wrist wraps during lifting, common sense should tell us that preventing the wrist from bending backwards under load is probably good for your wrists.

In fact, I started using wrist wraps in the first place after I stumbled at the top of an overhead press, causing the bar to roll backwards into my fingers, bending my wrist with it and causing a sprain.

Some lifters use wrist wraps for squats to minimise the risk of the bar putting pressure on a bent wrist. This is more common for low-bar squatters because of the hand position when squeezing the bar into your back.

Wrist wraps for squats image

In short, I do feel wrist wraps make lifting safer for your wrist joints if you wear them properly (I’ll cover that later).

When should you use wrist wraps?

I will state that I have no actual scientific proof for this section, but I will present what makes sense to me and you can make up your own mind about it.

I think wrist wraps should be used a bit like most people would use a lifting belt; only for higher intensity sets.

My reasons for this are as follow:

I feel like putting them on later in the workout acts as a bit of a mind trick and makes the weight feel lighter once you put them on.

I like to keep some sets performed without them, so I don’t become over-reliant on them.

I think lifting weights without any support must have some strengthening effect on the wrist joint. Lifting with wraps for every single set may remove this benefit and weaken some of the tissues inside the wrist.

Again, you may not agree with those points but those are my thoughts and you can use them to draw your own conclusions.

What size wrist wraps to buy

If you are competing in powerlifting, your chosen federation is likely to have its own set of rules and limits for wrap sizes.

The most commonly seen sizes for wraps are 18” and 24”. I would say this is where you want to aim.

A longer wrap means more coverage and less joint movement but I feel anything over 24” is overkill for most lifters.

Plus, constantly wrapping and unwrapping a long wrap in the gym gets rather tedious.

12” wraps are also available but, unless you have tiny wrists, they aren’t really long enough to get a good amount of material above and below the wrist joint when you wrap them up.

How to use wrist wraps properly

Wrist wraps are a simple piece of equipment and there isn’t much to them. However, there is a correct way to wrap your wrist properly before lifting.

They key is to make sure you are wrapping on both sides of your wrist joint. Many people simply wind the wrap around their forearm, which does next to nothing.

You also want to crank the wrap tight. It shouldn’t be so tight that your hands are turning purple, but it will be tight enough to resist your hand when you try to open it.

If you’re putting your wraps on at the start of the session and not taking them off until the end, they are likely too loose. Properly tightened wrist wraps are not comfortable.

Instead of listing the steps and trying to have you imagine what to do, here’s a video that explains it well:

Which wrist wraps to buy?

In all honesty, many wrist wraps from the top brands are going to be quite similar.

What you want to avoid is purchasing a pair that are too soft to provide good support or are inferior quality and going to stretch and fray.

I have seen some sites present a whole list of recommended wrist wraps, which I don’t feel is useful for such a simple product. With that being said, my recommendations are simple:

Get the Titan Signature Series Gold Powerlifting Wrist Wraps. They are very supportive and quite stiff, which I think is a good thing, but will soften up slightly over time.

I would just grab the 18” version since I hate having too much wrapping to do before every set. I also feel like the support I get from cranking the 18” tight is always going to be more than enough.

Titan Signature Series Gold Wrist Wraps

titan powerlifting wrist wraps

Currently IPF Approved (2018)


High-Quality, premium wrap


Specialist powerlifting manufacturer


Stiff and supportive

Texas Power Bar vs. Ohio Power Bar – The best powerlifting barbell?

Congratulations! By finding this article, I’m going to assume you have reached an important stage in your lifting career: you have discovered that all barbells are not created equally!

I’m also guessing you’ve discovered that two of the very best and most popular powerlifting bars are the Texas and Ohio power bars. Along with buying a power rack, selecting the right barbell for your training is a crucial decision.

Both bars featured here are great but which is best?

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar

This article will take you through what to consider when buying a proper powerlifting barbell as well as pitting the two bars against each other with reviews and side-by-side comparisons.

What is a Power Bar?

As the name suggests, power bars are manufactured with the sport of powerlifting in mind. They are designed to be used for lifting the most amount of weight possible in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

For this reason, they need to be built much differently than weightlifting bars and the standard bars you might find in a commercial gym.

Compared to a weightlifting bar, which is used in for snatches and the clean and jerk, a power bar needs to be much more rigid or “stiff”, as you will hear it referred to.

On top of the extra stiffness, the knurling should be much deeper and sharer on a powerlifting bar. If you like having skin on your palms, you won't want to be cleaning a power bar too often.

olympic weightlifting bar vs powerlifting bar knurling

Power bars also have no need for the free-pinning needle bearing that weightlifting bars use in the collars. This is good news for the wallet since power bars use bushings, which make the bars cheaper.

A power bar will generally be around 29mm thick, which is a touch thicker than a standard Olympic bar of 28mm.

Power Bar Specifications

Different federations have their own rulings on what bars are acceptable to be used in their competitions.

Certain federations use specialist bars for each of the three lifts. I believe it is important to spend a lot of time training with the bars you will be competing with.

The IPF is the most popular drug-tested powerlifting federation in the world and many other federations follow the same or similar when it comes to legal bar specifications.

Therefore, many power bar manufacturers will aim to create a bar that adheres to the IPF’s rulings.

Here is a diagram of a standard power bar that is legal for use in an IPF competition:

powerlifting bar specifications

The bar should also weigh 20kg (not 45lbs.), be 2.2m in total length and have a diameter ranging from 28mm – 29mm. View the offical IPF rule book here.

Things to Consider When Buying a Powerlifting Barbell

1. Tensile Strength and capacity

You can fall into a bit of a trap with this one so it is worth knowing what to watch for.

Tensile strength, measured in PSI, is the amount of force it will take for the bar to break. Unfortunately, it is measure by pulling the bar apart length-ways, which is never something you will be doing with the bar.

So, keep an eye on the PSI rating but do not fall into the trap of believing a higher rating means a better bar. Higher tensile strength alone is not an indicator of a better bar.

Yield strength is a much better method of determining how strong your barbell really is.

It rates the point at which a bar will bend and not return back to its’ normal state. Basically, how much you can bend a bar before it is permanently deformed.

Unfortunately, many barbell suppliers do not disclose the yield strength rating.

Some will list their total capacity, which still isn’t the best, but you can combine that with the tensile strength rating to get a rough idea of the bar’s strength.

Luckily, both the Texas power bar and the Ohio power bar are very strong and highly unlikely to break on you.

2. Stiffness

A lot of people confuse tensile strength with stiffness; they mistakenly believe a higher tensile strength leads to a stiffer barbell.

As mentioned earlier, tensile strength measures the breaking point when a pulling force is applied to each end of the bar. No good for indicating bar stiffness or “whip”.

In this video you can see the difference between a bar with more whip (top) and a stiff Eleiko bar (bottom).

Luckily, stainless steel bars are now becoming more common, which give the same feel without all the maintenance. Stainless bars are going to be more expensive, though.

Bar length, thickness and material density all play a part in the overall stiffness of the bar.

For powerlifting, you will want to find a bar with a similar level of stiffness to the bars used in your federation. This is particularly important for the deadlift since a stiffer bar leads to a harder pull for most people.

3. Knurling

By nature, power bars have very aggressive knurling, which makes keeping hold of them easier and stops them sliding down your back but can tear the shit out of your delicate skin until it toughens up.

In truth, if you are locking the bar in your hands or on your back tightly, it shouldn’t really move enough to tear your skin that much.

Knurling can be somewhat subjective in terms of preference, so the best idea is to feel a bar in your hands before buying.

I prefer a very aggressive and rough knurling on a bar since it feels almost glued into my hands.

4. Bar finish and feel

Many bars are coated to prevent rusting and keep them functioning at a high level.

Common coatings include chrome and zinc plating. The finish of the bar will affect how it feels in your hands as well as how much maintenance is required on the bar to keep it rust-free.

barbell finish chart

Without doubt, bare steel bars feel the best during lifts but also require a high amount of upkeep to prevent them rusting.

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar – Individual Reviews

Texas Power Bar Review

The good old Texas power bar! Manufactured by Buddy Capps and used in high-level meets for almost 40 years.

It is no fluke this bar has stood the test of time as is regarded by many as the best powerlifting bar for all-round use.

There are so many advantages to this bar:

It is strong, high-quality, features aggressive knurling, has a resistant finish with a good feel to it and the price is incredible.

The bar comes with the option of upgrading the sleeves from raw steel to chrome, which I think is a good move since it will cut down on bar maintenance needs.

However, these sleeves are slightly shorter than many bars, which may be a problem when using those stupidly thick bumper plates or if you’re freakishly strong.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Texas Power bar but is it still the best all-round powerlifting bar on the market?

We will discover that later on.

Texas Power Bar Specs:

Length – 84”

Weight – 20 kg

Diameter – 28.5 mm

Capacity – 1500 lbs.

Tensile strength – 186,000 psi

Shaft material – Sprung tempered steel (zinc plated finish)

Ohio Power Bar Review

Whenever I sit down to write one of these reviews lately, I feel like I’m just shilling Rogue products.

They just seem to be absolutely killing it with their equipment and the Ohio power bar is no exception.

As mentioned, this article focuses on the 20kg variation as it is the one with the IPF stamp of approval.

The Ohio bar feature very deep and aggressive knurling, which I am a huge fan of. It is also the stiffest bar I have lifted with.

I have used an Eleiko PL bar, which I believe is stiffer. Unfortunately, with a meagre 260kg deadlift, I’m not yet strong enough to notice a real difference in “whip” between the Ohio bar and the Eleiko.

That last point is exactly why I feel this bar is awesome for most powerlifters, particularly IPF competitors. It provides a very similar lifting experience, in terms of difficulty, to that of the Eleiko bars used in many competitions.

The main difference being the rather large and, in my opinion, unjustifiable price-gap between the two bars when you compare their performance.

The black zinc version is obviously the most comparable to the Texas bar, but the Rogue bar does now come in a stainless steel shaft variation, which is certainly superior and recommended if your budget allows. The stainless steel one is $100 more but feels better and requires much less maintenance.

The 20kg version of the Ohio bar also has a larger loadable area on the collars than the Texas bar and the 45 lbs. versions of the Ohio. This may help you load an extra plate on the bar depending on what kind of plates you are using with it.

As you can see, there are many advantages to the Rogue Ohio Power bar. Read the next section to see exactly how it stacks up to the Texas bar.

Rogue Ohio Power Bar Specs:

Length – 86.52”

Weight – 20 kg

Diameter – 29 mm

Tensile strength – 205,000 psi

Shaft material – Steel with zinc finish or stainless steel shaft option

Texas Bar vs Ohio Bar Comparison

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar

TEXAS BAR

OHIO BAR

Tensile Strength

186K psi

205K psi

Loadable sleeve length

15"

16.88"

Shaft diameter

28.5 mm

29 mm

Stiffness

Knurling (aggressiveness)

Purchase

Conclusion – Which bar is best?

Like I have already said, both are great bars and I don’t think you will be disappointed with either one. If I walked into a gym, I would be pleased to see any of them.

Of course, you probably want some more solid recommendations than that so here they are:

If you have a tighter budget, get the Texas Bar

If you compete in a federation that uses Eleiko bars but don’t want to splurge on an Eleiko Pl bar, get the Ohio Power Bar

If you just want the better bar out of the two, get the Ohio Power Bar. Preferably, the stainless steel version if your budget allows it.

Looking for more home gym equipment? check out my article to make sure you get the best power rack as well.

Best Power Rack to Buy in 2018

Are you looking to find the best power rack for your home gym but are confused with the countless options available?

After the barbell itself, the power rack is probably the single most important purchase you will make for your gym. Finding the right one is crucial to the enjoyment and success of your training.

Fortunately, you aren’t short of options. Unfortunately, this can make it very difficult to pick make a good decision when buying your power rack.

To save you a whole load of time before, and possibly after, you purchase a rack, I have created this in-depth buying guide for 2018. After reading through it, you will know exactly what needs to be considered when searching for a quality power rack as well as my recommended power racks for various situations.

Best power rack

Best power racks in 2018 Quick-view

(In-depth reviews and descriptions below)

Our Top-Pick!

Rogue RML-490

Rogue RML-490 power rack

Best Budget Power Rack (Under $500)

Titan T-3

Best Wall-Mounted Power Rack

Rogue R-3W

Rogue Foldable Power Rack

Best Squat Stands

Rogue S-4 2.0

rogue squat stands

Best Premium/High Budget Power Rack

Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue monster power rack

Advantages of using a power rack

The fact that you have found your way to this article tells me you probably already have a pretty good idea of the reasons to buy a power rack. However, it never hurts to re-emphasise the benefits of a product before making a purchase.

Some of these points may even impact your final decision.

1. Safety

When it comes to building a home gym, this is possibly the biggest concern since you are likely to be training completely alone on some, if not all, occasions. Even inside a commercial gym, the safety provided by a power rack is much higher and more convenient than asking for a spot.

There are going to be times in your training where you will want to push a little harder and test your limits, which increases the risk that things will not go as planned.

If you have a decent quality power rack with all the necessary safety bars or pins, failing a lift can be very safe. Whether it is a squat or a bench press, all you need to do is lower the bar carefully on to the bars or pins to avoid getting pinned or crushed by the weight.

When squatting, the pins should be set just below the level of the bar at the lowest point of your squat. If you fail a squat, all you will need to do is sit yourself down or let the bar slide off your back and on to the safety rails.

In the case of a bench press, the bars should be just below the level of the bar when it touches your chest. If you fail a rep, simply removing your arch will drop your chest enough to let the bar rest on the safety pins.

Simple!

2. Versatility

Of course, if you want to squat as safely as possible, a power rack, squat rack or squat stands are pretty much a necessity.

However, power racks are built for much more than just squatting.

Between a barbell, some plates, a bench and a power rack, you really have enough equipment to train every muscle in your body extremely effectively.

Especially, if you look for a power rack with a pull-up bar.

Many racks can also be fitted with several accessories like lat-pulldowns, dip bars and pegs for resistance bands.

power rack with many accessories

A rack bursting with accessories. A thing of beauty!

You don’t really need any equipment other than those four pieces mentioned above. The power rack should be the centre-piece of any home gym or commercial gym for that matter.

3. Longevity (if you buy a good one)

With all gym equipment, you should aim to buy the highest quality gear that your budget allows. I would argue that the power rack is the one place where you should certainly stretch your budget to allow for better build-quality.

After all, your power rack is responsible for your safety and is going to be one of the most used pieces of equipment in your gym.

The good news is that a better-quality power rack will last for a long time. You may not ever even need to replace it if you choose the right one from the start.

A bonus, most gym equipment holds its’ value relatively well, if the condition is kept good. So, you shouldn’t have too much trouble selling a decent power rack if/when you are done with it.

Disadvantages of a power (Are there any?)

1. Size of a full rack

To be honest with you, I really struggled to think of any disadvantages to buying a power rack.

The only real drawback I could think of is they are usually fairly big, which is going to be bad news for those without much space.

Luckily, there are other great options available that will save some space.

If ceiling height is a problem for you, short racks are an option. As the name suggests, a short rack is a full power rack that isn’t quite as tall as standard ones, which is perfect for lower ceiling rooms.

If your issue is the total footprint and space the rack takes up in your room then half racks, wall-mounted racks or squat stands could be an option for you.

Each of these is designed to take up less space while still providing the benefits and safety of a power rack.

As you can see, there is a rack to suit pretty much any home gym.

How to choose the best power rack/things to consider

Use case/needs

When deciding which type of rack to buy for your training, you need to take into account exactly what you wish to use the rack for. As an example, if you solely want to use it for squatting then a simpler squat rack or stands may be sufficient.

On the other hand, if you want a rack that can be used to give you as many different options as possible, you would be better off with a full power cage that allows for the attachment of accessories.

I would also suggest thinking about how often it will be used. If you are building a home gym to use as you regular gym, you want to opt for the highest quality rack that your budget allows with the most features.

If you are buying a power rack to use alongside your regular gym membership, maybe on days where you can’t make it to the gym, you might be able to get away with a cheaper option.

Available Space

This one should go without saying; of course, you need to make sure the power rack is going to fit in the space you have available.

However, there are a few space factors people tend to forget about. For instance, the space left around the rack after installation is crucial.

Will you have enough height to perform pullups?

Does the cage height allow you to press a barbell overhead while standing inside it?

Is their plenty of space either side of the rack to comfortably load the barbell with plates?

These kinds of questions all must be considered. Only once you’ve figured out exactly how much space you have, can you decide what size power rack to get.

Adjustability and hole spacing

As noted above, one of the biggest advantages to using power racks is their versatility.

The more adjustability there is within your power rack, the more versatile it will be when it comes to using it. Being able to fully adjust spotter bars, J-hook heights and band pegs, for example, leads to a much more pleasant training experience.

There is nothing more annoying than a bar being in a slightly awkward position for you and not being able to move it.

power rack hole spacing

Closer holes for more adjustability

The hole spacing on the racks is a great example of this adjustability.

You may have experienced this in a commercial gym with a cheap, non-adjustable rack:

You set up to bench press, put the bar on one of the hooks, go to un-rack it but it is so high that you can barely get it off. So, you drop it to the next hook down only to find out this hook is so low, you are performing a half-rep just to un-rack the bar.

Finding a rack with as many adjustment holes as possible means you can fine-tune the set-up to suit you.

Power rack accessories

Are you hoping to perform a wide variety of exercises on your power rack? Maybe even employ the use of bands for accommodating resistance.

If so, you should look out for whether your chosen rack comes with any accessories or if they can be bought separately.

Things like dip bars, band pegs, cable pulleys and even jumping platforms can be attached to power racks. Even if you won’t be buying these things right away, it is always nice to now you have options for adding them to your training in the future.

Just be sure to check exactly what is compatible with each power rack if you are looking to add some of these accessories.

Overall Budget (remember you need other equipment)

Finally, the power rack you buy must be well-priced to fit in with your total home gym budget.

Well, duh! I know it seems obvious and a stupid thing to say but it can be easy to forget about the other equipment needed for your home gym.

It’s no good buying an awesome power rack if you have not money left to buy a barbell to put on it.

On the flip-side to that point, it is an equally bad idea to spend so much of your budget on bars, calibrated plates and accessories that you can only afford a cheap, flimsy rack.

You must prioritise.

In my opinion, most of your budget should be spent on your power rack and barbell. Of course, you then just need to leave yourself enough money to purchase enough plates to train with.

You can always add more equipment over time, but an excellent quality power rack and bar are crucial from day one.

Here is a rough guide to how I would break it down using percentages of my total budget if I was building a home gym from scratch:

Power rack – 50%

Barbell – 25%

Weights – 25% (would probably look at buying weight plates used on lower budgets.)

This is a bit of a rough guide since there is going to be a lot of variability in the percentages due to the differing amount of weights each person is going to need. However, it should give you an idea of how to prioritise your budget.

The next purchase would be a good bench and then you can add other equipment as you see fit.

Best Power Rack in 2018 Product Reviews

All-round best power rack for a home gym – Rogue RML-490

Rogue RML-490 Power Rack

Rogue RML-490 power rack

PROS

2” hole spacing plus 1” spacing in bench press area.

Includes band pegs.

Fat and skinny pull up bars.

43” working space between front and back of cage.

Wide range of compatible accessories.

Super sturdy.

Fast assembly (30mins to an hour).

CONS

No integrated plate storage.

Must be bolted to the ground for stability if optional stabiliser isn’t bought.

Accessories are more expensive compared to the smaller framed racks.

The Rogue R-4 power rack has been an insanely popular power rack for home gyms and with good reason; it provides everything you need for training, superb quality and a great price point.

However, I believe the newer Rogue RML-490 is a better choice due to the added sturdiness while still being very similar in price.

The one thing that lets many racks down is the stability and, thanks to the 3” x 3” steel used in the RML-490, you will be hard-pushed to find a sturdier rack at this price-point.

It wouldn’t be out of place in most commercial gyms so is an excellent rack for your home gym that is rugged enough to last a lifetime of gruelling workouts.

Dimensions:

Weight: 336lbs.

Height: 90 3/8”

Footprint: 53” x 53”

Features:

3 x 3” 11-gauge steel

5/8” hardware

Westside hole spacing: 1” through bench and clean pull area, 2” spacing above/below

Pair of Monster Lite J-Cups with UHMW plastic inserts

Set of Pin/Pipe Safeties for Squats, Bench & Rack Pulls from any height

Band Pegs for additional resistance workouts


Best budget power rack (under $500) – Titan T-3

Titan T-3 Power Rack

PROS

Relatively small footprint.

Available in shorter size for low ceilings.

High capacity, especially for this price-point.

“Westside” hole-spacing.

Variety of compatible accessories.

Wide base for sumo stance exercises.

Comes with weight storage and band pegs.

CONS

Smaller 24” working area could be restrictive for some.

Must be bolted to the ground to be stable.

Coating scratches easily.

The fact that this power rack has been compared to Rogue’s popular R-3 offering, despite the lower price, is a great compliment.

The only real downside, when compared to Rogue’s racks is the overall build quality. However, this is mainly aesthetic and does not draw away from the rack’s usability.

It is a sturdy rack, compatible with accessories and is very reasonably priced. If you aren’t too worried about some welding imperfections or a few scratches during use, this is a great power rack.

If you are on a tighter budget, you cannot go wrong with it!

Dimensions:

Weight: 230lbs.

Height: 91 1/8”

Inside Width: 42 1/8"

Outside Width: 53 1/4"

Inside Depth: 24"

Outside Depth: 32 3/4"

Features:

T-3 Series of Power Racks contain 2"x3" steel tubes

Capacity: 1000 lbs

1" round steel j-hooks

Chin up bars: 1 1/4" & 2" diameter

Includes J-Hooks and weight storage pegs

2” hole spacing with 1” spacing in bench press area


Best wall-mounted power rack – Rogue R-3w

Rogue R-3W Foldable Power Rack

Rogue Foldable Power Rack

PROS

Space-saving foldable design.

Retains high level of stability.

Quick-attach pull-up bar included.

Easy assembly.

Simple to fold away.

Lifetime warranty.

CONS

No safety or spotter bars. Will need to be purchased separately.

Sometimes, particularly in a garage gym, space is at a premium. Unfortunately, there just may be no way you could fit a full power cage in the space you have.

Luckily, there are now some excellent options and the Rogue R3w is one of the best power racks for small spaces due to its foldable design.

I was super-impressed with the fold-away technology when I first saw this rack. On top of that, I was even more impressed that the rack retained a high level of quality and durability along with it.

It folds away so neatly, it really is perfect for those who don’t have much space but still want to train at home.

It comes in 20.5” or 40.5” depth versions. I would only suggest the deeper one if you are planning on performing kipping pullups, muscle ups etc. inside the rack.

I would recommend purchasing the pre-made stringers to help with mounting it to your wall.

Dimensions:

Weight: 163 lbs (20.5” version) 190lbs (40.5” version)

Height: 90.5”

Footprint: Less than 5” from the wall when folded. Choice of 20.5” or 40.5” depth.

Features:

Fully retractable power rack

Set of Infinity J-Cups

Mounting Brackets

Quick-attach Pull-Up Bar

UHMW Plastic Caps to protect floor

Westside hole spacing


Best squat stands – Rogue S-4 2.0

Rogue S-4 2.0 Squat Stands

rogue squat stands

PROS

Very easy to store and move around.

Sturdy, stable design.

Great build-quality.

2” hole spacing with 1” spacing around bench press area (Westside style).

Cheaper than a power cage or squat rack.

CONS

No spotter or safety bars included. Must be purchased separately, if required.

Very stable but obviously less-so than a full rack or cage.

Stand bases may be in the way for some people when walking the bar out of the rack.

Less versatile in terms of accessories and exercise selection.

Sometimes, a more portable option is needed for your home gym. This is where squat stands can be of great use.

For this category, I chose only independent squat stand i.e. stands that are not fixed together with any type of crossmember.

The advantage to squat stands over squat racks is they can be moved and stored very easily.

Of course, the disadvantage is you are more limited in terms of accessories and exercise. However, if you are just looking for somewhere to hold your bar for squats, bench presses and standing presses, squat stands are a viable option.

They also tend to be much, much cheaper than squat racks or power cages. The Rogue S-4 2.0 squat stands are excellent and feel even sturdier than some squat racks I have used in the past.

Dimensions:

Weight: 130 lbs.

Height: 72”

Footprint: Each stand base is 26” x 22”

Features:

Westside hole spacing

2” x 3” uprights made from 11-gauge steel

2 infinity J-cups with plastic inserts

Rubber feet to protect floor surfaces and add stability


Premium/high-budget choice – Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue monster power racks

PROS

Super sturdy and rugged. “Monster” certainly described it.

Includes plate storage.

Tonnes of optional extras/add-ons.

Custom colours.

Close hole spacing.

Different heights available.

CONS

High-priced. However, it is supposed to be the premium offering and best power rack around.

Takes up a lot of room.

Requires 2 people to assemble.

If you just want the very best rack with all the bells and whistles without worrying too much about a budget, this is the one.

It features pretty much everything you would need from a squat rack and it looks pretty badass too.

On top of the supreme durability, there are a plethora of different options and accessories from custom colours to J-cup designs.

This is a serious piece of kit for a serious home gym.

Dimensions:

Weight: Varies due to the number of options

Height: 90 3/8", 100 3/8", or 108 3/8"

Footprint: 80" x 53"

Features:

Westside hole spacing

23” x 3” uprights made from 11-gauge steel

Numbered holes

1” heavy-duty hardware


Conclusion

With the range of power racks available to suit all different needs, there really is no reason to settle for an inferior option.

I strongly feel that the Rogue RML-490 will be suitable for the vast majority; it strikes an unbelievable balance between price and quality.

I know this article has probably sounded like a bit of an advert for Rogue power racks but they really provide a wide range of options to suit your needs, with great quality and customer service to match.

You cannot go wrong with any rack featured in this write-up so, just select one based on your own needs and situation.