How To Build A Powerlifting Home Gym (Essentials & Budget)

Powerlifting is a set of exercises designed to show strength, power, and explosion. Unlike a standard home gym routine, a powerlift routine revolves around only three lifts: the bench press, squat, and deadlift. You don't need a commercial gym for these movements.

Because the moves are limited, your home gym build equipment list is also smaller. If you want to build a powerlifting home gym in your garage or basement, we can show you what you need and what you can ignore.

Once you have a designated space in your garage, basement, or spare bedroom, you will need the foundation or base equipment. These are the required pieces you will need for a proper powerlifting home gym.

Power racks, calibrated plates, squat stands, a bench or two, and you have all the powerlifting equipment you need for your garage gym. Let's look closer at the powerlifting and bare steel needs for your garage gym project.

1. Power Rack/Squat Rack

Because safety is always a concern, the most important piece of equipment is the squat rack. Also known as a power rack, there are two main types to fit both space and budget.

The main purpose of a powerlifting rack is to help maintain proper barbell movement while also being able to catch the weight if you stumble. To reach your training goals, you will need the best racks that can handle the big lifts.

A full squat rack consists of either 4 or 6 posts that are the frame of the entire apparatus. You lift inside the rack itself with pegs and catch bars for spotting and support.

Therefore, 4 post frames have a smaller interior area and less plate storage than a 6 post rack. If space or budget is a concern, or if you prefer to lift heavier weights outside the rack, then a half-rack may be for you.

As the name implies, these are much smaller inside than a 4 post full power rack but can still handle large amounts of weights. They also assemble with a few pieces instead of multiple install steps.

A full squat rack will also accommodate pull-ups, your deadlift bar, power bars, calibrated plate storage, and more.

Which is best for you? A full rack has more safety features and generally offers full customization. Fully adjustable with add-ons like pull-up bars, dip attachments, and more.

A power half rack takes up less space, though, and will usually cost quite a bit less for those on a smaller budget.

Related Article - Power Rack Vs Squat Rack For Home Gyms

How To Build A Powerlifting Home Gym (Essentials & Budget)

2. Barbell

In case you didn't know, not all barbells are created equal. Each barbell serves a particular purpose and is designed for specific lift types.

Because you are using powerlifting equipment, you will need a strong, heavy-duty power bar with a lot of knurling.

Barbell strength is measured in tensile strength or pounds per square inch (PSI). Higher PSI numbers mean a stronger deadlift bar that can support more weight. Stronger bars keep their rigidity and offer little whip.

When looking for tensile strength, you will want to maintain over 180,000 PSI. Professional powerlifting or competition lifters will usually maintain 190,000 to 225,000 PSI on their power bar. A rigid barbell will serve you better than one with a lot of whip.

Knurling, like your power rack foot positioning, is also extremely important. These are the cuts and grooves in the bar surface to help you get a handhold or prevent the power bar from rolling down your neck.

Aggressive knurling is preferred. You can get a better grip on the power bar for heavy lifts. Your knurl marks should be about 32 inches apart, with a good center knurl for your neck when squatting.

Finally, you need to consider shaft diameter and bushings. Powerlifters must balance pulls and lifts, and the correct diameter bar will facilitate both.

On average, a 28 or 29mm diameter will be ideal. However, those with smaller hands may notice the pull motions become a bit more difficult. Not all barbells will fit all hand sizes, so choose accordingly.

Barbell bushings should spin the sleeves mechanically. You want to avoid bearing bars as the spin can be counterproductive to your lifting technique.

Bushing systems will still provide some spin to help heave the weights up, but not so much that you lose balance.

Read Also - Cerakote Vs Stainless Steel Vs Zinc Vs Chrome Barbells

3. Weight Plates

Now that you have a heavy-duty power rack and a barbell, you need something to put on them. Weight plates will be the go-to resistance here. You won't need bands or pulleys, just weight and gravity.

Like the power racks, plates come in two typical styles for powerlifting. Steel plates (or cast iron plates) are the oldest and most widely used weight style out there.

For a more modern take, though, many lifters prefer bumper plates. So let's find out which is best for you.

Iron plates are the ones used in competitions. They are also smaller, so you can put more on your bar at one time. However, there are some drawbacks to go along with those positives.

  • Low Cost - Iron and steel plates have an average cost of between $1 and $2 per pound. Some name brands, like Rogue calibrated steel plates, may cost more.
  • Width - These plates have a narrow width compared to bumper plates which means you can fit more on the bar.
  • Durable - Steel and iron are highly durable plates. They can be put down with force. You can rack them, use them, lift and drop them repeatedly for years without concern.
  • Can Be Restored - Buying used plates doesn’t mean you won’t get quality. You can restore old plates to a like-new status.
  • May Rust - Steel and iron are susceptible to the elements, oxidation, and rust. With sweat and oils, you don't even need to work out outside to have your weight plates affected.
  • Sound Levels - These plates are known to clank and bang and produce a sound that any lifter will instantly recognize. This can be a positive or negative depending on which side you are on with noise levels.
  • Weight Discrepancy - Unless you opt for the higher-cost big-name calibrated weight brands, you may get weights that can vary up to 5 or 10 pounds over the entire stack.

Bumper plates offer much more versatility, as well as being highly durable. These high-colored plates are symmetrical and offer a high durometer rating.

A durometer is a tool that provides the rating given to items based on their Shore hardness. [1] For bumper plates, anything at or above 90 is ideal.

  • Extreme Durability - Bumper plates are known well in the powerlifting world because of their strength and durability. Unlike a steel plate, you can drop bumper plates from overhead heights without worry.
  • Great Aesthetics - Bright, vivid colors and a uniform appearance make bumper plates ideal for those that like good looks and high visibility.
  • Low Noise Levels - Because the rubber and plastics don’t clang like steel and iron plates, you will make less noise lifting which is great for your family and neighbors.
  • Consistent Width - All bumper plates are the exact same width (within brands) from 10 to 45 pounds; the plates will all take up the same amount of space on the bar. However, they are much thicker than iron plates, so you can fit less on your barbell.
  • Low Weight Discrepancy - Unlike standard steel plates, there isn’t a high discrepancy in the weights when dealing with these types.
  • High Price - Because of the manufacturing and exacting standards, bumper plates cost twice as much (or more) than steel and iron styles.
  • Off-Gassing Of Rubber - Lower quality brands may off-gas for several weeks, emitting strange or foul odors.
bumper plates for powerlifting home gym

4. Bench

There are a lot of different bench styles out there. Some have a lot of features and come with many attachments. For a powerlifting gym, though, you need one style: a flat bench. You also need only one feature: high weight capacity.

Beyond these factors, the flat bench won’t matter much. You don’t need leg stations and weight pegs. Because you can use the pegs and j-hooks on your squat rack, the flat bench can be simple.

It needs to be strong enough to hold not only your body weight but the weight of the bar and plates and the force you use to push them upward.

When shopping for your flat bench, you want to keep a few factors in mind. First, the flat bench width and height need to fit inside your squat rack and support your frame.

Wider frames support stability and protect your shoulders. You will probably not need an adjustable bench unless you need it for alternative workout movements.

You should also consider only purchasing high-density foam padding of at least 2 to 2 and a half inches thick. A high-quality covering to prevent sliding or sticking is also recommended.

5. Platform

The platform is what a competitive powerlifter stands on, where your weights fall and the base for your equipment, racks, and feet.

Is your garage gym set up for high bar squatter lifts, power lifts, and other powerlifting and bench press movements? A platform will ensure your squat stands and powerlifting movements are safe, sturdy, and comfortable.

If you are working out in your garage, you should, at a bare minimum, use some padding such as horse stall mats. Indoor home gyms will also benefit from a thick pad and rubber mats.

However, building or buying a competition-style deadlift platform will add aesthetics, comfort, durability, and abuse absorption to your home gym equipment for about the same cost as those horse stall mats that everyone is fond of.

You can find plenty of instructions for building a powerlifting gym deadlift platform if you are handy with tools and like the DIY side of building your home gym. Using a Thompson Fat Pad under your bench or squat stands can minimize the need for rubber matting completely.

This YouTube video is one example you can follow to build your own platform.

6. Powerlifting Belt

Health and safety are always a concern and more so when lifting a lot of heavyweights. One of the best things you can do is invest in a high-quality back belt. These help your lower back from giving out and support spine alignment.

Above all else, though, these belts force you to maintain abdominal pressure, which puts the correct tension on your spine to stabilize your entire core when lifting. [2] Heavy lifters need a weight belt when pushing or pulling at all times.

Related Article - What Size Lifting Belt Should I Buy?

7. Wrist Wraps and Lifting Straps

Like the powerlifting belt protects your spine and core, wrist wraps and lifting straps protect your wrists, hands, and even shoulders for the main lifts.

Wrist wraps keep your hand joints and wrist aligned and give extra support to prevent hyper-extension when you are under the bar.

Lifting straps keep you tied to the bar, so your shoulders and back muscles are aligned and protected during pulling motion lifts.

Learn More - How To Use Lifting Straps

using lifting straps for deadlift

Specialty Bars & Accessory Equipment (Optional)

If you follow along with the previous section, you will have everything you need for a proper powerlifting home gym. However, there may be circumstances or situations when you want or need more.

Below we cover optional equipment such as specialty bars that can help your lifts or provide alternative movements to keep you fresh.

Safety Squat Bar

Often called the SSB, the safety squat bar is designed for functionality, heavy lifts, and injury prevention. You need to be well versed in a proper squat lifting technique before you jump head first into using this heavy-duty bar.

Once you have the technique and muscle memory to perform a proper squat, the SSB will give you additional leverage and protect your back, shoulders, and core throughout the lift.

These bars provide a padded yoke and front handles to help those with shoulder and elbow pain or wrist issues lift properly, regardless of how much weight is on the bar.

Read Also - 8 Reasons To Use Safety Squat Bars

Trap Bar

The hex bar, or trap bar, is a specialty lifting bar that helps develop explosive power and can minimize the risk of injury.

This versatile bar keeps the weight close and minimizes wrist injury and muscle tearing due to a supinated grip. Multiple studies show the trap bar increases power, performance, and significantly higher weight limits. [3]

Related Article - How Much Do Trap Bars Weigh?

Football/Swiss Bar

The Swiss bar is another option to help you keep a varied movement in your routine.

It is also called a football bar because it grew in popularity with football linemen, keeping their shoulders and hands in a similar position to blocking the opponent on the field.

These bars have multiple hand holds at straight or angled alignments. These are ideal for pressing moves and even work well for front or hammer curls and triceps extensions.

Buffalo Bar

The buffalo bar is a squat bar with a large curve in the shaft. When lifting, it appears that the weight you are lifting is so heavy it bends the bar. However, the primary design is for shoulder safety and alignment.

Unlike a standard squat bar, the buffalo bar keeps your hands below the weight and gives you the optimal positioning in your shoulders and hips.

buffalo bar for home gym

Adjustable Incline Bench

If you are using your home gym equipment for more than just powerlifting movements, you may want to utilize an incline bench. This bench type can help you perform more lifts to work other areas of your body or to change up a routine to prevent plateauing.

It is important to note, though, that due to the adjustability and angles, there are more stress point areas.

An adjustable bench won't have the same weight limits as a straight bench, and you will probably need both for proper lifting.

Suggested Equipment - Best Adjustable Weight Benches

Squat Box

A squat box, or squat stand, may be needed for those who are too tall or too short to use their bench as a bumper.

Adjustable squat boxes give you a level to reach for when squatting. You can bounce your buttocks off a squat box and know when you have reached optimal distance on the down squat.

While these are expensive, the 2-inch adjustments are ideal for getting the best height for your size and needs. You can also build your own or use makeshift ones from plyo boxes, crates, or other bench types.

Monolift Attachment

Monolifts are made for safety. While they can be costly, especially for adjustable models (compared to bolt-on), they help with bench press and squats by eliminating the step-out or shoulder torque. These work like spotter arms and safety straps in one.

When the weight of the bar is placed in the J-hooks, the arm will fall down, putting the bar in place for the lift-off. When you lift the bar off, the arms instantly move out of the way.

For a squat, this means you don't need to take the steps back to clear the hooks and can lift right where you stand.

Similarly, for the bench press, the monolift moves out of the way, so you don't need to rotate your shoulders to bring the bar into position over your chest. The band pegs move out of the way, making your flat utility bench even more productive and efficient.

Dumbbells

Dumbbells have a lot of use in any powerlifting home gym. For a powerlifter, though, they become more important. You want a set that is adjustable to your needs and has higher max weight limits.

Having a set that is the same diameter will help as well, especially when overhead pressing or following an intelligent training program that goes through a lot of movements.

While these can get expensive, adjustable sets take up less space and offer a dial-in setting to give you the exact weight you need. If you are looking to save money or build your system up over time, fixed dumbbells will be a better option.

Suggested Equipment - Best Cheap Adjustable Dumbbells

set up powerlifting home gym

Things You Probably Don’t Need

As you can imagine, many specialty items are marketed to powerlifting home gym enthusiasts.

For a powerlifting gym, though, there are things you just don't need. Mainly because of a lack of versatility or the space they take up, the following list are things you can easily ignore without recourse. These products are usually found in commercial gyms and don't get a lot of use there, either.

1. Glute Ham Developer

A glute ham developer (GHD) is a single piece of equipment that essentially does one movement: the glute ham raise. While you can also perform back extensions and abdominal movements, the vast majority of powerlifters won’t need a GHD to perform these actions.

For the cost, as well as the space the device takes up, it isn't worth it for most (or any) home gym. The sole exception is for a rehab home gym where you need to perform glute ham raises. Still, there are cheaper alternatives out there that will work the same or better. 

Alternative Option - 18 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises

2. Reverse Hyper

A reverse hyper is a back extension machine that, once again, doesn’t serve much purpose. Only those with severe back issues or spinal conditions will require the use of this highly expensive apparatus.

When sit-ups, pull-throughs, and the use of posterior chain setups can accomplish the same thing for half the cost and twice the space-saving, they become even more unnecessary.

For everyone else, a reverse hyper is a waste of money and valuable home gym space to own something you will most likely never use.

A good bench, or one with more features can help you reach those fitness goals without causing injury.

3. Dedicated Bench Press

Because the power rack and your bench offer everything you need for the big three power lifts, there is no need for a dedicated bench press area.

Not only are they redundant, but they take up a huge amount of space. On top of that, they cost a lot of money for something you already have.

4. Lat Pulldown

Once again, your powerlifter machine is a versatile beast and will provide the space for you to attach a cable and pulley or bands for lat pull downs. You don't need a dedicated area and expensive equipment for this single movement.

man doing lat pulldown in powerlifting home gym

How To Set Up Your Own Powerlifting Gym (Do's & Don'ts)

When setting your own home gym up from scratch, there are a lot of do's and don'ts that you need to be aware of. Let's look at the complete list of powerlifting gym ideas do's and don'ts.

  • DO measure your space and plan your equipment location. You need to double-check for equipment and squat rack sizes, clearance requirements, and storage locations.
  • DO decide if you will use a platform or not. If you do, this should be done first, so you won't have to continuously move equipment around to build it later.
  • DO make a list of your required equipment and a list of optional pieces. Knowing what you will add to the space will help you design the final layout.
  • DO buy your equipment and set it up following all manufacturer instructions.
  • DO secure your equipment to the wall studs, flooring, or ceiling to prevent toppling or wobbling.
  • DO NOT attempt to build large apparatuses by yourself. Injury can occur. Always have help.
  • DO NOT purchase used equipment or pieces without a thorough inspection and testing. Buy new when you can and utilize sales (like Black Friday) to save money.
  • DO NOT work out on a concrete floor. Always use a platform or rubber mats to absorb sound, damage, and protect yourself.

Building A Powerlifting Gym FAQs

Can you powerlift at home?

Yes, you can powerlift at home. You need a power rack, a barbell, and some weights. A flat bench is also needed, and beyond this, you only need weight plates to accommodate your current (and future) strength levels.

Is a lifting platform necessary?

It isn't mandatory that you use a weightlifting platform. However, you will need to use stall mats or rubber padding to prevent damage to your floors, equipment, and body.

Commercial gyms generally don't include platforms because they have padded floors. A home gym, though, should utilize these platforms for extreme weight loads.

How thick does a lifting platform need to be?

Two layers of 3/4-inch plywood, OBS, or rubber will constitute a platform. Most home gym platforms use two layers as a base and a rubber mat on top for a total of 2 to 4 inches thick.

How much does a home powerlifting gym cost?

The total cost will depend on how you set up your home gym, which equipment you purchase, and if you hire out the construction or do it yourself.

In most cases, a standard home gym with a full rack and all required pieces listed above will range between $3,500 and $10,000. Buying name brands like Rogue, Ohio Power Bar, and Titan Fitness will add to the cost, but the quality is much better.


Conclusion

Building a powerlifting home gym gives you the freedom to work out on your schedule, never waiting in line for equipment or traveling to a typical commercial gym.

While there are a lot of tools, pieces, and equipment out there designed for garage gyms, powerlifting gyms need minimal equipment.

You don't need fancy machines to perform the three power rack lifts that make up a powerlifting set. Your home gym can quickly and affordably turn your home into a powerlifting home.

With the right planning, budget, and understanding of your needs and wants, you can build a DIY powerlifting equipment gym that is the envy of the neighborhood while saving money.

Get the most out of your dollar and the biggest gains right in the comfort of your own home.

References:

1. https://www.matweb.com/reference/shore-hardness.aspx

2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/weightlifting-belt/faq-20058221

3. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4663/5/4/82

Last Updated on August 29, 2022