I’m sure most of you have been in this situation. You get a membership at a new gym (maybe even your first gym), the equipment is new, facilities look great, and it’s conveniently located so you are ready to hit your new training program hard.
The issue which many find out shortly after joining, however, is that most commercial or even specialist gyms do not have enough squat racks. For any sort of strength or muscle building focused program, you’re going to have a lot of exercises scheduled to use in a squat rack.
With only 1-2 squat racks and many members waiting in line to use them, the question is going to cross your mind as to why don’t gyms have more squat racks?
Commercial gyms do not have a large number of squat racks because they require a lot of floor space, are expensive to purchase and most gym members do not have a high demand for a squat rack. Gyms instead focus on an extensive cardio range alongside a moderate free weight section.
The truth is, for most commercial gyms it’s not in the owner’s best interest (from a business/financial perspective) to load up on squat racks. Powerlifting and weightlifting gyms already provide this. In this article, I’ll cover the reasons why gyms don’t have more squat racks and what you can do about it, if anything…
Why Don’t Gyms Have More Squat Racks
There is no end to the benefits of squatting; strength, power, core stability, and posture are just a few of the rewards for this most versatile of exercises.
If you’ve ever had a membership at a commercial gym, however, chances are you’ve had to wait in line to use the squat racks, or rack singular, if you were really unlucky. Unfortunately, it is a question that seems to be asked more often lately as gyms move further away from squats, and it’s a fair question – if squatting is so good for you why don’t gyms have more squat racks?
The first clue when trying to answer this question is a pretty obvious one: commercial gyms are just that, they are a business, and realistically the vast majority of gym members aren’t there to squat or make use of powerlifting/weightlifting exercises.
See, squatting might be good for you, it might even be one of the best compound exercises you can add to your training program, but it’s far from easy, and the majority of gym members just aren’t willing to master the squat. If you are reading this, you’ll have a very different mindset from most of the general public looking to stay in shape.
Treadmills, elliptical machines, “easy to use” weight machines, light dumbbells… These are pieces of equipment that the general public wants to use when they go to a commercial gym. Loading up a barbell and going to work in the squat rack is not high up on the priority list at all.
The following are just a few of the main reasons why most gyms don’t have more squat racks:
1. Gyms Have Limited Floor Space
The crux of it all is that squat racks are big pieces of gear, and most commercial gyms (especially chains) aren’t willing to spend the money and use up the floor space for equipment that only a minority of members are going to use.
Admittedly, more people are seeing the benefit of strength training but there is still an element that the squat rack, and free weight section in general, is for the hardcore lifter and it’s quite intimidating to new gym-goers.
Therefore, most gyms will see people make use of the cardio and fixed weight machines much more than a squat rack or plate loaded machine so this is where floor space becomes a premium and most gyms are not willing to use this on adding a load of squat racks.
2. Squat Racks Are Not Profitable For Gyms
Again, I’m referring more to your typical commercial or leisure gym here but a squat rack is not a profitable piece of equipment from a business standpoint. As mentioned above, the squat rack can be an intimidating area for gym newbies which is why you’ll only tend to see one hidden away in the corner of a gym.
The rack and the barbells, even the rubber matting to install underneath the squat rack, all of these things add up, and if your gym’s priority is their bottom line they are going to focus on the equipment that the majority of their members want (not just use) which will be cardio equipment, fixed weight machines, free weights, and then at the bottom of the list, strength training equipment like a squat rack.
3. Squat Racks Are Not Popular
It feels wrong to say this on a home gym website where a decent squat rack or power rack is the end goal. If you have access to a squat rack, you have access to almost unlimited progress when it comes to strength and muscle growth. There are limitations, but a squat rack is something that produces amazing results when used properly.
This, however, is a minority opinion. It’s the reason why powerlifting gyms are not overrun with members, it’s the reason why squat racks are never front and center of any gym, and most importantly, it’s the reason why gyms don’t have more squat racks!
Squat racks are not popular for most gym-goers and that is why the few that have hyper-focused goals when it comes to strength training or building a physique usually have to queue or share a squat rack in most gyms.
Are Squats Safe
Although some for-profit gym chains claim that squat racks are dangerous, or even intimidating, to their members, squats are perfectly safe. What they are, however, is difficult. No matter how long you’ve been lifting, you should know by now that squats are grueling, they hurt during your workout and they carry on hurting after, and mastering your form takes time.
For beginners in a gym injuries during squats can be more common, especially without a spot, so it can become a liability risk that gyms would rather do without. Don’t worry though, if you’re committed to your training and respect that pushing heavy weight requires proper form and technique you have nothing to worry about with squatting.
What Do I Do If My Gym Doesn’t Have a Squat Rack
If you’re one of those unfortunate souls whose gym has removed their squat rack, or maybe they just never had one in the first place (as was the case with my very first gym which had a tiny free weight section and a smith machine), what are you going to do now? Well, there are 3 paths you can go down:
- Carry on going to the gym and substitute alternative exercises for squats and presses in your program
- Find a new gym (this should be a priority)
- Invest in a squat rack for your own home gym
Can I Install a Squat Rack at Home
This option isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. If you have the budget and the space to spare, installing a squat machine is a very worthwhile investment for your home gym.
Although the price of the barbell, weight plates, flooring, and the rack itself can come to quite a pricey total, the range of exercises you will be able to perform with all this equipment is pretty much limitless. In fact, if you have a bench at home as well you could perform everything below and more:
- Front Squat, Back Squat, Box Squat, Sumo Squat
- Overhead Press
- Bench Press, Incline Bench Press
- Barbell Bent Over Row
If you are installing a squat rack at home, it is imperative that you follow the appropriate safety guidelines. Especially if you’re working out alone and without a spot, don’t push yourself too much.
A heavy bar plus gravity can make for one hell of a downward force. Make sure you protect your floors as well – rubber matting can be very budget-friendly and save you a fortune in home repair bills.
Is Installing a Squat Rack at Home Worth It
Squat racks aren’t the cheapest piece of equipment but they are far from the most expensive. If you have some rainy day money set aside to improve your home gym adding a squat rack can really elevate it to the next level. If the versatility on offer still isn’t enough for you though, you could always install a power rack.
Power racks typically hold more weight than a squat rack, and if you’re constantly looking to improve and progress in your lifts you will get much more longevity from a power rack. Note that the more weight you’re lifting the more stability you are going to require to avoid a serious accident, so make sure you’re anchoring your rack to the floor securely, ideally bolting it into a concrete floor.
Power racks tend to be loaded with add-ons to make the most out of your home gym. Not only will you be able to add dips and pull-ups to your workouts, but safety bars mean you can squat a much heavier weight and not have to worry about causing damage to yourself or your property.
Alternative Exercises to Squats
If you’re struggling to find a gym with a squat rack and installing one at home isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. Leg day will still be there and it will still hurt. Switch out squats for some of the below exercises in the gym:
- Bodyweight Squats, Kettlebell Squats, Dumbbell Squats, Goblet Squats
- Lunges, Dumbbell Lunges, Barbell Lunges
- Leg Press
- Smith Machine Squats
So, why don’t gyms have more squat racks? They take up too much space on the gym floor, are a costly addition to a gym’s equipment range, and most importantly, the customer demand does not warrant more squat racks in commercial gyms.
The reality is if you struggle for rack time in your current gym and are limited by equipment, the reason is that your goals and training style are not aligned with the general public which means they are not aligned with general gyms.
If your program dictates frequent use of a squat rack, the best option is to find a new gym that is specifically for strength training or bodybuilding or as we like to do at Home Gym Hideaway, get a squat rack for your home gym.