Strength training is probably the most versatile and most effective form of exercise. But, the great reward comes with greater risks.
Miss one rep and you will find yourself pinned down by a barbell. Even if you are training lightly, a loaded barbell can still cause significant injuries. Unfortunately, such incidents are pretty common.
Thankfully, choosing the right type of home gym equipment and careful practice can help you avert the risks or at least minimize them.
Squat stands and power cages are one such equipment that we highly recommend for anyone and everyone who is into strength or weight training. Even if you are barely using any weight, do not ignore your safety.
Squat stands or power cages or squat racks help you rack and rerack your loaded barbell safely without compromising with your posture. They have spotter arms and j-hooks that can catch your barbell in case you miss your rep. They can also help you take your strength training to the next level without worrying about your safety.
Read this article to understand the difference between squat racks, power cages, and squat stands, so you can choose the one which will be most suitable for your exercising needs.
This article on best budget squat racks for 2021 lists some of the key features that you must look for while selecting your squatting equipment. It briefly mentions what is the westside hole pattern and why it matters. Here, we will explain it in detail.
What is hole spacing in a squat rack?
As obvious, it refers to the distance between the center of one hole to the center of the next hole in the uprights of a squat stand/rack/cage. These holes are meant for accommodating the j-hooks or safety spotters.
Hole spacing is measured in inches but sometimes manufacturers use mm too. The standard hole spacing is 2 inches or 50 mm. Some squad racks or cages come with 75mm for 3 inches hole spacing. Some others come with one inch or 25mm distance between the holes, which is also known as westside hole spacing.
What is westside hole spacing?
As mentioned above, Westside power racks are the ones that have 1” gap between the holes.
Recently, some manufacturers have started making squat racks with 1-inch hole spacing towards the bottom of the rack, especially in the benching area. The rest has a 2 inches gap between the holes. Those are not Westside barbell racks in the true sense but they do work for beginners and intermediate-level trainers.
Westside barbell racks are expensive, which is why many of us prefer to go with the ones that have the standard 2” hole spacing. And, it works for most of us!
So, is all the hype around Westside hole spacing just a marketing trick by manufacturers? Or does it have some real value? Should you really be spending an extra $100 (minimum) to only get something with closer gaps between the holes? Can a 1 or 2-inch difference be so significant?
Our answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY!
Why is Westside hole spacing important?
When you are squatting/benching with 300 or 400 lbs, moving an extra inch up or down can be a big challenge. You could lose your balance and get pinned down by the barbell or worse the whole squat cage or stand. Closer gaps between the holes can provide you with an option to rerack your barbell at the most comfortable spot without forcing your body to push its limits and end up losing balance.
The standard 50mm hole spacing can be either too high or too low, especially for benching. It can restrict your movement. But, a 25 mm gap can help you position your safety bars at the right height and ensure that you get your full range of motion without compromising your safety or posture.
What if you don’t lift heavy?
Westside hole spacing was originally created and recommended for athletes and powerlifters because they are the ones who genuinely need it.
If you are a casual trainer or just a beginner, you don’t necessarily need to buy a Westside power rack. A good quality power rack with standard 2” hole spacing such as the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-XF9931 Power Zone Squat Stand would be enough for you. If you don’t have ample space to accommodate a full-size rack, you can buy a squat stand instead. This article lists some of the best squat stands that we recommend.
But, if you are making significant progress and are quite hopeful that you will be lifting a decent weight soon, you should look for Westside barbell power racks. For people who have a low budget, we recommend the Titan T3 Series Squat Stand. Those who don’t mind spending decently, can go with the Rogue Fitness SML (Monster Light) Series Half Racks or the Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Rack.
Can you train with heavy weights without a Westside power rack?
Yes, you can.
Westside hole spacing is not a mandatory feature. A lot of people do not actually bother about it. That's because they are highly-trained people and they have good control over their movement. They know how much they need to lift. Plus, they always have a spotter nearby to rescue them during unfortunate incidents.
If you are using heavy weights in your home gym, then you should choose a Westside barbell rack, so you can quickly put your loaded barbell back whenever you feel you are losing your control.
Not ready to buy a squat rack yet? Don’t worry, you can still squat with a decent amount of weight.
This article provides you detailed instructions on how to squat without a rack. While squatting, you can use dumbbells instead of a barbell. Check out this list of adjustable dumbbells in case you don’t have enough space for too many dumbbells of various weights. Also, make sure you use good quality weightlifting shoes such as the Nike Romaleos 3 XD shoe so they take all the impact and keep your knees and heels safe.
If you find this article helpful, please let us know by leaving a comment below. If you want us to review a specific product that you want to buy, please email us. We have created this website to guide you on how to buy the best value for money products for your home gym and we are always eager to help you.