Power Tower vs. Power Rack vs. Home Gym Machine vs. Free Weights

In this post, I’m going to compare four exercise equipment that in my opinion the most useful for home training. Having each of them at home is great of sure, but not all of us can afford such an expense.

Here I’m going to show you what are the benefits, disadvantages of each to know if it is for you or not. So, you will know which one to buy first in case your on a low budget.

Power Tower

power tower

The power tower or pull up an dip station is a workout equipment that is made for doing the most beneficial bodyweight exercises at home. Bodyweight training is a natural way to strengthen your muscles. It builds functional strength, and the possibility of having an injury is lower as well compared to weightlifting.

Pros

  • You can do pull ups and chin ups for the back, arms and shoulder muscles. Dips for the triceps, shoulders, and chest. Vertical knee or leg raise for the abs. And a few towers even come with push up bars for chest training.
  • A tower is a versatile piece of equipment since you can train all parts of your upper body.
  • They have a rather compact design and a small footprint, so they do not take much space.
  • You can build “useful” strength at home.
  • They are not so expensive.

Cons

  • They are tall, so you cannot use them comfortably in place with a low ceiling.
  • It is hard to store them since they are not foldable, but they are not so heavy so you can move them around quickly.
  • You can only perform bodyweight moves that are compound exercises so you cannot focus on one particular muscle group.
  • You should have existing strength to do exercises. Obviously, you will not be able to use the tower if you cannot do any dips or pull ups.
  • You cannot do any exercises for the lower body.

Verdict

If you prefer bodyweight workout instead of lifting weights, it is a good choice. However, you will need space to use and store it. Plus you should do exercises for your lower body.

For whom is it?

For those who want to build upper body strength without lifting weights, and can already perform the typical exercises using body weight.

Recommended: Review and comparison of the best pull up and dip stations (power towers)

Power Rack

power rack

Well, if you want to lift weights, even heavy ones, you should have a power rack. You cannot perform the most valuable exercises such as squat, bench press and even deadlifts safely and efficiently without a rack.

Pros

  • You do not need a spotter so that you can work out alone safely.
  • The rack lets you handle heavy weight. That is crucial if you want to build killer strength and muscles mass.
  • It is versatile since it helps you to perform a lot of barbell exercises. You can do compound exercises and ones that focus on one particular muscle group. Check the list of power rack exercises here.
  • Most of the racks come with a pull-up/chin up section so you can do bodyweight exercises as well. Also, it is not rare that they have a dip stand.
  • There are models which can be extended with various attachments such as lat pulldown, but there are racks with this feature inbuilt.
  • They are highly adjustable so you can quickly set the level that suits the best for a particular exercise.

Cons

  • A power rack itself is good of nothing. You will need to spend money on a robust weight bench and a barbell with weight plates. Also, it is a good idea to buy a gym mat for floor protection and to avoid wobbling.
  • They are big, so you need a lot of space to use.
  • They are heavy, so they are no mobile.
  • To improve the stability of the rack you may have to drill it into the ground meaning extra work.
  • The better models are rather expensive.

Verdict

If you want to lift weight seriously, you should get a power rack. Without it, it is impossible to work out safely alone, and you will not be able to challenge yourself. However, it needs a lot of space.

For whom is it?

From beginners to advanced trainers, who want to build strength and muscles (bodybuilding) at home.

Recommended: Check out the reviews of the best power racks here.

Home Gym Machines

home gym machine

Well, it is hard to give a general overview about home gym machines since there are many variations out there with less and more functions, but I try.

Pros

  • It is easy to get started with them since the machines have been constructed for easy usage. You do not need to have a workout background to start using them.
  • Compared to weight lifting it is safer to use since the moves are driven by the machine.
  • You can choose from many exercises for both the upper and lower body.
  • You can quickly change the resistance level, the amount of weight, that is suitable for you.
  • Even if home gym machines are packed with a lot of functions, they usually have a small footprint and a compact design. Hence, you will do not need so much space. (However, this greatly depends on the model you choose.)
  • You perform exercises that focus on one particular muscle group more, for example, cable biceps curls.

Cons

  • In most of the cases, they are rather hard to assemble, and they need maintaining.
  • You cannot do compound exercises like squats which are required to build “real” strength.
  • Since the motions are driven by the machines, secondary muscles are not activated. For example, when you do biceps curls with dumbbells your shoulders, core and many other muscles are activated as well to keep your balance and to complete the motion correctly.
  • They have a weight limit. I mean, as you develop sooner or later the maximum resistance level the machine provides may be not enough.

Verdict

A home gym machine is a versatile piece of exercise equipment for home, but it is not enough if you want to build big muscles and strength. It has its limits.

For whom is it suitable?

Anyone who want to shape muscles and be a stronger a bit, but not for real bodybuilding. It is good for beginners to get started with working out.

Recommended product reviews: Check the review of the top home gym machines here. Considering the price Marcy home gym machines are the best buy.

Free Weights (Dumbbells & Weight Sets)

free weights

There is no bodybuilding without barbell and dumbbell exercises. For real strength training, you should have free weights (adjustable dumbbells and/or barbell with weight plate).

Pros

  • You can do a lot of exercises for each body part as well as compound ones. You can create a complete workout routine for home.
  • Adjustable dumbbells do not take much space, but a barbell with weight plates can also be stored rather easily.
  • Training with free weights builds real strength since a lot of additional muscles, besides the primary one, work together to perform the movement correctly. For example, if you do dumbbell shoulder presses not only your deltoid muscle work, but also your core muscles to keep your balance.
  • They are rather affordable, but that depends on the amount of weight you would like to buy.

Cons

You may need additional workout equipment such as a weight bench and a power rack to use weights safely and comfortably meaning extra cost.

Verdict

There is no muscle building without free weights.

For whom is it for?

Anyone who wants to be stronger, build muscle and needs versatile pieces of fitness equipment for home.

Recommended products reviews:

Conclusion

Personally, if I started setting up my home gym, and have a small budget (lower than $200), I would get a power tower and a pair of dumbbells. If my budget were higher (around $500), I would get a power rack and an Olympic weight set.

If you have any questions and need help feel free to ask below, and I answer as soon as it is possible.

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