Archives For power rack

I just mounted the monkey chin up bar upside down in my power rack.

Here’s what my power rack used to look like:

Here’s what it looks like now:


Close up:


Mounting the chin up bar upside down has increased the height from the top of the bar to the ceiling, which means I don’t have to worry about hitting my head on the rafters if I pull myself up too high (which has happened before).

Also, now it's lower to the ground, I don't need to deal with the hassle of stepping on and off a stool to do chin ups or pull ups anymore!

For those who want to workout at home and are planning on setting up a home gym, I’ve written this blog post that will hopefully guide you in the right direction as far as equipment selection, and cost.

This is my home gym so far:

(Go here if you can't see the image above)

I decided to start with, what I believe are the essentials to any home gym.

When I used to train at a commercial gym, I would occupy the squat rack (or power rack) and perform most of my training there. The selection of exercise equipment I’ve invested in is based on what I have used on a regular basis at the gym, which really isn’t much.

To minimize cost, I try to buy the equipment used. But this isn’t always possible because I prefer to have items delivered rather than picking it up myself.

Gym Flooring (Used)

Horse Stall Mats

The last thing I want is the steel plates damaging the concrete floor after a heavy deadlift, so proper gym flooring is essential.

My original plan was to buy horse stall mats from the Tractor Supply Company (TSC). But it’s a bit of a hassle to go there, pickup 10 rubber mats that’s 4’x6’, weigh 100lbs each and 3/4” thick, put it in the car and transport it home.

Luckily I found an ad on Kijiji (a classified ads website similar to Craigslist) from someone who was selling about 30 stall mats.

Turns out that these mats were used at a Crossfit gym in Waterloo! At the time, Crossfit Waterloo just moved location and wanted to sell their old stall mats.

These gym mats are made from virgin rubber, 4’x6’, 1/2” thick and weights around 100lbs. It was listed for $35 each, but I struck a deal and purchased 10 for $300. Best part is, it was delivered! (And no tax!)

It’s awesome for weights, but when tried hitting the “Body Opponent Bag” while barefoot, the bottom of my foot was all black. I’ll need to get some proper mats designed for martial arts in the future if I don’t want to be scrubbing my feet for 10 minutes after kicking the bag.

Cost: $300 for 10 mats.

Amstaff TR023 Power Rack

AmStaff TR023

Next I needed a power rack or squat rack. I was debating about the Amstaff TR023 or a Rogue power rack, but in the end choose Amstaff.

It’s a solid rack with band attachments and monkey bars at a low price. Check out my review here.

Cost: $449.99

AmStaff TS015F Commercial Heavy-Duty Flat Bench

AmStaff Bench

Purchased this bench along with the power rack.

Cost: $98.99

Total cost for the power rack and bench with shipping: $732.55

800lbs Olympic Plates

Olympic Plates

540lbs York & CAP Olympic Plates

I managed to find some good deals on Kijiji, and this is the best deal I’ve encountered to date.

A lady wanted to get rid of twelve 45lbs Olympic plates. I’m not exactly sure why she even had so much weight in the first place. She wanted $50 to have them removed from her premises. AWESOME.

The only negative about this was I had to pick them up myself, and the plates were rusty (I have since refinished half of plates). But at 50 bucks, it was a deal I could not pass up.

Cost: $50

245lbs Bollinger Plates

I also found this on Kijiji. Not a killer deal, but the price was fair at $170 delivered. It also included an Olympic bar. The plates are:

  • 45lbs x 2
  • 35lbs x 2
  • 25lbs x 2
  • 10lbs x 2
  • 5lbs x 2
  • 2.5lbs x 2

The plates are marked “Bollinger”. I don’t think this company makes Olympic plates anymore. I’m not even sure it still exists.

Cost: $170

Weider 5lbs Olympic Plates (2)

I bought this from I wanted an extra pair of 5lbs plates so I can have all possible combination of weights.

Cost = $20

Rogue Fractional Plates

Purchased these from Rogue Fitness. Expensive, but very very useful. My review of the Rogue fractional plates here.

Cost: $75

Total Cost

  • 540lbs York and CAP plates = $50
  • 245lbs Bollinger = $170 *included a crappy Olympic bar
  • 10lbs Weider = $20 *including shipping, taxes and rounding up
  • 5lbs Rogue Fraction Plates = $75 *including shipping, taxes and rounding up
  • Total: 800lbs for $315

Ivanko COT-1.25 Olympic Pressure-Ring Training Collar

Ivanko COT-1.25 Olympic Pressure-Ring Training Collar

When I was living in Bangkok, Thailand and training at a gym there, the plates kept on sliding on the Olympic bar, even when I used spring collars. Purchased these collars from Amazon and haven’t that problem since.

Cost: $60 including shipping

B&R Bar

The B&R bar a solid bar that’s probably going to last me the rest of my life if I take care of it properly. Read my review of the B&R bar here.

Cost: $350 *included shipping & taxes.

Cap Barbell RK-1 Standard Plate Rack

I was thinking I could save some cash by having my weights on the floor. That thought lasted about a day, since I couldn’t stand seeing all the plates lying around.

I bought 2 of these because I wanted a weight tree on each side of the rack. It would make it convenient to load the bar on each side. I also need 2 because one weight tree wasn’t going to hold 800lbs of plates. Check my review here.

Cost: $110 *included taxes. Shipping was free.



1.5L bucket of “Teknik Chunky Yeti Chalk”. Purchased this from MEC. 1 tub cost $8. I’ll round this up to $10 with taxes.

Cost: $10

Ironmind Headstrap Fit for Hercules Neck Harness

Ironmind Headstrap Fit for Hercules Neck Harness

I got this while I was living in Bangkok. I wanted a neck harness that was durable, but lightweight. Most neck harnesses I’ve seen uses chains, but the one from Ironmind is made from nylon (I think) and supposedly can hold over a ton. Works for me!

Cost: $119.95 *including shipping

Ironmind De Rigueur Dipping Belt (Used)

Ironmind De Rigueur Dipping Belt

I also purchased this while I was living in Bangkok. There wasn’t a dip belt at my gym, so I scoured the interwebz to find a durable but lightweight dip belt. I found the this Ironmind dipping belt on eBay at a great price. There’s no metal chains, so it’s very light. Also, it’s made by Ironmind, who makes equipment for the World’s Strongest Man competitions.

Cost: $49 *including shipping



I’ve seen these advertised everywhere, so I decided to pick up a pair and see what’s all the fuss is about. They’re actually pretty good.

Total Cost: $40.26 *including taxes and shipping

B.O.B (Body Opponent Bag)


When I was planning my home gym, I knew I watched something to punch and kick. It was either a heavy bag, or a free standing bag. I got this off Kijiji. Right now it’s being used as a place to hang some of my gear.

To be honest, hitting a freestanding bag is not the same as hitting a properly hung heavy bag. Even when filled to the top with water, it still moves around when I kick it.

Cost: $200

Ikea Jerker Desk (Version 1)

I’m currently using this as a standing desk. I got this off Kijiji for $35 delivered.

Combined with a laptop and speakers, I use this area to:

  1. Keep a record of my workouts on my blog
    What I used to do is log my workouts in my iPod Touch. I would make a draft, and then upload it to my website. But now I can do everything straight from my laptop which eliminates the extra step uploading from the iPod.
  2. Play music during my workouts
    I hooked up an old pair of Monsoon MM-700 speakers and usually play the Trance or Goa-Psy Trance channel from
  3. Write
    I’m finding that having a separate computer and location to do specific work really helps with productivity.It also helps being surrounded by exercise equipment when writing about exercise as well.


So far, in total I’ve invested $2321.76 in my home gym.

You might think that’s a lot, but $2321.76 pays for a little over 3 years of a gym membership, assuming the monthly cost is $60 (not including the cost of transportation).

But since there’s 2 people using my home gym on a regular basis, $2321.76 will cover about 1 year and 7 months worth of a gym membership. I plan on lifting weights until I’m on my death bed, so the way I see it, $2321.76 for my current home gym is good investment.

If you’ve got the space and you TRAIN on a regular basis at a gym, I would seriously consider setting up a home gym. You don’t need to buy all the equipment at once, and you can find some pretty damn good deals on classified ads websites such as Kijiji or Craigslist.

Best part is, you don’t have to deal with any of the annoyances typically found in a commercial gym!

The Amstaff TR023 is the Canadian version of the Force USA F-PC power rack with band attachments. I bought it from, but it's also available on

It’s inexpensive, almost perfect for my needs, but has some flaws.

Here’s my review:


I've debated about getting the Amstaff TR023 power rack or one of the Rogue Fitness power racks (such as the R3 or R4) for a long time, but finally decided on the Amstaff.

Rogue Fitness equipment is awesome, but I took a risk with a unknown brand.

Here's why:

  • It's cheaper (probably because it’s made in China)
  • Includes dip bars, whereas Rogue sells it as a separate attachment (Rogue Matador)
  • Includes monkey bars for chin ups & pull ups
  • The width of the Amstaff rack is wider (50.5” compared to 43”). I’ve found that I would have to be extra careful with racks that are too narrow. There’s been a few time where I would re-rack the bar from the squat, and almost catch my pinky in between the bar and J-hooks. Also, because the Amstaff rack is wide, I could perform wide stance squats inside the cage, allowing me to make use of the safety pins.
  • 2 pairs of J-hooks (compared to 1 pair for the Rogue R-3 and R-4)
  • 8 band pegs for band work (compared to 4 for the Rogue rack)
  • The stabilizer bar on the Amstaff rack is positioned so that you won't hit your foot/shins while you're setting up or racking the bar during the squat. The Rogue rack looks like it would be in the way if you squat.
  • Doesn't need to be bolted to the ground. I don’t have the tools to bolt a power rack onto the concrete floor, so this would be an additional cost. Also, if I decide to move my rack, it would be a pain to un-bolt, and re-bolt the rack elsewhere, along with having to repair the basement floor, which I do not know how to do.
  • The height of the rack is lower (the height of the Amstaff rack is 84”, or 7’. The Rogue power racks are 90”, or 7’6”). I was going to have my home gym in the garage, but after finding out that the garage floor was sloped, I decided to move it to the basement. The ceiling of my basement is too low to accommodate the height of the Rogue power racks

With these points in mind, I went with the Amstaff TR023 power rack.

Initial Impressions

I was pretty excited to get the power rack, since it’s a must-have piece of equipment for any home gym.

It arrived in separate boxes which was well packed.




Assembly was pretty easy. I was able to put it all together myself in about 2-3 hours.





The worst part about assembling the Amstaff TR023 power rack was the assembly manual. The pictures and text quality are clear, but the instructions looks like it was translated from Chinese to English. Check out the picture below to see what I mean:





Some Details

After I finished assembling the rack, the first thing I did was take my Olympic bar that I purchased from Kijiji (eBay’s version of Craigslist) and put it inside the rack.


Amstaff-TR023-widthNote: B&R bar is the top bar. The Kijiji bar is on the bottom.

Amstaff-TR023-width B&R-bar


The width of the Amstaff TR023 rack (50.5 inches) is wider than the shaft of my Olympic bar, which is 50 inches.

It turns out that the Olympic bar I had wasn’t even made to standard specifications. The spacing in between the collars for an Olympic bar should be 1310mm, or 51.57 inches in length. ( (So if you’re thinking of buying a used barbell from Craigslist, make sure take measurements first!)

At this point, I had a good reason to purchase a new barbell (I am now a proud owner of the B&R bar from Rogue Fitness, which fits inside the Amstaff TR023 power rack).

But now that I have a bar that can fit inside the rack, I can write a detailed and accurate review!

Using the Rack

Even though I have the B&R bar which fits inside this power rack, it appears to be too wide for my liking.

For the B&R bar, the spacing in between the collars is 51.57 inches. Since the Amstaff TR023 rack is 50.5 inches wide (NOTE: It’s listed as 51 inches, but I measured it to 50.5 inches), I only have 1.07 inches to work with!

That’s a little more than 1/2 inches of “wiggle room” on each side of the rack.

The good part about this is that it’s not difficult to center the bar with the rack. With power racks that I’ve used in the past, sometimes I would need to shift the bar 5-6” to get it centered. With the Amstaff rack, I only have to move the bar a fraction of an inch.

The bar part is that since I don’t have much space move from side to side, I have to be extra careful when taking the bar out of the rack, and putting the bar back onto the J-hooks.

When taking the bar off the J-hooks for a set of squats, sometimes I wobble out of the rack, moving the bar from side to side. With power racks that are more narrow, it is possible to do this without the 45lb plates hitting the side of the rack. With the Amstaff TR023, I need to walk straight back before setting up my stance for squats.

Also, because the cage is wide, the width of the safety pins are wide too. Meaning that my body needs to be centered with the rack when I squat, or else the collars would hit the safety pins once I descend to the bottom.

When placing the bar back onto the J-hooks, again, my body (and the bar) needs to be nearly centered with the rack or else I would hit the collars onto the J-hooks. This can be difficult after a heavy set of squats, when you’re out of breath, seeing stars and barely have enough strength to walk the bar forward.

Lastly, I was planning to do standing overhead presses inside of this power rack, but because of the width of the rack, sometimes I would hit the top of the rack with the 45lb plates.

Although it’s usable, the width of the rack forces me to be extra careful. Still, I would prefer a little wiggle room just in case.

Stuff I Like

Pin Holes


The hole spacing is about 1.5 inches apart. Other power racks I used in the past had hole spacing of 2-2.5 inches. This is awesome because I can adjust the height of the J-hooks for bench press & squats to the right height.

There are 42 pin holes from top to bottom. Although I won’t be using most of them, it’s nice to know I have that option.


The frame is 2.5”x2.5” and feels solid.

The blue and black colour (or "color" for you readers from the US and A) combination looks pretty cool!



There are 2 sets of J-hooks (total of 4). This makes it convenient because I can set a pair of J-hooks for squats, and another one for bench press, meaning I don’t need to take them off and put them back on ever time I change exercise.

And according to the product description, the J-hooks should be able to hold 1000lbs. I won’t be approaching that weight anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that these hooks will be able to accommodate any weight I can lift.

Monkey Bars


There are 2 bars that run parallel to each other, and another set of bars that are angled (See pictures below). I like the angled set of bars when doing pull ups & chin ups because it feels more natural, and isn’t painful on my elbows as straight bar pullups & chinups.

The knurling on the monkey bars aren’t as aggressive as I expected, since it’s covered in blue paint.




Although there isn’t a fat and skinny bar like the chin up attachment on the Rogue power racks, I’ve attached a pair of Fatgripz to mimic a thicker pullup bar.


I can purchase additional attachment for this power rack. They include lat pull down/low row combo, pec dec, and cable cross overs.

Dip Attachments



I’ve read somewhere that “dips are the squats for the chest”, so I wanted a power rack that included a dip attachment.

The dip attachment for the Amstaff power rack are sufficient.

There are 2 bars that attaches itself the same way as the J-hooks. When attached, the dip bars are parallel to each other.

The padded handles on the dip attachment comes off quite easily. I’m not sure what these handles are made of, but it doesn’t offer much in terms of padding. Also, it looks as though the dip bars are hollow.

I haven’t tried performing weighted dips on these yet, but they hold up quite well with my body weight of 190lb.

Band Pegs and Band Peg Holes




There are 8 band pegs with 8 spring collars to keep the pins in place on the rack.

18 pin holes on the bottom, and 15 on top.

I haven’t incorporated bands into my training (yet) and I don’t have any bands to test out the band pins. But it’s great to know I have a wide option of holes and 8 band pegs to work with once I do.

Stuff I Don't Like

Power Rack Width

(See above).

No Plate Storage

It doesn't have plate holders attached to the rack, but at this price point, it’s no surprise. That means I'm going need a weight tree. I ended up getting 2 CAP standard weight trees, which I review here.

No Numbered Pin Holes

The pin holes are not numbered! Other versions of this power rack (Force USA) has numbers on the side of the rack to show what pin hole you’re using, whereas the Amstaff TR023 has none. A bit of a pain when I’m trying to set the left & right J-hooks and safety pins at the same level. In the future I’ll probably end up buying a metallic marker and writing in the numbers myself.



The Amstaff TR023 power rack is almost perfect.

It’s half the price of a Rogue power rack, and has a TON of features. The only issue I have is the width of the rack. It may not be a problem with others, and I think I’ll probably get used to using a wide power rack over time.

The Amstaff TR023 is great value for money, even if this is not a well known brand.