Want to put your squat rack outdoors? I can understand the appeal, lifting outside is great and lets you escape the feeling of a crowded commercial gym or stuffy garage home gym.
The only problem is the squat racks can be EXPENSIVE. You do not want to have your $1000 dollar + rack rust away into nothing in your backyard.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you may choose to put your power rack outside and how you can keep it safe.
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Why Would I Put My Squat Rack Outside?
One of the main limitations home gym owners have is space. Even if you get one of the smaller options, squat racks require lots of space to be set up.
It is also not just about space for the squat rack, lifters also need plenty of space to do their exercises. If you like to do lifts that require raising the bar overhead, you may find that your ceiling is too low. Also, if you like doing dynamic exercises like farmer walks or lunges, your small little home gym just is not gonna cut it.
No Worries About Damaging Your Home
If you are renting and just want to avoid potential floor repair costs, putting your squat rack outdoors is one of the easiest solutions.
I personally have gone through the process of setting up a squat rack in my home and it is no small task. I had to put foam padding and protection EVERYWHERE. Initially, I just had it on the floor, but I quickly realized that my barbells and weight plates have a habit of scratching up my walls.
Even if you take heavy precautions, the reality is that years of abuse will take on a toll on your floors and home eventually. This is just the trade-off you make by having the ease of training at home.
I LOVE Being Outdoors
This varies a lot by where you live, but I live in the southeast of the United States. The weather here is great and I try to soak up as much of it as I can.
I have done both the hardcore, grungy garage as well as the outdoor home gym and can tell you I prefer the outdoor option 100%.
It is also not just a personal preference, it is common knowledge that most people are just not getting enough sunlight and therefore not enough Vitamin D. If you are going to work out anyway why not just do it outside?
You get all the benefits of training with all the benefits of sunlight and fresh air.
Does Outdoor Gym Equipment Rust?
The simple answer is that any sort of metal left exposed to the elements will deteriorate in some way. If you choose to leave your rack outside, it experiences lots of potentially damaging conditions:
Rain: Repeated exposure to water will rust anything made of steel, iron, or other common metal surfaces
Salty air: If you live close to the coast, you will know that metals tend to rust much faster in the ocean due to the salt in the air
Extreme heat: Your rack will not melt away but direct exposure to sunlight and high temperatures will cause the paint to fade and rubber components to deform
Extreme cold: The cold is not necessarily bad but if there is any liquid trapped in your rack, the freezing, and expansion of this liquid may deform your rack
That being said, even under the absolute worst conditions, most squat racks are pretty durable. It will take years of rust and rough treatment for it to deteriorate to the point of unusability.
Meanwhile, the same cannot be said for other gym equipment. At the end of the day, a rack is just a metal cage meant to hold your bar and protect you. There are very few moving parts or intricate machinery. If you have any sort of machine or cable set up, these will deteriorate at a much faster rate.
How To Protect Your Outdoor Squat Rack
If you decide that you want your power rack to be outdoors, there are some steps you can take to ensure your rack lasts as long as possible.
Choose The Right Rack
Squat racks can differ a lot in quality depending on the manufacturer and material used. If you do not already have a rack, I would heavily recommend looking for racks made with galvanized steel.
The magic of galvanized steel is that it is covered with a special layer of zinc that limits the rust and deterioration seen with traditional steel. Galvanized steel can easily last 50 years or more without seeing any significant rust deterioration.
If you cannot find a rack that uses galvanized steel or find them to be too pricey, the other choice is to buy a rack that has pained with rust-proof paint. This option is not as durable as galvanized steel, but it will still add some level of protection.
Limit Direct Exposure
If your rack is outdoors or near a wall, a great option would be to make some sort of awning or canopy roof. You still get all the benefits of training at an outdoor gym but limit the direct exposure of your rack to the elements.
Get A Tarp
This is by far the easiest step you can take. Buy a large tarp and just toss it over your rack whenever you are not using it. A cheap tarp will do a great job of keeping most of the water and sunlight away.
Apply An Anti-Rust Coat And Get Rust Resistant Hardware
If you already have a power rack and want to use it outdoors, just go to your local hardware store and pick up a can rust resistant paint or spray.
This stuff is traditionally used for the bottom of cars, but there is no reason why you cannot use it on your rack.
The next you are going want to do is swap all the bolts, nuts, and washers in your rack for rust resistant alternatives.
Let The Water Out
Depending on the rack you have, water may begin to fill your rack and pool around the base. As mentioned before, water leads to rust. But the presence of large quantities of still water is also just unsanitary.
You can easily limit this by drilling a few holes at the bottom of your rack. The structural integrity won’t be impacted and all of the water should drain out.
Do Regular Maintenance
Since your rack is outdoors, you are going to have to clean and maintain it.
If you have ever been to an old gym, you know that adjusting safety arms and j-cups on rusty, old racks is next to impossible. If you want to avoid this, make sure to grease the holes in your uprights frequently. It also would not hurt to do this with your j-cups and safety arms as well.
Next, you are going to want to check your rack for animals. It may sound off but the structure of the rack makes it a great place for lizards, mice, and insects to populate. Besides just being gross, the animals may begin to chip away at your rack. Just go ahead and spray some bug spray to avoid this mess.
Lastly, you want to repaint ant-rust paint as needed. Once a year or every 6 months should be more than enough.
What About My Other Gym Gear?
I personally I more cautious about storing the rest of your gym equipment outdoors. Things such as:
Just tend to rest much easier than regular racks.
The second concern you have here is theft. It depends on your location, buts lots of you probably would not feel comfortable leaving some of your nicer barbells or weight plates outside. A rack is fine since it so big and usually bolted down. Anything anyone can easily pick up and take is a cause of concern for me.
Now, you can easily work around this by getting a storage box or outdoor shed. You can lock up all your gym equipment while still having it easily accessible.
What Type Of Weight Plates Should I Get?
Bumper plates are the go-to in this scenario. Regular metal plates are both more likely to rust and chip your floor if it is concrete.
However, you can still use metal plates if you want. Just maybe consider getting some crash cushions to limit damage to both the plates and the floor.
Keep It Simple
I think outdoor gyms should really just be a fun extension of your regular training. As such, I would try not to overcomplicate things or worry too much.
If you live somewhere, where you cannot use your rack for months, it is best to keep it indoors. For those that have to deal with brutal winters, it is better to just keep the rack inside.
If you are really concerned about your equipment getting beat up, just get a cheap rack or build a simple DIY one that you can let wear away with no guilt. Also, you do not need to leave your fancy cable and landmine attachment outdoors. Just stick with some spotter arms and j hooks. You do not really need much else.
Use your common sense when it comes to these sorts of things. The more you use and keep all the parts of your outdoor squat rack moving, the less opportunity you are giving rust to form.
Squat racks are made of metal and metal is at risk of rust and deterioration.
However, it is perfectly fine your keep your squat rack outdoors. You just have to take some steps that will add to the durability and make sure you stay on top of regular maintenance.
Working out outside is an experience that every lifter should have.
With any brand, it is going to depend on the material used. Galvanized steel and racks painted with an anti-rust coating will be better for leaving outdoors.
The northeast and north in general are the most rust-prone areas of the United States. Having a rack outside will require heavy maintenance. Even then, the rack will likely rust.
We have an in-depth guide with a tutorial and various ideas for DIY squat racks.
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