Power Rack Safety Straps

Warning! What I am going to describe below is only what I have done myself. It is not a recommendation that you should do the same. In fact, most of the pieces I use below specifically include warnings that the pieces should not be used to hold weight overhead, be used for athletics, or used to support body weight. Anything you choose to copy from the following is done at your own risk.

Lifting safely by yourself has been a popular topic lately. This was brought to my attention quite directly under the weight of a 400 lbs squat attempt a couple weeks ago. It was further reinforced by a 70’s Big post and a video that has been making its way through social media recently:

While I typically pride myself on taking appropriate safety measures, the squat attempt a couple weeks ago revealed a flaw in my setup. When I missed the attempt, the bar dropped on my safety straps and bent open the quick links, catastrophically. While I frequently record my lifting attempts, unfortunately I did not record this one, and so I only have a picture of the aftermath. The good news is that the pin & pipe safety system survived with hardly a scratch.

broken saety straps

Failed Safety Straps due to…

broken link

Broken Quick Links

The pin & pipe safety system is likely the strongest, but when the barbell comes into contact with it, a couple things happen. First, the bar comes to an abrupt stop and/or bounces, particularly if one side hits before the other. This can be quite jarring. Second, when that impact occurs, if it is of sufficient force, it will mar the knurling on the barbell. I paid a decent price for my bar, and I’d like to keep it in the best shape I can.

I prefer straps because they take up slack more smoothly on a squat that goes a little deeper than planned, and because they do not mar the knurling on the barbell. I still believe my original strap system is safe and effective, with the exception of using master links in place of the quick links. The quick links were used in the mistaken belief that they were rated for enough loading force, and because they would allow for a fast transition from the bench position (lower) to the squat position (higher). This design is incredibly cost-effective, especially when compared to the commercially-available alternatives that start around $165.

original safety strap

The Original Safety Strap

The original strap system could have been corrected by simply replacing the quick links with threaded master links, but it still had one fundamental flaw for my garage gym: it was the wrong color. So, I set out to make a reasonably-priced strap system that would out-perform the first system, preferably in orange.

Here’s what I came up with. I started with four axle straps ($4 each, rated at 3,300 lbs). I used 3/8” clevises ($4 each, rated at 2,000 lbs) to connect to a master link ($2.50 each, rated at 1,980 lbs). The master link connects to one loop of a tree saver strap ($24 each or orange, as low as $14.50 each for yellow, rated at 20,000 lbs). The other end of the strap connects to 5/16” Grade 30 chain ($15 for 7 feet, rated at 1,900 lbs) using another 3/8” clevis.

safety straps labels

Safety Straps with Labels

Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, that means my entire system is rated for 1,900 lbs per side, as limited by the chain. I don’t know about you, but it’ll be a while before I squat 3,800 lbs! And the price isn’t too bad at $110, total. If I was willing to settle for yellow straps, I could have knocked the price down to $90.

 

Strap Adjusted for Rack Pulls, Squats and Bench Press

Strap Adjusted for Rack Pulls, Squats and Bench Press

I replaced all of the clevis cotter pins with hair pin clips for easier adjustment. And because I’m crafty like that, I added paracord lanyards to the clevis that will adjust the strap position for rack pulls, bench pressing or squatting. The lanyards make the clips easier to see and easier to remove.

hair pin clip lanyard

Hair Pin Clip with Lanyard

In closing, I prefer straps as the primary safety method, but I recommend setting the pin or pin & pipe safeties as a redundant back-up, just in case. In the end, can you really put a price on the life or limb you risk in the gym?

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8 thoughts on “Power Rack Safety Straps

  1. Pingback: DIY Suspension Straps | Garage Gym Guy

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Things I Want For My Home Gym | John PhungTop 10 Things I Want For My Home Gym

  3. thanks for this write up! I’m new to power racks, and am trying to mimic your setup…but I think I initially misinterpreted 2 things on this page:
    1) number of clevises used: 4
    2) total length of chain needed: 14′ (ie, 2 strips at 7′ each)

    Just to confirm, are these the actual numbers:
    1) number of clevises used: 6
    2) total length of chain needed: 7′ (ie, 2 strips at 3’6″ each)

    Also, I think I got thrown off by some terms you used, but I must confess: Prior to reading your post, I never heard anyone say “quick link,” “clevis,” or “master link” before…. So, I have these questions just because I’ve been trying to google the right words: When you mentioned “quick links,” are these the same as “spring snap links”? When you mentioned “master links,” were you actually referring to “quick links”? One more: Is a “clevis” also known as an “anchor shackle”?

    lastly, I think you described how have a clevis connected to all 4 axle straps. for 2 of the axle straps, why didn’t you connect the clevis directly to the tree saver strap? and for the other 2 axle straps, why didn’t you connect the clevis directly to the 5/16″ strip of chain?

    thanks again!

    • sorry, last part should have said this:

      lastly, I think you described how have a clevis connected to all 4 axle straps. for 2 of the axle straps, why didn’t you connect the clevis directly to the tree saver strap (similar to how the other 2 axle straps have the clevis connected directly to the 5/16″ strip of chain)?

    • Hlfty, as far as quantities, I think the photo I included with the call outs labeling each piece is most helpful. On that last point, you could connect the clevis directly to the tree saver strap.

  4. Cool setup. Just be aware: The “rated to X lbs” is a static rating. When you drop a bar, it’s a dynamic force which is sometimes WAY more force than the load on your bar. So you might drop a 300 lb squat, and it will generate 1200 lbs of force, etc…

  5. Great (and vital) share garagegymguy

    Those quick links can only take so much and many people (like you mention yourself) don’t realise they can break so easily. That’s why safety straps are just such a good and necessary item.

    Dave

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