Nothing beats a workout and fresh air. Here are the benefits of putting your power rack outside and how to protect your squat rack and lifting equipment.
What could be better than enjoying a workout in the open air?
No more stuffy, enclosed gyms, boxes, or basement home gyms; instead, you’ve got the sun and clear blue skies overhead, a fresh breeze, and you’re surrounded by nature. Now that’s the way to work out!
Of course, the real concern is for the other days, you know the ones with the rain, sleet, snow, wildfire smoke, hail, wind, and chill.
So how can you make it work?
That’s what we’ve set out to discuss in this article!
Below, we’ll talk about the benefits of setting up your power racks, benches, barbells, dumbbells, squat rack, and other machinery outside, but we’ll also look at what you’ll need to do to protect the equipment from the elements.
By the end of this post, you’ll know everything necessary to get your outside gym set up and running!
Benefits of Putting Your Squat Rack Outside
Let’s start off by looking at the main reasons you’ll want to try placing your squat rack and/or power rack outside.
💪 Benefit #1: More Space
When working out indoors, you’ve got a few obstacles that can get in the way—specifically, walls and ceilings.
Walls will constrain the amount of space you’ve got to work with, both in terms of equipment placement and freedom of movement.
If your home gym is already packed with machines and benches, you might not have the space to install a squat rack.
Or, if you install another rack, you won’t have enough clear space for exercises like lunges (much less walking lunges!), deadlifts, or snatches. Outside, however, you’ve got a lot more room to work with!
Ceilings are an issue if A) they are low, and/or B) you are tall (like me).
There are a lot of exercises tall people can’t do indoors with 8-foot ceilings, including standing overhead presses, triceps extensions, and jump squats.
Even simple Yoga poses (like tree pose) becomes difficult when low roofs and long arms meet. But outside, you’ve got all the vertical space you need for overhead exercises—a great solution for taller lifters.
💪 Benefit #2: Less Risk of Damaging Your House
In previous articles (including Do You Have to Bolt Down a Squat Rack? and What Should I Put Under My Power Rack?), we’ve talked about the dangers of using squat racks and lifting heavy weights indoors.
Dropping a loaded barbell can chip or crack your floors or damage the weights.
Anchoring a squat rack to your garage or basement floor requires you to drill holes into your home’s foundation, or built a weightlifting platform (which takes up a lot of space!) to install it.
Of course, that’s just the beginning!
When lifting weights overhead, taller lifters run the risk of accidentally denting or breaking the roof (I’m speaking from experience here). If you trip, fall, or knock over a weight rack or machine, you could do serious damage to your walls (again, painful experience).
It’s just the consequence you have to accept when working out indoors.
But outside, you can set up your home gym far away from anything that could be easily damaged, and you can pour your own concrete floor specifically to support the weight of your equipment and weights.
If you need a roof, you can set it as high as you want so it’s not at risk when doing exercises like overhead triceps extensions or military presses.
Your house will be safe and you’ll have greater freedom of movement outdoors.
💪 Benefit #3: Fresh Air and Sunshine
This is probably the benefit that holds the greatest allure to most people.
The idea of being cooped up inside a stuffy basement or enclosed garage isn’t as appealing as being outside in the fresh air, cooling breeze, and bright sunshine.
You can build your muscles and work on your tan at the same time. What’s not to love?
Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of sunlight exposure every day, in order to maintain the production of Vitamin D (critical for your weightlifting efforts and health overall).
Fresh air and exposure to nature/green life have been proven to boost your mood, increase immunity, enhance energy, reduce feelings of stress, improve sleep quality, and even improve brain function.
If you’ve got the option to work out outside, you should absolutely take it!
Will My Squat Rack Rust if Left Outdoors?
Despite all the benefits of setting up your squat rack outside, there is the one big drawback: the risk of your equipment being damaged.
When you leave your rack outside, it’s exposed to a lot of potentially damaging things:
- Rain, which can rust steel, iron, and other metals.
- Snow, which adds the element of extreme cold to the danger of wet conditions.
- Salty sea air (for those who live by the beach), which speeds up rust formation and deterioration
- Direct sunlight, specifically the UV radiation that causes degeneration of plastic
It’s clear that you are putting your equipment at least at some risk by leaving it outside. Most metal will rust, plastic will deteriorate, and the lubrication that keeps the many parts of a squat rack, Smith machine, cable machine, and other more delicate pieces of gym equipment functioning will wear away faster.
Now, it’s important to note that not all types of squat racks will deteriorate. Galvanized steel is steel protected by a zinc coating that shields it from rust and deterioration.
Zinc will oxidize without rusting, and it will prevent water and/or oxygen from reaching the steel beneath. Thus, galvanized steel can last for 50 or more years without deteriorating like other metals (even stainless steel).
Another option is to use a squat rack that is painted with special rust-proof paint. Rust-proof paint isn’t as durable as the zinc coating used for galvanized steel, but it will extend the lifespan of any metal it’s applied to significantly.
The paint, when applied correctly, also stops water and oxygen from reaching the metal, preventing oxidation and rust.
How to Protect Your Squat Rack When It is Outdoors
Whatever type of squat rack you use—be it a standard indoor steel rack, a galvanized steel rack, a powder-coated steel rack, or painted steel rack—there are still a few simple precautions you can take to protect your rack against damage and deterioration by the elements.
If you’ve got the space, why not build yourself some sort of protection—in the form of a gazebo, pergola, awning, or roof?
You can even use a canopy roof or shelter of the sort that people take camping or to the beach, anything that will serve to provide shade against the sun and keep any direct rainfall off your equipment.
Use a Tarp
When not in use, protect your squat rack by covering it with a tarp. A tarp will shield it from direct sunlight and direct rainfall, and may even help to reduce humidity.
It’s a cheap investment that’s easy to use and will do wonders to extend the lifespan of your squat rack outdoors.
Always Opt for Rust-Resistant Hardware and Coatings
It’s not just the metal frame that should be forged from rust-resistant materials, but the hardware that connects it (bolts, nuts, washers) and accessories, too.
At the very least, apply a rust-resistant coating that will protect against rust and damage.
Drill Drain Holes
If you are leaving your equipment exposed to the rain (because it’s rust-resistant/galvanized steel), it may still be a good idea to drill drain holes into the rack’s base.
That way, any water that accumulates inside the equipment (the supports are usually hollow steel struts) will have a way to escape so it won’t rust your metal from the inside out.
Grease acts as both a lubricant and a protective shield against dust, dirt, and rain. If there are any moving parts, make sure to regularly apply grease to keep things in good working condition.
Check Regularly for Critters
You’d be amazed by how popular power racks can be to small creatures and critters! For example, spiders love to make their homes inside power racks, forming webs and laying their eggs inside the cool, damp darkness.
Mice, squirrels, even racoons may use the racks, too. It’s important that you pay attention to the equipment and look for any signs of animal use.
Frequent cleaning and application of bug spray should go a long way toward keeping out any critters or creatures.
Maintain as Needed
Regularly inspect the equipment for any signs of damage. If the galvanized coating or rust-proof paint is chipped, damaged, or peeled away, it could expose the metal beneath to the elements and cause it to rust.
Pay attention to the parts that receive the most use and wear, and re-apply protective paint or treatments as needed.
What About the Rest of My Gym Gear?
If you’re setting up an outdoor gym, you may have a lot of other equipment you want to include alongside your squat rack, such as:
- Weight plates
- Power rack attachments
- Cable machines
- Resistance bands
- Yoga mats and equipment
- and more!
All of these are susceptible to damage.
For example, iron kettlebells and weight plates will rust, or the rubber and plastic coating used to protect your weight plates will deteriorate with regular exposure to direct sunlight.
If you can’t afford to buy everything powder-coated, galvanized, or rustproof paint-coated, you have a couple of options for protecting your equipment from the elements:
- Use an outdoor shed. You can keep all of your equipment in the shed and only bring it out when you’re going to use it. A shed can provide a sturdy, freestanding, enclosed space that will suffice to protect your equipment from the elements and direct sunlight.
- Cover it with a tarp. You might need a lot of tarps to cover all your equipment, though. And tarps will only shield against direct rainfall and sunlight, not the ambient moisture in the air.
- Keep it in your house. A lot of people with an outdoor home gym setup will keep their less hardy equipment indoors—for example, in the garage or walk-out basement—and only bring it outside when they’re going to use it. If your outdoor gym is set up right outside your house, this may be a suitable option.
The truth is that not all gym equipment is tough enough to be kept outdoors.
If you don’t want to spring for the higher-priced, rust-resistant equipment, your best bet is to keep it indoors and away from the elements, and only bring it outside when you’re going to use it.
The Bottom Line
Setting up your squat rack, power rack, and other gym equipment outside puts it at a risk of rust, deterioration, and degradation.
Knowing this, you can actively take steps to buy equipment specifically built for outdoor use, as well as find ways to protect it from exposure to the elements.
A small amount of prevention and preparation can extend the lifespan of your outdoor gym equipment exponentially!
More Squat Rack Guides and Articles
How Much is a Squat Rack? (Cost of Every Kind of Rack). Squat racks are one of the best investments you can make for your lifting goals. Here’s a look at the cost of each type of squat rack, some of the hidden costs of buying a rack, and why they can be so expensive.
The Beginner’s Guide to Squat Racks (and How to Use Them Like a Pro). Ready to add the squat rack to your training routine? Here’s what you need to know about using this piece of equipment like a champ.
What is a Flat Foot Power Rack? Pros, Cons, and More. Flat-foot power racks are perfect for people who want a rack that doesn’t require bolting into the floor. Here’s more on flat foot racks, the pros and cons, and more.