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The Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD, to give you a comparison you might understand, is just a piece of gym equipment in the same vein that a custom chopper is just a motorcycle. For some, it will function somewhat similarly to other squat racks on the market. To those that understand and like all of the various details associated with high-end products, this is one of the most unique and custom pieces of gym equipment on the market. If you’re a Powerlifting Meet Director or just want to practice like you play, this is one of the best, most unique combo racks on the market.
Ghost Strong came onto our radar in the middle of 2019. As usual, I was researching equipment suppliers and new designs and came across some benches that were done by Ghost Strong for Hybrid Performance Method’s Gym where Stefi Cohen trains. What initially struck me was how much detail was put into the various laser-cut logos and attachment points.
Come to find out, Ghost Strong, although somewhat new to building strength training equipment, has been around for 100+ years doing metalwork and fabrication in a 50,000 sq ft. shop with over 75 employees. It’s obvious that Ghost Strong knows what they’re doing when it comes to welding, cutting, and fabricating. Everything they sell is made in the US using US-sourced steel and is designed to be the absolute best with no cost spared. This means many of their products are pricey, but for those that like quality, this is yet another competitor for companies like Sorinex, Rogue Fitness (on some of their Monster and new Reflex lines,) Powerlift Equipment, Williams Strength/EliteFTS, Dynamic Fitness, Legend Fitness, and others.
Not only has Ghost Strong caught the attention of many consumers, but they’re also now even garnering attention from competing companies such as Chris Duffin from Kabuki Strength who now sell a collaborative version of the Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD and is the same rack that Chris squatted 1,001 LB for three reps on.
The Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD is designed to be the ultimate combo rack for those that train and compete in powerlifting. Go to any powerlifting meet today, especially USPA and you’re almost guaranteed to see at least one combo rack (unless it’s a geared meet and then you’ll find monolifts, which they also make.) A combo rack combines a squat rack and competition flat bench that is removable. These racks are extremely strong, functional, easy to move, and made to take a lot of abuse.
The Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD is not the first combo rack, but it is an extremely well thought out interpretation on the design originally created by ER Equipment. It focuses on a vast amount of customization and small, yet impactful refinements—the patent-pending Ghost Return Roller that brings the barbell to the front of the j-cups as well as the patent-pending Joint/Cam Design that allows the uprights to come in or at an angle for those that like to grip the barbell wide during a back squat or be completely vertical during the bench press.
If you’re hosting powerlifting meets or like to practice as you play, then, as you’ll see, this is one of the best options on the market (so long as you don’t mind paying for the quality.)
There’s a lot to like about the Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD, especially for someone like me that is often putting time in on testing and providing reviews on budget-friendly home gym equipment—which is the exact opposite of what this rack is.
Although Ghost Strong makes other equipment, in my opinion, this and their monolift are the best examples of what they bring to the table. Here’s what I like about the Combo Rack HD.
Nearly Every Detail Is Well Thought Out
It’s obvious as soon as the shipping box shows up on your doorstep that Ghost Strong isn’t just trying to make another product. They’re trying to make a Ferrari, or better yet, a Ford GT40 as the rack is made entirely in the US.
This is the box that showed up on my doorstep:
By far, this is the most over the top packaging I’ve ever received a piece of equipment in. The crate is made by SharkCrates and utilizes thick chipboard and aluminum strips screwed at the corners. If the rack was anywhere near the level of quality of the box it was shipped in, then I knew it would be special.
Once I unwrapped every piece, which by the way were all individually wrapped in foam to prevent any metal on metal contact, I quickly assembled the beast.
One thing that stood out to me is the fact that I didn’t have to have a single tool in my hand during assembly. The rack uses a completely toolless design (unless you need to replace the Return Rollers or UHMW Plastic.) Instead of using a myriad of different bolts, nuts, and screws, Ghost uses a single style of hand-tightened, knurled-edge screws. Oh, and they’re all machined in house:
These screws are easy to tighten, make the rack secure without having to use wrenches, and give the rack a great look.
I will get more into the details on the customization aspects, powder coating, and the like later in this review which are things that really stood out to me, the two most unique features of the rack are what Ghost Strong currently has pending for patents. Those are the Ghost Return Rollers and the Joint/Cam Design.
We’ve posted about the Ghost Return Roller J-Cups previously and use them frequently on my Sorinex BaseCamp Power Rack. The idea of the roller is that it’s shaped in such a way that forces the barbell to roll to the front of the j-cup. Rather than sit in the middle or just have a platform that it rolls on, the bar will roll to edge pretty much every time you rack, unless it’s very uneven and an extremely heavily loaded bar. This allows you to set up in the same position every time. In addition to rolling the bar forward, they also sit on ABEC Bearings that allows the trainee to roll the bar side to side to even it on the rack regardless of how much load is on the bar (we tested it with over 700 LB and still no issues.)
Although it takes some getting used to if you come from a standard style or even sandwich j-cups, we really like the design and found that others that used it did as well.
The other patented piece on the rack is the Joint/Cam Design which is at the base of the uprights. This design allows you to easily adjust the width of the uprights depending on the movement. For instance, when you’re squatting, it’s preferred by most to have the uprights directed inwards so you can grip wide (most powerlifters due to their muscle mass and lack of mobility grab the bar out near the sleeve collars.) When you’re benching, the uprights can be directed vertically so there’s more room to grip the bar. This Joint/Cam Design was not only easy to adjust, but it felt secure every time.
A few other details worth noting that we were happy to see. The bench top uses a grippy vinyl that is comparable in feeling to the most loved bench pad of all time, the Rogue Thompson Fat Pad (and is also kind of seen on a more budget-friendly version, the Rep FB-5000 Competition Flat Bench.) The foam beneath the pad is dense and should keep its shape for decades. The foam then sits on a sheet of UHMW plastic that lines the entire bottom of the bench. This is actually a very unique and premium feature considering even the best benches in the world still use plywood as their base.
The bench top sits on one of the heaviest, most stable bench frames that has diamond plate spotter platforms and castor wheels that allow the bench to drop into the squat rack.
Lastly, the inside of both the spotter arms and uprights are filled with cedar wood that makes pushing the pin through and finding the other hole seamless.
The more you go through the rack, the more you see little details that are often unthought of.
The Combo Rack HD is Quick and Easy to Adjust and Use
A combo rack needs to be quick and easy to adjust, especially when it’s going to be used in powerlifting meets with varying height and strength lifters.
There are five main adjustment points that I feel are worth mentioning. First is just the fact that the entire rack can be disassembled in less than 10 minutes. I did this three times as I transported it between my garage gym and personal training studio.
The next adjustment points are the Cam/Joint Design, Return Rollers, and drop-in bench which we already detailed.
On the front of the rack are two spotter arms. These spotter arms are really only designed to be used during the bench press, although I’m sure you’d be fine using them while squatting. They use a square male end that inserts into a female hole which is then secured with thumbscrews. The spotter arms themselves adjust up and down using the same pin as the uprights for security and also have laser-cut numbers to make evening them out a cinch.
The bottom of the spotter arms have band pegs welded on to allow for bands in training.
The last adjustment point I want to highlight, and the one that will most often be used is the adjustment of the uprights. In order to raise and lower the uprights, even while the bar is loaded with 1,000 LB or more, the uprights use a pin and hole along with a lever mechanism to provide leverage when adjusting the height of the bar for different lifters.
As we noticed when running a squat session with 10 of the strongest lifters in our area, adjusting the height of the uprights to between lifters needs to be quick, safe, and easy to do. Without explaining anything, the lifters were able to adjust the uprights between each lift with only one problem (which will be explained in the improvement section.) This is an awesome design that although Ghost Strong didn’t invent, they did a good job implementing it. If you lift with a lot of different people on the same rack and want to use the same bar, this is one of the most enjoyable features we’ve used in a rack outside of a jack on a monolift (which is more expensive and takes up more space.)
Overall, the Combo Rack HD allows for easy adjustments, assembly, and use. If you want something even easier to disassemble and move, Ghost Strong now makes a combination rack made specifically for meet directors that move equipment often.
The Customizability is Nearly Limitless
As you’ve probably noticed, this rack doesn’t have a run of the mill color scheme or look. Nearly every part is able to be customized with colors or logos. The color scheme I chose to go with was a glossy clear coat and red accent color to match the rest of my equipment. Clearcoat is my favorite as it allows all of the hard work and qualities of the company to show off. For instance, on parts of the rack you can see that the steel is US-sourced and the quality welds with no overspray show up really well.
The part of the rack that is essentially a banner for custom work is the bench spine. Using what I believe is 14 gauge steel sheets, Ghost Strong made a banner featuring both their logo (which by the way is one of my favorite in the industry) and the Garage Gym Reviews logo. Utilizing four different sheets of steel to make up the layers of the banner logos allows it to have depth and contrast. It truly is one of a kind.
The way I like to describe Ghost Strong is they’re a custom chopper shop that decided to make gym equipment.
Although the Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD is one of the best currently available, there are things we would like to see improved.
First off, and this is the most minor of all, is the use of stickers throughout the rack. There are many laser-cut logos featured throughout the rack, but in addition, Ghost added stickers. I don’t like stickers, but they’re easy to remove and don’t leave a residue to if you get a rack, you can decide to keep them or not.
Next, one thing that isn’t necessarily something they should improve, but I should have considered is powder-coated uprights and spotter arms. I really like the contrasting red color to the clear grind, but it scratches like crazy when adjusting them up and down. Looking back on it, if I knew what I know now, I would not have chosen a color for the uprights but instead requested stainless steel which is seen on the new Ghost Strong X Kabuki Strength Combo Rack HD. I would suggest you listen to me on this one.
The next area for improvement is one that’s not very surprising to me, but I do think needs to be addressed. Put simply, there is too much metal on metal contact. We had the same comments when we received their Ghost Return Roller J-Cups and there was no UHMW plastic between the inside of the j-cups and the squat rack uprights. They’ve since made the change and I think the should design a solution for the Combo Rack as well. The biggest issue here is the sleeved upright that houses the moveable upright has no protective plastic between the two. This means, whenever you adjust the height, the metal on the pieces rubs together and absolutely scrapes the paint off. If the uprights where stainless steel, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but I still think there should be some sort of protective plastic there as well as on the spotter arms. There should also be protective plastic on the points where the bench drops into the rack to again prevent metal on metal contact and unnecessary scratching of powder coat.
Lastly, an issue we encountered while testing the rack is that during squats as the bar got heavier, adjusting the uprights with the lever arm became more difficult as it would sometimes get stuck due to the upright angling in. I think the attachment pieces between the leverage arms and the uprights should be more sturdy with less wobble. The additional play allowed in the braces for the arms also made it so that if you dropped the lever arm without paying attention, it would often go around the angle bracket designed to hold it.
All in all, the Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD is an incredible rack; we just think it could be even better.
There are quite a few combo racks on the market today. Here are the ones we’ve used that we think are closest competitors.
Rogue Combo Rack vs. Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD
For most people, the Rogue Combo Rack from Rogue Fitness is a better value due to better pricing and shipping cost. However, I don’t feel the Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD is really designed to compete with Rogue’s offering. If you want something off the shelf, go with Rogue. You’re going to get a high-quality, extremely well thought out piece of equipment with outstanding customer service. If you want something custom with all the bells and whistles and something truly one of a kind, Ghost would be my pick.
ER Equipment Combo Rack vs. Ghost Strong Combo Rack HD
Although ER Equipment came out with the first Combo Rack, it’s not near the level of quality of many of the newer competitors, yet it still carries a hefty price tag. Honestly, I wouldn’t suggest the ER Equipment Combo Rack, unless you just really want the original.
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