Table of Contents
When it comes to suitable equipment for either a commercial gym or garage gym, choosing can be a little overwhelming. Once you’ve determined what you need, you’ll likely discover many alternative options that makes the decision all the more confusing.
Recommended Reading – Smith Machine vs Squat Rack : What Are The Pro’s & Cons
This is especially true of racks. Whether it’s a full rack, a power cage, half rack or squat rack. Are there any differences? If so, what are they and how should you go about choosing?
First off, let’s take a look at primary difference between a squat rack and a power rack as these are the most options for many gyms.
Power Rack vs Squat Rack Differences
The main difference between a power rack and a squat is their use. A power rack is more versatile when compared to a squat rack and tends to offer more features. Below we consider these differences in more detail.
A power rack, sometimes called a squat cage or power cage, are large pieces of equipment made up of four steel uprights which are connected by horizontal bars.
In comparison, a squat rack, often referred to as squat stands, simply comprise of two freestanding uprights which are sometimes connected from the base, and feature adjustable uprights to offer various heights for the user.
If you’re in the market for a power rack, consider the different sizes as some are manufactured to allow for wide stance squatting and often there are many different heights. If your gym has quite low ceilings make sure you consider the height of any rack and ensure it can be assembled and used to its full functionality.
For example, if the rack offers pull up bars, a low ceiling height could impede their use.
Due to the much smaller size of the squat rack, this tends to make it a good option for home gyms or gyms with limited space. Some options even allow you to disassemble them post training so you can store them away until next time.
A full power rack will allow for many different exercises compared to the squat rack. By it’s very name, the squat rack will only usually allow for squatting.
If you want more functionality but don’t have the space for a full power rack, consider combo racks instead. A combo rack, also called combination rack, features a flat bench that can be released to allow a user to perform squats and bench press. The combined bench also opens it up to other exercises making it a great choice for garage gyms.
Whilst power racks do vary in terms of their functionality, they can allow for a full body workout, especially when combined with an adjustable bench so you can perform squats, pull ups, dips, incline chest press, shoulder press etc. Some power racks are combined with a smith machine increasing their versatility even further.
A power rack will typically offer some features that allow a user to customise their rack. This can include adding dip bars, a pull-up bar and even monolift attachments which is ideal for those who squat with heavy weights. Most power cages also offer plate storage helping you to keep your floor space clear and tidy.
All power racks will offer safety bars or safety straps which are designed to catch the barbell in the event of a failed lift. When it comes to the squat rack, not all offer spotter arms so factor this is before you consider making a purchase. If you tend to perform heavy squats and often train without a spotter, it’s advisable to ensure your stands feature safety arms.
The best option for those on a limited budget will be the squat rack. Being manufactured using less material, with less features and its limited functionality means they are much more purse friendly.
When it comes to the power rack, price can vary quite a bit and will depend on numerous factors such as build quality, for example some are made with thicker steel box section, and optional extras such as storage for weight plates, safety pins and other added safety features.
Power Rack Benefits
Now that we’ve considered the key differences between the power rack and squat rack, let’s look at some of the benefits with the power rack.
If you have the space and your budget allows, the power rack is a better choice in terms of its versatility. Along with a barbell and some bumper plates, you’ll be able to execute a wide variety of exercises targeting pretty much all of your muscles.
A power rack provides a solid and stable base for working out when compared to a squat rack making it a safer option. This is especially true if you’re into heavy lifting. The cage like shape is much more stable and as it’s manufactured from more steel, it’s much heavier so it’s less likely to wobble when re-racking a loaded barbell.
They also feature safety bars or straps so if you’re squatting inside of the rack and fail the lift, these will catch the bar making injury far less likely. These can usually be height adjusted meaning you can use them for other exercises such as the bench press.
Many power racks can be customised so you can add on various items increasing your racks versatility. These range from incorporating a lifting platform for your deadlifts or adding a landmine attachment for overhead presses. Here is a list of what can sometimes be available to add on to your platform:
- Monolift attachment
- Landmine attachment
- Additional safety bars
- Plate storage
- Pull up bars
- Dip station
- Pegs to add resistance bands
- Lifting platform
Power Rack Drawbacks
The biggest negative of the power rack is its large size. It’s a big piece of equipment and takes up a lot of floor space and you need to have a high enough ceiling to accommodate it. For most commercial gyms, the size of a power rack tends not to be an issue. However, if you’re looking for one for your home gym, be sure to double check measurements so you know it’ll fit.
If you’re certain you want a power rack but have a low ceiling or limited floor space, some manufacturers can custom make them to fit into smaller spaces so it’s worth taking the time to do some research.
Whilst there are some budget-friendly power racks available, many are still quite expensive. Especially, when compared to a squat rack. The cost can further increase if you choose some add ons to customise your rack. That being said, the increased versatility and safety options may make it better value for money to some.
Squat Rack Benefits
A squat rack takes up much less space when compared to other alternatives. They have a very small foot print and many designs can be broken down and stored away after use. This is great if you don’t want a permanent fixture in your gym.
It’s not uncommon for squat stands to be manufactured with lighter gauge steel, this is to ensure they remain lightweight. This results in a lower purchasing cost. So, if you want to squat on a budget, then this would be your best option.
As they don’t tend to come with many, if any, accessories to add on the price you see is the price you pay.
A squat rack is perfect if you’re really squeezed for space and need something that can be set up and dismantled after use. Many squat racks are simply freestanding uprights that take up very little room so storing them away until your next training session is easy.
Squat Rack Drawbacks
Lack of Stability
Even the best squat stands don’t offer a huge amount of stability when it comes to heavy weight squats. By their very nature, they are designed to be compact and lightweight. However, many do come with bolt down tabs which means you can easily fix them to a suitable flooring. So, if you’re not too concerned with being able to store them away, this could be the safest option.
You’ll Need A Spotter
Whilst some models of squat stands do offer safety bars, many don’t. This means you’ll need to have a spotter on hand in case you fail a lift and this isn’t always practical for a home gym. You’ll pay more for stands with safety features, but if you train alone in your garage or home gym it’s likely worth the additional cost.
Squat Rack VS Power : Which is Better for a Home Gym?
When it comes to choosing between a squat rack or power rack for your home gym, this really depends on what you want to achieve with your workouts, the space you have available and any budget constraints.
If you’re content with a few squat sessions per week with no other real training requirements, the squat stands would be your best bet. It’s worth considering your ability too, if you’re a seasoned powerlifter and used to squatting with heavier weights, aim to get stands that are more heavy duty and can potentially be bolted to the ground for stability. Also, think about if you’ll want some with inbuilt safety bars.
However, if you have adequate space and need something that can help you achieve an all over body workout, a power rack should be your go to. But, before choosing your rack, measure up your space and make sure to get all the necessary dimensions from the rack manufacturer so you know it’s going to fit.
Both the power rack and squat rack have their place in any gym environment but there are several important considerations before you think about buying or using one.
Remember too that not all gym equipment is created equal. If one power rack is more expensive than another, it could be because it’s better quality, more heavy duty or has more features on offer so be sure to do plenty of research.