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Difference between a squat rack vs power rack and which one should I buy? This is a common question for many who are looking to lift barbell weights at home as part of their strength training. One is smaller and cheaper and the other is more versatile and safer to use. However, the best choice for you will depend on more exact requirements that you may have, so we’ll take you through all the differences and variations that you will find in both types of equipment. Then we’ll tell you what you can and cannot do using each kind and make a few recommendations for your home gym.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is A Power Rack
- 2 What is A Squat Rack
- 3 Top rated Power Racks 2018
- 4 Top rated Squat Racks 2018
- 5 How to Setup a Squat Rack for Safe Bench Presses and Squats
What is A Power Rack
A power rack is a piece of equipment that most serious weightlifters say they cannot do without. If you don’t have a spotter to help you avoid being crippled when lifting barbells, then you need another safety mechanism or be very skilled in dumping the bar if it slips or you become fatigued. A power rack is the best device to ensure maximum safety when doing free weight training in the absence of a spotter. It consists of four upright posts that are connected by horizontal bars on top and below to form something like a cage. There are adjustable height safety bars or spotters on each side to catch the barbell in case it slips, so you have full confidence to concentrate on getting in a good workout.
There are pairs of adjustable height catchers on the inside and sometimes on the outsides of the uprights on which you can rest the barbell when not in use. Some users prefer to do squats or some other exercises with weights outside of the cage because they like the more open feeling. But if you lift the weight inside, it is a pain to then move outside along with it. Also, an experienced lifter might be able to do this but beginners should not attempt it, especially if there are no outer safety spotters. You will also be better off doing box squats inside a cage because there’s no way to bail out of it without ruining your box or seat.
One thing that you may not be able to do in a power rack is overhead presses if your power rack is designed for home use. This is because it likely is too short to give you clearance for your bar and would require you to move outside the rack.
Most power racks also have a built-in pull-up bar and dip bars, so you can do other exercises. Many also have band pegs as anchors for resistance bands. A sturdy cage may also be used for suspension straps, although you may want to bolt the rack down to ensure it doesn’t topple over when doing suspension workouts. Some brands have an optional lat pulldown attachment that you can buy to go with it as well. As well as a few other possible attachments, you can move a weight bench inside to do presses too. In fact, some pros even advise that all you really need at home is a power rack, a bench, and a 300 lb Olympic barbell weight set. So if you want high versatility you’ve got it with a power rack.
What is A Squat Rack
A basic squat rack or squat stand consists of just 2 uprights that are either connected and supported by a U-shaped frame on the ground, or are two separate posts that are bolted to the ground with your preferred spacing. It is designed specifically for doing squats in front of the uprights rather than being enclosed inside a 4-post cage. Both uprights will have catches on the front that can be adjusted for height. These serve as holders for your barbell at just the right height for you to lift the barbell off the stand, do the squat movement to tone and strengthen your calves, quads, and hamstrings, and place it back on once you’re done.
As you can see, there are a few features missing from the squat rack that are there on a power rack. The number one feature are the safety or spotter arms. With a basic squat rack, you don’t have a safety mechanism to catch the barbell in case you fall. While experienced weightlifters will know how to dump the weight safely, it is still recommended that you don’t take the risk yourself.
The reason why you may want to go with a squat stand vs a power rack is because the former typically takes up less space and costs less than the latter. If these are important criteria, then you should look for a good squat rack that comes with additional features than just a basic one.
Taking the safety concern into consideration, most commercial squat racks and some home models now come with a pair of spotter arms extending in front of the uprights. These are adjustable and can provide you with some degree of safety, as most bails happen downwards or in front. In these cases the spotters will catch the barbell as long as you don’t step too far away from the rack. Ensure that the spotter arms are long enough – around 24″. It is still not as safe as using a power rack because there’s no protection if you are a bit further back and fall backwards. If the squat rack doesn’t already come with spotters, look to see if the manufacturer makes them as optional addons.
A few models also come with a pull up bar for pull ups and chin ups and even fewer will come with dip bars for dips. You can use a bench with a squat stand provided that the uprights are set in the middle of the frame sides. Bands are another issue, as most don’t have band pegs and no way for you to fix some on.
If you decide to go with a squat rack and also need a bench to complete the setup, consider getting an Olympic weight bench that comes with a squat rack and some attachments for more leg and arm exercises.
Top rated Power Racks 2018
The following three power racks score the highest marks in terms of quality, sturdiness, and versatility for exercises. However, we have a few more recommendations for best power racks.
Rogue Fitness Infinity Series Power Racks
Without question, the best quality power racks for home use are the ones from the Rogue Fitness Infinity Series. They’re made in the USA and boast the best construction. The three most popular models are the R3, R4 and R6. The R3 is their most compact and light unit, so if you have the funds but not much floor space, then this is the best choice. It is the most basic model but includes fat and skinny pull up bars overhead, 2 sets of band pegs, a pair of safeties and a pair of J-cups. A bench will fit inside with just a bit of the end extending out.
The R4 model has a larger and square footprint to completely enclose a bench inside. The fat and skinny pull up bars are place between the two back uprights with additional skinny bar between the two front uprights. The rest of the features are the same as that of the R3.
The R6 model is the most roomy, expensive and bulky with an additional pair of uprights at the back with double and single plate holders. In addition to a skinny and fat bar at the back, there’s also a multi-grip bar in the front. There are 3 sets of band pegs too and the rest of the features are the same.
On all models you get 1″ Westside hole spacing in the bench & clean pull zones of the uprights and 2″ spacing above and below that. For more versatility, you can add a bunch of other Rogue stations and accessories to each of these racks, like a dip station, outer spotter arms, and more.
All the Rogue Infinity models are 90″ tall but the R3 also comes in a short version that’s 6″ shorter – great for lower ceilings.
Titan T2 Power Rack Squat Deadlift HD
Not everyone can afford Rogue Fitness products, as good as they are. For those lifters, there’s the Titan T2 series HD Power Rack and it costs about half of the R3. That doesn’t mean you’re getting a substandard product, as you’re getting the best bang for your buck. This power rack is nice and deep and wide so you’ll need a bit of floor space to accommodate it, but if that’s a problem, then choose the Titan T-2 Series Short Power Rack, which goes less deep and wide. The HD is also 83″ tall, while the Short is 71.5″ tall. So the Short model is not only great for really low basement ceilings, but is also nice for short people who want to do pull ups. Both models have a 1.25″ diameter chin up bar at the front.
Neither of the two cages need to be bolted to the floor for pull ups if you add weight plates to the plate holders on the two back uprights, although medium sized people won’t even need those. It also features a pair of spotters and a pair of j-hooks. Both these can be adjusted for height top to bottom along the 28 holes on the HD uprights and 21 holes on the Short uprights. The spacing of the holes center to center is just over 2″.
The only negative here is that the powder coating finish flakes off over time. For this reason, it also made our list of best power racks for less than $500.
Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage
Another inexpensive but very versatile power rack is the Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max. This is another shallow type rack and squats work better for some if done in front of the cage. To facilitate this, there are two pairs of chrome lock-on safety catches. One pair adjusts and locks the two chrome safety bars for lifting inside, while the other pair is removable and can be fixed either to the inside of the two back upright posts for bench pressing, or to the inside or outside of the two front upright posts for doing squats. Overhead presses are more convenient with the catches mounted outside.
The lower safety catches are good for curls, shrugs and military shoulder presses. These catches are 3.25″ long and you can adjust these and the safety bars between 19 different positions. However, the holes are 3″ apart so if you like perfectly positioned catches and spotters, this one may not be for you.
There is a multi-grip pull up bar that can be mounted upside down for lower ceilings. Two rear horizontal connecting bars provide stability to the rack. You can add other brand attachments like the Titan Dip Station or a lat attachment to this unit as long as they can be mounted facing forwards or backwards. Although the second pair of safety catches are removable, it’s more convenient to buy extra Titan J-hooks if you want the versatility without having to remove and fix the catches time and again.
Top rated Squat Racks 2018
We believe that the best squat racks are ones with spotter arms, as they give you at least a moderate amount of safety while lifting. However, we have one pick that doesn’t come with them nor does it have them as optional addons.
Rogue Fitness SML-2 Rogue 90″ Monster Lite Squat Stand
Rogue Fitness has several great squat stands and some don’t come with the ability to add spotters, but the SML-2 Rogue 90″ Monster Lite Squat Stand does. The basic package comes with Monster Lite J-Cups with protective plastic inserts and a choice of either a Fat & Skinny or Single Pull-Up Bar, both of which are adjustable. The Monster Lite Safety Spotter Arms, portability wheels, floor mounting feet and single bar plate holder all come as optional additions.
With a height of 92″, this may not be the choice for you if you have low ceilings, and its wide and deep footprint of 48″ by 49″ won’t save a ton of space, but it still feels less space hungry than a power cage. However, you can do almost everything with it that you can on a full rack, right from from bench work to squats, pull-ups, clean pulls and floor presses. The Westside hole spacing gives you precise height adjustments of the J-cups for your weights.
Although it is an expensive squat stand, it is more affordable than the power racks by the same brand and is very sturdy and durable.
Titan T-3 Squat Rack
Just as with Titan’s Power rack, this T-3 Squat Rack is a great alternative to a Rogue Fitness product but for a wallet friendly price. Plus, it already comes with a set of safety spotter arms instead of you having to buy them as an extra! It also has two pull up bars – a 2″ one and a 1.25″ one, 2 pairs of J-hooks for extra versatility, and two sets of 2″ diameter plate holders sticking out from the sides of the uprights. These help with stability and convenient storage but some may find that the lower holders get in the way of certain exercises.
The Westside hole spacing is in the perfect zone for squats, while the rest of the holes above and below that are spaced at 2″ apart. The overall height of the rack is 92″. The two pull up bars mount as one piece but you can turn it over to switch positions if you want. You can also adjust the height of the piece but can’t adjust the spacing between the two. The Titan dip attachment is available to buy separately.
TDS Squat Rack
The TDS Squat Rack is designed differently than the ones above and is a good compact and budget pick for a squat rack. With this you can do bench presses and squats. There is no pull up bar connecting the two uprights at the top but just the frame at the bottom with a weight plate holder on each corner.
There is a pair of bar supports set into telescopic posts that extend from the uprights. Adjustment is easy and they can go anywhere from 36″ to 66″ in height while being set 48″ apart for a 7 ft standard or Olympic bar.
If you think that this rack doesn’t look sturdy enough to handle heavy weights, you’re wrong! The weight holders at the back are there for extra stability and it can handle up to 500 lbs.
How to Setup a Squat Rack for Safe Bench Presses and Squats
Image Credits: Lance Goyke – Loaded bar in rack. CC by 2.0
Steven Depolo – Weight Training Gear in Attic Bench Press Squat Rack. CC by 2.0
Joint Base Andrew’s West Fitness Center. Public Domain
Lance Cpl. Kyle McNally – U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Public Domain