Squat Rack vs Power Rack – Which One to Use?

Want to know which ones better between a squat rack and a power cage? Read on to see which one is right for you.

Lifting heavy weights and truly transforming your body isn’t just for the gym. It’s something you can do at home too, you’ve just got to make sure you get the right piece of equipment.

Powerfull attractive woman squatting with a barbell

You need something that can support your goals while also giving you the exercise options that you really want and of course something durable enough to withstand repeated use, which is why the power rack and the squat rack are so great. These heavy-duty pieces of equipment are designed for use at home and equipped to help you build your lower body and train other muscles too.

But which one is better? In this article, we’ll take a look at both to see which one you should use and which one deserves a place in your home gym.

Heavy Lifting from the Comfort of Your Own Home

Home exercise typically falls into one of three areas.

  • Trying to improve your mobility.
  • Trying to improve your cardio ability.
  • Trying to improve your strength. 

For people that are looking to get stronger and build their muscles, there is only one real option, getting a heavy-duty piece of kits such as a power rack or squat rack.

The reason for this is they are both designed specifically for barbell exercises and both come with a high weight limit and extremely strong builds.

This allows you to focus on compound exercises and perform the type of movements that are proven to be better for building muscle and improving strength, compared to other exercises such as those that are possible with a dumbbell or using your body weight.  

It’s not to say that you can’t make great progress with those other forms of exercise, but you can make bigger gains in the same amount of time by basing your workouts around barbell exercises.

Let’s take a closer look and see what they offer.

What is a Power Rack? 

A power rack, sometimes known as a power cage, squat cage, or full squat rack is an all-encompassing piece of weight lifting equipment that is great for use in a home gym.

They contain a series of bars, clips, and ‘spotting arms’ that allow you to train by yourself, without a spotter, and with much greater safety and security than you’d usually get when training alone making them great for training at home.

When you use a power rack you walk into the structure and are fully enclosed in the ‘cage’, so it should come as no surprise that they do take up a lot of space. However, if you have the room, they can be the greatest piece of exercise equipment you ever buy to use at home.  

Power racks have a big focus on safety and can be used to perform all the major barbell exercises that you’d ever want to do in an extremely safe way.

What Exercises is it Useful For?

It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that with the right power rack you can do almost everything you can in a gym.

You can perform all of the traditional compound exercises as standard, with moves like the squat, bent-over row, Romanian Deadlift or push press all being possible, and thanks to the moveable clips and safety bars you can do these with confidence.

On top of this many power racks also come equipped with bodyweight training features, meaning you can perform press-ups, dips, push-ups, and more from this single piece of kit.

However, when you use the power rack together with a bench it opens up so many more possibilities for you with exercises such as a bench press, seated shoulder press or even a rear foot elevated barbell split squat all being possible. Not to mention any other dumbbell exercises you may want to perform.
 
 As if that wasn’t enough it is also possible to add attachments to your rack such as a cable pulley system or a landmine press attachment. This gives you a superior range of exercises available to perform, far greater than you’d ever see in most home gym set ups (and even in some commercial gyms). The only things you wouldn’t be able to do is some of the set machine workouts like a leg press or the abductor machine, which wouldn’t be a problem when you have a fully kitted out power rack.

Power racks are best used with an Olympic barbell and Olympic weights. 

Things You Need to Know Before Buying

As with any piece of home workout equipment you should always consider the space you have available and the types of exercises you will be doing before making your purchase.

It should come as no surprise that a power rack takes up a lot of room but what it lacks in compactness, it makes up for in exercise possibilities.

You can do so much more with a power rack than with other pieces of equipment making it an essential piece of equipment to help you reach your goals; however, you should take this into account before you buy. Think about what pieces of equipment you need and whether you have the right-sized barbell, weight plates, and bench.

You won’t need them all immediately (except for a bar), but you may want to consider some of these things as you go on.

However, with that being said, a power rack is a fantastic piece of kit and if you’re serious about training at home you should seriously consider it.

What is a Squat Rack?

As the name describes, a squat rack is a piece of equipment that you can use to perform barbell squats. It comes in different shapes and styles and the type you get will ultimately be decided by your overall needs.

There are 4 main types for you to consider and all have their benefits.

A half rack is similar to a power rack but instead of having a full ‘enclosed’ lifting session, you only have half the rack, meaning you’re never fully inside like you would be in a power ‘cage’.

Half racks are strong and sturdy pieces of equipment and are great if you don’t like to feel too constricted when you’re lifting.

If a Half rack can be referred to as half of a power rack then a squat stand is half again. It’s not quite as big as a half rack and you do lose some of the safety features when squatting, however, if you’re short on space then a squat stand might be just right for you.

A fold-away squat rack is another great option that can be incredibly useful if you have limited space to workout. For example, if you train in your garage and park your car there, a fold-away rack could be a great option. It folds flush to the wall and won’t take up any extra space.

Finally, an individual squat stand is another option for anyone training at home who doesn’t have a lot of space to work with. These stand-alone racks can be moved into place but unlike the other racks named above, they aren’t connected, so it’s important you line them up correctly first before attempting your lift.

Squat racks work best with Olympic barbells and Olympic weights and are often better for people who are solely focusing on their essential power-lifting exercises, mainly the squat.

What Exercises is it Useful For? 

Although squat stands are designed for the squat, many of these racks have dual uses, although it does depend on which one you go for.

A half rack, for example, would work well for most exercises as you can perform squats, rows, deadlifts, and various presses, and some can even adapt for other exercises such as banded exercises,  dips, or pull-ups. However, not all types of squat racks are as flexible.  

A stand-alone squat rack or the fold-away racks should only really be used for squats and possibly some rows or shrugs but you have to be careful you’re not trying to do movements the equipment can’t handle.  Attempting anything outside of its intended use could be dangerous and you could be risking injury.

Things You Need to Know Before Buying

When buying a squat rack it’s important you have a good think about your training goals, what type of routine you will follow and how often you’re going to train. If you’re going to train 4 times a week and focus on compound movements such as the squat, bench, row, and deadlift then you’re going to need something with enough strength and durability to last, but also a piece of equipment that will allow you to train in the way that you want. A half rack could be the best option and give you what you need but some of the others may be more limited.

It’s also worth considering the type of weight you’re lifting and how much you will improve over time.  Your rack should be able to support your growth and while it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, if you’re currently lifting 200lbs, getting a squat rack that can only take 240lbs isn’t a good idea.

It’s also worth noting that with a squat rack, you do sacrifice safety as you go for the cheaper options. A half rack for example has a range of safety features, clips, and support bars in place to help keep you safe and in control when you lift.

However, a stand-alone squat could be quite dangerous, especially as you lift heavier weights. They move and if you aren’t set up correctly there’s always a chance you could injure yourself.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one or that they aren’t very good, but it does mean you should consider all your options before making a purchase.

Which is Right For You? 

If we were pressed to give you an answer we would recommend getting a power rack, but unfortunately, there is no right answer to this question and the truth is it depends on your circumstance and your goals.

If you’re committed to training and you want to see progress, plus you have the room available, then you should get a power rack. They are fantastic pieces of equipment that can satisfy all of your training needs and with the right attachments, you won’t need to return to the gym again.

But they do take up a lot of space. Not loads, you won’t have any trouble trying to fit it in an empty spare room or the garage, but you won’t be able to park your car in there once you’ve got it in unless you’ve got a double garage.

On the other hand, if you’re only looking for a way to squat at home and maybe throw in one or two other exercises, then a squat rack should be fine, however once again, there are things to consider.

If you’re an inexperienced squatter or you’re going to train alone then you should go for the half rack. It offers more protection than the other forms of the squat rack and still has a good range of exercise variations that you’ll get good use out of it.

However, if you’re an experienced lifter and you have a training partner, then you may want to opt for one of the other racks, so long as it meets your needs.
Just be sure to check the weight limits, safety features, and durability first, so you don’t end up with a piece of equipment that you quickly surpass.

Final Thoughts

If you’re serious about training at home and you want to make real head-turning progress, then you need a piece of equipment that can help you do that, and you won’t go wrong with any of the options above.

Designed for heavy-duty compound exercises a power cage or squat rack will give you the stability you need to train your legs and build your body and may even allow you to perform other exercises too.

The only thing left to do is decide which one is right for you. So go ahead, have another read-through and make your choice then you can start your journey to a fitter, stronger more sculpted you.

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