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Squat Rack Vs Power Rack - Which is better for home gyms?

squat rack vs power rack

You may have heard the statement, “no home gym is complete without a power rack.” Of course, power racks and squat racks are vital equipment in any home gym. With all the gym equipment you can buy for your home gym, having some sort of rack is arguably the most important piece of strength training equipment you can own. 

But are these racks all created equal? The answer is an emphatic “no!” The world of power racks, half cages, and squat stands are often confusing when trying to work out what is best for a home gym.

Before investing, let us remove some confusion and explain what type of racks are available and which one you should consider.

What is a Power Rack?

Power Racks, also known as Power Cages, are perhaps the most versatile pieces of equipment when considering home gym ideas. Safety is one of the things you should prioritize during training. The Power Racks allow you to carry heavy weights safely. This gym equipment is a staple for people who love to lift weights. It’s designed to accommodate free-weight barbell exercises, including bench presses, squats, overhead presses, rack pulls, rows, shrugs, and many more.

Primarily it consists of a four-posted steel cage that you can generally stand inside during the exercise. It has two horizontal safety bars (or straps) acting as your spotter during lifts linking the vertical posts on each side.

A power rack home gym also allows you to be versatile in your exercises. It gives you the freedom to do back and front squats, bench or shoulder press, and many more exercises alone in safety. However, it is essential to note that before using the Power Rack, you learn how to use power racks safely.

You can pick a pretty decent power rack for from Amazon or Walmart for $300 – $1000

squat rack vs power rack vs half cage
A basic power rack with safety bars and chin up bar

What is a Squat Rack?

A squat rack or squat stand is another piece of equipment that weightlifters love to use. Like a Power Rack, it is also used for strength support when lifting weights. The squat rack home gym  usually only has 2 vertical posts and a squat rack pull up bar. Squat racks may or may not come with safety arms, barbell holders, and plate storage.

Among the lower body home workouts you can do with the squat rack are the Barbell sumo squat, low-bar squat, forward lunge, and barbell lunge. A Squat Rack is excellent for emphasizing your thigh and hamstring muscle development.

A squat rack and adjustable bench provides you with the most economical way of decking your home gym out to be able to perform the most basic exercises.

Squat rack for home with two vertical posts, chin up bar and safety bars

What is a half rack?

As the name suggests, a half cage or half rack is halfway between a power cage and a squat rack. Typically a half cage will have two principal vertical uprights with a horizontal bar connecting them at the top. 

Half cages also have a second pair of vertical upright or angled posts behind the other posts that may or may not extend to the height of the primary two posts. These secondary posts often have weight plate holders on them, allowing for a more stable system. 

Like the squat rack, barbell exercises are performed on the outside or front of the cage. Many variations of the half rack are available these days, now offering cable pulley systems to get an even more rounded workout.

With the many added feature to some half racks, these can often range in price from a couple of hundred up to the many thousands of dollars.

half rack squat rack vs power rack
A half rack with safety bars, chin up bar and weight plate mounts

Squat Rack vs Power Rack vs Half Rack - which one is better?

Let’s break it down to help you understand which might be better for you. We’ll also explain why you should consider one type of rack over the other.

Functionality

While the squat rack is convenient and compact, it has limited functionality compared to what the power rack and half rack can offer. The power and half rack’s versatility trumps the squat rack’s utility with its multiple uses. 

There are many unique exercises that you can perform in a power rack and half rack that you cannot do with other gym equipment alone. If you purchase a basic power or half rack to start with, you can eventually add more optional extras to it at a later stage. You are only limited by your imagination.

A proper power rack or half rack set up with all the optional extras allows you to perform a greater number of body strengthening workouts, so in terms of functionality, power racks and half racks are the clear winners.

It makes great sense to put your racks in front of a wall mirror to ensure good form when lifting heavy weight.

A half cage with all of the bells and whistles

Space and Footprint

The available space for your home gym is essential when choosing between a power rack, half rack, and squat rack in your home gym. The power rack’s size and dimensions are one distinct feature you cannot ignore.

Power racks are generally just as deep as they are wide and tend to be a bit taller than squat racks unless it has an overhead chin-up bar. The footprint of the half rack can vary significantly from the depth of the squat rack to the depth of the power rack. It much depends on the brand and style of the half rack. Overall, the half and power racks consume the most floor space.

If lack of space is a consideration in your home gym, then the squat rack or a shallow half rack might best suit.
Some squat racks also provide the convenience of mobility or being fixed to the wall. For example, moving a squat rack around freely may suit some home gyms, especially in a garage gym shared with a car where you can push the squat rack against a wall.

Power racks and larger half cages are usually much heavier and are therefore not easily moved around.

Safety

Power cages are usually capable of holding more weight than a squat rack or half rack. So if you are doing some serious powerlifting, a power rack is a safer option.

Power cages offer a unique feature not provided by squat and half racks. Standing inside the power rack protects lifters if they lose balance backward while performing squats. Squat racks and half racks with their safety bars provide a limited spotter safety 18″ to 2 feet in front of the equipment but are of no assistance if you fall backward (if you start facing the rack).

Squat racks and some half cages can also be prone to tipping when replacing loaded-up barbells after a set of heavy squats. For this reason, it is recommended to only purchase a squat rack with a deep support base in front and behind the support posts. If you can imagine the base of a squat rack forming a letter H, you want the H to be as tall as possible.

Stability

While most squat and half racks are generally pretty sturdy and can hold enormous weights, power racks easily come out in front here. This is because the four-post design of the power rack creates a lower center of gravity, ensuring maximum stability and providing a level of commercial reliability. In addition, most good-quality power cages have a weight limit beyond what even professional athletes can lift.

Squat racks are typically not designed to be stable enough to catch a falling barbell, particularly squat racks that do not have a bottom beam that joins them together. Therefore, we strongly recommend against squat racks with two stand-alone stands, which provide little stability and may be prone to shifting when racking the bar, which could be dangerous.

Added weight plate holders on half racks can add a lot of stability to both squat racks and power cages. The more weight added down low on your equipment, the lower the center of gravity becomes and the more stable it will be.
This can be a great stability option, provided you have enough spare weight plates, and they’re not all loaded onto the barbell you are about to use.
In terms of stability, the winner by a country mile is the power rack.

Summing up squat rack vs power rack

Before making any purchase, you must first decide what you need based on your goal, budget, and available space.
Considering all the features above, if you are looking for the best value for your purchase, we suggest purchasing a power rack or half rack.

However, you must consider the available space in your home or garage gym. Buying a rack or cage that doesn’t fit would be a significant drawback in your investment. So if space is a factor, then a squat rack could be the way to go.

In summary, the squat rack vs power rack debate ends with us leaning heavily in favour of a power cage or half rack if you can afford one and have the room available. The extra add-ons make it an even smarter choice enabling your home gym to continue to grow with a greater variety of exercises.

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