May 12, 2021
A squat rack is without a doubt the centerpiece for any home gym (and, of course, commercial gym)...at least for any serious lifter. It’s obviously a must if you want to do squats, but also, with a squat rack, you can do other big lifts like bench press and military press (to name but a few ways that you can utilize a squat rack). With a squat rack, a barbell, some plates, and an adjustable bench, you have all you could ever need to get strong and into the best shape of your life.
Now, you probably didn’t need to read any of that. It’s safe to assume that you know the importance and versatility of a squat rack and you want one. BUT, you aren’t sure what squat rack to get. Should you get a power rack, a half rack, or squat stand? Are all of these considered squat racks or is a squat rack also a separate kind of, well, squat rack???
With all the different options on the market, buying a squat rack can be a bit confusing. There are a lot of things to consider, such as budget, space, versatility, durability, price, assembly, and so on...
That’s why we have taken the time to write this squat rack comparison. You are going to find all of the answer you need when deciding between the various types of squat racks. We are going to cover the differences, the pros and cons, and how to determine which type of squat rack is right for you. This is the only comparison of squat stand vs squat rack vs half rack vs power rack that you’ll need to read.
To start, let’s briefly go over the different types of squat racks that you’ll find available on the market.
To be clear, the term “squat rack” is interchangeable with all of the below types of racks for squatting. It is a general term used for a rack made for squatting.
An incline squat rack is also known as a peg squat rack. However, not all incline squat racks have pegs. Some have j-cup/hook catchers for the barbell to be racked on. This type of squat rack has two vertical posts that are slightly angled away from the front of the squat rack. They will have pegs or j-hooks at varying heights going up the posts, allowing people of different statures to have the appropriate barbell starting and racking height.
Incline squat racks have fixed safety catchers, rather than adjustable safeties.
The total length and width of incline squat racks is considerably greater than squat stands, half racks and power racks. The height, however, is considerably shorter.
All in all, you will usually find this kind of squat rack in a commercial gym, which is why they are often referred to and thought of as commercial squat racks. They are not as versatile as the other squat racks we are about to show you and they take up more space, but they are great for squatting. If you were to get this kind of squat rack, you'd be paying a very pretty penny and you'd need additional apparatuses for other lifts (i.e. flat bench, pull ups)
Note: there are also even-shorter, less expensive commercial-style incline squat racks that can be ideal for home gyms with low ceilings. You will learn more about these further below.
A power rack, which is also known as a power cage or squat cage, has 4 vertical posts (some have 6) that are attached to a firm base and top. They have two j-cups to rack the barbell at vary heights and two adjustable horizontal safety catchers or supports (i.e. straps, pins, or rails) that run along the side's of the rack on the inside.
The top of the power rack is connected by bars/beams to ensure the cage is extremely secure and stable, and it also doubles as a pull up rig.
The best part about a power rack is that they offer a lot of versatility in lifts and exercises, they have many options for accessory attachments, and they provide the utmost safety without the need of a spotter.
While power racks range in price, they are generally the more expensive option for a home gym (excluding commercial incline squat racks).
You might think a half rack would have two upright posts, considering it’s half of a power rack, but they actually have four uprights just like a power rack. The difference is, there is less distance between the upright posts and most will have plate storage on the back posts.
Unlike a power rack, all of the lifts you do will be outside of the rack (in the front). They come with j-cups and spotter arms that attach at varying heights to the outside of the rack’s front vertical posts. The top of a half rack is also connected by beams and a bar to provide stability just like a power rack (as well as pull up/chin up functionality).
On the whole, half racks are pretty much just as versatile as a full power rack.
As for space, the length of a half rack is quite similar to a full power rack, which might surprise you. This is because the base and safety arms are extended out in front of the rack. That said, there are full power racks with 6 vertical posts, with the additional two back vertical posts being used for plate storage. So, if considering half and full power racks with plate storage, a half rack does take up a little less space (length-wise) than a full power rack.
In terms of height and width, both power racks and half racks have similar options of varying heights, and for width, the standard width of the vertical posts are around 49 inches on both, as that will accommodate a 7 foot barbell.
Another thing you might think is different between a half rack and a power rack is the price. While on average half racks cost less, the difference is often negligible. Most people choose a half rack or a power rack based on space and the preference or safety aspect of working inside or outside of the rack.
All in all, although full power racks and half racks are similar in versatility, size and space, a half rack is actually more like a glorified squat stand for the fact that you will be doing all of your lifts outside of the rack.
A squat stand has two upright posts connected to a three beam base. The two upright posts are attached at the top by a bar, which can be used for pull ups. It will have j-cups for racking the barbell that attach to the outside of the vertical post at varying heights. Like a half rack, a squat stand should come with safety arms so you don’t need a spotter.
As for space, because a squat stand has only two vertical posts, they will have a slightly smaller footprint.
With a good squat stand, you can do pretty much everything that you can do with a half rack.
Note: Some squat stands will have vertical posts without a top bar connecting them. While Rogue and certain other bands make some good ones that are sturdy and can be bolted down for stability, we don’t recommend these. Thus, when referring to squat stands from here on out, we will be talking about the ones that have a big three-beam base that connects the two posts and a top bar that connects the tops of the posts (as seen in the pic above)
AVOID THESE SQUAT STANDS - Squat stands with separate bases and a Y-shape top for the bar to be mounted on should be avoided. These are generally cheap and unstable. They will not be good for any serious lifter.
If you are really looking to save space, there are wall-mounted folding racks and wall mounted (non-folding) racks on the market. The folding racks can fold away in seconds and when pulled out they function just as good as a squat stand. Both wall mounted racks are very space friendly, strong, and a bit more affordable. They are also pretty versatile. We saved you the time and effort with our analysis of the Best Folding Squat Racks on the market.
However, assembly and setting them up will be more of a challenge.
In effort to keep things simple, we are only going to compare the aforementioned types of squat racks in this comparison as they are the more popular option for people who want to create a home gym. So, we won't be talking about fold away wall mounted rack from here on out.
Squat racks are essential for building muscle and strength. They provide the safest and easiest way to do squats and other strength training lifts. Without a squat rack, you will not be able to do the big compound lifts with a considerable load. If you have a good squat rack, your only limitation is your genetics and your willpower.
Exercises that can be done with most squat racks (as long as you also have an adjustable bench and a barbell with plates): squats, flat bench press, incline bench, military press, seated overhead press, rack pulls, rows, deadlifts and more. You can also do pull ups with squat racks that come with a top bar for pull ups, which means you won't need to buy a pull up bar for your home gym! A squat racks pull up bar is way sturdier than most pull bars you can buy on Amazon and thanks to the rack, they offer the right space and height for pull ups.
Note: Some squat racks are going to be more versatile than others, which you will learn as you continue reading. Each type of squat rack has its own advantages and disadvantages to consider, which will make your decision easier. Therefore, there will be plenty more talk on benefits of squat racks, just specified to the specific type of squat rack.
Now, the comparison begins.
Note: We put the incline squat rack in parenthesis because we won’t be going as in-depth on this one, as it is not a common choice for home gyms. Nevertheless, we will be laying out the pros and cons.
We are going to look at each type of squat rack based on the follow criteria, all of which should play into your buying decision:
We will also be summing up the pros and cons of each.
**This article contains affiliate links where we will receive a small commission on any sales, at no additional cost to you**
First of all, we are talking about good squat stands for this comparison, which means squat stands with a wide stable 3-part base and a bar that connects the top (as seen in the pic above). We are not even going to be considering the squat stands with posts that are independent of each other.
Squat stands can be used for squatting, bench press, incline press, military press, rack pulls (off the safety arms), stiff-legged deadlifts (although not necessary), pull ups, inverted rows, hanging leg raises, etc. You should be able to find a dip attachment as well.
Some squat stands will have the ability to attach bands at the base as well. Banded barbell lifts are great!
All in all, you can use a good squat stand for all the same exercises that you can with a power rack and half rack (minus the added accessories that you can get with half and full power racks).
Safety & Stability
A good squat stand will have a large stable base. However, you will need to secure it in place to avoid unwanted movement and tipping. So, make sure you get a squat stand that can be anchored. Once anchored, you don’t have to worry one bit about a quality squat stand tipping, even with a heavily loaded barbell on the safety arms or when doing kipping pull ups and whatnot.
You’ll also want to make sure the j-cups/hooks and the safety arms are strong and good quality. Any good squat stand will come with reliable j-hooks and safety arms (strong enough to hold a heavily loaded barbell). Therefore, you can bail without concern if it’s a good quality squat stand.
Note: Squat stands will have a max capacity. Pay attention to this when selecting a squat stand.
Good squat stands come in various heights and lengths. Widths are generally pretty standard as they need to be an appropriate width to hold a full size barbell.
Heights range from 85 inches to 110 inches (remember, you’ll want some room above the top of squat stand for pull ups).
Widths range from 48 inches to 53 inches on average, so not a huge variance here.
Lengths range from 38 inches to 50 inches on average.
You obviously need to consider your workout space (which includes the ceiling height!). But you also want to consider stability and your height. If you can, get a greater length, closer to 50 inches, that will be better. As for height, if you are taller, you’ll want a taller squat stand for pull ups if your ceiling permits.
Note: You will be working outside of the rack with a squat stand. Thus, you need to consider the space needed to exercise in front of the rack (where the safety arms will extend to). You are likely to do some exercises even further out than the safety arms extend (for example, when doing split squats or lunges).
Overall, squat stands are the most space-friendly of the different types of squat racks, but not by that much honestly, as you will see.
Squat stands will need assembly. The two posts, the pull up bar, and the base will need to be assembled. But, as it is not that many parts, it won’t take long. Most people can assemble a squat stand in 30 minutes or so.
Note: Make sure you won’t have trouble getting the two vertical posts into your workout space.
A good squat stand will cost you a minimum of around $300 on Amazon. If you go for a company like Rogue or Rep Fitness, you can expect to pay around $800 (including the safety arms, which are usually an add-on).
Some squat stand sellers will offer other add-ons like a bench or a lat pull down attachment. You will obviously want a bench. This will be needed no matter what kind of squat rack you get, though. We won’t be getting into bench prices, but you should get a high quality adjustable bench, which can be expensive (many are about as much as a squat stand!).
You’ll also need to consider shipping price. Most sellers will ship for free, but be sure to check on this before getting too attached to the squat stand.
PROS AND CONS OF SQUAT STANDS
Remember, this applies to good, stable squat stand, not the cheapo ones...
Brands we recommend for squat stands:
A half rack is like a glorified squat stand, so you are going to find some similarities below. That said, there are some noteworthy differences as well.
A half rack is very versatile. You are going to be able to do squats, bench press (flat and incline), military press, rack pulls (off the safety arms), pull ups, inverted rows, hanging leg raises, and dips (if you buy the accessory attachment - some even come built in). You’ll also have hooks on the base for banded barbell exercises.
Overall, you can do pretty much everything imaginable with a half rack that you can do with a power rack. You’ll just be doing it from outside of the rack.
Note: Some half racks have the capability to be turned into a full rack. So you can start with a half rack and if you decide later on that you want to use a full rack, you can buy the additional parts. If this interests you, look for a half rack with this capability (Rogue has one and they also have a squat stand that can turn into a half rack - they are called conversion kits).
Stability & Safety
Half racks are very stable, but they should still be anchored down just to avoid any movement of the rack and potential tipping.
As long as you are buying a good half rack, you don’t need to worry about the integrity of the j-cups and the safety arms will hold up perfectly if you need to bail or for heavy rack pulls.
All in all, a half rack is perfectly stable and safe and it offers a little more max weight capacity that most squat stands (although most people - even those who are quite strong - won’t ever go that heavy, as we are talking about 500+ pounds)
Generally, half racks have a slightly greater of footprint than squat stands since they have a larger (longer and wider) base with 4 upright posts, but the height is similar.
Heights of half racks range from 85 inches +, with 85-96 inches being the most common. 8 feet (or 96 inches) is considered standard.
Widths of the vertical posts are around 50 inches, but with plate storage you are looking at 63-70+ inches (plate holders can be removed on most if you are limited on space).
Lengths range from 50 inches to 65 inches on average. Some can be much longer like Rogue’s Monster Half Rack (which is a half rack with 6 posts!).
Generally speaking, you can expect a bigger footprint with half racks than squat stands, but there are a lot of options on the market to choose from to accommodate your workout space.
Assembly is just as easy as a squat stand, but you have more parts to assemble, so it’s going to take a little longer. If you can get an extra hand, you can speed up the process.
You are looking at around $500+ for a good half rack on Amazon and $1000+ from a big home gym equipment company like Rogue, Fringe Sport, Titan, and American Barbell.
Be sure to check shipping prices before getting too excited. That said, most companies ship for free.
Pros and Cons of Half Racks
Brands we recommend for half rack:
A power rack is the most expensive and heavy duty option of the three. Let’s find out if it’s right for you...
Power racks (aka power cages) are the most versatile option. You can do all the lifts we mentioned with the other squat racks plus you’ll have a lot of options for accessory attachments.
With power racks, you will be doing your work inside the cage, so be aware of this. That said, you can buy additional safety arms for outside-the-cage use...or you can just use bumper plates (depending on your floor). The j-hooks can attach inside and outside, but most people work inside because that’s where the safeties (pins, straps or bars) are located.
The ability to work inside and outside the cage allows you to have two set ups at the same time. If you have two sets of j-hooks and two barbells, you can have one set up in the cage and one set up outside the cage, which is great for supersetting.
Another point that's not exactly related to versatility, but it also sort of is, is the fact that you really have no concern of bailing with a power rack, so you can push your limits to a higher degree than with half racks and squat stands, where you may have some concern about bailing.
Power racks are also going to provide the most weight capacity, so you can really lift as heavy as you want! But this is only important for guys who can lift ridiculously heavy weights.
Stability & Safety
A full power rack is the most stable and safest option of them all. For those who life super heavy, a power rack is probably your best option. They have the highest weight capacity.
Not only is the cage perfectly stable (although you still need to anchor it down like the others), but the safeties are the most reliable of all the options. This is because they are held in place on both ends, whereas safety arms are only held in place on one end.
What’s more, when working inside the cage, you don’t have to worry about falling backwards since the cage is there to stop you. So you have three lines of safety - front, back and below.
Full power racks have the largest footprint, but it really depends on what power cage you get as some are very similar in footprint to a half rack.
Height are usually 85 inches to 95 inches tall. However, you can find them as short as 71 inches and as tall as 100+ inches, so there is a lot of options to choose from.
In terms of width, 50 inches is average, but you’ll find some slight variance. Also, if the power cage has plate storage, you need to factor that into the width (not all have plate storage).
Lengths range a lot, as some power cages have 6 posts rather than 4. Some are made specially for tight spaces too. So, you can find them anywhere from 36-40 inches all the way up to 70+ inches in length. If we are talking an average, it’s about 50 inches in length.
The footprint of a full power rack is pretty similar to a half rack if you get a 4 post power cage. Some can even have a smaller footprint, like Rogue’s RM-3 Monster Rack 2.0. On the other hand, if you go for the biggest power racks on the market, you will need considerably more space. All in all, you have a lot of options to choose from so you can find one that fits your workout space.
Assembly is going to be similar to a half rack, but if you get a 6 post power cage, it’ll take even longer.
Generally speaking, full power racks are more expensive than half racks, but it depends. You can find power cages for as little as $350-$500, which is the same as a half rack and even some squat stands. And we don’t just mean on Amazon, companies like Titan and Fringe have some surprisingly good prices for full power racks.
On the other hands, power cages can also be considerably more expensive than half racks and squat stands. For example, Rogue’s power cages run from $1200 to $2,000+.
Pros and cons:
Brands we recommend for full power rack:
Incline squat racks are not usually bought for home gyms, they are more for commercial gyms. The commercial incline squat racks are expensive (over $1600) and they are not as versatile as the aforementioned squat racks, so you definitely won't get the best bang for your buck.
With incline squat racks, you are basically only able to do squats, military press, seated press, rack pulls and inverted rows.
The good thing about them is they are great for squatting. They are extremely stable and the safety bars that extend in front are as heavy duty if not more than a power rack...but they can’t be adjusted. That’s a big point that relates back to this kind of squat rack not being versatile.
As for the footprint, they are long and wide, so they take up a lot of space. However, they are short (usually around 71 inches). This makes them actually not a bad option for home gyms with low ceilings.
In regards to assembly, some commercial incline squat racks have parts welded together, so it’ll be hard to get it through any tight confinement, which most houses have. However, some require assembly (which you can pay the company to do for you upon delivery).
If you do want one, you will have to find some special commercial gym sellers, as the major home gym fitness equipment companies don’t sell incline squat racks because they are not usually desired for home gyms (they aren’t versatile enough and they take up a lot of space). You won't find these high quality incline squat racks on Amazon at all either.
All in all, we typically only recommend these high quality incline squat racks for commercial gyms. That said, this might be the squat rack for you if you have the space (or to the opposite effect, a low ceiling, because these are shorter than the other types of squat racks) and budget to buy other necessary apparatuses for lifts like flat bench press and incline bench press.
WHAT ABOUT COMMERCIAL-STYLE INCLINE SQUAT RACKS?
You’ll see a few incline squat racks on Amazon, but these aren’t the same as the commercial incline squat racks we were just discussing. They are even shorter (around 5.5-6 feet) and they have adjustable safeties (slightly adjustable). These are not such a bad idea for those who want just a simple squat rack and will buy other apparatuses for their home gym for things like flat bench, pull ups, dips, etc. They are sturdy and you can use them for other exercises like rack pulls, shoulder presses and even incline bench press.
This one by Valor Fitness below on Amazon has positive reviews and good specs for a decent price.
Now that you know the pros and cons of each type of squat rack, you need to ask yourself a few questions that will help you determine if the squat rack you are considering to buy is of good quality and right for you and your home gym.
NOTE: Be sure to check weight capacity. Some squat racks will have different max load capacity options.
It’s really going to come down to preference and workout space, as prices are not drastically different for squat stands, half racks and power racks. You can find options for all three around the same price. Plus, if you really prefer a certain power rack, and it costs a few hundred dollars more, it's worth spending a few hundred dollars. This is an investment that will last you forever.
Digest all the information above and make a decision that you feel is best for you, your home gym, and your workout goals. We can’t tell you which squat rack to buy as everyone has different preferences and workout spaces.
The good news is, you really can't go wrong with any of the squat racks we recommended.
As long as you’ve read everything above, you can make an informed decision that you will be happy with for many years to come. A squat rack is a great investment that will last you a very long time and will be the staple of your home gym. You will use it every single workout if you are a serious lifter (i.e. leg day, back day, shoulder day, chest day and even for core - leg raises baby!).
Note: While power racks may seem the ultimate option, a lot of serious lifters opt for squat stands or half racks simply because they prefer squatting outside of the rack. It also is more convenient for movements like barbell lunges. So, again, base your decision on preference and choose a squat rack that fits your workout space.
To save you time searching for your squat rack of choice, we wrote a post covering the Best Squat Racks available. The following brands also produce quality squat racks if you are looking for reputable manufacturers:
Note: Most of these companies have a slower turnover and stock issues (out of stock for a while of certain models). Moreover, they are a little pricier. So, you will be waiting longer for your squat rack than you will with Amazon options.
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