A squat rack is the most important feature of a home gym, but picking the right one for you isn’t easy. Today I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the different kinds of squat racks, and give you my top picks at different price points.
Buying a squat rack was the first thing I did when I began building my own backyard gym, second thing was buying a hack squat machine. Unfortunately, I was too eager to get started, so I didn’t do enough research and ended spending WAAY too much money on a crappy rack that didn’t fit my needs.
Eventually, my crappy squat rack outlived its usefulness and it became time to get a new one. This time, I did my due diligence. I scoured the internet, looking for the squat rack that would give me a great experience without breaking the bank.
In this article, I’ll share my findings with you! i’ll tell you all about the kinds of racks out there. You’ll see which one I got and why. Last but not least, I’ll give some other recommendations that I found along the way.
My Favorite Kind of Squat Rack and Exact One I Bought & Recommend – Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max
Just to clarify, this is the best squat rack for me. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the best squat rack for you. If this one isn’t right for you, check out my other picks below.
With that out of the way, this is the power rack that changed my life.
How Important Is the Quality of A Squat Rack?
Quality is always important when talking about home gyms. Unlike smaller equipment like adjustable dumbbells and some affordable barbells, large equipment is expensive, like, really expensive. And this goes not just for racks, but also for most other machines, from smith machines to incline treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals to mention a few.
It’s supposed to be something that you’re gonna keep for years at least, maybe your whole life.
I remember working out with my dad’s weights when I was a teenager, and if I ever have a son I hope he can do the same with mine. That’s why when I shop for a squat rack, I’m looking for something that’s gonna last for a long long time.
That’s not all though, when you go for something cheap, you also put your health on the line. I mean you’re literally lifting hundreds of pounds over your body, having something snap or bend on you is not gonna be fun.
What Is a Squat Rack Used For?
Like I said, the squat rack is gonna be the centerpiece of your home gym. It’s where you’ll bench press, squat, overhead press and row. That’s if you get the most basic of racks, if you get one like mine, you can also do pull ups, lat pull downs and other cable exercises – unless you have a cable pec fly machine for this one.
Of course, a squat rack alone won’t get you anywhere, you’re still gonna need barbells (here are some cool cap barbell models) and weights, but the squat rack is what’s gonna keep you safe. When you fail on your bench or squat, the safety pins are what’s gonna prevent the bar from crushing you!
Different Types of Squat Racks
In general terms, there are five different types of squat racks, and they all serve one purpose. Squatting.
Nah I’m kidding, each kind of squat rack has a different purpose, like adding features, saving space, etc. These are the five kinds you’ll find on most retailers:
- Power Racks
- Half Racks
- Squat Stands
- Fold Aways
- Combo Racks
The power rack, also known as power cages, is the most commonly recommended type of squat rack. It’s the kind you’ll see in most home gym guides and videos. Why? Because it’s the safest and most versatile of the bunch, it’s no surprise that when I went shopping for a rack, I ended up going for a power rack.
When using a power rack, you can use the safety pins that run along the inside of the rack as a “spotter”. That way, in the case of failing a lift, which can happen with heavy Olympic lifting, for instance, the metallic bars will stop the weight before it crushes you or falls to the ground.
It’s especially useful when bench pressing, cause the weight will fall on your chest otherwise. But even when shoulder pressing or squatting, where you can drop it to the ground, the pins can spare your bar and plates a lot of damage.
These are also great for beginners that are new to squatting and weightlifting in general. The beauty of lifting inside the cage is that if you lose balance and pitch forwards or backwards, the metal pillars will catch the bar. You won’t have to measure your fitness level before taking on workouts inside these machines.
However, even the power rack has a few drawbacks. Power racks are usually the biggest kind of racks, so if space is an issue you might be out of luck. They also tend to be the most expensive, which is a bummer if you’re on a budget.
Finally, some people dislike working inside the cage because it’s a little bit cramped, this varies from rack to rack, but I gotta admit that even mine feels a little small sometimes.
Who Should Buy a Power Rack?
Power racks are the best of the best. So if you ask me, anyone whose budget and accommodations allow it should go for one. With that being said, only serious lifters will really make the most out of a power rack.
Newbies and more casual lifters probably won’t use it to its full extent, so maybe they’re better off with a cheaper alternative..
Calling it a Half rack is pretty accurate, since they are basically just a smaller version of a power rack. These are almost as safe as a power rack, but have a much smaller footprint and a much smaller price tag.
Anyone who doesn’t like to work inside a power cage should feel much more comfortable with a half rack. The safety pins go on the outside of the rack, which allows athletes to move around a lot more.
Yes, the pins are slightly weaker than those on a power rack, probably because they only make contact on one side. To compensate for that, they make them a lot thicker, and while the weight rating is slightly less, it’s still more than enough for most people, especially young peeps into youth weight lifting training who are unlikely to be lifting hundreds of pounds.
What you might miss out on is the ability to hook up a cable or pull down machine. I’ve seen some models that have them, some that don’t.
Who Should Buy a Half rack?
All in all, half racks are great for those who: Lack space, have a tighter budget, or don’t like working inside the rack. Both experienced lifters won’t be held back by using a half rack and at this price point, newbies and casual lifters are more likely to buy it too.
The squat stand is the most basic setup you can get, think about it as a power rack cut in half. It’s only two pillars that will hold the bar up so you can squat. The benefits of a set up like this is that it’s easy to put away and switch from weight lifting workouts to calisthenics on that very spot if you don’t have space.
And of course, that it’s the cheapest of them all.
Of course, stripping down a power rack to its bare components is not gonna come without some downsides. The safety features on a squat rack are minimal, I can’t emphasize enough the need for some spotter arms if you’re training alone. Depending on which stand you buy, these arms may have to be bought separately.
Who should buy a Squat Stand?
Squat stands are for those that have either very little space, or very little budget. It’s a barebones setup, you’ll be able to do the three main lifts, but it won’t be as comfortable or as safe as power or half rack.
Fold Away Squat Rack
The fold away squat rack is for apartment dwellers or those who both train and park in their garage. As the name implies, this is a squat rack that you can fold away to lay flat against the wall when you’re not using it.
As a specialty product, it’s more expensive than regular racks and even some power cages. However, if you’ve got no space and don’t wanna miss out on doing squats, bench and other lifts, it’s a great option.
Who Should Buy a Fold Away?
The fold away is kind of a niche product. It’s for those that are really really short on space and don’t mind spending a little extra to be able to fit a rack anyways.
Best 5 Squat Racks You Can Get
We rounded up the best 5 squat racks on the market for you.
Fitness Reality 810 Xlt Super Max Power Cage with Optional Lat Pull-Down Attachment and Adjustable Leg Hold-Down (my Personal Favorite)
Fitness Reality 810 Xlt Super Max Power Cage Review
- Assembled footprint: 46 inches wide x 50 inches deep x 84 inches tall.
- Maximum weight capacity: 800 pounds
- Height adjustment: 19 options.
- Includes 2 safety pins and safety hooks
What I like
Something people don’t realize sometimes is that whatever kind of equipment you buy, it’s not gonna arrive at your door assembled, you’ll have to do that yourself.
That’s why ease of setup is one of the first things I look for in a rack. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t feel like spending hours fiddling with parts and crappy manuals. I wanted something that could be set up quick and easy.
Setting up the Super Max took me around an hour, and it came with every necessary tool included, it was a breeze.
There isn’t an easy way for me to show you that the Super Max is sturdy, you’ll have to take my word for it. Trust me though, it is. I shook this baby as much as I could and it barely even rattled.
Even when I gave it a test ride and dropped some weights on it, it didn’t even shake or wobble!
This all thanks to the two stabilization bars that redistribute force along the frame and help make the whole thing more solid.
Now we get into the meat and potatoes. The supermax can hold up a whopping 800 pounds, which is more than enough for me and probably most of us out there.
Yes, there are stronger racks out there, but they’re a lot more expensive and I don’t really move that kind of weight, anything more would be just wasting my money.
What really sells this rack for me is the ability to add cable attachments. Cables are a HUUUGE part of my workout regimens and training, and I don’t wanna do without them because I move to a home gym.
If your rack doesn’t have an attachment option, you’ll have to buy a separate cable stack, which is A LOT more expensive.
It’s no wonder that the Super Max has a 4,5 out of 5 rating. It’s cheap, sturdy and easy to set up, what more could you want? I trusted these reviews when I bought mine and I reckon you should trust them too!
Seriously, I can’t recommend this product enough, once you get it you won’t wanna use any other gym setup.
Rogue SML-2C Squat Stand (Best Bang for Buck)
Rogue SML-2C Squat Stand Review
This next entry is for those of us working with a tighter budget. When you’re trying to save a buck, finding quality stuff is HARD. Luckily, I found a great one for you.
So let’s not waste any more time and dive into the Rogue SML-2C
- Brand: Rogue Fitness
- Made In USA
- Product Weight: 157LB, 1000+LB weight capacity
- Length 48″
- Width 49″
- Height 92″
- Steel Notes: 3×3″ 11 Gauge Steel Uprights
- 2×3″ 11 Gauge Steel Bases
- Foot Print: 49″ x 48″
- Total Height: 92″
- Max Pull-up Bar Height for Fat/Skinny Bar: 80.5″
- Max Pull-up Bar Height for Single Skinny Bar: 88″
What I like
There are plenty of things I love about this squat stand, and we’ll get to all of them. But the one thing I like the most is of course its price and quality.
There are cheaper stands out there, but none of those are made by a trusted brand like rogue. Rogue has a long trajectory in the fitness industry, and their customer service is unmatched.
That quality also shows in the fact that this stand has a weight capacity of a thousand pounds!! That’s more than what some power racks can take!
There’s also the fact that it comes with spotter arms included, making it even more of a bargain. In most cases, you’d have to buy those separately.
Finally, this squat stand is sturdy. Thanks to its wide footprint and stabilizer bar (which you can also use for pull ups), force is distributed and your rack won’t wobble at all.
It’s no wonder that this stand is rated 4.9 out of 5. I can assure you, you won’t find a better deal than this one for a squat stand.
Force Usa G3 All-In-One Trainer (Best Overall All in 1 Package but Also Expensive as fu**)
Force Usa G3 All-In-One Trainer Review
The Force Usa G3 is such a complete package, that I feel it belongs in a huge commercial gym rather than a home gym. It’s got everything you could ever want in a home gym, and probably some more.
Of course, all of that luxury and extra feature comes at a price, a really really big one.
Let’s check it out.
- Exterior: 80 in (W) x 55 in (D) x 87 in (H)
- Interior: 43 in (W) x 34 in (D) x 85 in (H)
- Weight Rating: Unit: 992 lb – Smith Machine: 772 lb
- Pulley Ratio: 2:1 => with 100 lb loaded, resistance is 50 lb
- Cables: 6.2mm nylon coated mil-spec aircraft quality cable tested to 2000 lb
What I like
I mean what’s not to like, the G3 is an all in one machine. Everything you could need or want, all bundled up in one package. I love that it offers waaay more than what a regular home gym could offer.
It’s literally an entire commercial gym, that somehow takes up less space than most garage gyms. Once you get used to not having to move around to do different exercises, there’ll be no going back. Your entire training will be done in the G3.
I mean, have you ever seen a machine that combines: A power rack, a smith machine, a pull up station, a core trainer and a functional trainer?
Of course, having all your training in one machine means you’ll save A LOT of space, both in terms of your training area and most importantly, storage. The G3 works as an all in one storage area for your barbells, plates, cables and attachments.
Here’s All the Attachments the G3 Includes
- Multi-grip Chin-up Bar
- Safety Spotter Arms
- Landmine + Handle
- Cambered Bar
- Functional Training + Lat Pulldown Bar
- Small Grip Frame Bar
- Close Grip Handle
- Adjustable Nylon Stirrup Handles
- Ankle Strap
- Pull-down Rope
- Barbell Storage
- Attachment Storage
- 4 x Band Pegs
- 6 x Weight Plate Holders
- 12 x Olympic Spring Clips
- 12 x Standard Spring Clips
- 1 x Extension Chain
- 4 x Spring Snap Clips
Squat Rack with Pull-Up Bar – Garage Series (compact Squat Rack Good for Home Gyms)
Squat Rack with Pull-Up Bar from Garage Series
This one is for those that need a really compact setup. If you’re looking for something small that can still hold up some real weight. The Garage series is what you need.
- Space-efficient 4’x4′ footprint
- Constructed of 2″ x 3″ powder coated 12-gauge steel tubing
- 5/8″ hole diameter.
- Pair of J-cups included.
- Built-in weight horns (5.5 inches long) for rock-solid stability and plate storage.
- Floor bolting option offers a permanent stability option.
- Tested for 450 lb weight capacity
- Durable matte black, powder coat finish, with black powder coat on the J-cups.
- Uprights have Westside spacing for precise heights (starting 22 inches from the floor). J-Cups can be set as low as 13.5″ off the ground or as high as 70″ off the ground. Made with UHMW plastic to protect the finish of your bar. (Metric #4 Allen wrench to replace UHMW)
- SPB Pull Up Bar – 1.25″ diameter (no knurling) Adjustable pull-up bar mount has highest height of 82 1/4″ and lowest height of 70 1/4″ and can be adjusted in increments of 2″.
What I like
There’s a lot to talk about for Fringe Sport’s second iteration of the Garage Series. It seems they’ve learned from past experiences and now have a very polished product.
For starters, let’s talk about weight and assembly. This puppy is super light-weight because of its small footprint, and can be assembled easily by one person in about an hour.
I know what you’re thinking, a lightweight stand is not gonna be very stable, is it? Well that’s why fringe sport added a few stabilization features, which i’ll talk about next.
First, each upright is a single piece of steel, no joints or other weak points. That’s not all though, there are also weight pegs for you to weigh down the stand. If that’s not good enough, you can even bolt it down to the floor thanks to the footprint tabs!
Then there’s the price, it’s not just small and sturdy, it’s also pretty cheap. All in all, it’s a pretty great package if I may say so myself.
Squat Rack Buyer’s Guide: What to Look for When Buying a Squat Rack
Here are a few things to consider when buying a squat rack.
Of course, you can’t buy a squat rack. So your first step is to determine how much you’re willing or able to spend on your rack. After that, you can start looking for what features you want.
Once you know how much you’ll spend, start thinking about how much you’re planning to lift. Most of us can make do with any rack that can hold around 500lbs. However, if you’re an elite level power lifter of simply one strong son of a gun, think about looking for something stronger.
Safety Features & Lifting Style
You read all about the different kinds of squat racks, which ones are safer, which ones allow for most exercises etc.
Think about what kind of training you wanna do, think long and hard, cause you’re gonna have these racks for a long, long time.
Benefits of Owning a Squat Rack
No Commercial Gyms
Something I didn’t really consider about building my own home gym is how much I disliked commercial gyms. I hadn’t realized it before, but I was putting up with them because I had no choice.
I hated the music, I hated the weirdos and unrealistic ambitious people (there was once a guy I meet at the gym who believed he can get 10 pack abs), I hated having to wait to use equipment. Don’t even get me started on their fees!
Your Home Is Your Gym
Another benefit, that kind of relates to the previous one, is the fact that you have your gym just a few meters away from your home.
You won’t believe how much time you waste because of commercial gyms. Packing up your gym bag, commuting to the gym, waiting to use the equipment, now the gym is right next to you, and you don’t even have to show up dressed. It ends up saving you a LOT of time.
Even better, you have a 24 hour gym right there! No more getting kicked out of the gym because your workout ran late.
You can go a step further and make your own equipment, I made a DIY dumbbell rack and it was not just a very satisfying process, it has made storing my budget adjustable dumbbells both convenient and fun, you can’t do that with all your equipment though.
Only downside is you might have to deal with equipment issues like bent barbells, having to do barbell sleeve replacement on your bars once in a while, troubleshooting equipment breakdowns like clunking sound on an elliptical, or your removing rust from weights. But these issues are minimal compared to the freedom you get.
FAQ About Different Types of Squat Rack Buying and Using It
Now we answer a few questions that are common about squat racks.
Why Are Squat Racks so Expensive?
Well, unfortunately, making a big hulking piece of steel that can hold up hundreds or thousands of pounds is not easy. It takes a lot of engineering, design and expensive materials.
Besides, most people who buy a squat rack only do so once. Selling only one product per customer is not a great business model, so it makes sense most companies will try to squeeze every penny out of you.
Why Don’t Gyms Have More Squat Racks?
This is something I’ve wondered about myself. I can remember dozens of times where there were lines, LINES to use the squat rack. I’ve never owned a gym myself, but my guess is that they’re expensive, take up a lot of space and they’re not for most customers.
Most gyms cater to a more casual crowd, that kind of avoid free weights and choose to go for treadmills and cardio machines.
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