With more and more people looking into home gyms, demand for equipment that allows us to train effectively at home is only growing.
This is especially true for those of us who enjoy weight training and want some variation of squat rack to use at home. With so many options available, it can be hard to determine which is right for your particular circumstances.
But what is a Squat Rack and what is it typically used for (besides the obvious!)?
In this article, we will look at some of the most popular squat rack options available and how they differ from each other, weighing up their pros and cons.
What is a Squat Rack?
Squat Racks, in the simplest terms, are pieces of equipment that allow a lifter to perform barbell squats and other strength exercises.
They come in a variety of sizes and designs to suit almost every lifter and situation, from full caged Power Racks to minimalist Squat Stands. No matter the space or budget available, most should be able to find a rack that will work for them.
Most Squat Racks will typically fall under one of the following categories:
- Squat Stands
- Combo Racks
- Half Racks
- Wall Mount Racks
- Power Racks
Others do exist, such as the Monolift, however, these are a lot more specialized and probably outside the scope of this article!
Let’s look at each of the variants in a bit more detail.
The Squat Stand is the most basic variation of Squat Rack available. It is typically made up of two pillars or posts to allow the barbell to be racked and unracked from.
It is often the most cost-effective solution for those looking to train from home and takes up very little space to boot. Transportability is also a major plus due to being relatively lightweight.
Exercise choices are somewhat limited with a basic Squat Stand. Squatting is, unsurprisingly, the most viable option, however, shoulder pressing and bench pressing are also perfectly achievable with a Squat Stand, you will of course also need a bench for the latter though.
One big disadvantage with Squat Stands is their instability, particularly if you lift a lot of weight. Unless you bolt them onto the floor or platform, re-racking will often require a delicate touch, otherwise, you could see the whole setup topple over, causing damage or worse, injury.
Speaking of injury, if you’re training alone you’ll need to be very comfortable with dumping the weight or you could run into some serious issues here as you won’t find spotter arms on Squat Stands.
Rogue offers a variety of Squat Stands, the S-4 Squat Stand 2.0 being the most traditional choice. You will also find Squat Stands available on Amazon, however, I can’t vouch for these and would be wary of build quality.
Overall, unless money or space is tight, I would steer clear of Squat Stands, there are definitely better options out there.
Combo Racks are the next step up from Squat Stands. They typically come a bit more solidly built and often include a bench and spotter arms.
Those who are familiar with Powerlifting will likely recognize the Combo Rack, as it is typically the tool of choice during meets and competitions in the sport.
The Combo Rack is a good option if space is at a premium as they take up very little space, particularly if not using the bench.
Exercise choice is more or less limited to the Squat and Bench Press, with Shoulder Presses being a perfectly feasible option too. With the added framework and inclusion of spotter arms, band work or pin squats/presses are also an option so the Combo Rack is definitely more versatile than the Squat Stand when it comes to exercise selection.
Negatives of the Combo Rack are that, despite their good build quality, there is still a risk that they could topple if not bolted to the floor. There are several occurrences of individuals failing a squat and dumping the weight on the spotter arms only for the rack to then flip over.
Another negative for me is the large price tag, as they are often as expensive, if not more so, than a full Power Rack, which in my opinion is a much better option for a home gym (more on that later).
Overall, the Combo Rack is a good option if space is tight, however is still quite limiting in terms of exercise selection and safety.
The Half Rack represents the perfect middle ground between space saving and versatility. They are typically built in a similar fashion to a full Power Rack in that they have four full-length uprights which are connected together creating a cage-like design. However, the Half Rack has significantly less distance between the front and back uprights, meaning that they take up less space so are a great option for those looking for more exercise options while simultaneously taking up less space.
In my opinion, the Half Rack is the first truly versatile option when it comes to exercises. The usual Squats, Bench Presses, and Shoulder Presses are all doable, however, the Half Rack provides the opportunity for further choice, such as pull-ups/chin-ups or rack pulls for example.
They also have the added benefit of being used for plate storage so in some circumstances could actually take up less space than the Squat Stand or Combo Rack.
The disadvantages of the Half Rack are that, although much more stable than the Squat Stand or Combo Rack, there is still some risk of toppling as the majority of exercises are done outside of the cage but this is easily solved by bolting to the floor.
In terms of cost, I consider the Half Rack to be a great middle of the road option. You’ll typically find them cheaper than a Combo Rack and, given their improved versatility, for the average lifter, it’s a no brainer.
The Rogue HR-2 is a solid choice and can also be customized with some optional extras if you so choose. You can also find Half Racks on Amazon, but having not tried these personally, I can’t vouch for them.
Overall, I’m a fan of the Half Rack. It manages to strike a perfect balance between the need for space and cost-saving with the need for a functional piece of equipment that allows for a lot of exercise versatility and options.
Wall Mount Rack
A Wall Mount Rack, as the name suggests is mounted directly onto a wall and can often be folded into the wall for maximum space-saving potential (you can see this in action in the video below).
Assuming the wall you mount to is suitably sturdy, this can make the Wall Mount Rack a great option for training alone as you can fully utilize spotter arms to catch any failed lifts.
Similar to the Half Rack, there are plenty of options and addons available and in a lot of cases, a Wall Mount Rack can be completely customizable for your particular needs.
Exercise selection will depend on the exact setup you choose, but the world is pretty much your oyster, if you can’t do it in a Wall Mount Rack, you probably won’t find many racks that you can.
Price is pretty competitive but can vary wildly depending on the exact setup you go for. A basic setup without any bells and whistles shouldn’t cost the earth though.
Negatives aren’t many, but the big one for me is of course that you will need to attach the rack to a wall in your home/garage. For many of us, this may not be an option, be it due to renting a property or simply not being comfortable with the idea of drilling into a wall.
For a no thrills, foldable option, you can’t go wrong with the Rogue R-3W.
If you want the flexibility and versatility of a full rack setup but don’t want it to permanently take up space in your home, a Wall Mount Rack is a good option to consider. You’ll be able to do most lifts using this type of rack and crucially, there is little risk of injury as the spotter arms can be used to full effect.
The last rack on the list is, of course, the Power Rack and easily the best rack you could go for, assuming cost and space are not an issue.
The Power Rack is effectively a self-contained cage that allows you to complete many different lifts and exercises both safely and efficiently. They can be customized to your heart’s content and you will find a wide variety of attachments and add-ons for them, so there are very few individuals who would not find them useful.
A basic Power Rack will allow you to perform all the main lifts, from squats to bench presses. Depending on your height and the height of the Power Rack, you may not be able to shoulder press without hitting the top of the rack, but this is easily overcome by shoulder pressing outside the rack like you would a Half Rack.
As the rack is fully self-contained, there is no need to bolt it to the floor or a wall, they will generally withstand all the abuse you can throw at them and maintain their position and integrity. This makes them the ideal option for training alone as you can use spotter arms to full effect and not have to worry about getting stuck under the weight. I’ve gotten myself into many a hairy situation during lifts and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’d probably have died or at least severely injured myself were it not for my Power Rack catching the weight.
The obvious disadvantage is that a Power Rack can be pricey. Alongside this, they do take up a bit of space and you’ll probably need a dedicated area for the rack to go, which isn’t always ideal.
The Rogue R-3 is a good budget option, you’ll find all the basics to get you started, with the option to expand and add to it further down the line should you choose. Contrast this with the RM-8 Banshee and it’s easy to see how much versatility you can get out of a Power Rack.
Amazon also has some Power Racks to choose from but again, having not tried these, I can’t speak for their quality.
When it comes to weight training at home, the Power Rack is by far my preferred option. They offer so much versatility and most importantly, allow you to train the majority of lifts and exercises at home, on your own, without fear of injury.
They can, of course, come at a price but a basic Power Rack shouldn’t break the bank for most people, and it’s often possible to find some really good deals in the second-hand market.
All that is really left to consider is space. If you are particularly tight on space, then look elsewhere, however, if you can afford to have a big old steel cage as the focal point of a room or garage then get yourself a Power Rack, you won’t regret it.
Wrapping up, Squat Racks are a great option for those that can’t or don’t want to train at a local gym. There are a wide variety of options available, from simple Squat Stands right up to fully kitted out Power Racks with pull-up bars, pulley machine attachments, and even cupholders (probably).
For most people, the main considerations will be cost and space, with the cheapest and most space-conscious being the Squat Stand, however, I would steer clear of these if absolutely necessary as there are a lot of safety concerns and they aren’t really that versatile.
Instead, I would recommend spending a bit extra and going for, at least, a Half Rack or, if you can, a Power Rack. These will prove to be a much better investment in the long run.