You might have seen the phrases “squat rack” and “power rack”. What’s the difference between the two and what is best for you?
Squat stand vs. power rack: What’s the difference? A power rack has 4 upright posts with bracing in between where a squat stand only has 2. A power rack is stronger, safer and has more exercise options. A squat stand lacks a few exercise options and safety features but is cheaper and smaller.
Wondering which exercises do you miss out on with a squat stand? Keep reading to find out.
What is a power rack?
Most people who’ve been in a gym will be familiar with the power rack. A standard power rack consists of;
- 4 upright posts
- Braces between the front and rear upright posts at the bottom and top
- Top brace between the two front posts is often a pull up bar
- Normal brace between the two rear posts.
Ok, so a power rack is basically a cube build out of scaffolding. What else is it?
Power racks have hooks you can attach to the upright posts. Those hooks are used to rest the barbell on. The upright posts have different holes in them so you can adjust the hooks to the exact height you need. It’s possible to set up those hooks on both sides of the post. That means you can lift inside or outside the cage.
The cage is the part of the rack between the front and rear posts. If you stand ‘inside’ the rack with a barbell, you are locked in like in a cage.
Another important feature of a power rack are the safety pins. Safety pins can be metal bars or straps. You mount them between the front and rear post. The safety pins are there to catch the barbell in case you would fail a lift and have to get away from under the bar or worse.
Let’s say something bad happens and one leg completely gives out with a heavy barbell on your back. You might collapse but the barbell will be caught on the safety pins so you won’t be hurt by the weight.
Same with a bench press. If you fail a repetition, the bar will be caught on the safety pins instead of you being stuck with a heavy bar on your chest. Just set up the safety pins a little bit under the lowest you will ever go during normal repetitions and you’ll be safe.
Most power racks of decent quality will also have a lot of add-ons available. Some popular rack accessories;
- Dip handles
- Plate holders
- Different pull up bars
- Vertical barbell holders
- Extra barbell hooks
- Spotter arms
- Resistance band pegs
- Pulley kits
If you want any of those accessories make sure the rack you buy has those available.
What is a squat stand?
Where a power rack is made to be as versatile as possible, a squat rack is a bit simpler, cheaper and less versatile.
A squat stand consists of;
- Two upright posts
- Stabilizing frame on the bottom
- Height adjustable hooks for barbell
There are two slightly different types of squat stands;
- One just has two fixed height posts with a pair of barbell hooks that are adjustable.
- The other type has barbell hooks ON TOP of the upright posts. The posts themselves are adjustable in height. Usually this type also has a pair of barbell hooks that’s mounted lower.
Because the hooks are adjustable, you can still do many of the same exercises you can do in a power rack although not all. Since the hooks on a squat stand can be adjusted lower, it can also be used for bench pressing, which is important for many.
What’s the difference between a power rack and squat stand?
So what are the differences between a power rack and a squat stand?
Of course there are tons of different models of both types of equipment. The differences listed below are the general differences and not between specific models.
- Safety: A power rack is safer to lift in, especially without a spotter. Safety pins and upright posts on all sides can stop the bar from hurting you. 4 upright posts also means a rack provides more stability.
- Load limit: The 4 post design and bracing means that most power racks can support more weight than most squat stands.
- Size: A squat rack is significantly smaller and takes up less space. For really small gyms this can give you some more breathing room than a power rack.
- Price: Squat racks are significantly cheaper than power racks.
- Exercise options: Power racks allow you to do more exercises in basic form.
- Accessories: Power racks in general have more add-ons available that can create even more exercise options.
Here’s a chart of some of the most popular gym exercises and if they’re possible with a rack or stand.
|Exercise||Power rack||Squat stand|
|Deadlift||Not necessary||Not necessary|
|BB Row||Not necessary||Not necessary|
|Hanging ab raise||Y||N|
|Lat pulldown||With add-on||N|
|Low pull||With add-on||N|
For most people the lack of a pull-up bar will be one of the biggest drawbacks of a squat rack. While you can us a door frame pull up bar, it’s not quite the same as the pull up bar that’s part of a power rack.
That said, there are a few squat racks that do have a pull up bar. Especially fixed height squat racks often have one or have the option to add one.
To summarize, the biggest differences are, a power rack is bigger and more expensive but you get more safety, strength and exercise options in return.
Do you need a squat rack or a power rack in your home gym?
Anyone who intends to use free weights in their home gym, needs one of these. Both is not necessary but you’ll need at least one. Lifting up your barbell from the floor for every exercise is just unpractical.
In the end, what’s best for your home gym is up to you to decide. What’s right for you depends on;
- Available space
- How heavy you lift
- Which exercises you want to do
- How many accessories you need
- If you’ve got a workout buddy
If you don’t have the money and/or space for a full rack, getting a squat stand is infinitely better than getting nothing at all. If you want something that does everything you can imagine, while supporting the heavy weights you want to lift while keeping you safe, spending more on a power rack is worth it.
My personal preference is a power rack. Especially for a home gym. Yes, it’s more expensive but if you’re an avid lifter, you’ll use it so often and for such a long period of time it’s worth it. Saving for an extra month is worth it for a few reasons IMHO.
- Extra safety. The biggest benefit of a power rack. In a home gym people usually work out alone. That means you have no spotter. While some squat stands have spotter arms, the safety pins and upright posts of a full rack are just safer.
- Versatility. A power rack can be used for more different exercises. Yes, it’s bigger but you don’t need much else.
- More accessories: More accessories means you can make your power rack even more versatile. Many power racks don’t have this option.
- Stronger. The design with four upright posts is inherently stronger and more stable than just the two of a squat stand. This is reflected in the load limits which are generally higher for power racks. If you lift very heavy, a rack can hold more weight.
However, if your personal home gym really doesn’t have enough space to fit a power rack, a squat rack will still allow you to do many of the same exercises.
Can you bench press in a squat stand? Yes, Squat stands have hooks that can adjust low enough to be suitable for bench pressing. Some squat racks even have add-on spotter arms for extra safety. Of course you still need a separate barbell, weights and bench.