Can’t decide between squat stands and a power rack? Here are the differences and similarities so you can find out what works best for you.
Power racks have 4 upright posts, 4 braces at the top and 2 on the bottom. Squat stands are 2 separate upright posts sometimes connected by a single bottom brace. Power racks are safer because the barbell is limited by the posts and safety pins. However, squat stands are much cheaper and smaller.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the practical differences and what works best for you.
Power Rack vs. Squat Stands
What are the differences between a power rack and a squat stand? They have roughly the same purpose of holding a barbell at a certain height so you can get under it. However, they are quite different for different purposes.
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 is more stable. They can often be bolted to the floor for the most stability. Squat stands don’t always have spotter arms which means the bar goes straight to the floor when dropped.
- Load limit: The 4 post design and bracing means that most power racks can support more weight than most squat stands. For lifting very heavy, a power rack is the way to go.
- Stability: Full racks are much stabler. They tend to feel much more solid, especially under higher loads.
- Size: A squat stand is significantly smaller and takes up less space. For really small gyms this can mean the difference between being able to do squats and not.
- Price: Squat racks are significantly cheaper than power racks.
- Exercise options: Power racks allow you to do more exercises.
- 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.
To summarize, a power rack is bigger and more expensive but you get more safety, strength and exercise options in return.
Let’s take closer look at both options.
Power Rack Features
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.
A power rack is basically a cube built out of scaffolding. You stand in between the upright posts. The barbell is held on the J-cups so you can easily get under it without having to lift it from the floor.
Since you’re in between four upright posts, the barbell can’t get outside of the rack. This helps prevent damage and injury if something were to go wrong. The safety pins do the same thing but prevent the barbell from going below a set point. This means if you were to collapse with the barbell on your back, the safety pins catch the bar so you don’t get stuck under the bar.
That makes a power rack the safest option for weightlifting at home.
Pros And Cons Of a Power Rack
- Safest way to lift
- High load limit
- Includes pull up bar
- Allows you to do a few more exercises
- More expensive
- Most have to be bolted to the floor
Squat Stands Features
here 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
- Some have a brace between the two stands at the bottom, some don’t
- 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.
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.
Pros And Cons Of Squat Stands
- Can be moved around easily
- Holds a barbell at the correct height
- Can’t handle higher weights
- Not as stable as a rack
- No pull up bar
- Sometimes spotter arms are lacking
- Not as safe
The Best Compromise: Half Rack/Squat Rack
If you want a bit of extra safety but don’t want to go for the full power cage, a half rack (also known as a squat rack) is a good alternative. A half rack is a mix between a power cage and squat stands.
Squat stands are two separate stands. A half cage is connected at the top and bottom. They also tend to have longer ‘feet’. That gives them way more strength and stability. Often half racks have longer spotter arms than squat stands which gives a level of extra safety.
Just like with squat stands, you’re standing in front of the upright posts and not between them. That means it’s still possible to fall backwards and you or the barbell won’t be caught. However, the spotter arms will catch the bar if you go down or forwards.
Some half racks have an extra brace for the upright posts. This gives extra strength and often allows you to store weight plates on there. This type is generally better than without the brace and doesn’t take up much more space.
Many commercial gyms use this kind of rack since it takes up a little less space and it’s easier to get the barbell on/off the rack. Half racks usually also have pull up bars and can be bolted to the floor.
Go for a half rack with long and adjustable spotter arms. They longer the spotter arm, the more likely it is they will catch the bar if you fail a rep. Also make sure the spotter arms are height adjustable so you can set it up exactly right for the exercise you’re doing. This minimizes the drawbacks compared to a full cage.