Many of us have that one spot in the gym that we spend the most time in. That place we feel most at home may be the cardio equipment, the cables and machines, or even the kettlebell section. But the spot that is often seen as the mecca of strength, more so than any of the other sections we may frequent, is the rack.
Squat, bench, overhead press, pull-ups, and many other movements are often done at the rack. But what you can do at the rack is most likely defined by what kind of rack you have, and while many commercial gyms or studios may have a wide variety of racks, most home gyms only have the space or budget for just one. That’s right – there are different kinds of racks, each with their own benefits.
If you are building a home gym, you may be on the lookout for a rack and trying to decide what kind of rack is best for your space. In this post, we’re going to dive into Squat Stands, Half Racks, and Power Racks.
No matter how much or how little room you have in your home gym, a Squat Stand may be a good option due to the small footprint. But despite the small footprint, Squat Stands give you the platform to perform several of the main movements such as squats, bench press, overhead press, and depending on your creativity maybe a few more – all of this despite the name “Squat Stands”.
Squat Stands are often some of the most affordable options for racks, as they require less steel due to the small footprint, and they are designed so they do not have to be bolted to the ground. Some of these stands are designed as a pair of individual stands, while others are a single solid unit, and some may have the option to connect the 2 separate stands to make a single unit. Squat Stands are often shorter as well, though the height or base can be adjusted, so they can pretty much fit anywhere.
The downside to Squat Stands though is that many of them do not have higher weight loads that other kinds of racks do, as they aren’t built with as much steel as other racks and their footprint is smaller. This also means they are not really designed for many attachments and are not super versatile. As they are not the tallest pieces of equipment, Squat Stands often don’t have pull-up bars, though there are certainly outliers.
If you are looking for a super strong and versatile rack for your home gym, Squat Stands may not be your best option. But if you need an affordable, space-saving solution where you can get your main lifts in, then you may have found the rack for you.
If you have the space and budget, a Half Rack can offer you a lot of stability and more versatility than Squat Stands can. For starters, plate storage. This is an incredibly important feature that Half Racks have over Squat Stands, especially in home gyms because 1) it can further stabilize/weigh down your rack, and 2) it gives you another place to store plates in your home gym, where you must be space sufficient, so you do not need to purchase a separate weight tree.
Though they’re typically more expensive than Squat Stands, you will probably get more bang for your buck with a Half Rack in terms of what you can get out of your training. A pull-up bar is fairly consistent across all Half Racks, and though this means they’re taller – often as tall as a full-blown Power Rack/Cage – this gives you the option to work on some of your bodyweight strength. If it’s a multi-grip pull-up bar, then even better.
In addition to the built-in plate storage/weight horns and pull-up bar, a Half Rack may also have the ability to work with additional attachments that can be purchased separately, such as dip attachments, wall ball targets, or even a step plate if the pull-up bar is too high.
However, you may be limited if you are somebody who likes to lift inside the rack, rather than outside. Half Racks typically have less depth than a full Power Rack/Cage. This may be perfectly fine for some lifters, as the inside of the cage is short and lifting outside the cage is preferred to get more depth, but if you prefer to lift inside the rack for maximum safety, then a Half Rack may not be best suited for you.
This may only impact the buying decision for a few of you, but another thing to consider about Half Racks is the orientation when you’re lifting, specifically when it comes to squats. Most of the time, if not all the time, you will be squatting in a Half Rack facing towards the back of the rack, so you will likely be looking at a wall or a possibly a mirror. While many of you may not be phased by this, if you are a competitive powerlifter where you will be facing out into the open during the squat, you may want to avoid squatting toward the back of the rack against the wall so you can emulate the competition setting as much as possible.
A full, heavy-duty Power Rack or Cage is the safest option in the eyes of many home gym-users. With a 4-post frame, a full Power Rack will provide more stability than a Half Rack with the same amount of features (if not more). Compared to the Half Rack, a Cage often has a higher weight rating and is safer due to the safety bars that connect the front uprights to the rear uprights.
While this is mainly a safety mechanism in the event you can’t complete the lift, this feature allows you to get more creative with your training. For example, with the adjustable safety bars you can perform rack pulls or pin presses, on top of the more common squats, bench press, and even overhead press if your rack is tall enough.
If your Power Rack isn’t tall enough though, you still have the option to lift outside the cage for your favorite overhead movements.