After going to the gym for several months, I’d become familiar with most of the equipment and machines, aside from the squat rack.
At first, I thought it wasn’t the sort of workout equipment not suited to me. However, as time went on and I began using one, I saw a lot of improvement, especially to my core. Later I decided on a squat rack for home when I left the gym behind – and boy, did it simplify my workout routine.
There are plenty of benefits to what looks like a simple machine design including the ability to perform numerous bodyweight workouts. Starting with our top favorite picks of the best squat rack are:
- Fitness Reality Super Max Power Cage
- Body Power Deluxe Rack Cage System
- Marcy Home Gym Cage Workout Station
- HulkFit Multi-Function Squat Stand
- TITAN FITNESS Short Power Rack
What Is a Squat Rack?
A squat rack (also referred to as a power rack or power cage) is a piece of weightlifting equipment that’s designed to act as a mechanical spotter. This assistance can be reassuring when you’re pressing the pounds—especially if you’re on your own. It means you can push your weight limits without the worry that you will fail and be left struggling to get the weights back in a secure position.
The typical design of a rack is a boxy structure with a minimum of two adjustable catches (rails, pins or j-hooks) that hook into the poles. You place a barbell on these catches for storage or as a safety ledge. You can find info on barbells and our top 5 picks here.
You can adjust the placement of the catches for bench pressing, deadlifting or squatting positions.
Many squat racks come with attachments and other accessories, such as pegs for storing weight plates or a chin-up bar.
How to use a squat rack:
The Smith Machine vs The Squat Rack
The Smith machine is similar to a power cage or squat rack except you have twin rods to guide the barbell, so there is only one direction of movement. The work of balancing the barbell is done for you.
With the squat rack, you are lifting within a cage. You can set safety features that stop the bar from getting out of control otherwise, the barbell moves freely in all directions.
Apart from price and complexity, functionally, using the squat rack means you engage more of the secondary muscles than you would on a Smith machine.
Benefits of a Squat Rack
You might be curious as to how you might benefit from using a squat rack. Let’s dive right into it:
Squat racks enable you to train free-weights safely by ensuring the weighted bar stays put in the catches while you prep for a set or rest. You can perform workouts solo more easily with a squat rack, thanks to the support it offers.
Place the catches just below your extended range of motion, so if you drop the bar while training, these attachments will catch it. This function is especially helpful for bench pressing—where you can injure your chest or even restrict airflow if the bar slips.
2. Heavy Lifting
Given its safety features, you’re now able to lift heavy weights. The security of putting down the weighted bar with ease can encourage you to pack on more plates. The benefits of heavier lifting include:
- Maximizes muscular strength.
- Improves bone density.
3. Better Form
When you’re weightlifting, exercising with the proper form can be challenging. With a squat rack, several factors can help you maintain your posture.
For starters, if you’re practicing in front of a mirror, the vertical poles are a great way to ensure you’re aligned. Secondly, lifting the bar without the help of catches can put strain on your muscles and joints. Having the catches at the ready will encourage you to maintain proper form throughout all of your sets.
The benefits of a proper form include reducing the risk of injury and the ability to focus on the muscle groups you’re looking to work on.
4. Workout and Storage Options
Most squat racks come with accessories or give you the option of purchasing add-ons, such as benches, step-ups and storage units. You can neatly store your weight plates on the pegs and expand if needed.
Squat racks typically come with a secure pull-up bar overhead as well, which you can use for numerous workouts, including:
- Hanging leg raises.
- Knees to elbows.
- Windshield wipers.
How to perform a windshield wiper: A little ambitious for me but hey something to aim for.
What to Look for When Buying a Squat Rack
Depending on your personal fitness goals, abilities and budget, you’ll choose a squat rack accordingly. A few things to keep in mind include:
- Accessories: Are you after the whole shebang including multiple add-ons or do you want something simple? Based on how many workouts you’ll be doing, keep your most important features in mind. Things like storage pegs might also come in handy if you’re looking to store some plates on the rack itself.
- Weight capacity: For heavy lifters, you must ensure the rack can hold the weight of whatever you throw on it. This includes your own body, as well as additional weights. Beginners need not worry too much about this.
- Catch details: Are there multiple placements for the catches and do they match your height? This is especially important if more than one person is using the squat rack.
Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Squat Rack
While the squat rack offers many benefits and safety features for solo training, it comes with potential dangers and annoyances. Here’s what you need to look out for:
- Unequal weight distribution: It might seem obvious but you need to ensure the plates on each side of the barbell are the same weight. Otherwise, you risk tipping to one side and potentially injuring yourself.
- Facing away from the rack: Make sure to face the front of the rack when performing an exercise. It can get tricky and dangerous to get the bar to fit into the catches when you’re doing it backward.
- Getting lazy: The squat rack is an excellent way to pump up the numbers, but its support and safety features can result in you becoming too comfortable. Keep track of your numbers and increase the weights according to your training goals.
The Best Squat Racks
We’ve picked the best five squat racks on the market to evaluate. Let’s see what they have to offer:
This steel power cage is a large, walk-in model providing ease of movement for the user. Its design allows you to perform a variety of standard workouts, with a weight capacity of 800 pounds. Most won’t ever worry about crossing that threshold!
This makes it an ideal rack for training solo, where the bars will catch you if you start to tumble and the pins are ready to hold the barbell. The bars can be adjusted to 19 different heights, depending on the workout and how tall you are.
Furthermore, there’s a multi-position chin-up/pull-up bar up top to take your workout to another level.
A variety of attachments are available (sold separately) including extra j-hooks, a dip bar option, extended Olympic plate holders and more.
Dimensions: 50.5 inches by 46.5 inches by 83.5 inches
Weight: 133.5 pounds
- An 800-pound weight capacity.
- Built-in pegs for weight plate storage.
- Solid safety features ensure stability.
- One-year limited warranty.
- Attachments must be purchased separately.
- Could be uncomfortable for people over six-feet tall.
This power cage is loaded with extras to keep your workouts safe and varied. Two safety bars with j-hooks and two catches make it possible to perform your lifts while alone. Four floor anchors allow you to mount the rack to the floor for stability.
There are six storage posts for weights, freeing up space on the ground around you. All in all, it can hold up to 800 pounds (500 on the rack itself and 300 on the pull-up bar).
Thanks to the safety features and the wide frame of this unit, it’s prime for optimal performance. It might just live up to its claim of being the best power cage for stability.
Dimensions: 63 inches by 45 inches by 85 inches
Weight: 98 pounds
- Excellent safety features, including the option of floor mounting.
- Accommodates most weightlifting bars.
- It includes two dip bars and two pull-up bars.
- Supports up to 800 pounds.
- The 300-pound weight capacity of the pull-up bar may not be enough for larger individuals who add on weights for such exercises.
This gym cage accommodates compound exercises such as squatting and bench pressing. It also features both a high and low pulley system, which is useful for workouts like lat pull-downs and rows.
It only gets better, though. Thanks to the open design and handy storage system, you can easily keep and access your weights including kettle and dumbbells. There’s also a section for weight plates.
This squat rack is not a full cage although it could be described as a mini home gym with a lot of possible activities.
Safety-wise the rack will not tilt if you are placing weights on the back bars. The bottom legs extend back behind the back wall making the center of gravity in the middle of the stand. Other cages are on the back.
Maximum user weight to use Chin-up and Dip Handle: 300lb, Sliding Weight Post: 220lb, Weight Plate Rack: 410lb,
Dumbbell-Kettlebell Tray: 265lb and maximum weight on Safety Catch and Bar Catch: 300lb
You’ll receive a two-year limited warranty. Keep your paperwork and make sure to notify the company right away, should anything go wrong during this period.
Dimensions: 56 inches by 61 inches by 85 inches
Weight: 84 pounds
- Features a high and low pulley system for upper and lower body workouts.
- Multi-grip pull-up and dip bars.
- Spacious storage system.
- The bottom pulley is a little low.
If you’re looking to pump up your numbers, this unit will have your back—literally. This is a heavy-duty squat rack, with an impressive 800-pound capacity. It comes with two pull-up bars, with different diameters and two dip bars.
They both have locks for added security. Other safety features include custom-fit j-hooks and an h-shaped bottom portion, which the company claims make it quite sturdy. Rubber feet provide safe traction on the ground and foam grips on the bars offer a steady hold.
There are two weight plate holders offering minimum storage options. You might want to make sure you have plenty of space around you to keep your weights.
The size of this unit is smaller than the others on our list. If you’re a workout giant or on the larger side of life, pay attention to this when testing the unit.
Dimensions: 81 inches by 44 inches by 46 inches
Weight: 110 pounds
- Heavy-duty—supports 800 pounds.
- Commendable safety features including rubber feet and safety locks.
- Two weight plate holders included.
- The overall structure might be too small for larger folks.
This basic rack makes for a sturdy unit with its steel tube construction and 700-pound weight capacity. No frills are included here, except for a pull-up bar.
That doesn’t mean it’s all bad, though as there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. Thanks to the easy assembly, it won’t take long to get started. The necessary hardware is included, such as the two high-quality j-hooks.
If you’re after a rack that will fit in smaller places with low ceilings, this could fit the bill. It’s another one of those compact units that’s straight and to the point.
Are you on the taller side? Go for the Body Power option or another one with numerous height options to meet you where you’re at.
Dimensions: 71.5 inches by 48 inches by 58 inches
Weight: 123 pounds
- Solidly made from steel tube construction.
- Assembly should be a breeze with this basic unit.
- It’s compact in size.
- Pull-up bar included.
- An inordinate number of customers who bought this rack appeared to receive a defective package.
- Support is questionable.
Best Squat Rack for Home
A squat rack is an excellent addition to your home gym. This is mainly because it offers a variety of exercises that you can perform safely by yourself. Furthermore, some don’t take up all that much space either.
We’re suckers for customization, which makes the Fitness Reality Super Max Power Cage our top pick. It features 19 height positions and a slew of accessories you can purchase on the side including a dip bar and Olympic plate holders.
Let us know which squat rack you land on, good luck on your journey!