YOUR GUIDE TO: Squat Stands, Half Racks and Power Cages
Squat Stands, Half Racks and Power Cages
If you're interested in setting up or enhancing your home gym, investing in a lifting rack is a staple item. Choosing the right lifting rack can be a challenge, especially when there are so many different options. Some people prefer squat stands for its compact size and easy transport, while others refuse to work out on anything less than a full rack. So, what are the differences between the three main categories of lifting racks?
Why Buy a Squat Rack or Power Rack For Your Home Gym
Squat racks will allow you to do a variety of exercises in your home gym. The key thing about a squat rack is it allows you to do squats and dead lifts safely. This is a very versatile piece of fitness equipment and particularly helpful for those wanting to lift heavy weights. This is also a great starting point for someone that has cardio in their fitness routine, but wants to add in lifting weights. Many people prefer doing exercises like squat, deadlifts and chest press with a barbell and this piece of equipment allows you to do so.
The squat stand or squat rack offers the smallest amount of support of the three options we'll be covering today. These stands are typically the most portable. Some squat stands will be in two separate pieces with transport wheels, but even without transport wheels they are typically light enough to move around easily. To put it simply, squat stands are a light-weight method of keeping the bar off the ground. As a result of the light weight and small footprint, squat stands will typically have the lowest weight capacity. Another major factor for squat stands is they usually will not have safety bars. Safety bars are an extremely important feature for those wishing to lift heavy.
The arms can often be moved up and down to adjust the bar height or J-hook positioning can be adjusted. Squat stands generally come in at the lowest price point and can be a good option if you’re wanting a simple solution with a small footprint. Within the different squat stands there will be a range of quality and weight capacity.
Half racks offer more support and adjustability than squat stands. They also feature safety bars and sometimes an overhead bar for pull-ups and band attachments. A half rack will only have one set of uprights and won't form the enclosed cage like you would see on a full power rack.
This type of rack provides you with great all around freedom in your lifting. It is the perfect solution if you're looking for small footprint equipment, but desire the extra support and options that a squat stand won’t offer. Many half racks will have increments on the front columns which allow you to position the J-hooks and safety bars in the exact position you need them. Proper positioning ensures that the safety bars will catch the bar at the right height and prevent you from injuring yourself.
Due to the dual vertical supports and horizontal connections, a standard half rack should safely support the user and have a higher weight capacity. That being said, the enclosed cage design of a full rack will always be the most stable option. If you plan on dumping weights on the safeties, it's very important to check the weight capacity and you may even consider bolting the rack down to reduce movement.
Some half racks will come with plate storage, bar storage and the option for attachments, whereas others will be more simple.
A power rack, power cage, or full rack serves much the same purpose as a half rack, but will provide the most stability. The cage design has dual columns at the front and back, supported by horizontal bars top and bottom. This allows this style of rack to be able to handle weights heavier than a half rack. A full power rack will take up more space than most squat stands and half racks mainly in depth.
The dual-upright layout also means that Power Racks can often be used by two people at once. One on the inside and one on the outside of the rack. Usually, a rack wouldn't come with enough J-Hooks and safety bars to do so but extras typically can be purchased. Power racks will vary in design a little bit, with some racks very simple and some racks that include more attachments, such as a dip station, built in plate storage or multi-grip pull up bar.
Overall, this option will provide you with the most support and the most options for your workout.
The different categories of cages and squat rack will have different weight capacities. This is a very important factor to consider, especially if you want to be lifting heavy. For higher capacity look in the full cages category. The complete four column design will be able to handle more in your gym.
When deciding on any piece of fitness equipment, space is an important factor. Make sure to measure out the space you have and look at the dimensions of the unit you’re interested in. Ceiling height will be particularly important with racks, especially if you want to use the pull up bar you will need extra space at the top. You should also factor in enough space on either side of the rack to load the bar with plates and easily move around the unit.
Attachments & Accessories:
Some racks will have the option to add additional attachments, such as storage solutions, landmines and much more. Some racks even have the option to add a lat attachment, so if there’s something specific you want make sure that the rack you’re looking at has that option. Although many racks look the same, or have similar measurements, it is not common that attachments and accessories from other brands will be compatible.
Keep in mind that although many squat racks may look the same aesthetically that like anything, there are different levels of quality and durability. Typically a thicker, heavier squat rack will feel more stable and endure a higher weight capacity. Some squat racks may be commercial grade, which means their durability in a home gym setting will be great. If you're lifting a really high amount of weights, you may want to consider a more heavy duty, high quality squat rack.
If you have a barbell already or will be purchasing one when you choose your rack it’s important to consider that some racks only accommodate a certain size of barbell. A power cage or half rack has a set width in which only 6.5 or 7 foot bars will fit. Squat stands are typically adjustable and can accommodate smaller 6 foot or 5 foot bars if needed. When going shopping for a Squat rack or squat stand, if you already have a barbell that you'd like to continue using make sure to measure not the overall barbell length, but the length between each of the stoppers. This will ensure that your barbell will fit on your new squat rack or squat stand.
Choosing A Bench
Choosing the right bench for your squat rack, power rack or squat stand will be essential in your workout. First consider whether you want a flat bench, or an adjustable bench. Most people go with an adjustable bench for it's versatility, however some people prefer a flat bench so they can comfortably lay flat. If the space in your home gym allows for it, you may want both. A flat bench is typically a cheaper option than an adjustable bench. In terms of choosing the right bench for your squat rack, power rack or squat stand you'll want to consider the amount of space you have to work with within the rack. Sometimes at the back of the bench it sticks out a little further. Some squat racks have a bar at the back of the rack prohibiting you from rolling the bench back further. You'll also want to consider the height of the bench, relative to where the safety bars are to make sure that you can comfortably do bench press and any other exercises performed with a bench.
You will need a set of weights in order to use your new squat rack. Weights will either have a 1" or 2" hole and come in a variety of materials, such as cast iron, rubber and urethane.
You will want a place to store your plates. Some squat racks will have built in storage, which is a nice feature to have. If the squat rack doesn't come with plate storage, sometimes you can purchase an attachment to add it right onto the rack. If this is not an option you can purchase a plate tree to store your plates.
Setting Safety Bar Height
If you're doing a squat the safety bar should be at the lowest point of your squat, allowing you to push yourself to the full range of motion without risking not being able to get back up. To set bar height for a squat, I recommend performing the full range of motion with no additional weights. After that you should have a good idea of where the safety bar needs to be set. The same method can be used for setting the safety bar height for your other home gym exercises. If done properly, this takes away the need to have a safety spotter to use your equipment.
Chin Up Bar
Many full cages will have a chin up bar. Some will be simple and straight, where others may have multi grip attachments. Half racks may also have a chin up bar. This will not be a feature on individual squat stands.
Popular Brands Available in Canada
Popular brands for choosing a squat rack or power cage include Body Solid, Hoist, FitWay, Torque, Inspire and Ultimate. These are just a few of the brands in Canada we trust. The benefit of choosing a squat rack from these brands is that we should be able to source parts if maintenance is needed down the road.
Delivery & Installation
If you are in one of the cities where we offer delivery and installation, delivery rates and installation rates can be calculated based on your location and type of squat rack being purchased. If you choose not to pay for delivery you can pick up at one of our locations. Delivery and installation makes the setting up of your gym stress free.
If you need your squat rack shipped to you, shipping rates will be calculated at check out based on weight and location. Simply place the item in your cart and enter your shipping details for pricing. Some squat racks are small enough to send the boxes as is, whereas some squat racks will need to be sent on a pallet through LTL services. We do our best to ship all orders within 1-2 business days and the customer will receive tracking information once the label is created.
Check out fitnessexperience.ca or visit us in store to get more information on squat stands, half racks and full racks, or any other type of fitness equipment. We are your one stop shop for strength equipment in Canada. We carry top strength training brands, as well as some great brands you may not have heard of. If there is a strength training product you're interested in that you don't see on our site, please contact us and we may be able to source this product for you. Follow us on Instagram for weekly store deals and online exclusive deals. Fitness Experience is a brand in Canada you can trust.