What you need to know before buying a Power Rack / Power Cage / Squat Cage / Squat Rack / Half Rack / Multi-Press / Squat Stand
- Power Rack
- Power Cage
- Squat Cage
- Squat Rack
- Half Rack
- Squat Stand
….the list goes on and on…
If this is your first venture into the world of racks it can be very difficult to get your head around the different types of racks and understand what features are going to be important to you.
This page will give you a clear understanding of the differences between them all and what features to look for when buying
Let’s start off with the basics, all these racks are all closely related gym equipment used for lifting weights, specifically performing squats or bench presses, dependent on the type of rack you can also perform a variety of other workouts such as pull-ups, dips, and suspension type training like using TRX or using Olympic rings.
The rack supports the weight of the bar, allowing you to put the bar in place and get it on your shoulders ready for a squat or above your chest ready for a bench press. Once finished, you can drop the bar back on the supports.
Power Cage / Power Rack / Squat Cage
Known interchangeably as Power Cages, Power Racks or Squat Cages a Power Cage is distinguished by having four vertical posts and one or more bars over head – hence the cage naming. Attached to the vertical sides of the cage are movable horizontal catchers known as spotter bars or safety bars.
As free weight lifting builds more muscle and strength than machines, the power cage forms the a centerpiece in any body building facility.
As the power rack is fully enclosed it offers the most safety for exercises like squats and bench presses.
The strongest power cages are able to upwards of 1000 lbs on the spotters bars. There are a number of variations of power racks which usually range anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.
Manufacturers of power racks often offer many different models and customization options and other accessories for the power cage. Common attachments include lat pull downs and plate holders.
Among the many specifications of a power rack, the distance between holes/support racks will impact the reach and level of comfort when performing various exercises in this equipment. An inch can make a huge difference when you start working out, especially when using a bench inside the rack for presses.
Hole/support rack spacing may vary, but ideally you will want 2 inch spacing (measured from the center of the holes) or less.
In terms of price, power racks are usually more expensive than Squat Racks or Squat Stands, but in terms of safety they are definitely worth the money, here’s a couple of examples of why you want a cage when bench pressing or squatting:
Half Rack / Multi-Press
A Half rack, also known as multi-press rack, is a popular piece of weight training equipment that is primarily used as a workout station for free weight barbell exercises. As opposed to a power rack, a half rack has only two upright steel tubes, compared with the power rack’s four.
A half rack is designed for stopping or catching the bar if necessary as in cases of a failed squat. Compared with a power rack, it does not have a pull-up bar, though it is substantially cheaper.
Half racks require less space, though it usually boasts heavy duty construction. This equipment is ideal for squats, deadlifts, bench pressing, shoulder pressing, and shrugs. Depending on the available and compatible accessories, a half rack may support other exercises.
A half rack has limited range of exercises when compared with a power cage. It will support less accessories for various other exercises and generally speaking half-racks / multi-presses will have a lower weight capacity that power racks.
Usually a multi-press will occupy less floor space than a power rack. In terms of adjustability they have adjustable safety bars, chin-up bars, and band and weight storage too.
A half rack allows for more freedom of movement. You can train outside the cage and do squats with less restriction. Half racks are cheaper compared with a power cage.
A half rack is usually not compatible with various suspension based strap exercises, suspended GM’s or for doing reverse band presses.
Compared with power racks that have full 4 post racks, a half cage only has two; so in the event that you lose your balance and fall back on a squat, there is a possibility that you may miss the spotters and hurt yourself with a half rack. A half rack can only catch a barbell if it falls forward or down, while the other direction is left open .
A half rack may not be a great choice for working out alone. While there are half racks made especially for home use, these items have smaller spotter arms that may not be very safe to use for squats.
While a half rack may not be the best choice when you work out without a spotter, it is not a terrible choice as this may be used for other exercise other than squats. A half rack is ideal for spaces with limited floor and air space. This rack is preferred by athletes who do front squats and other Olympic lift exercises where they dump a failed rep to the floor.
Sumo Rack is often dubbed as the compact version of a power rack, boasting some of power rack’s features while being smaller. A sumo rack has four upright posts with wide end caps for stability; and is usually lower in height to fit facilities with low ceilings. The key difference you’ll notice between a sumo rack and power rack is that sumo racks don’t have bars at the top.
Paired with an adjustable bench and an Olympic weight and you have a complete gym set at home. You can do bench without a spotter with a sumo rack with its steep pins (rods). A sumo rack usually features J-hooks and is usually built for Olympic sized bars (7 ft).
There are a number of attachments available for sumo rack including dip attachment. As a sumo rack may not be as heavy in rack weight as compared to a power rack, there may be an issue when it comes to its stability as used for dips and other exercises that include the exertion of body weight on the rack.
Sumo rack usually has the same safety features and standards of a full power rack; though as sumo racks don’t have the top bars they are
Unlike power racks, sumo racks wont have dip bars, plate and band holders or pull-up bars, meaning you can’t use it for suspension training either.
Sumo racks are ideal for facilities with low ceilings while not compromising the variety of exercises you can do with this equipment. A sumo rack also has a compact design, requiring less floor space compared with a power rack.
The construction of a sumo rack is usually light weight; thus, it is easier to move around and is portable as well. Sumo racks also do not require bolting on the floor, and is sturdy enough to take on heavy workouts.
While a sumo rack may have limited capacities as compared with a full power rack, they usually have options for front inserts that may be sold separately from the rack, allowing you to put the bar on the front post like a weight bench.
A sumo rack is also cheaper, while some are able to support weight up to 1000lbs in spite of their compact design.
Squat racks are built to aid you primarily with squat lifting exercises. A squat rack is a metal stand which supports a barbell and weights at different levels depending on your height and workout preference. You position yourself under the barbell and complete the squat lift by placing the barbell over your shoulders, standing up, then squatting down before rising and placing the weight back onto the squat rack.
The key difference between a squat rack and squat cage is the rack is designed primarily for squatting and doesn’t offer you any protection if you fall forwards. The basic squat rack will have pegs on the sides for holding plates. It will help you rack the weight for a squat or sometimes bench press, but won’t have the safety “spotter” arms to catch it if you fail.
A squat rack is often shorter than a full-blown power rack, which makes it tempting if you’ve got limited height in your home gym.
The main problem you may have with a squat rack is that it typically does not have adjustable spotter arms and is really only designed for doing squats or things like military presses. Some squat racks may not work well if you’re shorter as its lowest support rack may not even be as low as you would need it to be.
A Squat Stand has two upright posts with safety spotters on each post for lifting weights. It usually has an H-frame base that allows for a stable stance while in use, and it features safety catch bars for barbell.
The posts of a squat stand are adjustable to support height when doing weights along with its safety catch. Some squat stands also have an adjustable base for larger footprint, adding stability to the stand.
Squat stand may be used for flat, incline, and decline bench presses; squats, curls, upright rows, calf raises, and shrugs.
Compared with power racks or squat racks, a squat rack requires much less space. However a squat stand provides minimum safety if you fail on a lift, so as such is one of the least safest options for home use without a spotter.
When you get stuck on a squat or a failed rep, you may have to dump the weight on the floor instead of using the squat stand either because the safety spotters are not adjustable, you are not able to reach it, or the base of the bar is too tall.
The major advantage to squat stand is price as it is the cheapest support equipment for lifting weights. They are typically more portable, being composed of two vertical posts that usually around 2”x3” in thickness. While a squat stand may support hundreds of weights, it weighs significantly lighter than squat cage, power racks, or sumo racks.
Cage / Rack / Stand Attributes
Each of the products here have been categorized by the most important attributes when buying a power rack / squat rack / multi-press / sumo rack or squat stand. Here’s an explanation of each of the attributes we’ve used.
These are major manufacturers of gym equipment ranging from power racks, half rack, sumo rack, and squat stands. Depending on the model, its functions, supported exercises, and weight capacity; price may vary. There are a number of products under each brand.
- Body Solid
- Body Craft
- Cap Barbell
- Champion Barbell
- York Barbell
Price of power racks, half rack, sumo rack, and squat stands are categorized to Expensive, Average, or Cheap, comparing it with the rest of the products under the same category.
- Expensive: $ 800-1,000
- Average: $ 400- 799
- Cheap : $ 100- 399
Type of Rack
- Power Rack
- Half Rack
- Sumo Rack
- Squat Rack
Weight capacity is the total amount of weight the rack can handle. This number includes the user weight (when doing pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, TRX, kipping, muscle up, etc.) and the weights which may be racked on the equipment. Weight capacity ranges from 300-1,000 lbs depending on the type of the rack.
- Power Rack: 500-1,200 lbs
- Half Rack: 300, 600, 1,000 lbs
- Squat Rack: 800-1,500 lbs
Length of bars supported
The length of bars supported by the racks depends on the measurement of the space between the upright posts on the rack. Racks usually support 6ft or 7ft minimum length of bars to fit in the rack.
The weight of the frame affects the type of exercises you can do with the rack. It also dictates whether or not the frame is portable and easy to move around. Other lighter racks may also be bolted on the floor to make it sturdy and stable.
- Frame weight ranges from 60- 315 lbs.
- Racks with frame weight of above 220lbs may be used for kipping, pull-ups, TRX, or rings.
Height is important to know whether the rack fits low ceilings. It determines whether you can use the equipment for chin-ups, measuring the clearance of your ceiling compared with the rack height.
- Rack height ranges from 60” to 92”
The frame dimensions will tell you whether or not the rack fits in your space. It is important to note the depth of the frame as some would prefer racks with wider workout space while some prefer racks that require less floor area.
- Include the length of the rack (upright posts); width; and depth (inside) measurements of the rack.
Frame Size & gauge
The frame size and its gauge tells about the make of the rack. The thicker the frame size and gauge, the tougher its frames are, implying it is sturdier and can handle more weight as well.
- Frame size ranges from 2”x2.25”, 2”x”3”, to 3”x3”.
- Frame gauge ranges from 11-14, determining the thickness of the frame
When posts are numbered, it is easier to rack the bar on the support holes/racks. Holes/racks which are not numbered may be numbered manually with the use of marker or stickers.
- Either numbered or not numbered.
Rack Support / Hole spacing
The spacing between rack support/holes affects the adjustability of the rack. The less apart the holes/rack supports are, the better.
- Spacing between rack support/holes range from 1.5” to 2.75”
Number of Rack Supports / Holes
The number of rack supports/holes affects the adjustability of the rack. The more rack supports/holes there are, the better.
- Number of rack supports/holes range from 6 to 49.
Height of Lowest Support position
The height of the lowest support position will affect the kind of weight lift you can do with the rack. The closer the lowest support position is on the floor, the better for deadlifts and other kinds of lifts where the weight is lifted off the floor.
- Ranges from 10” to 28” off the ground
Height of Highest Support Position
The height of the highest support position should be compared to your height to know whether the rack should give you the best support for your workout. For instance, a 6’4” person may want to go for a rack having its highest support position at around 5’6”; lower than that may be difficult for the user.
- Ranges from 36” to to 67” off the ground
Type of Pull up bar
Depending on the equipment, pull-up bar may be included. Power racks usually have pull-up bars, for the rest, a pull-up bar is a bonus. Pull-up bar may either be straight; or a that which is placed over the upright bars of the rack; curved or curved and separate as when one bar is placed on the left upright and the other on the right; or a monkey pull-up bar.
- Curved (Separate)
Dip bars are usually attached on to the upright bars in the frame of the rack. Heavier racks usually have dip bars as it can sustain the weight of user as compared to racks that are lighter in weight.
- Some cages include dips bars, others won’t and they’ll be an additional add on purchase.
Plate holders are pegs attached to the rack that allow you to store weight plates while you’re not using them – some are vertical other horizontal. Some racks have none, others have 2 / 4 / 6 etc. If you have plate holders you can weigh the rack down even more so a light weight rack with plate holders might allow you to do kipping / TRX suspension training that you couldn’t normally do without weight on the plate holder.
- Racks may either include plate holders or not, but racks with plate holders give better value for money as it saves you hundreds of dollars for another set of plate rack.
Band holders or band pegs are the pegs that hook the bands onto for resistance training and exercises. It looks similar to a plate holder though usually smaller in circumference and with a wide, flat circle on the end to keep the bar from coming off.
- Either included or not included on the rack.
Kipping Pull ups
Kipping is a variation of pull-ups that is usually a part of the CrossFit training. Compared with strict pull-ups, kipping requires power not just from the athlete’s upper body, but can get as engaging for an overall body workout. This is the type of pull-up that uses leg swing and hip snap to proper the body upward, getting your chin over the bar.
- Not all racks are for kipping pull-ups, but power racks often support this.
- Kipping pull-ups are for heavier racks, or for rack that may be bolted on the floor.
Racks with pull-up bars support muscle-ups as well.
- Racks may either support muscle-ups or not, depending on the weight and stability of the rack.
Suspension rings are used for gymnastics training as much as it is use for CrossFit, Muscle Ups, and many other exercise routines. Suspension rings are usually attached onto the pull-up bar of the power rack with straps that hang to the pull-up bar. Suspension rings may be wooden, metal rings, or straps.
- Racks may either support suspension or not, depending on the weight and stability of the rack.
TRX Suspension training
TRX Suspension training may be supported by racks that weighs substantially heavier than the user; or as the rack is bolted on the floor. TRX training is done with attaching the suspension trainer attached on the rack, with the user’s body weight used as the workout tool.
- Racks may either support TRX suspension training or not, depending on the weight and stability of the rack.