Which squat rack is best?
A squat rack is the single most effective piece of fitness equipment for building strength and muscle. Whether you’re new to lifting weights or looking to take your workouts to the next level, a squat rack can dramatically alter your routine by enabling a huge variety of exercises.
This bedrock piece of equipment is a big commitment, and choosing the right one for your home or gym depends on available space and your fitness goals. In general, the best squat rack for home-gym users is the Fitness Gear Pro Half Rack.
What to know before you buy a squat rack
What a squat rack is
Squat racks are metal stands designed to support the weight of a fully loaded barbell. They’re used to perform a number of Olympic weightlifting exercises, from squats to presses. While bare-bones models feature a single two-pronged stand on which you rest a barbell, more elaborate squat racks include safety pins, weight-storage pins and pull-up bars.
Exercises you can perform using a squat rack
Primarily used to perform their namesake compound movement, a squat rack’s simplicity can be used for numerous Olympic lifts and isolation exercises. With a rack alone, you can perform overhead presses, bent-over rows, front and back squats, lunges, curls and shoulder shrugs.
With the addition of an adjustable bench, users can bench press in the neutral, incline or decline position. And if you have the right floor or pads, a squat rack can be used for deadlifts, Pendlay rows and other floor-based exercises.
Olympic vs. standard weights
Squat racks are designed to hold Olympic barbells and weights. An Olympic barbell is about 45 pounds, 7.2 feet in length and 1 inch in diameter with 2-inch diameter end sleeves. Olympic weights are divided into 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35 and 45 pounds. Each plate has a 2-inch-diameter hole.
Contrary to their name, standard weights and barbells are not standardized. Barbells can vary dramatically in length and diameter and are usually not compatible with Olympic racks. Likewise, the weights’ increments, materials and sizes depend on the manufacturer. The only consistent factor is that they usually have a 1-inch-diameter hole, which makes them too small for Olympic barbell sleeves.
Squat rack vs. power rack
These days, squat racks have dramatically improved upon the simple two-pronged stand. This makes them similar to power racks, which are metal cages used to perform the same lifts. Because of this, the only real advantage of a power rack is enhanced safety, thanks to their structural rigidity.
What to look for in a quality squat rack
- Squat stand: This is the simplest design. It has two vertical bars supported by horizontal bracing so you can rest a loaded barbell. They might not come with safety pins to catch the bar if you fail a lift. These take up the least space.
- Half rack: These are half of a power rack, so they’re a little sturdier than a stand, and bigger. They also usually come with safety pins and weight-storage pins, and their height allows for a built-in pull-up bar.
- Standard squat rack: These take up the most space. They have two static safety bars at about hip height that connect to an angled, triangular cage with numerous fixed barbell holders. These racks are the least likely to tip, and usually come with plenty of weight storage capacity. Their only downside is their lack of adjustability.
- Combo rack: Often sold by brands with standard-weight sets, these are designed to maximize exercise potential. In addition to vertical bars, they can feature safety bars, benches, pull-down and leg supports. If you’re a purist, combo racks can prove unwieldy and obstructive when trying to perfect form.
Squat racks take up a lot of room. If you’re outfitting your home gym, you need to take the rack’s entire footprint into account. A squat stand is the safest bet, but depending on floor space and ceiling height, you might be able to get away with a standard squat rack or half rack.
In addition to space, commercial and brick-and-mortar gyms should focus on the fitness ecosystem. Half racks and squat racks are the best choices, as each type has significant weight-storage capacity to support other pieces of equipment throughout the gym.
Before purchasing a squat rack, verify its loaded capacity. Most can hold 400 to 600 pounds, including the barbell. For novice and intermediate home gym users, this should be more than enough for years of incremental progress. Advanced lifters and gym owners should look to half racks, or even power racks, which hold more weight (often up to 1,000 pounds).
How much you can expect to spend on a squat rack
Squat racks represent a significant investment. Simple stands cost $150-$250, and a standard rack or half rack can cost as much as $300-$1,000.
Squat rack FAQ
What fitness routines use a squat rack?
A. Squat racks fit into just about any fitness regimen. They’re especially popular among powerlifters, who use them for hypertrophy or strength-training exercises. A squat rack can also be used for CrossFit, bodybuilding or high-intensity interval training.
Do squat racks come with barbells and weights?
A. Most racks require you to purchase the barbell and weights separately.
What’s the best squat rack to buy?
Top squat rack
What you need to know: With its small footprint, this sturdy half rack is great for home gyms without a lot of space.
What you’ll love: Weightlifters of all levels can get a lot of use out of this rack’s 600-pound capacity. Its safety pin and barbell holders are adjustable, and the top cross bar features separate grips for chin- and pull-ups. You also have ample weight plate storage potential with three posts on either side that can hold 180 pounds each.
What you should consider: Its feet don’t have any knobs for resistance bands.
Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods
Top squat rack for the money
What you need to know: This squat stand covers all of the basics for home users on a budget.
What you’ll love: The rack has a condensed design, so it’s easy to tuck into a cramped room. You get an angled multi-grip pull-up bar at the top, anchor points for resistance bands and two storage posts for weights.
What you should consider: This isn’t the best rack for heavy lifters, as it can only hold 300 pounds and the safety pins are on the shorter side.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Sunny Health & Fitness Power Zone Half Rack Heavy-Duty Performance Power Cage
What you need to know: This fully loaded half rack has something to target every muscle group.
What you’ll love: With a whopping 1,000-pound weight limit, it’s tough to max this rack out. Not only does it come with three adjustable pull-up bars, but also resistance-band knobs at the bottom for warmups and isometric exercises. Both the barbell holder and safety pins are fully adjustable, and this rack can be paired with a number of accessories to maximize your workout options.
What you should consider: It’s bulky and poorly suited for low ceilings.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Karl Daum writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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