Power Rack Vs Squat Rack: Differences & Which Is Best?

Squat rack Vs power rack; they have similar purposes, but there are some key differences in their design and function. As with all fitness equipment, it's essential to make sure you know exactly what you need before making a purchase.  

There are a few differences to consider, so let's take a closer look at the squat and power racks and clear up any confusion. 

A power rack is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own in the gym. It can be used for bench press, squats, and shoulder presses, but it can also be used for pull-ups, dips, and curls. 

But what makes it different from a squat rack? 

The main and most obvious difference is their appearance. A power rack, or power cage, consists of four metal posts, resembling a 'cage.' A squat rack, on the other hand, is typically built from just two horizontal posts to support the barbell. 

A power cage will allow you to perform a more effective and safer range of exercises than you can with a standard squat rack. Also learn about half vs full size racks in this article.

Here are some of our favorite exercises you can perform using a power rack: 

  • Heavy Row  
    The heavy row is one of the best back exercises you can do; it's the holy grail of back workouts. It targets every single muscle in your back and can help improve your posture. It's a great exercise for both beginners and advanced lifters. 
  • Bench Press  
    Bench Pressing on a power rack is one of the best ways to train your chest and triceps. It also allows you to lift heavier weights than if you were free-standing. 
  • Deadlift  
    Deadlifting is a fantastic compound exercise for building strength and muscle mass. Adding a power rack to your gym will allow you to deadlift more safely. A power rack would enable you to perform the deadlift with more weight than you could if you had to hold the weight in your hands. 
  • Shoulder Press  
    The shoulder press strengthens your shoulders and upper back, and it will help you develop a strong, muscular build. 
  • Front Squat  
    The front squat is an amazing exercise for developing your quadriceps. It's a great exercise to help you develop a nice, round gluteus maximus, and it's also a fantastic way to create some serious core strength. 
  • Back Squat  
    An alternative to the front squat, the back squat can easily be performed using a power rack. The back squat is a compound, or multijoint, exercise that works several large muscle groups in the legs and butt, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. 

Pros & Cons Of Using A Power Rack 

Benefits 

  • Helps you lift safely and helps prevent injuries 
  • Builds core strength and balance, as well as increasing your overall strength 
  • A versatile piece of equipment that can be used for multiple exercises 
  • More time to focus on form 
  • Don't have to worry about a spotter 

Negative 

  • It takes up a lot of space 
  • It's easy to become dependent on the power rack and rely on it for every exercise. 
  • Less versatile than free weights 
What Is A Power Rack

What Is A Squat Rack? (+ Exercise Variations) 

A squat rack is a pair of vertical supports for holding an Olympic bar in the upright position, ideal for performing squats. It is especially useful to help the lifter get into position and to help them lift more weight than they would be able to if they were to lift without the help of a rack. 

Some of our favorite exercises using a squat rack include: 

  • Back Squats  
    The back squat is a popular weight-training exercise that works several major muscle groups. It is a form of squatting in which the weight is held onto the upper back rather than resting on the trapezius muscles. 
  • Front Squats  
    Front Squats may not look like the most comfortable exercise in the world, but they're a great way to work your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings all at the same time. 
  • Box Squats  
    The box squat is one of the most popular squat variations among competitive powerlifters because it allows you to practice your technique and work on your form. It's also a great exercise for your hamstrings and glutes. 
  • Partial Squats  
    Partial squats are a great way to build strength in the legs while minimizing stress on the knees. They're great for people who suffer from knee pain when squatting. To perform a partial squat, place the barbell across your shoulders and slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  • Bench Pressing  
    The bench press is one of the best upper body exercises you can do. It hits the chest, shoulders, triceps, and everything in between. The bench press also has the added benefit of being the "king of upper-body mass builders."  By adding on a weight bench, your squat rack can help you bench press. 
  • Overhead Press  
    The overhead press is an awesome compound exercise that will help you build your shoulders and upper body strength. This exercise can be done in a variety of ways. One popular method is to use a squat rack. 
  • Barbell Lunges  
    Barbell lunges are a great way to strengthen your gluteus maximus, which is the largest and strongest muscle in your butt. Lunges also help to strengthen your quadriceps. 
  • Barbell Bent Over Row  
    Although the bent over row can be performed without a squat rack, the addition of the rack makes it much safer to perform.  The barbell bent over row targets the entire back and biceps, including your trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi. 
  • Dips  
    Dips are a bodyweight exercise that you can do to build up your triceps and chest. Most squat racks can be adjusted to allow you to perform a set of dips exercises. 
  • Knee Raises  
    Knee raises target your abs and help with balance. If you have a squat rack in your gym or at home, this exercise is a great one to add to your workout routine. 

Pros & Cons Of Using A Squat Rack

Benefits 

  • Squat racks are usually cheaper than power racks 
  • You can use them for squatting or doing other compound exercises like lunges or deadlifts, in addition to bench press 
  • They're simple to use — no pulley systems or complicated weight settings, just pick up and go 
  • They take up a lot less space than a full-size rack 

Negative 

  • Need a lot of free space to use effectively 
  • You need a spotter to lift the heaviest weights safely 
  • A squat rack is less versatile than other types of weight lifting equipment 
What Is A Squat Rack

Power Rack Vs Squat Rack (Key Differences Explained)

While both racks are designed to help you lift heavy weights, there are a few major differences between these pieces of equipment that you should know about before making a purchase. 

Frame Size/Steel Gauge & Thickness 

In terms of size, the squat rack is typically more compact than a full power rack, given that it consists of just two upright beams compared to a power rack's four. 

Steel gauge and thickness will largely depend on which model you buy. 

Winner: Draw 

Safety 

A safety power rack is a device that allows you to squat and bench press safely in the confines of your own home. It's basically a free-standing cage with a barbell holder. You can use your safety power rack to bench press safely without having to worry about dropping the bar on your chest. 

Winner: Power Rack 

Flexibility/Versatility 

Power racks are a lot more versatile than squat racks, which is why they are so popular amongst home gym owners.  

You can use power racks to perform overhead presses, military presses, squats, bench presses, pull-ups, and more (see models for lat pulldowns here). Squat racks, on the other hand, are primarily used for squats and bench press variations. 

Winner: Power Rack 

Stability And Sturdiness 

While this will vary by model, on the whole, a power rack is better for safety and stability than a squat rack because of the 'cage' construction. 

Stability is important when performing heavy compound lifts like squats and benches. 

Winner: Power Rack 

Customization & Accessories 

You can add a variety of accessories to both power racks and squat racks to increase the number of exercises you can perform: 

Winner: Power Rack 

Price 

The price range of both types of racks is huge.  While cheaper options can be found for as low as a few hundred bucks, it is important not to solely focus on price. While buying 'cheaper' options can save you money in the short term, the quality of construction is likely to be inferior. 

Winner: Squat Rack 

For Use In Garage Gyms 

This will depend on how much space you have available. If you have enough room, we see no reason why you should pick a squat rack over a power rack. Power racks are far superior in most ways and will make a great addition to a garage gym. 

Winner: Draw 

How To Use Power & Squat Racks (Safely & Effectively) 

How To Use A Squat Rack 

  1. 1
    Set the racking mechanisms at around shoulder height. This is where you'll rest the bar between sets and your starting position. 
  2. 2
    Important! Before you start, set the safety racks just below where you intend to squat. Too high and you won't be able to squat fully, and too low will prevent the safety bar from catching the barbell in case of an accident. 
  3. 3
    With the bar secured in the starting position, load on the required weight. Secure weight plates with collars. 
  4. 4
    Perform your squat. 

How To Use A Power Rack 

When it comes to setting up a power rack for a squat, it's pretty much the same method as a squat rack. Instead, let's look at a few top tips for setting up your power rack for a bench press. 

  1. 1
    Place a weight bench in the center of the power rack. 
  2. 2
    Position the safety bars just above your chest. You don't want your chest area to get crushed against the barbell, but you also want to avoid hitting the safety bars on each repetition. 
  3. 3
    Lie down and unrack the barbell. Slowly lower the bar as low as possible before pushing to extend. 
How To Use Power & Squat Racks

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can a power rack be used as a squat rack? 

A power rack can be used as a squat rack. The versatility of the power rack, after all, is one of its major selling points. As long as you have the proper safety precautions in place, you can squat in your power rack.  

Should I bolt the power rack to the floor? 

There are two sides to this argument, and it all depends on how you intend to use the power rack. If you're going to be doing a lot of heavy squats and deadlifts, then bolting the rack to the ground is a good idea. You don't want the rack to be moving around if you're using a heavy load. 

Alternatively, bolting to the floor may not be an option. Instead, ensure your power rack is position on a level surface to prevent toppling. 

How deep should the power rack be? 

The power rack should be deep enough so you can squat below parallel and have a little bit of room in front of you so you don't hit your knee on the uprights. 

Do you need a mat under a squat rack? 

If you're doing deadlifts and squats, or any lifts, really, you definitely don't want to be slipping on the floor when you're lifting weights. You might think that you don't need a mat under your squat rack, but it can really help. 

Another reason is the mat is designed to protect your flooring and equipment from unwanted wear and tear and to minimize the risk of injury 


Conclusion

So what should you buy? If you're on a budget and working with limited space, consider a squat rack.

If you have the room and want to use heavy weights and perform a wider variety of exercises, a power rack is your best option.