Power Rack vs Squat Rack: Which Should You Choose?

When setting up a garage gym, you need a rack to form the foundation of your heavy lifting.

But what sort of rack should you go for?

You’ve got two options: a power rack or a squat rack.

Power Rack vs Squat Rack

Yet, I’ve found that many people are confused between these two rack types, often mistaking one for the other. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between a power rack and a squat rack and guide you to the best buying decision for your training situation.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is a power rack?
  • Power rack pros and cons
  • What is a squat rack?
  • Squat rack pros and cons
  • Squat rack vs Poer rack: Key differences
  • When a power rack is the best choice
  • When a squat rack is the best choice

What is a Power Rack?

A power rack is a metal cage designed to provide safety and support when doing heavy barbell exercises. Exercises are performed within the power rack.

The rack has four uprights connected by horizontal framing at the top and bottom of the rack. A safety rail can be set at various heights to catch the bar if you fail on an exercise.

The four uprights on a power rack have holes spaced at a set distance to attach j-hooks that hold the barbell. You can also attach accessories such as a dip station to extend your training options. Most power racks also have a chin/pull-up bar attached to the front cross beam.

There are two types of hole spacing on a power rack. Conventional spacing sets the holes two inches apart, running the length of the uprights. This allows you to set the bar for everything from deadlifts to overhead presses.

Some power racks feature what is known as Westside hole spacing. In this case, the hole distance is one inch apart through the bench press zone and one inch apart above and below that zone. This allows for more precise bar placement when bench pressing.

Power racks often have a couple of storage posts at the rear base of the frame to hold weight plates. This may also act as a strength and stability enhancer for people who do not bolt their power rack to the floor.

A power rack acts as a built-in spotter by providing adjustable safety rails or pins to set at the height you need suppose you fail to complete a rep. The rails will catch the bar, reducing injury risk. This gives you the confidence to push to your limits, knowing you’re safe even when training alone.

Power Rack Pros

  • Exercise versatility: power racks allow you to perform an extensive range of exercises. Any barbell exercise can be performed safely within the rack. You can also do pull-ups/ chin-ups on most racks. Additionally, you can purchase accessories to perform exercises like dips and landmine presses.
  • Built-in storage: Most racks have built-in storage pegs for your weight plates. This makes the rack more solid and secure while keeping your training area clutter-free.
  • More safety features: Power racks have more safety features than any other type of rack. Because you are exercising within the power cage, the safety bar will catch the barbell if you fail by falling forward or backward. You can also use safety straps rather than rails. Straps can absorb the impact of the falling bar, making it less likely that damage will be caused to your equipment.
  • Rigidity: Power racks are far more solid than half racks or squat racks. The fact that the rack is a complete cage makes it much stronger as the four sides of the frame strengthen each other. Power racks are also usually built from stronger gauge steel than squat racks.

Power Rack Cons:

  • Big and Bulky: A power rack requires a decent amount of your garage’s real estate. A common footprint for a standard power rack typically ranges from around 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep to 4 feet wide by 6 feet deep. You will also need clearance around the rack to load your barbell.
  • A Bit More Expensive: Power racks are relatively expensive due to the amount of steel and the workmanship involved in their construction. You will pay about twice as much for a quality power rack as a squat rack.

What is a Squat Rack?

A squat rack is a frame with just two uprights. It is also known as a half rack and may be attached to a wall. Because there is no cage, you exercise in front of the rack rather than inside it. As a result, the rack cannot catch a bar if you fail to complete a rep.

Squat racks have evenly spaced holes on the uprights, similar to those on a power rack. This allows you to position the j-hooks at the right height for the barbell.

The main benefit of a squat rack is that it allows you to perform exercises with the bar starting at shoulder level (such as squats and shoulder presses) without lifting the bar from the floor.

Some squat racks, which may be referred to as squat stands, feature two uprights that stand separately (i.e., they are not connected). This allows you to adjust the distance between them. However, these types of stands are not as secure as a rack with a horizontal cross-beam.

Squat Rack Pros:

  • Compact Size: Squat racks typically take up less than half the space of a power rack. This makes them suitable for home gyms with confined space requirements. Some squat racks are also foldable against a wall, taking up only a few inches of space when not being used.
  • Cost-effective: A high-quality squat rack can be purchased for several hundred dollars, while a power rack will require an investment of more than a thousand.

Squat Rack Cons:

  • Limited Safety: A squat rack cannot catch the barbell if you fail a rep. However, you can add safety spotter arms that extend out about a meter from the rack on either side. This may catch the bar, but it will also negatively affect the stability of the squat rack.
  • Limited Weight Capacity: Squat racks are not as strong and stable as power racks, so they generally have a lower maximum weight capacity.

Squat Rack vs Power Rack: Key Differences

Let’s now drill down on the critical differences between a squat rack and a power rack.

Safety Features

A power rack has more safety features than a squat rack. Power racks feature adjustable safety rails or pins to catch the barbell if it falls, while a squat rack will not.

Exercise Versatility

Power racks allow you to do more exercises than squat racks. These include squats, bench presses, overhead presses, and pull-ups. You can also purchase attachments to extend the exercise range, including dips and landmine presses. Squat racks are mainly designed for squats and overhead presses.

Footprint and Space Requirements

Squat racks have a more compact footprint, making them suitable for home gyms with limited space requirements. Power racks are big and bulky and can not be broken down when not in use.


Squat racks are simpler in design and construction than power racks, resulting in a lower price point.

When a power rack is the best choice

  1. You prioritize safety and require comprehensive built-in safety features.
  2. You want maximum exercise versatility for a wide range of barbell and bodyweight exercises.
  3. You have ample space available in your home gym or workout area.
  4. You are willing to invest in a piece of higher-priced, premium-quality equipment.

When a squat rack is the best choice

  1. You have limited space or a small workout area in your home gym.
  2. You primarily perform squats and shoulder presses and don’t require extensive exercise options.
  3. You are working with a limited budget and need a cost-effective solution.
  4. You prioritize simplicity and ease of setup over additional features and accessories.

Wrap Up

A squat and power rack will allow you to squat more efficiently. However, a power rack provides built-in safety features you don’t get with a squat rack. It also allows you to perform a wider range of exercises. If your available space and budget requirements allow, I highly recommend investing in a power rack to serve as the cornerstone of your home gym.