February 10, 2022 5 min read
The exercise rack is perhaps the most fundamental piece of equipment for any gym. If you’re serious about making a commitment and investing in a home gym with equipment like a professional gym, an exercise rack is a must. But which exercise rack is the one for you?
It can be confusing to understand what each rack unit brings to the table, so we provided a guide to the different types of exercise racks. The list of the most common racks for a home gym includes the power rack, half-rack, squat stand, fold away, and combo rack. We’ll be diving deeper into all of them to highlight the advantages and disadvantages each offers you for your home gym.
First, we’ll begin with the most common exercise rack, the power rack. If you’ve even been inside a fitness center, you’ve undoubtedly seen a power rack. A power rack (or power cage) consists of four upright posts with holes, a horizontal bar for catches, J-hooks for squats, and a pull-up bar on top.
The power rack can be used for various exercises but is best for heavy compound movements like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups. You can also expand the power rack’s available activities with additional attachments and accessories like a T-bar row attachment, dumbbell spotter, and dip bar.
The power rack is considered by many to be the best type of rack for home gyms because of its versatility, reliability, and safety. A mechanical spotter on the power rack lets you work out alone without a spotter, even when you’re dealing with serious weight. Whether you need a major weightlifting power rack or something simple for a home gym that allows you to bench and squat alone safely, the power rack can check all the boxes.
The power rack is an excellent piece of equipment, but it still has drawbacks. It may be the most durable and versatile rack, but it’s also the biggest. You’ll need at least four feet around the footprint of the power rack and one foot of space above it. Some people don’t like the cage feel of using a power rack because it feels a bit claustrophobic and limits some of the movements you can perform.
Also, because it’s so big and sturdy, a power rack is difficult to transport or move from one space to another. If you’re more casual about fitness equipment or are limited in available space, maybe you should consider something smaller.
Compared to a power rack, a half-rack is what it sounds like: half of a power rack. Instead of four towers with holes, the half-rack has two, but most half-racks still have a pull-up bar on top connecting the towers. A half-rack still has the mechanical spotter of a power rack and can do many of the same exercises as a power rack.
As a shrunken version of a power rack, the main advantage of choosing a half-rack is the space you’ll save. The half-rack has fewer and smaller components, so it takes up less space and is easier to move. Thanks to only having two towers, the half-rack isn’t enclosed like a cage, which allows you to perform other exercises you couldn’t do inside a power rack.
The half-rack may be lighter and smaller, but that also means that it’s slightly less reliable and comprised of lower-quality materials. Half-racks also lack the power rack’s safety bars, although you can usually purchase them separately and attach them yourself. Due to its slighter frame, the half-rack also has fewer attachments, and therefore less versatility in the number of exercises you can perform with it.
A squat stand (or squat rack) is not very different from a half-rack. Both racks feature two adjustable posts, but the main difference is that a squat stand doesn’t have the pull-up bar connecting the half-rack’s two towers.
The squat stand is essentially a half-rack simplified further and used for primarily, you guessed it, squats. You can perform plenty of other exercises with the squat stand due to its open face, but most users who choose the squat rack use it exclusively for lower-body movements.
Like the half-rack, the squat stand is a fairly simple piece of equipment that is light and easy to move compared to a full power rack. It’s also relatively simple to set up and use, making it popular for more casual people about fitness.
Naturally, the simplicity of the squat stand also brings some downsides. The squat stand isn’t as versatile as the half-rack, especially not the power rack. Most squat stands don’t include safety arms, so you should use a spotter while working out. Also, due to its lightweight frame, the squat stand won’t be as reliable or sturdy as larger racks.
The folding rack is quite a unique piece of equipment. Fundamentally, a folding rack operates the same as a full-size power rack, except that instead of it being a freestanding unit with four posts, it only has two posts and is attached to a wall. As its name suggests, the folding can fold into the wall to lay flat when not in use.
The main attraction of the folding rack is the space it saves when not in use. If you live in an apartment or have a gym garage you want to park in, the folding rack could be just what you need. The folding rack doesn’t sacrifice when it comes to reliability as it can support the same weight and most of the same exercises as a power rack. Many of the same attachments and accessories for power racks work similarly with folding racks.
The folding rack is quite helpful for many but is still a relatively new and niche product. Not as many companies make folding racks, which means you’ll have fewer options. Also, once you choose a spot on the wall for your fold-away, you better like it, because moving it somewhere else will require a lot of effort.
The last rack we’ll tackle is the combo rack. The combo rack is unique in that it’s a squat rack and bench press in one piece of equipment, knocking out two birds with one stone. A combo rack includes a bench and adjustable uprights for when you want to squat or bench press. The combo rack is easy to adjust but isn’t very useful to most outside of those two exercises.
The combo rack is approved and used by USA Powerlifting and USPA Powerlifting for competitions, so most of its users are professional powerlifters. The stable versatility of the combo rack is excellent if you’d like to have a high-quality bench press and squat rack in one piece of equipment. Plus, powerlifting competitions use them, so you know they can handle the heavy weights.
Unless you’re a professional powerlifter or training to be one, you probably won’t find much use in a combo rack. The average fitness enthusiast is likely better off with a more versatile rack. There are also fewer companies that make combo racks, so you’ll be left with fewer choices when it comes to designs.
Those are the most common types of exercise racks you’ll find, but there are also numerous variations of each kind and additional attachments and accessories you can use to outfit a rack to your liking. At Top Fitness Store, we’ve got every type of rack you can think of, so stop in to see them for yourself and talk with one of our fitness equipment experts to learn more! Hopefully, our guide to the different types of exercise racks has helped you decide which equipment is right for your home gym!
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