Since Karl I. Mullen (from Portland, Oregon, USA) patented the power rack back in 1987, this has been a constant topic in and outside the gym. To efficiently compare the names and see the differences, I must consider a lot of different opinions on this matter. I’ll do my best to comprise all of them here.
When reality comes into play naming conventions disappear while leaving the important differences amongst the names lost. In that case power rack is the same thing as squat rack, which is the same thing as power cage, which is then the same thing as squat cage. You can freely use these names interchangeably without hesitation. But, there are some slight differences amongst them, which are especially important to remember when buying one for yourself.
Difference Between Squat Rack & Power Rack?
Cage is built out of four strong vertical posts that have movable horizontal bar catchers on each side. The posts are linked at the top and at the bottom for additional strengthening of the construction. Racks in oppose to cages, usually, are comprised out of just one vertical post with additional bottom support for prevention of an accidental turn over caused by overloading and instability. Although they posses bar catchers, in difference to cages these are fixed at the average squat bottom position.
In general, such iron constructions are designed to ensure a safe and enhanced free weight workout. They can carry barbells of various kinds. In difference to usual stands, racks and cages are much safer because dropping the weight will result in it being caught by the side bar catchers. Also, there are no movement restrictions imposed by apparatus such as the Smith machine or a hack squat. Since squat racks are simpler they are considered the granddaddies of power racks.
Range of exercises that you can do on these apparatus’ is broad. Apart from full blown compound exercises like squat and military presses I like to do partial movements. Partial bench press, partial squat and partial deadlift is just some of the stuff I practice on these bad boys. Partial movements are excellent for using bigger weights in a safe way, while overloading the muscles for producing greater strength and growth.
Choose and Commit
Basically, one of these pieces of equipment will be more useful to you over the other depending on what you’re going to do with it. If you’re a full time squatting machine like I am, you don’t need anything more than a simple power rack to fit all of your needs. But in spite of my desire to have a clean single purpose machine, there are some useful non intrusive additions to the construction like built in pullups, chinups and dips bar. Unfortunately, when you try to compromise multiple machines in one the quality of each goes down the drain, which is sad but most of the time true. This is why “home gym” stuff is just a crap from beyond even if you are not that serious about getting in the zone with it.
Now you are equipped with some basic understanding of the power rack stuff. Go now and find one for yourself.
Some Squat & Power Rack Recommendation
One clarification before I begin. Different names are used to describe family of similar products. Although they differ in few details, they all usually refer to same product. Those names include: power rack, squat stand, power cage, squat cage, etc.
How much the squat rack costs? Most often talked about aspect today is the price. No wonder with this present economy downturn. Therefore, I’ll do my best to reconcile the quality and wallet depth.
Heavy duty frames are imperative when it comes to strong and reliable training. Construction should be well balances and heavy to allow secure and safe workout. Usually good ones are counterbalanced at the bottom.
Stop holes/pins should be positioned with high frequency, with distance of no more than two inches between them. This increases variety of movement.
Safety side catchers are not present in every squat rack, but in my opinion they are a must when it comes to developing the ultimate power of the squat. Usually they add a little more to the price, because they require cage like construction, but they are worth every penny. They should be adjustable because that increases the possible range of motion, in oppose to fixed ones.
Champion Step Squat Rack
Frame dimensions are 65 inches (depth) x 60 inches (height) x 48 inches (width). Heavy duty construction provides impressive stability. Pins are starting at the height of 28 inches (first one) and increase incrementally to the height of 60 inches (last one). There are 4 built in sidebars for storing weight plates.
You can perform squat and front squat, either full or partial range, military (standing shoulder) press, biceps curls, upright rows, good mornings, shrugs and a lot more exercises.
Note: Barbell and weights are not included in the price so you’ll need to purchase them separately.
Although not much versatile because of the fixed height this one stands out in his simplicity and construction strength.
Body Solid PowerLine PSS60X Squat Rack
Actually this is not a rack at all; this classic piece comes from a family of respectable squat stands. Dimensions of the frame are 30 inches (depth) x 37 inches (height) x 48 inches (width) x 51 lbs or 23 kg (weight). Bar support adjusts from 30 to 60 inches which gives plenty of height options. There is a 10 year warranty on the frame and 1 year on the rest of the parts, which is excellent. Construction is built out of 2 by 2 heavy-gauge steel bars. Wide base gives it enough stability even for using the heaviest of weights.
Possible movements are flat, incline, and decline bench presses (if you have an adjustable bench), squats, curls, upright rows, shoulder shrugs, calf raises, and a few others, just be creative in your workout.
It is much narrower than cage type structures so it takes a lot less space, which is useful if you plan to use it at home or garage. You’ll need around 10-20 minutes to put the parts together yourself, it is very easy.
A downside is that holes for height adjustment are 3 inches apart which slims your choice of options, especially with benching, which requires more subtle distances than squatting. Since this is a stand and not a squat rack or a cage you definitely need a spotter for monster squatting unless you have a death wish and try to do this with nobody around to catch the weight. A definite tip is to put it on the rubber mat or back end against a wall to prevent shifting, which can occur with such heavy poundage.
Note: Barbell with collars and weights are not calculated in the price. One reminder though; only bars with at least 45 inches of length between plates will fit on this stand, so be careful not to buy a shorter one than that. If you are in a hurry or on a tight budget you can always search for cheap barbells ($40) or plates ($0.7/lbs). Try Wal-Mart or something if you are that desperate.
All in all this is one tough cookie, which can satisfy even the most demanding appetites.
New York Barbells C92563W Power Rack
Maybe not one of the pretties power racks but sure one with all features. Cage dimensions are 48.5 inches (depth) x 82.5 inches (height) x 48 inches (width) with 26 inches distance between posts. Strong construction weighs 152 lbs (69 kg). There are 28 holes for side catchers. There is 2 inch distance between them which is excellent for practicing partial movements. It has holder for Olympic weight plates, 2 strong “J” hooks, 1 inch round solid steel pins and chinning bar at the top of the cage which is deep knurled for secure grip.
Cool thing about this one is that you can install a whole bunch of add-ons. Some of them include: chinup bar with lots of different grips, lat machine with 200 lbs weight stack with triceps press down short bar.
This squat rack is actually my favorite piece of equipment because of its impressive range of powerlifting movements. I’ll just number a few: whole variety of squat, shoulder press and curl exercises, good morning, deadlift, partial or full and a bunch more of them. Check out his shorter cousin from New York Barbells made specifically for sumo stance squats.
Note: You will need to acquire plates and bar independently.
If neither of these options work for your budget I advise you to search for some cheap used squat racks.
If you have some questions feel free to leave a comment. I can even do a review of some squatting equipment at your wish. Contact me and I’ll be glad to post it here.