The squat rack is a time-honored piece of gym equipment where physiques are made or broken.
It’s a piece of equipment that almost any gym requires. It’s often said that if your gym doesn’t have a squat rack, it’s not a gym – it’s a wellness club or health spa.
The point is that a good squat rack can make or break a training setup and that’s no different when it comes to your home gym. The squat rack offers access to a huge variety of exercises that you’re going to want to get good at for well-rounded, complete fitness and physique development.
Luckily for you, we’re going to take you through the best squat racks for a home gym, what you should be looking for, and some of the most popular models on the market. Stick with us and read on if you’re ready to put those legs and glutes to work and start making serious progress at home.
- What Exercises Can You Do With a Squat Rack?
- Squat Rack vs Smith Machine
- Squat Rack vs Power Cage
- Squat Stands vs Squat Racks
- Things to Consider When Buying a Squat Rack
- Top 7 Squat Racks for Small Space & Home Gym
What Exercises Can You Do With a Squat Rack?
The obvious answer is the squat – it’s a squat rack!
However, aside from both back and front squats, you can also use a squat rack to bench press or overhead press. When combined with a barbell and maybe an adjustable bench, you can get a huge amount of use out of a squat rack.
You can also use the elevated bar position for other front- and rear-rack positions like the lunge or good morning.
One of the most well-known approaches to simple linear progression in weight training (a common program for beginners), requires nothing more than a barbell, weight, a squat rack, and a bench. This is a common approach that has been shown to build muscle and strength in the most novice trainees.
The squat rack is a fundamental part of almost every exercise program. It’s a common place to begin with strength training and we can’t stress the importance enough. If you’re not using a squat rack, there’s a good chance that you have a hole in your training!
Squat Rack vs Smith Machine
The squat rack is superior to the smith machine – there are no two ways about it.
The smith machine and squat rack are so different that we really don’t think they even compete. There is nothing you can do in a smith machine that replicates the actual movements of a squat – it’s a totally different game.
The smith machine takes out the vast majority of the important, functional challenges of free weight movement. Things like balance, coordination, and proper technique are totally removed when using a smith machine and it definitely shows when you switch from a smith machine to a full-range, loaded free-weight squat.
The smith machine can definitely help you build muscle, but it really doesn’t help you train movement. This is the key aspect of fitness that you should really be focusing on since it is where the vast majority of the benefits – strength, power, flexibility, coordination, and skill – all come from.
The squat rack enables you to perform actual strength training compound movements in a way that stimulates all the muscles. The Smith machine allows you to target specific muscles without all the challenges that are the best and worst thing about free weight exercise!
If you’re looking to actually get strong, build real-world competence, and train your body for improved movement both now and into the future, the squat rack is a clear choice.
Squat Rack vs Power Cage
The squat rack vs power cage discussion will always rage on. It’s a discussion that hasn’t really changed in 50 years and probably isn’t going to.
The simple comparison is this: if you’re a powerlifting enthusiast you’ll probably be better off springing for the increased cost, size, and durability of a power cage. It brings a greater level of training choice and safety when handling huge weight.
Obviously, it also brings a higher price and some other logistical concerns – like space. We’ve covered power cages before, however, so we have a full guide on how to get the best power cage for under $500 for your home gym.
The squat rack is still an appropriate choice for anyone that is less serious about training for competitive powerlifting, wants to save cash and space, or has bumper plates and adequate flooring to be able to drop the bar if things get tight.
The squat rack is an excellent choice, but it is for those who don’t need the super-heavy-duty build of the power cage.
Squat Stands vs Squat Racks
Another crucial distinction is between squat stands and squat racks. These are both valuable for a home gym.
Squat stands are individual, free-standing structures that come in pairs. You put one on either side of the barbell and they look like jacks. They simply hold the bar and do not provide safety bars. This makes them a great choice if you’re looking for a light, portable setup for your home gym.
However, because of this streamlined design you probably don’t want to use squat stands unless you have bumper plates and a platformed floor. These are probably best for home gyms for Olympic weightlifting but may not be appropriate for your home gym.
Squat racks are larger, heavier, and less portable. Obviously, this comes with increased stability and often provides additional options like weight-storage and a heavier back bar to support the squat rack from tipping.
The addition of safety bars is the crucial difference – as these are designed to take the weight from you if you fail a squat. These can be a significant benefit or detriment, depending on the design of the squat racks themselves – something you’ll see in our reviews!
Things to Consider When Buying a Squat Rack
✓ Stability and Safety
This is the #1 issue that you need to concern yourself wit. A squat rack that is unstable or unsafe is not worth your money.
The very essence of a squat rack is a stable place to rack and un-rack a loaded barbell from. This means that it has to provide a stable and secure place to begin and end your lift, without worrying that the rack is going to tip or crumble under the weight.
Stability comes from a number of design factors – from the weight to the footprint of the rack on the floor to the balance of the components. It’s a simple but crucial aspect of a good squat rack and there are some manufacturers who just can’t seem to get it right.
This is our top priority: you can’t make a good squat rack without stability and safety.
✓ Size and Dimensions
The size of the squat rack plays into its stability, but it also means that it’s going to take more of your precious gym-space. This is why you need to accurately measure the space that you have and remember that the ends of a barbell stretch outside of a squat rack.
The size and dimensions of your squat rack need to fit well to your needs and ensure that you can squat effectively within the space you have.
A smaller squat rack is likely to be more portable and easy to setup/move around your home gym, but it does tend to come at the cost of stability and balance. Weight pins can be used to counter-act this, but this is a design choice that is specific to each manufacturer and product.
The important part is to make your choice based on the space that you have, with an eye to how it will fit into that space and whether you can make it work.
✓ Weight Tolerance
A squat rack is designed to hold weight. The amount of weight that it can hold is a good measure of how valuable it will be to you now and into the future.
Remember that you’re going to get stronger over time, and a squat rack is a piece of equipment that should last for decades to come. As a result, you need to buy a squat rack that is built to last despite being used by increasingly stronger versions of you into the future.
A squat rack that is rated for 400lbs, for example, wouldn’t be appropriate for any male over 6ft. The ability to gain strength would quickly out-pace this kind of design.
Additionally, having extra weight-tolerance now is a good thing. A squat rack that is rated for 1000lbs will have far fewer problems with a 300lb load when it comes to balance and stability, so it’s a good area to look for a little extra.
✓ Additional – Weight Pins, etc.
A squat rack can be a good place to store your weights through the use of weight pins. This also brings additional stability. It’s one example of an important form of add-on that is either sold with the squat rack or remains as a potential upgrade in the future.
This type of add-on can make a good product great and offers a way of improving your squat rack over time as you improve. These aren’t necessary – we judge squat racks on the fundamentals that we’ve mentioned so far – but they do provide an interesting bonus if your squat rack can provide them.
Keep your eyes open for cool features, but don’t let them distract from the fundamental purpose of a squat rack.
✓ Durability and Damage-Risk
Durability is important with every product, but it becomes more important as the price of that product go up, or the risk that is associated with quality increases.
Squat racks are required to be safe first and foremost. Poor durability poses a significant problem here – there are very few feelings worse than performing a tough set of squats only to feel like the rack isn’t stable when you walk the weight back in.
Damage and poor build quality on a product that is literally required for you to perform a heavy lift is a concern. If a squat rack breaks during use, it could mean a serious injury. Durability and resistance to use is a factor that we take very seriously, and it will be a significant factor in the overall quality of a product.
✓ Value and Brand Rep
The cost of a product is always a concern – this is no different for squat racks, which cost hundreds of dollars.
The brand reputation is also a factor, since the quality of the product is often reliant on the brand and their service standards. You know you can trust certain brands because they have a history of quality and reliable customer service.
When it comes to a high-longevity product like the squat rack, you want a brand that has a good reputation for quality, customer service, and support. It’d also be nice if they didn’t go out of business in the next 5 years, since you’ll need them for customer support if anything goes wrong.
When it comes to big centerpieces, you want to go with a name you can quickly trust. We have 2 examples of Rogue products and a CAP Barbell product on our list for this reason, and we think that customer reviews are the best place to look for what you can expect with a brand.
Top 7 Squat Racks for Small Space & Home Gym
1. Rogue Fitness SML2 90-Inch Monster Lite Squat Rack
This squat rack has an effective footprint that is slightly over 4’x4’ (49″ x 48″), with standard 5/8” hardware and a strong build-quality for its overall size. It’s a set of squat racks that are attached through a back-bar for stability and two pull-up bars (either fat or regular bars).
The steel is 11-gauge, offering a great thickness, stability, and durability that we’ve been talking about. This offers continued resilience and ensures that you’re not going to do significant damage to this product without actually meaning to.
Rogue have had this product rated to 1000lbs, which is definitely a good amount of surplus for your squat racks. We’d not recommend squatting 1,000lbs off of this rack simply because of the safety bar positioning, since “ratings” tend to describe a stable-loading position (not the dynamic loading of a failed lift), but it’s definitely going to be rated for almost anything you can squat in the next decade!
The only problem we can see with the Rogue stand is the 90” tall design. This can be a problem since home gyms tend to be short on space. Sure, if your garage roof is exposed without a ceiling then this product could be perfect, but it really does depend on the actual space you have. Fortunately, Rogue also sells a 70” version which might be better for your space.
The spotter arms (safety bars) are also built at a significant quality and weight, with no problems catching most weights. These aren’t included in the base product, however, and come at a premium on top of the cost of the stands themselves.
2. HulkFit Squat Rack with Pull Up Bar
The stability of this product is buffed by the weight pegs at the sides, which offer a way of adding serious extra loading to the lighter back-side of the squat stands. The product is rated for 800lbs, though we’re not sure you’d want to attempt that much weight off of this product – the wobble involved would be unsettling.
Unlike the Rogue rack, this product includes safety bars as standard, though they are a little short and may require an uncomfortably short walk-out on your squat. Overall, however, it is definitely a more space-saving and cash-economical product with a smaller footprint and weight. This product does also include pull up bars as standard, too.
This is clearly a good product, but more tailored towards the lighter or smaller lifter. It might be rated to 800lbs, but we’d argue that this product is more suited for a smaller or more-novice home gym. It’s only 81” high, which makes it more suitable than the 90” Monster by Rogue.
There are also 3 resistance band pegs either side of the rack which can be useful for safe, stable elastic loading on top of the straight-weight you’re using. Be careful, however, as excessive band tension can lift the rack up as it is not designed to be levered with heavy band tension and may tip.
3. Rogue S4 Squat Stand
Rule this product out immediately if you don’t have the flooring and plates to dump a weight behind you in the squat – or if you squat in a way that you’re likely to fall forwards. These stands do not come with safety bars – you’ll just have to jump out from the bottom if you miss.
This is fine for an Olympic squat, but if you’re squatting low-bar, it could well be a death sentence. Obviously, not the product for heavy powerlifting.
The footprint on each stand is just over 2ftx2ft, with a variety of pin holes to support hooks. There are perhaps too many, since they don’t come with a safety bar option. These are simply too low-stability to compete 1-1 with squat racks or power cages.
However, if you’re lifting on a platform with bumper plates, these stands are fantastic. They’re a low-weight, low-cost alternative to a full power rack and make total financial and space-saving sense! Rogue’s S-4 stands bring a huge amount of base-stability and durability to the stand market.
We prefer a squat stand that has an adjustable-but-integrated hook. The J-hooks in use on the S-4 are totally fine but the height of the racks is unnecessary when there are adjustable-height solid-steel alternatives on the market that have a superior u-shaped cup, rather than a flat hook.
These are small differences: the S-4 is a good product, but it’s not as stable as the Monster squat rack, nor as effective as some other alternatives for Olympic weightlifting in a home gym. This makes for a mixed profile – they’re great if you’re tight on space at only 72” tall and just over 4 sq. ft. per stand!
4. CAP Barbell Squat Stand
In many ways, we wouldn’t consider this a squat rack at all – it’s more like a set of squat stands that have been attached by a pull up bar and back-bar. This is just a result of how light and small the design is. The steel-gauging is fine, but the actual footprint and size are flimsy compared to other products on this list so far.
The price is ridiculously good on this product, but it doesn’t come with safety bars and we’re not even sure that CAP offers them. This makes for a confusing product: it would require the same bumper plate/platform setup as a pair of squat stands, but without the portability.
The rating for this rack is also somewhere between 500lbs and 750lbs, which really is towards the lower end. This is from a static test, which really doesn’t reflect the real-world difference when you consider the movement of a barbell and the wobble it can create.
This product is fine as a “my first squat rack”, especially given the price, but it doesn’t compete toe-to-toe with others on this list. It’s a great choice for a smaller or recreational trainee – if you’re not planning to squat over 300lbs ever – but we wouldn’t trust this product with heavy weights.
The J-hooks are also flattened and bare, which creates far too much bar-wear. This is a concern because you’re going to effectively sand your bar’s knurling down in important areas, which can be a real concern for a home gym since it’s your bar!
5. Fringe Sports Squat Rack
This product feels like a halfway point between the size and thickness of the Rogue Monster with the portability and user-friendly design that we’ve been asking for.
From the start, this product strikes us as a good mid-ground for the average strength enthusiast with a good price tag and durability. The problem here is that the maximum weight rating so far is 450lbs – another relatively low rating.
This is a common problem since you might actually be fine with a 450lb static weight load right now, but it’s a relatively small amount of weight that is easily achieved by an average-sized man over the lifetime of the product.
What we do love about this product is that it offers a plastic-protected J-hook. This is a fantastic change since your barbell is the single most important piece of equipment in your home gym and needs to be taken care of!
If you bolt this product to your floor it comes with excellent stability, but the weight horns offer additional stability otherwise. The problem here is another lack of safety bars/pins, making it a reasonable choice for home gyms with effective flooring and bumpers, but inappropriate for metal weights and low-bar squatters. You can buy the safety bars as an add-on, but this makes for additional expense on a part of the product that should come as standard.
Given the stature and weight of the product, we’re also going to suggest that – if you get it with the safety bars – you should add weight to the pegs at the back of the base. This is just to ensure the product is counter-balanced, since dropping weight on the safeties could easily tip a smaller, lighter product like this.
The applications of this product are pretty niche, but it does them well. If you’ve got the home gym setup, it can be a great product, but it does require a very specific home gym setup before it can shine.
6. Valor fitness BD-9 Power Squat Stand
On the one hand, these are some of the best squat stands you could possibly ask for. They come with high-durability steel construction, adjustable height bar-hooks that are perfect for home weightlifting training, and the option for additional weighting of the base with plate-weights.
However, this product also has slots for safety bars which makes absolutely no sense. The safeties themselves are more like long J-hooks: they’re not going to save you during a bench press or squat and really do not fulfill a useful function.
It only gets more complicated from here as the actual loading of the product is rated to 350lbs which is ridiculously low. This makes the product entirely unable to support its own, high-durability lifecycle. You’ll need to replace these stands with better ones if you listen to this rating, likely within a few years.
The multiple J-hook options make this a good choice for benching, as well as squatting, but again they do not provide sufficient safety bars and are likely to feel unsafe. Benching from squat stands is a precarious situation that you probably want to avoid.
One customer described these as “just okay” and, given the confused nature of the product, we’re definitely inclined to agree.
7. YaheeTech Adjustable
The max rating for these stands is 200kg (441lbs). This is still relatively low when considering the effective strength progress that an average-sized man can make over a decade. This is a very achievable task and can be seriously limited by these stands, which would need replacing along the way.
The construction of these stands is great, and we like the overall design – it’s a matter of simplicity and provides the best squat stands on this list so far. The ratings are relatively low, but we think the actual design – with a bar cradle on an adjustable solid carbon-steel shaft and H-base – is excellent.
There are a few nagging issues that are going to need addressing, however. Rubber feet are a constant issue in this product and others – super-gluing them to the metal is a good fix. The safety bars are, once again, absolutely useless.
Safety bars on squat stands do not work due to the actual balance and structure of the stands. They also seem to impede adjusting the barbell cradle and are definitely more inconvenient than useful.
If you ignore the pointless safety bars, this product is a great design for squat stands if you’re looking to train weightlifting training at home – it’s just a shame that the weight limit is so low. Overall, this is a good design that has been implemented poorly.
“You gotta squat” – Kirk Karwoski.
The squat isn’t something you should ever consider optional – your body is designed to be trained as an integral unit and squats are one great example of that. Handling heavy weight in a squat is a common way of building leg strength but also of building character and the patience and tenacity required to succeed in your fitness goals.
We think that the best option for a squat rack is probably the Rogue Monster rack. This is a well-balanced and stable product with a high-quality build and a reputable manufacturer. It offers stability and a relatively strong build that can be fit into your home – with both a 70” and 90” models, to ensure you’re going to be able to fit them into your home.
There are obviously some squat stands on this list, too. When it comes to this, it’s hard to pick a winner. The Rogue s-4 stands provide the best stability, but they don’t actually adjust in height which makes them inappropriate for many weightlifting purposes, and the bar cradles are going to churn your barbell.
On the other hand, the best squat stands by-design are likely the YaheeTech (if you remove the useless safety bars). They offer an adjustable, shaft-supported cradle that only requires a little tape or fabric to protect your barbell. These are limited, however, to a rating of around 200kg/441lbs, which is why they can’t compete with the Rogue full-rack.
Squat racks offer a variety of exercises, but they’re well regarded for their general versatility and the importance they play in any well-rounded training program. Squatting is the common denominator for all strength enthusiasts and is (rightly) regarded as one of the most important exercises you could use your time on.
A squat rack for your home gym is one of the best ways to improve yourself and chase your fitness goals. Get the right product for your needs and keep your squats deep!