If you want to get strong and elicit hypertrophy (muscle growth) then there is a very good chance that you would benefit from owning and using a squat rack of some kind.
Squat racks allow you to rack a barbell – placing it across the front or back of your shoulders, or across your upper back, ready for a variety of movements. In this way, you make heavy squats accessible in your training regime – front, high bar and low bar, among others – as well as any other exercise that requires beginning from a racked position – notably overhead press variations and accessory movements like good mornings and yoke walks.
These are all large, compound movements, which are key to both strength and muscle gains, and are all very challenging to perform without having a rack to start from.
But what squat rack should you invest in? How do you get your money’s worth, how do you get something to suit your training, and how do you find one that is easy to live with?
Our Favourite Squat Racks
We’ve found a few. Any of them will represent a good investment, though each offers something slightly different.
Take a look below to find out which squat rack would best suit you and your space.
Mirafit M1 Squat and Dip Rack (Adjustable)
The Mirafit M1 Squat and Dip Rack is one of my favourite offerings on this list. When you’re looking at kitting out your home gym, you want to get as much utility out of any one piece of equipment as possible. The M1 offers utility in spades.
It is by far one of the most versatile – and also most robust – models on this list.
The M1 model we tried had an adjustable spotter (there is a fixed spotter version, though I wouldn’t recommend it for a home gym). Adjustability usually comes as a trade off against solidity. This is not the case here – the M1 is solid as anything.
Spotters are always a good thing. They are built first and foremost for safety. If you know you’re going to drop the weight, you can simply let it go and step back. The spotters will catch it. They can also help you to judge squat depth.
However, my favourite use for spotters comes in the form of rack pulls, one of the best full body strength accessory movements going. You can set your spotters up low, maybe stand on a plate if you’re on the shorter end of the spectrum, and get them to around knee height. Place the bar across them and set up for a double overhand grip deadlift. From here, pull away and feel your lower back and traps light up.
I tried this out on the M1 and it worked a treat.
The Mirafit M1 is fully adjustable, and doing so is incredibly easy and straightforward, so that you can get it to the exact height you need and find the width that fits your space perfectly.
You can also perform dips on the M1, as its name suggests, using its dipping handles, adding functionality. Realistically, with dipping handles and a barbell/squat rack set up, you have everything you need for a good full body workout.
The upper weight limit is a little low for some people, at 250kg. Whilst this may be adequate for most lifters, through most lifts, more advanced athletes may need more. For example, I like to load a bar up in excess of this for yoke walk variations.
However, it should suit most people well, pretty much all the time.
Vital Gym Squat Rack
Standalone rack legs absolutely have their place, especially in a home gym setting, though they have nowhere near the utility or stability of single piece models.
Most importantly, standalone legs can be easily stored away where single piece racks are permanent features. This is incredibly important in a home gym – if you don’t have a room or garage to dedicate to your training (as many of us don’t), but you do have a large cupboard in which to store them, a barbell and some plates (as many of us do), then they represent a very sensible option. You will be able to get a very reasonable set of squats or overhead presses in using them.
As you would expect of them, the legs are both fully adjustable, with a range of 97 – 147cm, that should accommodate most lifters. This is easily adjusted using a simple yet effective pin lock system. They are also fully compatible with standard and Olympic barbells and have a very usable, though not too impressive, top weight tolerance of 150kg.
They are also far more stable than most standalone legs, which is my general bugbear with these kinds of models. The bases are around 90cm wide and suitably heavy, meaning that, though they will never be as stable as single piece units, they are actually really impressive.
Single leg pieces will never give you the best squatting experience. However, they are a fantastic space-saving innovation and Vital Gym’s offering shows just how stable and functional they can be made to be.
Primal Strength HD Power Rack
I much prefer power racks to squat racks. They simply have more versatility. Though you will generally end up spending more on one, you get so much more for your money. The spotters usually go lower, making rack pulls easier. There are in-built pull up and chin up options, you can easily rack for squats and overhead work, can attach bands to their ground attachments, can use a bench with them for bench press variations, and you get to work out in a really cool cage.
They are fantastic.
Primal Strength’s HD Power Rack is a prime example of their kind. It also bucks the trend in costing you a lot more than an average squat rack – the price increase is minimal, and the benefits cannot be overstated.
The frame itself is made from commercial grade, laser cut steel, which has a maximum load of 600kg. This is excessive – the strongest of us won’t need a power rack to go much above 500kg, and even then you’re talking about world-class competitors who will probably be looking at much pricier options.
However, with this kind of max load, you should be confident that your 200kg low bar squat will be more than stable. Mine was when I tried it out.
As well as all the above gubbins you can expect from power racks, the HD Power Rack also has dip bars and a landmine attachment, with additional accessories available for a lat pull down attachment.
The heights are all adjustable – simply find where to fix your J-hooks and go for it.
Buy this. Buy a barbell, a bench, and a selection of plates. Put it all in a neat corner of your garage. You will have everything you will ever need to get as strong and buff as you like.
Jordan Olympic Squat Rack
It’s by far one of the strongest racks you can get. The steel tubing from which the main frame is sculpted is solid and incredibly stable – it should last you for decades. There seems to be no information available on upper weight limits, though my gut feeling is that it can go toe to toe with the best of them – my workouts certainly didn’t seem to tax it! Its dimensions, at 138 x 145 x 159.8cm (at its highest) mean that it is also actually quite unobtrusive.
The stand has free pegs on which to put your spare plates, making loading and unloading the bar easy and quick. If, like me, you like to take minimal rest time and want to get the next set of plates on pronto, the Jordan Olympic Squat Rack will do you very well.
You can choose between a powder coated black or graphite matt finish, both of which look exceptional. In fact, everything about the design and build is exceptional with the Jordan Olympic Squat Rack.
None of this comes cheap. You will absolutely break a grand on this, where cheaper alternatives can come in at 10-20% of the cost (the M1, for example). Even Primal Strength’s HD Power Rack is a few hundred cheaper, whilst offering a lot more utility.
However, if you want quality and solidity, and a product that will likely outlive you, Jordan are the way to go.
It’s cheaper than the other power rack in this list, Primal Strength’s HD, by a few hundred pounds. This makes it perfect if you’re after a decent, robust squat rack that doesn’t set you back close to a grand.
It is heavy duty and durable, with very little that could damage it. It does take bolting into the ground, though plenty of squat racks do, and this will, of course, only add to the frame’s solidity.
In fact, the M3 wouldn’t look at all out of place in a modern gym or CrossFit box. It is tough, utilitarian, and made to perform a simple function.
This simplicity may not be for everybody. Though there is a bar at the top of the frame, it is mostly structural. It is straight, with no handholds or anything, so that pull ups and chin ups are possible but not able to be performed optimally. There is no landmine, like you get with the HD, nor are there band attachments.
So, what do you get? A solid frame with adjustable j-cups and adjustable spotter arms, which all work out perfectly for most barbell moves. You will be able to set up for perfect racking height for squats and presses, will be able to use a bench in conjunction with it for chest presses, and will be able to use the spotter arms to perform rack pulls. In fact, you can remove the arms altogether and have enough clearance with plates on the bar to perform full on deadlifts inside the power rack.
It’s simple and brutish, but it works a treat and comes in at a reasonable price.
JX FITNESS Squat Rack
If you really do want good value for money, JX’s FITNESS Squat Rack is probably for you. It costs a little over a hundred pounds, so is at around 10% of the most expensive item on this list, and will do pretty much everything you could ask of a squat rack.
It looks pretty flimsy and, realistically, it doesn’t have the most stable set of legs. They are only attached at the bottom, so wobble a bit as you rack and un-rack. However, the feet themselves take up enough floor space that they are still really stable, so there should be no fear for actual safety. In addition, the feet have non-slip rubber sleeves so that it will stay stable and the frame itself is pretty heavy duty. It has a max weight capacity of 200kg, which is far from the lowest in this list.
Everything is fully adjustable to fit your body shape and the footprint of wherever you’re using it – the base width has four different levels, at 12cm increments, whilst the height can be adjusted across five levels, with 10cm increments.
You don’t get the best utility from the JX FITNESS Squat Rack. There are no j-cups, just cups at the tops of each leg, which can be a little challenging (I can very much imagine myself overshooting a rerack on a heavy set and damaging the floor). However, you do get push up handles built into the base. The frame is also collapsible/foldable, so that it is pretty easy to store.
It’s cheap, with few frills, and a little wobble on heavier reracks. However, you can’t argue with the price, nor with the value to quality ratio.
Yaheetec Adjustable Heavy Duty Squat Rack
Yaheetec’s Adjustable Heavy Duty Squat Rack will give you (a little) change from a hundred pounds, which is ridiculous in a list with entries that top a grand.
I don’t personally like it that much – or should I say them? We have another set of individual legs here, with everything that entails. They are far less stable than a single piece and inexperienced lifters can easily misalign them for a proper rack. The footprint is also quite small, so things really can get dicey (though rubber pads negate this a little). I wouldn’t recommend going with any weight that will take you below a five rep failure with them.
However, they also have all the plus points of individual feet. Namely, they are super cheap, as above, and they are very easy to store. If you’re looking for something easy to live with, that won’t set you back a great deal of money, and you’re after hypertrophy (muscle growth – generally conducted with lighter weights in a higher rep range) rather than strength (the reverse, using heavy weights for few reps), the Yaheetec Adjustable Heavy Duty Squat Rack will be perfectly sufficient.
K-Sport Squat Rack
Its forwards sloping, tiered construction might look better placed in a seventies strongman gym than a modern home gym setup. However, the frame is made from excellent 3mm thick tubular steel, the paint job is fresh and contemporary looking, and the K-Sport Squat Rack’s popularity across Europe speaks volumes of its latter day appeal.
It is also incredibly reasonably priced, which always helps, of course.
The sloping, triangular frame is solid – the wide base makes it incredibly sturdy to use, whilst the tapered end makes the walkout portion of your squat very manageable. There are eight built in hooks for racking, each one reasonably spaced so that most athletes should be able to find the right height for them. They also go low enough that you will be able to add in a simple bench for chest pressing movements.
You don’t get any spotter arms, however, undercutting the K-Sport Squat Rack’s utility somewhat. I dislike their lack because of the lost potential for movements like rack pulls, rows and well-judged good mornings. Most people will dislike it because of the lack of safety involved – you will not be able to fully overload if you’re worried about not being able to either come up out of the squat or simply release the bar onto arms. You will also likely mess up your floor as you inevitably drop the bar.
It does save on space, however. The K-Sport Squat Rack isn’t the tallest item on this list, either, at just 193 x 114 x 112cm. If you’re planning to use it in your garage, and don’t have the most space in the world, it represents a good, if slightly flawed, option.
Do I Need A Squat Rack?
It depends. Do you want to be able to barbell squat heavy, with reps of 3-8 tiring you to failure? Do you want to be able to safely load up for a range of racked exercises, like overhead presses and good mornings? Do you want to perfect your technique across the gamut of barbell movements whilst making the most out of every rep?
If the answer to any of these is no, then of course you don’t need a squat rack. There is a whole range of resistance apparatus out there that might be more appropriate for you. There are plenty of cardiovascular options that may better fit your goals.
If the answer to any of these is yes, and you want to train at home, you need to buy some form of squat rack. A power rack will do – in fact, this would be my preference if I had the money and space. You will be able to achieve far more and use it for far more than you would a squat rack. But realistically, the best way to reconcile budgetary and spatial constraints with utility in heavy barbell movements is to get yourself a squat rack.
The Benefits Of A Squat Rack
There are plenty of benefits to be gained from using a squat rack. However, there are a couple that really stand out – that should make or break your buying decision as you look at whether or not to invest in one.
Firstly, using a squat or power rack is realistically the only way you will be able to perform proper barbell squats. You can absolutely squat without them, using a mixture of bodyweight and lighter loads, like dumbbells, kettlebells and sandbags. However, if you want to go heavy, you will need to use a barbell. If you want to use a barbell, you will need a squat rack. There is simply no way of getting 150kg safely onto your back without one.
Secondly, a squat rack will keep you a lot safer as you lift. Being able to rack at the right height is imperative, which a squat rack will allow you to do. Being able to step back and rerack at a moment’s notice is also vital in avoiding injury. Having built in spotters, as many squat racks do, will both allow you to gauge the depth of your squats and allow you to drop the bar and walk away without getting hurt should you need to.
I really wouldn’t recommend even attempting barbell squats without a squat rack or something similar.