I’m in the market for a new squat rack.
If you’re familiar with this site and my garage gym then you know that in the Spring of 2020 I built a DIY Squat Rack for my garage. At the time, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and I didn’t know how long I’d be working out in my garage.
As it turns out, I LOVE lifting in my garage and now it’s time to upgrade my squat rack from my DIY Rack to something, well, more “steel”.
I set myself a budget of $500 because I think I can find a rack that “checks all my boxes” for less than $500.
As a Strength and Conditioning Coach I’ve bought dozens of squat racks throughout my career for collegiate weight rooms and have got to work with and use dozens more.
I’ve learned more of the ins and outs of squat racks than any person really would ever need. So, I thought it’d be helpful for someone buying a squat rack for their own home gym to be able to follow along with my thought process as I look for a rack for my garage gym.
In this article, I’m going to go through different types of squat racks, pricing and what I’m looking for in the specs of a squat rack.
Let’s get started.
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Ideal Qualities for a Squat Rack
There are a couple squat rack qualities or specs that in my mind are absolute must-haves for the squat rack I’m going to choose. I’m going list each one and then talk briefly about why these are what I am specifically looking for. These specs consist of:
- 3 x 3 Steel
- 11 gauge steel
- Pull-Up Bar Attachment
3 x 3 Steel
3 x 3 refers to the depth and width of the beams, specifically the vertical beams, of a rack. The most common sizes you’ll find with squat racks are 3 x 3, 2 x 3 and 2 x 2.
The reason I ideally want a 3 x 3 rack is because the wider beam can lead to a stronger and more stable rack. Also, the large majority of attachments are built to fit 3 x 3 racks.
However, I also am aware that for the under $500 price range, I may find myself having to compromise here. For most of us that aren’t competitive powerlifters moving monster amounts of weight a 2 x 3 rack is going to be plenty strong enough to handle the weight we’re going to be using.
The biggest drawback for a 2 x 3 rack is that I’ll have to make sure to get attachments (think dip racks) that are designed specifically for 2 x 3 racks.
Any rack that’s a 2 x 2 is a deal breaker for me. In my opinion, that’s too small and I wouldn’t fully trust it.
11 Gauge Steel
The gauge of the steel refers to the thickness and strength of the steel. When it comes to steel gauge, the lower the number the thicker and stronger the steel.
11 Gauge Steel is what I consider the Gold Standard when it comes to squat racks. Almost any collegiate weight room that you walk into will have squat racks with 11 gauge steel.
Again, like with the 3 x 3 size tubing, price could end up being a limiting factor here for me getting exactly what I want. I’d be willing to come down to 12 gauge steel, but anything higher than that would be a deal breaker for me here.
Pull Up Attachment
This one is purely just personal preference. I currently have a Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar that has suited me great, but if I’m going to get a steel squat rack then I want one with a pull-up bar built-in. Otherwise, I’d have a hard time justifying not just sticking with my current squat stand and pull-up bar setup.
If you don’t have any interest in a pull-up bar, or you already have a pull-up bar set up in your gym then take that into consideration. There is no reason you have to have a pull-up bar built into your rack, it’s just something that I know that I want.
Types of Squat Racks
As we start to look through squat rack options, there are three different types of squat racks that you’re going to run into. These are:
- Squat Stands
- Wall Mounted Racks
- Full Racks aka Power Racks
Which style is best for you?
Squat Stands are the most basic of squat “racks” (they’re technically not a rack, hence the squat stand name). They are essentially two upright beams and a small base.
Squat Stands are most popular in Olympic lifting gyms where exercise selection stays basic and consistent. Squat stands are used for, well, squats. If that’s all you’re looking for in a rack, then you’re good. It’s why I built my rack. I just needed a rack to get the bar off the floor so I could squat and it’s served me great for over a year.
You’ll also find the best prices on squat stands which makes sense because there is just overall less raw material.
However, if you want to do a wider variety of exercises, you’ll find squat stands fairly limiting.
Wall Mounted Racks are a great solution, especially for garage gyms. There are a lot of things working in your favor with a wall mounted rack. You get many of the benefits of a full rack from a functionality standpoint while still getting a lot of the benefits (space, lower price) of a squat stand.
First, you’re going to save quite a bit of space. In general, squat racks can take up a lot of real estate in a home gym, but a wall mounted rack will not. If you have any desire to still park your car in your garage gym space, this is probably your best option.
Second, because there is less raw material, the price of these racks will be lower.
The drawback of a wall mounted rack is the whole “wall mounted” part. You’re drilling and securing your rack to the wall and depending on your wall (and your installation ability) to hold up it’s side of the rack. This is a bigger commitment than many people are willing to make.
My current rack is connected to my wall and it’s worked great from a stability standpoint, but it’s something I may be looking to get away from.
Full Racks are what most of us probably think of when we think of a squat rack. Four Vertical Beams create a ‘cage’ that allows for an immense amount of training flexibility. Squats, Bench, Pullups – outside of Olympic lifts there aren’t many exercises you can’t do using a full rack.
As you might expect, being the biggest of the racks, the price is going to be higher for full racks when compared to squat stands and wall-mounted racks.
Now that we have a good idea of what to look for in a rack and a few different types of rack, let’s go find the best racks of each type under $500. Then I’m going to pick out my next rack from among these options.
Best Squat Stands Under $500
You can pretty much have your pick of the litter when it comes to Squat Stands under $500. No need to compromise on the quality that I’m looking for. They’re just so minimalistic that if a Squat Stand is all you need then you won’t have to break your wallet picking one up.
|Best Squat Stands Under $500|
|Brand||Squat Stand||Tubing Size||Steel Gauge||Price||More Info|
|Titan||X-3 Series Short Squat Stand||3 x 3||11 gauge||$319.99*||More Info|
|Rogue||SML-1 Rogue 70″ Monster Lite Squat Stand||3 x 3||11 gauge||$395.00||More Info|
|Rep Fitness||SR – 4000 Squat Rack||3 x 3||11 gauge||$449.00||More Info|
*Titan ships everything Free. Everything. Always. Don’t know how they do it, but they do. Make sure to take that into consideration when comparing prices.
Best Wall-Mounted Squat Racks Under $500
Wall Mounted Racks provide possibly the most bang for the buck. You can get 3 x 3 tubing and 11 gauge steel in two of the three racks. The Rogue rack is the only rack where you have to go 2 x 3 to get it under $500.
The Rogue and Rep Fitness Racks both have the capability to fold back against the wall to maximize space. This can be a game-changer if you’re still trying to park your car in your garage.
I’ve been using my DIY Wall Mounted Squat Stand for over a year now and while I’ve had no issues I think I’m ready to move on to a full rack. All the racks below though were definitely worth taking a look at though.
|Best Wall Mounted Racks Under $500|
|Brand||Squat Rack||Tubing Size||Steel Gauge||Price||More Info|
|Titan||X-3 Series Space Saving Rack||3 x 3||11 gauge||$349.99*||More Info|
|Rogue||R-3W Fold Back Wall Mount Rack||2 x 3||11 gauge||$495.00**||More Info|
|Rep Fitness||Rep PR-4100 Folding Rack||3 x 3||11 gauge||$429.00***||More Info|
*Specs I chose for this price: 90″ Height, 18″ Depth with the Optional Side Bracings. (Don’t forget the free shipping)
**Specs I chose for this price: 20.5″ Depth, No Optional Stringer.
***Specs I chose for this price: 21.5″ Depth.
Best Full Squat Racks Under $500
Getting a Full Rack under $500 got a little trickier. It became apparent to me really quickly that I was going to have to make a few compromises to get a Full Rack under $500.
Rogue’s RE-3 Echo Rack is only 2×2 11 gauge steel and still comes in at over $600. This is Rogue’s cheapest full rack. Rep Fitness has the PR-1100 which is 2×2 and 14 gauge steel. Sure, it’s less than $300, but 14 gauge steel is a deal-breaker for me.
So, I started looking at a couple of other brands that I’ve bought from in the past. Fringe Sport has a Full Rack under $500 ($466), but it’s 2×2 16 gauge steel. No thanks. I even looked at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but nothing under $500 came close to the quality that I wanted.
|Best Wall Mounted Racks Under $500|
|Brand||Squat Rack||Tubing Size||Steel Gauge||Price||More Info|
|Titan||T-3 Series Power Rack||2 x 3||11 gauge||$489.99*||More Info|
*Specs include the 82″ Height, 24″ Depth and No Weight Plate Holders
What Rack Did I Choose?
Well, I feel like I ruined the surprise a little bit, but I bought the T-3 Series Power Rack from Titan. Even better, I happened to catch a 4th of July sale Titan was having and ended up being able to get the 91″ Height Rack for $475. Big win.
If you want to get a squat rack under $500, you definitely have plenty of options to choose from. It just depends on what you want out of your rack and what you’re comfort level is with mounting a rack on your wall.
Whatever you decide to go with, I hope you get as much enjoyment out of your rack as I am with my mine.