Squat or power racks, cages and stands are very important piece of equipment for any serious lifter. There are big differences between cages, racks and stands and it is vital that any lifter knows their pros and cons, regardless if one exercises at commercial or home gym.
Also, there are certain misconceptions about naming conventions and some terms are even used interchangeably, and that can lead to confusion and errors.
Squat cage, also known as 'power cage' or sometimes, 'power rack', is one of the most essential pieces of exercise equipment of any serious lifter, for many reasons.
Squat cage allows lifter to do heavy squats without exiting 'workout area' no matter what. And in the case of bad lift and dropped weights, safety pins prevent weights from hitting the floor - or the person inside the cage doing the lifting.
For maximum safety, it is vital to position safety pins on proper height, which is usually around 5-10cm (2-4 inches) below bar's lowest position during squat. This way, if the lifter is unable to lift the loaded bar, bar can be safely dropped or gently lowered from the back (normal squat) or chest (front squat), with minimum distance from the safety pins, without any damage to the cage or bar and avoiding injuries.
However, if the bar is dropped from certain height (regardless of the reasons), safety pins will stop the bar before it hits the floor or lifter - such lifts should be avoided, but they happen when bars are overloaded or lifter simply makes an error or passes out.
Out of shape safety pins are normal occurrence in any commercial gym and they should be periodically changed - they are not too expensive, at least not when compared with possible injuries they prevent like broken legs, arms, jaws, spine, neck etc. Seriously.
Squat cage can be used for other exercises, too. Various pull-ups and chin-ups are possible with or (sometimes) without dedicated pull-up bar. Deadlifts, bench press, rows etc. from pins are common exercises often used for pushing trough critical points and preparing personal records.
Also, many squat cages can be used as weight stands.
Squat cages have cons, too: they are big, heavy, require plenty of space and can be quite costly.
Plans for DIY squat cages are available online and when properly done, homemade squat cages are as good as commercial squat cages - sometimes even better, depending on the quality and thickness of used material and quality of welds!
The term 'Squat Rack' is sometimes used for 'Power Rack', 'Power Cage' or 'Squat Cage' - it is similar piece of equipment, also used for increasing safety during heavy squats.
Squat racks are used almost exclusively for squats, they are smaller than squat cages, often somewhat cheaper - squat racks designed for really heavy lifting are expensive and heavy, but they can absorb really heavy punishment.
Most designs use fixed and much thicker pins in the form of bars covered with hard rubber.
During lifting, it is possible that dropped bar misses safety pins/area and hits the floor or the lifter - IMHO, this is HUGE disadvantage when compared with squat cages.
To improve safety, some squat racks are fixed to the floor - very important when loaded bars are flying around!
Just as squat cages, some squat racks are designed to be used as weight stands.
Squat stands are least secure of this 'big three' providing no protective cage and no safety pins. However, squat stands requires least space and they are relatively cheap.
To improve safety, squat stands are often fixed to the floor and/or concrete walls. Also, using squat stands increases possibility of loaded bars being dropped on the floor, requiring good floor rubber mats AND good bumper plates.
However, if something goes wrong, possibility of injuries is increased when compared with squat racks and especially with squat cages.
Depending on the design, some squat stands are also used as weight stands (if designed well, additional weight can lead to improved stability), but optional pull-up bar is out of question.
Here are our squat cages, racks and stands reviews and recommendations, newest from the top:
Valor Athletics BD-7 Power Rack with Lat Pull Attachment is popular and versatile squat cage, available at decent price. It can be used for several additional exercises and is robust enough almost for commercial gyms - perfect squat cage for most of the home gyms.
Titan Fitness Power Rack - Squat Cage - is excellent home gym and solid commercial gym power rack/squat cage. It is well built, with maximum allowed weight of 700 pounds (317 kg) - more than enough for 99.9% lifters.
Valor Athletics BD-6 Safety Squat Rack is strong and robust squat rack that can be used for other exercises, like bench press, military press, shrugs etc.. It comes at acceptable price, too.
Valor Fitness BD-9 Power Squat Stand are classic squat stands suitable for heavy squats, but can be also used for various bench presses or even pull-ups. It comes at acceptable price for such sturdy piece of equipment.