A power cage, also known as a squat rack or squat cage, is a piece of exercise equipment designed for athletes to safely perform squats and other heavy lifts. Power cages consist of a metal frame that ensures that the weight will remain within a confined area and that helps the athlete load high amounts of weight onto his or her shoulders. Power cages are important pieces of equipment for heavy lifters because they allow an athlete to get all of the benefits of using free weights while still providing a certain level of safety.
There are variations of power cages, but the basic design is consistent across different models. They are made out of metal girders that form a tall box that is wider than an athlete's shoulders but not wide enough for a barbell to fit through. The cage also is high enough to allow a good amount of clearance above an athlete when he or she is standing up. Most power cages are not as deep as they are tall, but they are deep enough to allow an athlete to move through the full range of motion during squats. There might not be enough room, though, for an athlete to perform heavy lifts that require more motion, such as hang cleans and snatches.
In addition to the metal girders that form the frame of the cage, most power cages also have a bar connecting the front and back girders. This bar protects the floor by ensuring that if an athlete drops the weight, the bars will catch the weight before it hits the floor. These bars are a couple feet from the bottom of cage so that they are high enough to catch the weight but low enough to not interfere with an athlete's lift.
Most power cages have a set of brackets the can hold the weight prior to the athlete performing the lift. These brackets usually are adjustable so that athletes of different heights can position the weight correctly. There are a variety of designs, but the most common is one in which the brackets fit into any of a series of holes in the front metal girders.
The primary benefit of power cages is that they allow an athlete to load large amounts of weight directly onto the shoulders, without having to pick the weights up from the floor. The legs generally are much stronger than the arms, so it can be difficult to perform squats with large amounts of weight without a power cage because it is difficult to get the weight in the proper position. With a power cage, though, an athlete can load the weight onto a barbell that already is securely in the brackets, and then he or she can step underneath that weight to perform the lift.