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Super Easy, Super Durable DIY Pulling Blocks

DIY Guide for building super strong Pulling Blocks

I’ve never had my own pulling blocks here at the house. If I wanted to do anything with blocks, I either needed to go to the WL gym, or stack up some bumper plates and use those stacks as makeshift blocks. Stacking bumpers is alright in that at does allow for easy height adjustments, but the bar doesn’t really like to stay still when sitting on a bunch of plates. It’s not ideal.

Well I recently decided that I wanted some real pulling blocks, but I wasn’t cool with buying the steel pulling blocks that you can find online. They’re much bigger and much heavier duty than they really need to be when only one or two people are using them. They are a hassle to move around, and honestly they are just too big to store away in a garage anyway. Not only that, but at $700+ even before shipping costs, they’re way too expensive.

The obvious solution was to just build my own. I figured it can be done in about a day, and it shouldn’t cost much more than $100 or so for the pair, so I gave it go. Turns out that pulling blocks are about the easiest thing in the world to make. It requires minimal measuring and nothing but straight cuts. You need access to a few tools, but I think most adults have a saw and a drill in their garage already anyway. Even if you don’t, Home Depot will cut lumber for you for a nominal fee, so you’d only need to own a drill.

If you take on this project, you’ll not only have access to some beefy pulling blocks, but you’ll have a solid platform for Bulgarian split squats, box jumps, step-ups, partial deads, floor presses, and so much more. A very versatile addition to your garage gym indeed.

Shopping List

  • 3/4″ plywood – How much you need depends on what dimensions you want your blocks to be, and whether or not you plan to double-up (which I suggest you do.)
  • 2×4 lumber – Word is that pine is better than fir. How many you need depends on the dimension of the top and how high you plan to build up your blocks. Simple math, you can do it!
  • Stall mat – just one.
  • Wood Screws – #8 2½” screws are perfect. You can use 3″ for a bit more holding power so long as you can control your drill and not push the screw heads through the top on the first layer.
  • Liquid Nails (for plywood pieces)
  • Wood Stain (optional)
Pulling blocks - to stain or not to stain

Should you stain your blocks? It’s totally up to you. I only stained mine so that they would match my platform. It added a couple hours to total project time though.

Tool List

  • Power Drill/Driver
  • Saws appropriate for cutting 2×4’s and plywood sheets (table, chop/miter, circular, etc.)
  • Tape Measure
  • Utility Knife (cutting the stall mat.)
  • Safety Goggles
  • Sander (optional; but you’ll probably want to sand if you plan to stain/paint.)

DIY Pulling Blocks: Assembly

These pulling blocks are extremely easy to build. If you own the tools required to do this project, then you probably don’t need to do much more than look at the pictures to figure this out. Matter of fact, I don’t think a project this simple requires super-detailed step-by-step instructions, so I’m going to keep this fairly brief. I will mostly be giving some pointers that should make the project simpler. At the very least, these pointers will make you aware of things you might not have considered yourself.

For starters, if you’re okay with your pulling blocks being 17½” wide by 24½” long, go with this size. Not only is this a good size functionally, but it’s the easiest size to build because it’s the exact dimensions of 5 side-by-side 2×4’s (17½”) and 7 side-by-side 2×4’s (24½”.) You can avoid any measuring during assembly (not counting the cuts, obviously) since a scrap 2×4 is all that is needed to perfectly space each attached 2×4 (see image below.) Of course, you still need to correctly place the first 2×4 in each layer, but once you do that the remaining pieces of that layer are easy.

DIY Pulling Blocks - Using a scrap 2x4 for precise measuring.

Technically you can do whatever size you choose; 17½ x 24½” is just a bit easier. I’m confident that if you go with some other size that you can line up and evenly space alternating 2×4’s with relative ease by using a tape measure.

In terms of how high to make the blocks (how many layers to build), that’s entirely up to you. The top layer along with the stall mat is about 2¼” high, and each layer of 2×4’s adds another 1½” inches. My blocks have six layers in addition to the top, but that may be too tall for most people (I’m 6’4″), so you may prefer four or five layers. If you’re clever enough, you could make these adjustable, much like jerk blocks. I didn’t bother with that though.

When you start to assemble, I suggest starting with the top of the blocks and working down rather than building up from the bottom layer. This more or less guarantees that your first layer will be completely aligned with the plywood. Just lay the doubled-up plywood piece on the ground with the bottom side facing up and then just start attaching your layers of 2×4 to the plywood. Look at the sequence of images below to see what I mean; it’s pretty simple.

Simple step-by-step - click to enlarge

How many screws you use for each overlapping piece is up to you. I used two everywhere a piece of 2×4 ended up on top of another 2×4, and that came out to 24 total screws per layer! It sounds like a lot, but using only one screw didn’t seem like enough to me. Screws aren’t that expensive and I didn’t want any boards rattling around every time the bumpers touched down.

If you look carefully at the image below, you can see that whenever I started that next layer, I marked with an X where to place the screws so that the screws from the new layer weren’t going into the screws from the layer below.

Be sure to switch your screws around from one layer to the next

Also, I used pilot holes for every screw. I know it’s a pain in the ass, but if you drive those screws straight into the board and it splits, you’ll be pissed.

Should you use wood glue and screws? I tried it; it seemed pointless when I realized I had 24 screws per layer, so I stopped using the glue. The only adhesive you should need is the liquid nails between the two pieces of plywood.

I suggest finding some way to make sure the boards are lined up precisely where they should be before attaching each piece permanently. If you just try and eyeball the placement of each 2×4, you may end up with uneven pulling blocks that have an funny look to them. Personally I just propped up some scrap wood against the frame of the pulling blocks and butted each new piece up against those scraps to make sure everything was flush. Basically I had a makeshift fixture; or jig (not really the proper use of the word, but I hope it helps convey my point.)

Cutting stall mats for the top of your pulling blocks

I laid the blocks on my mat upside down and just traced the cut line with painters tape. Since the cuts were short and straight, I just used a professional utility knife to make the cuts.

Once everything is assembled, you just flip each block over, cut your stall mat pieces to the same dimensions as the top of the blocks, and attach the mats. I screwed my mats down on the corners, but I may go back and use liquid nails between the mat and the plywood; we’ll see how it goes.

Voilà! Go lift.

Finished DIY Pulling Blocks - Ready to go!

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

Wanna Just Buy Instead of DIY?

This project really wasn’t that much work, so I really think these DIY blocks are the way to go. They’re cheap, strong, and can be made to even be attractive. Having said that, if you’re so bad with projects and power tools that trying to build these blocks is potentially hazardous to your health, maybe you should just buy some.

Most pulling blocks from retailers are steel, and that means they’re super expensive. Rogue’s Metal Pulling Blocks are available in two sizes and have a number of features that make them better than DIY (including height adjustments), but you’re looking at either $719 or $819 depending on which size you buy. That’s a lot of cash to spend to get the bar a few inches off the ground.

Rogue's Metal Pulling Blocks, available in two sizes

They look badass, they can be adjusted, and they’ll last forever, but these steel pulling blocks from Rogue are pretty damn expensive at over $700 a pair (before shipping.)

Using Rogue Jerk Blocks as pulling blocks

Using sections of jerk blocks as pulling blocks is a far more economical way to get that bar off the ground. If it’s only you and a buddy using these regularly (as in, not in a box setting) they too will probably last forever.

Your best bet economically may be to buy sections of the Rogue Jerk Blocks. You can buy either the 6″ or 12″ blocks and then the 2¼” top, giving you either 8″ blocks or 14″ blocks. Not nearly as much height variety as the metal blocks, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. The 8″ blocks would set you back around $260 and the 14″ blocks a little over $300.

Better yet, you could just buy the entire jerk block set. You’d be back to those steel block prices, but now you’d have access to both pulling blocks and jerk blocks, and what a treat that would be!

Rogue isn’t the only company with wood jerk blocks for sale, but they do appear to be the best. Another alternative would be Rhode Blocks; those look pretty decent too. Same concept with the top piece that always goes on top of the stackable pieces. Looks like they have a fairly long lead time though.

The most expensive recycled plastic you'll ever buy - DC Blocks

DC Blocks are stackable in 2″ increments pretty much as high as you want… that is assuming that you can afford them!

Finally, you’ve got what are supposed to be the other completely indestructible option; DC Blocks. These are 19″ long, 15½” wide, and 2″ high recycled and stackable plastic blocks. With the twelve block set you’d be able to adjust anywhere from the ground up to 12″ in 2″ increments, and that’s pretty cool.

Sadly, that set of twelve blocks will set you back nearly $600, and that’s just effin’ crazy for plastic. Anyway, I’m not suggesting these so much as just making you aware of their existence. Neat, but pricey as hell.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you feel as though I was too brief and I’ve left something important out of this article, leave a comment. If you need help with your DIY pulling blocks, you can ask questions in the comments as well. Good luck, and please share this!

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • M May 12, 2015, 2:12 pm

    If somebody wanted an adjustable set, here’s a way to do it with roughly the same tools:

    Make a bunch of 2″ thick picture frames until they stack to the height you want — you can add diagonal braces inside each frame if you want them to be extra strong.

    Make a top piece like the Rogue Jerk block set but use the stall mat top like the DIY one above. Don’t attach the stall mat yet. I’d probably make this out of solid wood with layers rotated at 90 degrees for strength, and make it about 1.5″ thick or more before the stall mat and roll-off stops like on the Rogue wooden set — maybe make it so wood plus stall mat is the same height as the below layers for easy height calculations.

    Stack all your pieces and drill four holes downward through the whole mess – either just somewhere near the corners or at an exact measured location if you want to be able to assemble the stack in any orientation (If you want them to be exact for stacking ease, drill the top piece to be exact then use it as a template to drill each lower layer one at a time instead of all stacked together — doing it this way you also don’t need special long drill bit as you would if you drilled the whole stack at once). Unless you got those holes into some exact spot, the rotation of each layer will become critical so mark the ends of all the pieces and number each layer before you take the stack apart so you can put them back together that same way. Use a scrap piece on the bottom when drilling so you don’t hit the floor. The size of the hole should match the size of some metal bar you can buy – you can’t always get all sizes at hardware stores so shop the metal before drilling the hole. Drill a test hole and check that you can reasonably get the bar into the hole – if not use a different drill bit.

    Cut the metal bar into about 1.5″ lengths if you’re making 2″ layers (hacksaw, handheld grinder with cutoff blade, etc.). Debur the pieces with a grinder or file, or some power sander. Epoxy these bar pieces, four per layer, into the holes each of the picture frames that you built such that each layer, at least when rotated correctly, will interlock with the layer that goes above it. I’d suggest using a filled or “gel” epoxy instead of the runny regular hardware store kind. Avoid the “5-minute” if you can since the slower ones allow more time to work and are stronger.

    Attach the stall mat with screws or glue.

    You now have a stackable block system that is adjustable in 2″ segments — if you want, you can make some segments thicker so it takes fewer to make a tall stack (or zip-tie or screw several of the thinner layers together), or you can make them thinner if you want finer adjustment.

    Power-Lift also has a cantilevered platform system for their racks – don’t know whether anyone else makes them. Potentially that sort of system might save a little space. Also, Rogue and Sorinex, at least, make strap systems that run between rack uprights and which could be used like blocks without messing the bar up at least much, as dropping onto a safety bar might. Finally, either a bar/cable system as described in a DVD from Atomic Athletic, or a forthcoming nylon strap system from Spud would let you keep the weights on the floor at the bottom of your lift with cables or straps to the bar at whatever your starting height is — the dynamics of the lift will be a bit different this way, depending on how much lateral movement there is in the lift. For partial deadlifts that’s probably not an issue, for example, whereas it might be for jerks.

    • jburgeson May 12, 2015, 4:32 pm

      That actually reminds me. I didn’t mention that I did indeed turn the second plywood piece 90 degrees before attaching it, much like you’d do with a true platform.

  • Juan Rdz June 10, 2015, 6:00 pm

    Thanks! New Weekend Project !!

    • jburgeson June 10, 2015, 11:24 pm

      Have fun! =p

  • derrick crass August 19, 2015, 7:41 pm

    DC Blocks are made in the USA from 100% recycled plastics. American made products are never cheap and DC Blocks are multi-functional. They are not just pulling blocks.

  • Kevin August 31, 2015, 4:53 pm

    Am I missing an obvious reason that you have to attach all the layers? Can you make layer sets of 2×4’s and not attach the sets to scale the height as needed? Your box for example would be 3 sets and then the top layer.

    • jburgeson August 31, 2015, 6:22 pm

      Only because pulling blocks, especially in a garage gym type setting, don’t need the same versatility in height as jerk blocks do. If you choose to make individual, stacking layers, you introduce the issue of each layer bouncing and shifting around each time the bumpers land on the blocks. You can use more material and shape the layers in such a way that each layer fits into the layer above and below it, but it’s just not necessary for pulling blocks. The idea was to keep it affordable and to make and simple enough that anyone could put them together. If adjustable pulling blocks are needed, yes the design would need to be modified.

      Keep in mind that even full-size jerk blocks if not constructed well have issues with each layer bouncing after bumper impact, and each section is about as heavy as these pulling blocks are. Cut that weight in half or in quarters and this issue will be even more pronounced. Of course there are all kinds of creative ways to go about reducing this bounce, but again, it was meant to be simple. I’ve been in many clubs that had blocks similar to these and everyone was just glad they were there even though none of them were adjustable. At least when you make them for yourself they can be made to any height you want.

      • Kevin August 31, 2015, 6:38 pm

        See! I hadn’t even considered the bouncing and shifting, thanks. I think chest/toolbox style latches could be used to stop the bouncing… I wonder if they would hold up to shifting.

        • jburgeson August 31, 2015, 6:45 pm

          I’ve seen that done with jerk blocks. As long as each layer fit into the layer below it and couldn’t move laterally, then I can’t see why it wouldn’t also work with shorter pulling blocks.

  • Chris September 30, 2015, 1:26 am

    I made these on the weekend, super easy to do (and I’m not very handyman like), they work great too. thanks for putting this out there for us, saved a bunch on money too!

  • Noah Drew October 14, 2015, 7:07 pm

    Does anyone know of a way to sound proof this a little bit?

    • jburgeson October 16, 2015, 10:47 am

      I don’t know what you could do. The whole dropping a bar onto boxes is going to be loud. They may be heavy enough to have mats attached to the bottoms as well, but I don’t know how much bouncing around the blocks would do at that point. I would imagine that could be annoying as well if they were moving around and still loud.

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