I’ve never actually had my own pulling blocks here at the house. If ever I wanted to do any work with blocks I either needed to head up north to the weightlifting gym, or stack up some bumper plates and use those as makeshift blocks. Stacking plates 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 definitely 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 heavier-duty than they really need to be when only a couple people are using them. They’re 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+ before shipping costs, they’re way too damn 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 very 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 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 power drill. You better have a power drill.
If you take on this DIY 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, box squats, floor presses, and so much more. A very versatile addition to your garage gym indeed.
Last update: January 2018 – minor spelling/grammar revisions.
DIY Blocks – 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 the top layer (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 box obviously. Simple math, you can do it!
- Stall mat – just one; or scraps from previous install if you have them.
- Wood Screws – #8 2½” screws are perfect.
- Liquid Nails (for plywood pieces)
- Wood Stain (optional)
DIY Blocks – Recommended Tool List
- Power Drill/Driver
- A Saw appropriate for cutting 2×4’s and plywood sheets (table, chop/miter, circular)
- Tape Measure
- Utility Knife (for 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
My DIY 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 it 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’ll mostly be giving some pointers that’ll make the project simpler for the sake of perhaps making you aware of something you may not have yet 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”.)
By going with this size you can avoid any measuring during the 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.
Technically you can create any size that you can imagine; 17½ x 24½” is just super easy. I’m confident that if you choose to 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 and basic math skills.
In terms of how high to make the blocks (how many layers to build up), 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 some 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.
Update: be sure and read the comments as some readers have left feedback and thoughts on making these adjustable.
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.
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.
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.
TIP: 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 to eyeball the placement of each 2×4 you may end up with uneven pulling blocks that have a 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.)
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 and pull away!
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 even be made to be attractive. Having said that, if you are so bad with DIY 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 Metal Pulling Blocks are available in two heights and have a number of features that make them better than DIY (including height adjustments), but you’re looking at either $800 or more. That’s a lot of cash to spend to get the bar a few inches off the ground.
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 some Rhode Blocks; they 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.
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 bit 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!