The following post on DIY pulling blocks is an excerpt from Greg Everett and James Tatum's new Ebook titled ‘DIY Weightlifting Gym Equipment Guide.' It's a great Ebook that goes into detail about how to build the following 13 items for your gym:
- Horizontal Barbell Rack
- Vertical Barbell Rack
- Plate Storage Bench
- Chalk Stand
- Competition Platform
- Training Platform
- Platform on a Slope
- 6×8 or 8×8 Platform
- Pulling Blocks
- Adjustable Pulling Blocks
- Staircase Blocks
- Jerk blocks
- Plate rack
The plans are clear, concise, and they include a supply list along with an estimated cost and time to complete.
With that, let's build some adjustable pulling blocks!
DIY Adjustable Pulling Blocks
If you want to be able to adjust the height of your pulling blocks and maintain their stability, i.e. not just stack multiple sets of blocks on top of each other that can bounce around and shift out of position, then this is the way to go.
These blocks use the same basic design as the adjustable jerk blocks in this book, just scaled down. You can change the height of any of the stackers as desired by using wider stock (e.g. 2×6 or 2×8 instead of 2×4), but as written will give you the most adjustability. Likewise, you can change the length and width, but as written has been perfect for many years with our team—a good balance between having plenty of room so that a lifter isn’t scared of missing the blocks, and being portable, adjustable by one person, and not taking up any more space than necessary.
The stackers are lightweight but plenty strong if you keep the tops built as written. Remember that the top needs to be strong and distribute the force through the stackers properly—don’t try to skimp on them or you’re likely going to end up with a lot of splinters and headaches. We’ve had two pairs of these blocks being used by Catalyst Athletics lifters for almost 10 years, with big weights (180kg+) being dropped on them, and they’ve never broken.
The only issue has been the tabs splitting when I originally used 1” pine (pictured here on these old blocks) rather than ¾” plywood for them, and even then, it’s only happened a few times in all those years, and never during use, but because some knucklehead was abusing them while relocating them. Use ¾” ply instead, and even if you have an issue with one of them, it’s quick and easy to replace it.
- Price: $150 (varies by chosen dimensions and options)
- Time: 4 Hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- (16) 2x4s
- (1) 4×8’ sheet of ¾” plywood
- 3” screws
- 1½” screws
- (72) 3x¼” lag screws (optional but recommended)
- Glue (optional)
- Rubber mat (optional but recommended)
For each stacker, you’ll need (6) 18” and (2) 36” lengths of 2×4. Build a frame by placing an 18” piece between each end of the (2) 36” lengths, then a pair together in the middle, and one each in the middle of the remaining spaces between the ends and middle. Pre-drill for two screws toward the top and bottom of each piece and attach with 3” screws. It’s a good idea to square and clamp in place, being sure the frame is totally flat, as you screw you really want these stackers to be flat so they fit snugly together and stay in place as well as possible (don’t panic if they’re not perfect—the weight of the top will flatten them to a degree).
Once you have them screwed together, predrill and add a lag screw in the center of each piece between the two screws. Gluing the whole thing together will improve the strength, but it’ll also mean replacing any of the pieces is a lot more difficult. Our blocks aren’t glued, and they’ve held together fine for years.
Build at least 3 pairs of stackers—this will give you a block height at the knee for a lifter up to about 6’ tall.
Cut (2) 18” x 3 3/8” pieces of plywood for each stacker except (2), which will be the bottom stackers that don’t get tabs (we want it about 1/8” shy of half the height of the stacker (3½”) so the tabs aren’t hitting each other when the blocks are stacked in case our attachment isn’t perfect). Mark a line down the center of the tab’s height, place the tab inside the end piece of the stacker with the line right on the edge of the 2×4, and screw it in place (half the tab’s height should be protruding above the top edge of the stacker 2×4). You can knock down the corners a bit with some sandpaper if you want to make it a little easier to insert into the stacker below, but don’t go crazy because we want a snug fit.
For each top, cut (2) 21×36” pieces of plywood, (6) 36” lengths of 2×4, and (2) 18” lengths of 2×4. We’re going to simply sandwich the 36” 2x4s lying flat between the two sheets of ply. Glue it all up and use 1½” screws through the ply into the 2x4s to really secure it and make a heavy, solid slab to withstand all your giant lifts.
Place this slab flat and lay a stacker on top so the edges are all aligned. Place an 18” 2×4 inside each end of the stacker so it’s lying flat against the plywood, and pushed flush against the inside of each stacker’s end piece (these will be the tabs that hold the top in place on the blocks). Attach these 2x4s with some 3” screws. (Note that the top pictured uses 2x6s for these tabs).
Rip a 2×4 down to ¾” wide and cut (4) 6” lengths of it. Pre-drill and screw one of these into each end of the top as handles. You can use gate or cabinet handles instead if you prefer.
You now have functional blocks, but I’d strongly recommend doing the optional steps below.
The most important optional item you can add is rubber matting on top. This will cut down on the noise a bit, but really it’s going to increase the longevity of the blocks by absorbing some of the force of dropping bars. Originally I used a single layer of ¾” rubber, which was fine; later I added a piece of ½” rubber underlayment under that rubber because I had some leftover from another project and figured it would make the blocks’ life even easier.
You can also add some rails at the front and back of each block top to help prevent bars from rolling off. These blocks are pretty big so there’s much less of a risk of the bar rolling off—I’ve never bothered to add rails on ours (only on smaller blocks). But if you’re sketchy, it certainly won’t hurt. Rip a 2×4 down to ½” or ¾” thick, cut to 21” long, and pre-drill and screw one on each short end of the top (you can place them on top of the rubber if you have it and screw through it—it’ll work fine.
Finally, the best modification I added after the fact was a pair of casters and a handle on the bottom stacker—this makes moving these blocks really easy (trust me, you’re not going to pick up and carry the whole assembly). Place the casters at the bottom edge of the base stacker so they require as little tipping as possible to come into contact with the floor (the less you have to tip the stack, the less stress you’ll put on the tabs). You can screw a gate or cabinet handle on the opposite end of the base stacker. I was impatient and used what I had on hand that day: some 1” nylon webbing and some screws and washers (these make super tactical handles). If you do this, fold the ends of the webbing over once to double the thickness and screw through this folded part (make sure you leave slack between the screws to be able to actually grab the webbing).
And there you have it, folks – your very own adjustable DIY pulling blocks.
I'd like to thanks Greg and James for sharing these plans, and I definitely encourage you to check out their Ebook if you're interested in building any of the other items they've included.
The bar is loaded,