Note: As a first (I think) for this blog, due to the interest in the squat rack was so wide across my followers on Instagram (@siimkinnas, for those who might be interested) where I posted stories about this build, this blog post is in English. Hopefully, it won’t be too horrid to read 😀
As everyone knows, among the first things to close with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic were the gyms. So all of a sudden, the heaviest liftable item one could conceivably weight-train with were waterbottles, rucksacks, kids (if you had any), furniture and some unfortunate spouses (check YouTube for those).
For a while, I coped with the situation by buying a TRX suspension trainer knockoff from YesSport and did bodyweight workouts for two weeks, adding a rubber band to the mix, as well. By week two, it was clear that a) this wasn’t going to be a short term situation and b) the bodyweight thing really wasn’t satisfactory enough.
So, while there were still some available from e-stores, I ordered a barbell and some weights from Fysioline.fi (kudos to them for customer service!) and then started thinking about buying a squat rack, too.
Well, have you seen the prices on those? So no. That wasn’t an option then.
Luckily enough, Youtube knows exactly what you are thinking and, totally out of the blue, offered me THIS video to look at:
The lightbulb in my head, dim as it is, went on. Yes! Of course I’ll build my own squat rack! And since the wife was only too happy at the prospect of NOT having to see my face for a few hours on a regular basis while the quarantine lasted, off to work I went!
The original Buff Dudes’ squat rack was a real heavy-duty monster and I didn’t think I needed one quite as big. BUT, I did want to be able to bench from it and it to be able to hold safety bars. So I changed the design a little, but it remains well strong enough for my weightlifting needs for the foreseeable future. Nerd alert – according to calculations, it should be able to support at least half a ton of weight 😀
So, anyway, here’s…
What you need
To build your DIY squat rack, you’ll need four pieces of wood and some metal bits. Also, some tools to cut the wood and some others to insert the metal bits into the wood. Not detailed enough? Oh, snowflakes, the lot of ya… 😛 😀
Jokes aside, the four pieces of lumber you need are:
- 3 3-meter pieces of 100 x 100 mm fine-sawed or 95 x 95 mm planed/formatted beams like I used. That’s three 10-foot 4-by-4’s for people in that one country that still uses feet and inches. The formatted/planed ones are usually straighter than the simply sawed ones and don’t give off as many splinters later when used.
- One (1) 50 x 100 or 45 x 95 mm beam for the supports ( i.e. a two-by-four). Or, you could also use another 100×100. I had a 50 x 100 lying around so I used it.
You’ll also need some metal bits:
- Pipe. In total, you’ll need 2 1-meter pipes and another one that’s about 1,5 meters or longer – we’ll be cutting some bits off of that one. A 1-inch waterpipe is recommended as it’s sturdy and can be gripped nicely when used as a pull-up bar. Unable to find one on the day I went to the hardware store, I used a coat hanger pipe that also does the trick, albeit it’s a bit more bendy.
- 8 decent sized metal corners, preferably reinforced.
- 10 nailing plates, at least 75 x 150 mm. Basically, wide enough but not wider than your beams.
- Screws, a whole lot of them. In total, I used about 120 screws, 5×80 mm, if I remember correctly. And some bigger ones for the diagonal support struts.
- A 50-centimeter M20 threaded bar or 20 cm bolts or whatever, 4 M20 nuts and 4 M20 washers, to build the bar support pins. Or you can make them the way the Buff Dudes did.
In the end, I got all of the above for under a 100 euros (around 113 dollars, as of this writing) total.
- A saw. Circular or handsaw – either way, it should be a good one that cuts in a straight line. A mitre saw would be best as it cuts at a precise angle when you need it. I’d rent one, next time, but this time all cuts were done by hand.
- A tri-square or carpenter’s square to make sure all those right angles are right 😀
- Something to cut ON is also recommended, to be able to saw while standing reasonably upright. This will ensure straighter cuts and your back will thank you later, too.
- A power drill and/or screwdriver with screw bits for the load of screws you bought.
- A drill bit that’s a little wider than the pipe. The pipe I used was 25 mm and the drill bit (well, auger, technically, really) was 26. This is important, as wood does play a bit and you don’t want the pipe to get stuck in the holes!
- An angle grinder or metal saw to cut the pipe and threaded bar.
- A level to make sure the uprights are, erm, upright.
That’s it! Easy, eh?
It really helps to be building on a LEVEL floor. I built my squat rack in the attic on an old board floor and had to make the extra effort to make sure everything lined up etc.
Anyway, first – we build the base.
Cut one of the 3-meter beams into 1 m pieces (about 10 and 3 feet, approximately). Put one of the pieces in the middle (make sure its ends are cut straight, at right angles) and the other two at the ends, at right angles. Use your tri-square to make sure of it. You should end up with something like this:
Now, connect the bits in the inside corner with the metal corners, using at least three screws per side. Then, screw in the nailing plates, so that it transverses the connection between the beams on the outside corner. Use at least two screws per side of the beam, preferably more. This joint will be moving and flexing whenever you exert a force that ISN’T vertical. When you are doing pullups, muscle-ups etc., there’s quite a bit of swinging about and unless you make this joint solid, it will tire over time. So you can, if you want, add another plate on top of the corner, as well.
NOTE: the crossbeam-side will henceforth be known as the “front” end of the rack. You will be facing it, when getting ready for them sweet squats you’ll be doing in the rack.
Now, measure how tall you want the uprights to be. I had a ceiling that would limit how high I could make them, but I wanted to be able to do pull-ups without my feet touching the ground. So mine are the height of me trying to reach as high as possible, minus about 20 cm of clearance for the head when I’m in the top position for a pull-up. Deduct the height of the base beam as the upright is going to be sitting on it.
Cut the uprights and be very careful to make the cuts at right angles from all sides. A miter saw works best for that but if you have a good saw and a bit of practice, you can do it by hand, too. It’s important to have the right angles for the uprights because as soon as you add a load to them they WILL try and move and if there’s some tilt or angle to the cut to the ends. So to be safe, take care in this step!
For me, the leftover bits were exactly the right height to act as supports for the support bars, later.
Now, time to put up the uprights. Mark 30 cm from the front on either side. This is where the forward facing side of the uprights will be placed. Using a carpenter’s square to make sure it is in line with the base beam, screw in a metal corner with two screws in the nearest holes to the corner and one or two in the farthest.
You could, if you wanted to, lean the uprights forward a bit to move the center of mass of the uprights with the weight on them over the footprint of the uprights, but really, that’s just nitpicking. Although the eventual angled support beam will essentially form a fulcrum around which the whole upright can pivot, the forward-facing metal corner will absorb that force easily. Just make sure you use thick enough screws – at least 5 or 6 mm screws are recommended here.
Put the uprights against the metal corners and screw them in place, then add the corners to the opposite side, too.
Brace the sides with nail plates and screws.
To give myself something to do pull-ups on and add some topside stability, I drilled a hole through the top ends of the uprights and put a 25 mm steel tube through them which I then screwed in place. You could, conceivably, also replace it with another wooden crossbeam that you can attach more corner support to, or any combination thereof you like 🙂
Now, to be able to do bench presses etc, it would be nice to stay alive in the unlikely case that you are unable to do that final push up again. Also, dropping the weights on the floor if a squat failed would probably end up with the weights dropping through this old floor, unless there was something to catch them. So, to put in some safety bars (also good for rack pulls etc), we’ll install the leftover bits from the uprights as the supports for said safety bars, like so:
Screw those suckers down with all the screws and nailing plates you can, because they tend to wobble a bit otherwise – it’s a rather unstable position they’re in, you know and hence having their ends at REALLY right angles helps with stability.
To fit in the safety bars, i.e. the 1-meter/3-foot steel tubes, we’ll be drilling some holes, next. Measure exactly the same height from the base on both the upright and the support beam and mark it as precisely as possible on the center line of either beam. The height should be so that it would not impede the downward travel of the bar when bench pressing, but high enough that should the worst happen, you could still wiggle out from under it or roll the bar off of you along the safety bars.
With an auger or large drill, keeping it as aligned with the base beam as possible, drill as many holes for the barbell holding pins as you need in both uprights and support beams, like so:
Since you’re marking and drilling anyway, mark similarily the positions for the holes at the heights you might need for different exercises. There’s no real need to put the whole upright full of holes. I put in two holes at 10 cm height difference around where I found they would be comfortable for bench presses (basically some trial and error with a broom stick to see, where it would land on the upright 😀 ) and a few more around squat height for high bar and low bar positions and a lower one just in case a vertically challenged friend would want to come over to use the rack.
Incidentally, it turns out, the lower pin position is perfect for incline bench presses. That’s a win in my book 😀
Insert 1 m/3 ft steel tubes for lifesaving support bars. Rejoice! You’re almost done!
I did notice a certain wobble in the squat rack that needed adressing – hence, here come the diagonals for added stability. See above and below for placement. There’s no real measurements needed here – just make sure the angles you cut in the diagonals match with the angle of what you’re bracing.
To avoid having to increase the footprint of the rack to achieve lateral stability of the uprights, I ended up doing double-diagonal supports running from the upright to the forward-looking base beam. They work well and don’t get in the way, at all.
Just make sure you use good thick and long screws here, OK? These angles are subjected to a lot of force and I actually had to tighten ALL the screws around the base after about a month of use.
I would, actually, add another diagonal from the base to the lifesaver-bars’ support beams, too, and attach another horizontal bit between it and it’s neighbour so that a) the support beam would be more stable and b) I would have something to hold the bar up a bit higher for doing hip thrusts etc.
To carry the bar, I put pieces of the leftover pipe in the pinholes in the squat rack and did a combination of M20 threaded bar, nuts and washers to give me something that acts like a bar rack 😀 Your mileage may vary, but make sure that whatever solution you use, it will not let the bar roll off or drop down in any way. I really would not like anyone dying because they followed my instructions 😀
And that’s it! Now, you’ll be needing a bench, too – you can either buy that from several suppliers or build one on your own. The BuffDudes also did a bench, which you can replicate, but I went my own way:
Having said that, I think I’m going to buy a “real” bench, soon. The one I built wobbles quite a bit on the uneven floor (or, I could level the floor, of course) and the back rest is too hard to do heavier lifts – it really hurts my shoulderblades. So I’ve added a folded-up yoga mat and an old blanket for cushioning. Much better.