The squat rack is among the most versatile strength training equipment; every commercial gym has it, and every home gym should have it. Power racks are especially important for people who work out at home, as they allow you to fail safely while doing a barbell exercise.
Power racks come in different shapes and sizes. Many people use the terms ‘power rack’ and ‘squat rack’ interchangeably. However, these are two very distinct training equipment. The squat rack is a simple setup, usually consisting of two vertical poles. It is what you see in most CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting gyms.
Power racks, on the other hand, are more elaborate setups. They usually consist of four vertical poles with two adjustable horizontal bar catches on each side. The lifter is supposed to exercise in the middle of the vertical posts, and the horizontal bars act as safety pins during exercises like the squat and bench press. You could also set the safety pins at your chest height and use them for shoulder exercises.
That said, don’t take this to mean that squat stands are a poor investment. In fact, most squat racks come with spotter arms. However, they are not as sturdy as the power racks’ horizontal bars.
Although the squat racks are not considered as safe as the power racks, they take up much less space than power racks and are usually better suited for garage or basement gyms. Additionally, squat racks cost much less than power racks, making them much more accessible for recreational lifters.
In this article, I will walk you through two DIY power racks and one DIY squat stand project. You can go with the one that suits you better. You will need power tools to build these DIY power racks from scratch.
Things to Consider While Making a DIY Power Rack
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of building a power rack, here are the things you must know about power racks so you can modify them according to your needs:
There is no set standard for how deep or wide a power rack can be. Folks training in their home gyms should measure their training area and design a power rack that meets their needs and can fit in their garage gym. Here are some common power rack dimensions for your reference:
Rack heights will vary depending on where you store it. Garage gym power racks can be slightly taller than basement power racks. A 70-inch power rack is usually considered short, whereas 80-90 inches is the average height for a power rack. Power racks that are too tall can hinder your range of motion while performing pull-ups, chin-ups, and especially muscle-ups.
The depth of a power rack, meaning the distance between the front two vertical poles and rear poles, is between 45 to 85 inches. Folks working with limited space can construct power racks with a 24-inch depth. However, anything more shallow than this can be significantly limiting. You want to keep some wiggle space to move around inside the power cage.
Although the height and depth of power racks usually vary, the width is fairly consistent. Most power racks are between 45 to 48 inches wide. Power racks of this size are perfect for accommodating a seven-foot Olympic barbell. If you plan to place your power rack in a corner, leave enough space on the side to add weight plates. An area that is too congested makes the loading and unloading experience unpleasant.
A power rack’s quality is usually judged by its steel thickness. Most power racks use 11 or 12-gauge steel. Although the gauge system is not used for wood, you should use the thickest and most dense wood (like oak) for building wooden DIY power racks.
Plus, the column thickness for metal racks should be at least 2 inches by 2 inches to ensure the frame can absorb the weight being dropped on safety pins. The thicker you can go for wooden racks, the better. Also, anchor the racks to the floor for more sturdiness.
Accessories and Attachments
You might have to add more holes to your power rack if you want to use a variety of attachments with it. For example, you will need to add holes to the top crossbars to use a cable pulley attachment, whereas you must add holes at the bottom to accommodate a landmine attachment. Plus, you will have to make space for weight plates and accessory storage if you don’t have a dedicated space for them in your home gym.
Price and Budget
Four-post, six-post, and half-racks are a few different types of power racks. Plus, you also have squat racks and wall-mounted foldable squat stands. Your budget will change depending on your requirements, space available, and use.
As you can tell, a lot goes into building a power rack. Therefore, before building one for yourself, you should sit down and decide what you exactly want from your power rack. Making structural changes to the power rack is very difficult once you’ve built the first vertical pole. If your DIY power rack isn’t strong or sturdy enough, you’ll have to scrap the entire project and start over from scratch.
3 DIY Power Rack Ideas
Without further ado, here are the three DIY power rack ideas to elevate your home gym game:
DIY Wooden Power Rack
This power rack is a timeless piece of equipment. Besides being the centerpiece in your garage gym, this DIY wooden power rack will become a conversation starter whenever you give someone a tour of your iron (or rather wooden) paradise.
The material and steps listed below will give you a DIY power rack that is seven-foot-tall (84 inches), seven-foot-deep (84 inches), and four-foot-wide (48 inches). However, you can tweak the dimensions if you’re working with limited space.
- Lumber beams (six for the cross pieces)
- Lumber boards (eight for the legs)
- Two metal spotter bars
- Washers and plumbing fittings
- Two J-cups
- Heavy-duty wood screws
- Wood glue
- Tape measure
- Hand saw (or circular saw or miter saw)
- Electric drill
- Standard drill bit with screwdriver bits
- Steel ties
- Table saw
- Assembly bench
Here is an eight-step guide to building your DIY power rack:
Step One — Finding the Material
You can find most, if not all, tools and materials required for building a DIY power rack on Amazon. Alternatively, you can find them at your local hardware store. Avoid compromising on the quality of the raw material, as it can affect the longevity of the power rack.
Step Two —Measuring and Cutting the Legs
Cut the eight lumbar boards into seven-foot pieces for the vertical pillars and connectors for the front and back poles. Use boards that are two to three inches thick. As explained above, thicker poles can add to your power rack’s stability.
Ensure the boards are cut evenly. Uneven cuts will make the power rack structurally unfit. Cut the four lumbar boards into smaller pieces to reduce the depth of the power cage. You can also tweak the height of your cage at this point.
Use wood nails and wood glue to attach the legs. Drill the nails through the connector pieces into the vertical poles. Let the glue dry before you start working on this DIY power rack again. Disturbing the power cage before the glue is set can affect its structural integrity.
Step Three — Mark the Spotter Holes
This is one of the most important aspects of building a power rack — marking the spotter holes. If the spotter holes on your power rack are uneven or at incorrect heights, it will significantly reduce the utility of the training equipment. The great thing about building a DIY power rack is that you can create spotter holes on the power rack according to your height.
On the four seven-foot vertical poles, mark holes every 4.5 inches in the center. Ensure the holes align on all four poles, or you’ll have issues setting up the spotter arms. Furthermore, if the holes don’t align on both sides, exercises like rack pulls or pin squats will be very inconvenient.
You can also drill the holes every two inches, but that will double the workload. Although there are no standard hole sizes, you should go with ⅝” or ⅔” holes, as you can find power rack attachments for these sizes on Amazon.
Alternatively, make a single hole on the inside of the rear legs of the power racks to attach J-cups. However, multiple spotter holes are much more versatile than single J-cups. Plus, you will still need to drill holes for the spotter arms.
Step Four — Drill the Holes
Use an electric drill to drill through the marked holes. Sand and clean the holes so the spotter arms and attachments can go through smoothly. Take your time on this one, and make sure the holes are crafted to perfection.
Step Five — Make the Cross-Section Bars
Cut the lumbar bars into six four-foot sections. These bars will be used to connect the two sides of the rack. Start by attaching the rear poles of the rack at the bottom using 2 ½ inch screws from the front and rear.
Once you have set up one connecting board at the bottom, you might need to tap the top board into place using a dead blow hammer or mallet, as the fit will likely be snug. The top front connecting board will be the most snug. Be ready to test your hammer skills on this one. Avoid connecting the front legs at the bottom, as it can obstruct your entry into the power cage.
Step Six — Add The Spotter Bars
Insert the metal spotter pipes into the holes. Make sure the spotter bars are of an appropriate diameter. Bars that are too thin will wiggle, which hampers your training experience. With this, you’ll have a basic power rack. However, you still need to complete the structure for better stability.
Avoid using wooden beams as spotter arms, as they are not as strong and are susceptible to breaking when placed under heavy loads. You don’t want the wooden spotter arms to break if you fail a heavy set of squats. It would beat the entire purpose of building the DIY power rack.
Attach two J-Cups on the inside of the rear legs of the power rack at your shoulder height. You could use plumbing materials for holding the barbell. However, you can get a decent pair of J-cups for less than $30 on Amazon, which is a good investment.
Step Seven — Secure the Rack
Once the structure is up, you must secure it by doubling the screws on the joints. Plus, use the miter saw to cut 14 wood pieces to 10 3/4″ lengths with 45-degree miter cuts on both ends. Attach these wood blocks where the legs of the DIY power rack poles attach using nail guns or wood screws.
If the wood is too dry, prevent the wood from cracking by pre-drilling the holes before screwing in the support. Remember, drilling through the connector boards into the vertical poles and using wood glue isn’t enough. You must secure the rack using chamfered wooden blocks and drilling through them.
Furthermore, use steel ties on each connection to hold them in place. Add some cross-member support beams in each corner to ensure greater stability. Also, you can bolt the power rack into the floor to ensure it doesn’t move while training with heavy weights.
Step Eight — Check Stability
Even after using multiple screws to secure the joints and bolting the power rack to the floor, you must test the structure’s stability before training in it. Place a barbell on the J-cups, and add your 1RM back squat weight on it. If the structure can hold this weight, add 50 to 100 pounds to ensure the DIY power rack can handle the weight if you push your training intensity.
After this, place the barbell on the safety bars inside the power cage and load the barbell with your 1RM rack pull weight. It will likely be more than your 1RM squat weight. Add more weight to ensure the frame will stand its ground when you’re trying to push your 1RM.
Also, lift the bar off the safety racks and drop it on them from hip height. You want to ensure the power rack can handle the weight of a falling barbell. Once you’re satisfied with the rack’s stability, you are clear to train in it.
Pro Tip: A brown color power rack isn’t for everybody. If you are in this group, you can paint your wooden squat rack to give it a more commercial gym vibe. I recommend painting it red for a more racy look. However, you can get creative with it.
DIY Steel Power Rack
Although the wooden DIY power rack is awesome, it cannot handle nearly as much weight as a metal power rack. This is why all commercial power racks use steel. Building a DIY steel power rack might require more effort, but it is worth it.
- Steel tubes roughly 2.5 x 2.5 x 1/8 inches for the frame (approximately 50 feet)
- One-inch steel rod (approximately nine feet)
- Steel nuts and bolts
- Metal saw
We’ll use the same seven-foot-tall (84 inches), seven-foot-deep (84 inches), and four-foot-wide (48 inches) dimensions from the wooden DIY power rack for this project. The process will be identical, with the main difference being that the vertical and horizontal pipes will be welded together instead of being attached using wooden nails and glue.
If you’ve never welded before, you should seek professional help for this project. It will increase the overall cost of this power rack, but it will still cost you around the same as budget commercial racks. Here is a seven-step guide to building your DIY steel power rack:
Step One — Purchase the Material
You can find all the materials and tools you need to build a metal power rack in a hardware store. Plus, if you have never built a metal structure before, you’ll also find resources from the front desk to help you with it.
Step Two — Measure and Cut the Legs
Cut eight steel tubes to seven feet in length using a metal saw. Get professional help if you’ve never done this before. People who don’t have power tools should get this made to their specifications in a metal workshop.
Step Three — Cut the Cross Pipes
Cut six lengths of four-foot pipes that will be used to join both sides of the DIY metal power rack. Like in the case of the wooden power rack, you must ensure all the cut-outs are of the same length; otherwise, it can skew the setup and render the power cage useless.
Step Four — Mark and Drill the Holes
Drill ⅝” or ⅔” holes into the four vertical pipes at every 4.5 inches in the center. You could drill these holes every two inches for more options to place the safety bars in. However, since this is a personalized power rack, you can minimize the number of holes per your specifications.
Step Five — Make the Steel Rods
Since we are dealing with metal in this project, we’ll also be making our own spotter bars. For this, cut two steel pipes to five-foot lengths. The rods should fit the holes snugly for optimal stability and security.
Step Six —Assemble
Assembling the metal power rack is very different than putting together a wooden power cage. Once you have all the pieces ready, you can get professional help to weld the pieces together as per your specifications. Alternatively, you could attach the cross-sections to the legs by drilling holes and using bolts.
Step Seven — Testing
Using the steps mentioned in the wooden DIY power rack step-by-step guide, test the metal power rack and check if it can handle the weight you’ll be using. Typically, metal power racks are more sturdy than their wooden counterparts.
DIY Squat Stand
Since the squat rack only involves two vertical poles, it is much easier to make in your garage. However, squat stands are best suited for experienced lifters. If you are new to lifting, you should use moderate weights while using the squat rack.
In this example, we will build a connected squat stand. Although building a wooden squat stand that is not connected by a beam is easier, it is significantly less sturdy. Safety should be one of your priorities while working out, irrespective of your training style, program, or objectives.
- Lumber beams (six for the cross pieces)
- Lumber boards (eight for the legs)
- 2 1/2″ wood screws
- Wood glue
- Tape measure
- Miter saw
- Staple gun
- Nail gun
- Skill saw
- Aluminum ladder
Follow this six-step DIY squat rack setup:
Step One — Build the Base
The sturdiness of your squat rack depends on its base. Cut two lumbar boards to seven feet in length and two to four feet. The longer logs are the vertical poles, whereas the shorter logs are the base.
Step Two — Make the Connecting Beam
Cut two lumbar beams to four feet in length. One piece will connect the left squat pole with the right at the top, and the other will attach them at the bottom. This will improve the structure’s stability.
Step Three — Mark and Drill the Holes
At every 4.5 inches in the center of the vertical poles, drill ⅝” or ⅔” holes. Since this is a small project, I recommend drilling the holes every two inches. That said, every 4.5 inches would work as well, as this is a piece of personalized equipment.
Step Four — Make Diagonal Support Pieces
Cut four lumbar board wood pieces to 10 ¾-inch lengths with 45-degree miter cuts on both ends. These pieces will add stability to the structure and ensure the poles don’t give in under the weight of a heavy barbell.
Step Five — Assemble
Lay one foot of the squat rack on the floor and place the vertical pole in its center. Use wood glue to attach the pole to the base.
Use a nail gun or wood screws to insert multiple 2 ½ inch screws diagonally from the bottom of the base into the pole. Secure it by placing a 10 3/4″ wood piece diagonally on both sides of the pole and attach them using 2 1/2″ wood screws. Pre-drill the holes to prevent cracking. Repeat on the other side.
Set the poles in a straight line four feet apart. Set an aluminum ladder between the poles and get on top of it while holding the four-foot connecting beam. Place the beam on top of the vertical poles and attach it using glue and wood screws.
Connect the base of the DIY squat rack using the second four-foot pole. However, don’t attach it in the center directly under the overhead pole, as it will obstruct your way while setting up to unrack a heavy barbell during the barbell back squat. Your feet should be directly under the bar while unracking. Attach the bottom connecting wooden piece in the base of the diagonal support pieces on the rear end.
Step Six —Test
Attach J-cups to the squat rack poles at a suitable height. Use the testing guidelines mentioned in the previous two sections to check the stability of this DIY power rack. If this squat rack feels unstable, bolt it to the floor.
Pro Tip: You could also replace the top wooden lumbar connector with a round metal piece and use it for pull-ups.
Attachments for the DIY Power Rack
Attachments add to a power rack’s versatility. Here are the ones you should be using:
Also known as J-hooks, these are the small J-shaped things attached to the squat racks where you rack a barbell. I would say J-hooks are the best invention since the barbell. Imagine having to lift the barbell off the floor every time. Total nightmare!
J-cups come in different shapes and sizes, and you’ll definitely find one for cheap on Amazon that fits your needs.
Although you’ll use spotter beams on the first two DIY power racks in this article, you should get spotter arms for the DIY squat rack. If you fail during a squat or bench press rep, this attachment will break your fall.
Pull-up bars are one of the most popular power rack attachments. You can drill a commercial pull-up bar into the top beam of the DIY power racks detailed in this article.
While bench dips are great, they cannot match the parallel bar dips. The dip bar attaches to one of the squat rack vertical poles and allows you to perform exercises like the triceps or chest dips.
While you can get numerous other power rack attachments, these four are an excellent place to start. I recommend keeping your power rack hole sizes in line with the attachment sizes of your favorite training equipment manufacturer.
How Strong is a DIY Power Rack?
This is one of the most common questions people have about a DIY power rack. While commercial power racks come with a maximum weight capacity, the maximum weight a homemade power cage can take will depend on the materials used and the construction quality.
The wooden DIY squat racks listed in this article can handle between 350 and 400 pounds, whereas the metal version can double that. However, these are just rough projections. You should test your DIY power rack’s sturdiness by loading a racked barbell with 100 to 150 pounds more than you expect to lift.
Best DIY Power Rack Alternatives — Commercial Power Racks
Experienced lifters who lift close to 350 pounds will be better off getting a commercial metal power rack. These are much more sturdy and offer various attachments to improve your training experience. Here are our top picks:
Fitness Reality 810 XLT Power Cage
This power cage from Fitness Reality uses a heavy-duty 2-inch by 2-inch tubular steel frame construction, has an 800-pound weight capacity, 19 levels of height adjustment, a multi-grip pull-up bar, and a pair of chrome safety bars. It is also the highest-rated power cage on Amazon.
Fitness Reality 810 XLT Power Cage Coupon
Fitness Reality 810 XLT Power Cage Coupon
The Fitness Reality 810 XLT Power Cage costs less than $300, has an 800-pound warranty, solid steel frame construction, and is backed by a one-year warranty. Plus, it weighs a meager 135 pounds (61 kilograms).
Sunny Health and Fitness Power Zone Squat Rack SF-XF9931
Folks with limited space in their garage or basement gym should go with the SF-XF9931 from Sunny Health and Fitness. This 95-pound (43-kilogram) squat rack has a weight capacity of 805 pounds. It also has a built-in pull-up bar and comes with Olympic weight plate holders, J-cups, and safety arms.
Sunny Health and Fitness Power Zone Squat Rack SF-XF9931 Coupon
Sunny Health and Fitness Power Zone Squat Rack SF-XF9931 Coupon
The Sunny Health and Fitness Power Zone Squat Rack SF-XF9931 costs less than $250, takes up minimal space, and is one of the most sturdy squat racks on the market. It also has resistance band posts at the bottom to change the resistance profile of the bar during an exercise.
Who Should Build a DIY Power Rack
The following people should build a DIY power rack:
- People on a shoestring budget.
- Those who have some experience with power tools.
- Those willing to spend some time toying with the dimensions of the designs to fit their needs.
- Beginner lifters who want to get better at lifting weights but don’t want to break the bank on commercial training equipment for their home gym.
- Lifters who want a power rack that is customized to their body mechanics.
Who Should Not Build a DIY Power Rack
These folks should avoid taking up a DIY power rack project:
- Folks with a jam-packed schedule who cannot make the time to build a power rack.
- People with no experience of using power tools.
- Experienced lifters who lift close to or over 300 pounds on exercises like the bench press and squat.
- Beginners who don’t understand the nuances of training equipment.
- Lifters who want to use multiple attachments on their power rack.
- People who move a lot. Disassembling and moving a DIY power rack can be a lot of work.
Benefits of a DIY Power Rack
Here are the benefits of building and using a DIY power rack:
Building a DIY wooden squat rack can be very cost-effective. Although the price of the homemade power racks shoots up significantly when dealing with three or more pole power racks, they are usually at power with the commercial ones.
Now, you might be wondering if the more advanced DIY power racks cost nearly the same as the commercial ones, why would someone make them? The answer lies in modifications. You can modify a DIY power rack according to your height and body mechanics, something that is not possible with big-ticket commercial power racks.
Power rack attachments, such as pull-up bars, dip bars, and landmines, are usually budget-friendly. The best thing is, even if you make a DIY power rack using the same hole specifications as your favorite equipment manufacturer, you can use all their rack attachments on your homemade wooden power cage.
This is one of the most underrated benefits of using DIY gym equipment. Commercial training equipment is great, but the satisfaction that comes from using homemade gym equipment is unparalleled.
The experience of carving your physique on training equipment that you carved with your own hands is magical. DIY gym equipment is always a work in progress. You keep making small tweaks to them to suit different exercises and your body mechanics.
Building a DIY power cage has a steep learning curve. If you are just getting started building your own stuff, a DIY power rack will help you hone your craft. On the other hand, it can help unleash an experienced handyman’s creativity.
Drawbacks of a DIY Power Rack
A DIY power cage has these disadvantages:
Requires a Certain Level of Skill
Building a DIY power rack is not for everyone. You need a certain skill set to execute a DIY squat rack. The barriers to entry are even higher if you want to build a metal power rack. People who have never held a power tool might be too overwhelmed even to try building a DIY power rack.
Low Margin of Error
You must always begin a DIY project with a solid blueprint. Even one misstep or incorrectly cut wooden log can ruin your power rack. Beginners should work with an experienced individual to minimize errors.
Less Weight Capacity
Wooden DIY power racks usually have a lower weight capacity than commercial metal ones. While you could increase the weight-bearing capacity by increasing the manufacturing quality, it would significantly increase the total budget.
Metal DIY Power Rack Can Be Expensive
Although metal DIY power racks can hold as much weight as their commercial counterparts, they usually cost the same (or more). Most people who build metal DIY power cages do it because they love the process.
DIY power racks require a lot of finishing. Expect to spend a considerable amount of time sanding the poles and holes. The overall aesthetics of your homemade power rack will depend on the quality of the materials used. I recommend painting the rack before assembling it. Not only does painting the rack make it more aesthetically appealing, but it also significantly improves its longevity.
Most wooden DIY power racks don’t last nearly as long as metal ones, especially if used outdoors or in a basement without temperature control. On the flip side, most commercial products are backed with extensive warranties.
Can I modify the DIY power rack designs in this article to meet my needs?
Yes! Customization is one of the biggest reasons many people build their own DIY power racks. Modifying the power rack designs laid out in this article is not only acceptable but it is recommended. However, you must ensure that the design tweaks don’t jeopardize the structural integrity of the power racks.
Also, feel free to take some of the ideas from these designs and create your own blueprint for a more functional, robust, and sturdy power rack. The more customized it is, the more likely you will be to use it. So, make it your own!
Shouldn’t I buy a commercial power rack over a DIY power rack?
Most sturdy commercial power racks cost over $300, which might turn away many people. Plus, they have fixed dimensions, which might not fit in your garage gym. A DIY power rack allows you to design a cage that checks all the boxes. Also, you can make a wooden DIY power rack for under $100, given you have the required experience and power tools.
That said, advanced lifters who lift over 300 pounds on the squat and bench press should opt for commercial power racks as they are usually more sturdy and have a tested maximum weight capacity.
Is it possible to make a DIY power rack at home without power tools?
Yes, you could make a wooden power rack at home without power tools. However, it will take you much more time to complete. Also, the cuts might not be as precise when using hand tools as when using power tools.
How much does a DIY power rack cost?
The total price of a DIY power rack can vary depending on the design and the material used. For example, the DIY squat rack idea can be done for under $80 (provided you have access to the power tools), whereas the DIY wooden power rack might cost you nearly $250. The DIY metal squat rack is for people who enjoy working with metals and for whom money is no object, as it can cost the same as a commercial power rack you can buy on Amazon.
You can choose any of the three DIY power rack ideas listed in this article depending on your experience level and needs. The wooden DIY power cage is perfect for beginners, whereas the wooden squat or metal power rack is great for advanced lifters.
Remember, a DIY power rack is not always the cheapest. The wooden and metal DIY power rack ideas in this article might cost you close to what you would pay for a commercial steel body power rack. However, if you are into building things with your own hands, you cannot go wrong with any DIY project in this article.