Squat racks can be the focal point of a home gym thanks to their versatility. They play a central role in helping you perform a variety of many popular exercises, like squats (as the name suggests), bench press, overhead press, barbell rows, and many more movements. Not everyone wants to buy a prefabricated option though. Whether you’re trying to save money or give your space a unique piece of equipment with some personality, building your own DIY squat rack can be a great alternative to buying a pre-made rack. The best part is you can make it exactly how you want it to be.
All you’ll need are a few reasonably common power tools — like a drill, and miter or circular saw (you can use hand tools if you want for an extra workout), and materials (like wood) that you can find at any big-box home improvement store. We’re going to walk you through two different options for building a rack, so you can gather a better idea of what might work for you. First, we’ll go over how to build a two-post squat rack, then we’ll lay out the steps for a full four-post power rack. We’ll start by cutting our wood and assembling our tools and materials. Then, we’ll assemble the sides of the rack. After that, we’ll combine them and add support. The final finishing touches and J-hooks come last. Let’s get started.
How to Build a Two-Post Squat Rack
First, always make sure you’re wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with tools. Not wearing PPE is like going for a new deadlift PR without a lifting belt — probably not the best idea. Make sure you’ve got ear, eye, and respiratory protection when working with power tools that create fine particles, like saws and sanders.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to business and build your two-post squat rack. Below we’ve laid out the bare minimum for the tools you’ll need, but if you’re an experienced DIY-er or already have some other advanced tools, feel free to use them instead. Likewise, if you’re only working with hand tools, you’re going to be in for a workout, but this build can still be done. We also have the materials and step-by-step instructions below with a full cut list for the wood. We calculated the cost for materials at just under $100 at the time of writing, and though lumber prices can vary, that estimate likely won’t be far off.
What Tools You’ll Need
- Circular Saw or Miter Saw (Alternatively a Hand Saw)
- Power Drill/Screwdriver with Drill Bits
- Measuring Square or Level
- Measuring Tape
- Adjustable wrench for carriage bolts
Materials and Cost For a Two-Post Squat Rack
- Eight 10-Inch Carriage Bolts — $25.99
- One Pound Box of 2 ½ inch wood screws — $11.30
- Eight ounces of wood glue — $7.94
- One 1x10x96-inches Board — $22.26
- 7 2x4x96-inches Douglas Fir — $4.25 each (fluctuates)
- Estimated Total Cost — $97.24
Cut List for Wooden Squat Rack
- Two Pieces — 72 inches long
- Seven Pieces — 48 inches long
- Two Pieces — 36 inches long
- Four Pieces — 8 inches long
- Four Pieces 6 inches long
- Two Pieces — 48 inches long
Building Instructions For a Squat Rack
Once you’ve got all your wood pieces cut to size, sanded (optional), and sorted then you’re ready to start assembling your squat rack. To keep this as simple as possible, we’re working with all 90-degree angles to avoid miter or bevel cuts. That can be intimidating and confusing for those who aren’t super handy though — you’re welcome to modify these plans to include some miter or bevel cuts if you’re so inclined.
Assembling the Sides
Let’s start by making the sides. Attach two of the 48-inch pieces at a 90-degree angle to each other.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to pre-drill the holes and lay down some wood glue where the two pieces will attach before securing them together with screws.
You can simply overlap the two pieces and attach them that way, or if you’ve got the know-how, you can use pocket holes and pocket screws for added security and aesthetics.
Once you have the two 48-inch pieces secured, go ahead and attach one of the 36-inch pieces to the other end of the 48-inch piece in the same upright direction at 90 degrees. After that, attach one of the 72-inch pieces in the same upright direction 22 ¼ inches from either end, so that it sits directly in the center of the board.
Inside Secret: The measurements of the boards are what they are before the boards are planed flat, so a 2×4 really ends up being about 1.5×3.5 when all said and done.
Now it’s time to attach our cross-member support for the sides. We’re going to attach another one of the 48-inch boards to all three of the uprights, flush with the top and ends to make a large rectangle with the 72-inch and 48-inch boards sticking out the top. Once you’ve attached that, move on to attach one of the 24-inch boards flush with the top and end of the 48-inch board that’s sticking out, and attach the other end to the 72-inch upright.
Repeat this entire process over to create the opposite side of the squat rack. Once you’ve completed both sides, then you’re ready to start putting them together.
Putting the Sides Together
Take a deep breath, and grab a partner or find a trusty workbench since you may need assistance holding the pieces square when attaching them. Other than squaring everything, this is likely the easiest part. It’s best to start with your top cross-brace support, so grab one of the 48-inch 1×10 pieces and attach it to the back of the 48-inch uprights flush with the top.
Pro Tip: Don’t tighten down the screws all the way until you’ve made sure everything is flush and the rack is sitting balanced. Be sure to remember to go back through and tighten the screws up after though. No one wants a wobbly squat rack or loose screws.
Repeat the process for the other 48-inch 1×10 piece, but install this one 14 inches up from the base of the rack. Once these are on, then you can attach the final 48-inch 2×4 stabilizer at the base of the rack flush with the bottom.
J-Hooks and Final Touches
There are a few approaches you can take for the J-hooks, but we’re going to opt for the most secure method of using carriage bolts. The downside is that it requires a few extra pieces of hardware and tools. If you don’t have the tools or money for the hardware, you can get by with screws and wood glue, but we like the extra security of carriage bolts for this application.
Attach one each of the eight-inch and six-inch boards together flush at the bottom with wood glue and screws in the four corners. Next, attach another one of the eight-inch boards sideways and flush with the bottom of the two you just combined at a 90-degree angle. To finish making the J-hooks, attach another six-inch board parallel with the previously combined two at the far end of the six-inch board. This J-hook should measure eight inches deep by eight inches tall on the front, and six inches tall on the back by three and a half inches wide.
Now that the J-hooks are made, mark where you want to place them on the 72-inch upright and pre-drill two holes slightly smaller than your carriage bolts through both sides of that mark. One should be four inches from the top and the other two inches from the bottom. Repeat the process on the rear board of the J-hook. Once the holes are drilled, you can thread the carriage bolts through both sides of the J-hook, and attach the bolts to the back.
Pro Tip: You can adjust the height of your J-hooks by loosening the carriage bolts and sliding the hooks up or down to accommodate lifters of different heights. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can sand a groove where your barbell will sit for a more solid support area.
Admire Your Work
Once you’ve finished assembling your squat rack, wait 24 hours for the wood glue to cure. Always make sure to test out (and admire) your work before putting any amount of weight on it. Take the squat rack somewhere like your driveway and load it up with as much weight as you intend to lift (and a bit more to be safe) to make sure nothing moves, everything is solid, and the rack is level. At this point, you can prime, and paint or stain the rack to your preferred color scheme. Whatever you do, we recommend at least putting a coat of protective sealant on the wood if you choose not to paint or stain it as that will improve the longevity of your DIY squat rack.
How to Build a Four-Post Power Rack
Building a four-post power rack is almost easier than a squat rack, but requires more bracing and reinforcement. The big difference between the build of the two is that this will feature metal braces for the joints and larger-width wood. We’ll break down what tools you’ll need, provide a full cut list along with other materials you’ll need, and of course, instructions on how to build it. This rack is a bit more expensive than a squat rack — coming out to nearly $300 — but provides added versatility and security from a four-post system with the benefit of improved customizability. The price is still way less than many basic power racks on the market, which can go for upwards of $1,000 or more.
What Tools You’ll Need
- Circular Saw or Miter Saw (Alternatively a Hand Saw)
- Power Drill/Screwdriver with Drill Bits
- Measuring Square or Level
- Measuring Tape
- Adjustable Wrench for Carriage Bolts
Materials and Cost for a Four-Post Power Rack
- Eight pieces 4x4x96 Douglas Fir — $ 14.97 each (fluctuates)
- Four 10-Inch Carriage Bolts — $25.99
- 16 Pieces 90-degree corner braces — $16.89 per six-pack
- One Pound Box of 2 ½ inch wood screws — $11.30
- One Pound Box of 4 ½ inch wood screws — $28.99
- Eight ounce wood glue — $7.94
- Two 2x4x96 Douglas Fir — $4.25 each (fluctuates)
- Estimated Total Cost — $283.15
Cut List for a Wooden Power Rack
- Two Pieces — 49 inches
- Four Pieces — 90 inches
- Three Pieces — 48 inches
- Two Pieces — 41 inches
- Four Pieces — 34 inches
- Two Pieces — Eight inches
- Two Pieces — Six inches
Building Instructions for a Power Rack
This rack can be made to whatever depth you want realistically with a few simple modifications to the cut lengths. All you’ll have to do is cut the side braces and the spotter side braces longer. We’re making the example power rack a slightly compact option that’s able to fit in most people’s spaces. The beauty of a DIY rack is that you can customize it to your liking. If you’d rather modify nearly any part of this rack, you can — just ensure it’s still structurally sound.
Assembling the Sides of the Power Rack
So we don’t have to mention it with every step, be sure to pre-drill and use wood glue with all wood-to-wood connections to ensure the most secure bond and prevent splitting. Begin assembly of the sides of your power rack by attaching two of the 90-inch uprights to the 49-inch base piece. Measure four inches from each end and pre-drill, then attach the uprights on either side. Use wood glue and screws through the bottom of the 49-inch board that goes up into the 90-inch uprights to secure them in place.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to ensure that the screws are sunken in all the way and at least flush with the board, so they don’t cause the rack not to sit securely on the base. If you can countersink the screws, that’s even better.
You have the option to add the corner braces now or later once the side is constructed. We’d recommend adding them now since they can work to ensure that the corners are all squared at 90 degrees, and prevent the various pieces of wood from moving around.
After you’ve attached the uprights, move on to attaching the top of the rack with one of the 41-inch pieces. This time, you can secure the screws down through the top of the uprights. If you didn’t attach the corner braces before, do so now on the inside and outside of all four 90-degree corners.
Repeat this entire process again to assemble the other side of the rack, then you’re ready to move on to join the two sides together.
Attaching the Sides of the Power Rack
Now that we’ve made the sides of the power rack, it’s time to attach them together. Always remember to pre-drill, and use wood glue to make the most secure connection possible.
Begin joining the two sides by taking two of the 48-inch pieces you cut and attaching them to the top of the 90-inch uprights. You’ll want to make sure that you’re attaching them flush on the very top of the pieces. You can screw the pieces together through the sides of the uprights — just be cautious not to hit your other screws for the top brace. Do this process for both the front and back cross-members.
Once that’s complete, it’s more of the same at the bottom of the rack. Attach the final 48-inch 4×4 piece to the 90-inch uprights that you want to serve as the “back” of your power rack where the J-hooks will be installed. Be sure to attach this at the very end of the 49-inch bottom supports, otherwise, this support piece will be in the way of your feet when attempting to get under the bar for a squat.
This should be looking like a power rack now, but it may still be a bit unsteady, which is why we’re going to add some support braces with the 2×4 pieces we cut, and secure some J-hooks too.
Support Braces and J-Hooks for the Power Rack
Now it’s time to sure up the integrity of this power rack, so it’s sturdy enough for your lifts. Take two of the 34-inch 2×4 pieces you cut earlier and attach them to the 90-inch uprights toward the top of the rack. Measure three inches from the bottom of the 41-inch top piece on the side and install the piece there flush with the upright. Attach them using 2 ½ inch screws from the front and rear of the power rack to go through the upright into the 2×4 boards.
Inside Secret: You may have to tap the boards into place as the fit will likely be snug. Use a dead blow hammer or mallet if you have one for this. If all you have is a metal hammer, grab a piece of scrap wood, and use that between the piece you’re installing and the hammer to avoid dents or cracking.
The next supports will serve double-duty as safety spotters — though we recommend drilling holes for pipes if you’re going to be lifting heavy. Always make sure you test the capacity of the equipment before relying on it in a real-life situation. That said, attach these at whatever height you feel comfortable with that won’t interfere with your squat range of motion. Use the same process of tapping them into place and securing them as you did with the previous 2×4 supports.
For the J-hooks, we will be attaching the eight-inch and six-inch pieces of 2×4 that we cut earlier flush on the bottom with wood glue and 2 ½ inch screws in all four corners of the six-inch piece. Once the two pieces are combined, drill two holes directly in the center with one two inches from the bottom of the six-inch piece, and one two inches from the top of the six-inch piece. The holes should be slightly smaller than the carriage bolts that you’re using.
Mark where you want your J-hooks to go on the uprights of your power rack with a pencil and outline the holes using the J-hook assembly. Drill using the same size and ensure these holes are level, so the J-hooks sit straight.
Pro Tip: You can repeat this process as many times as desired at different heights to accommodate different lifters.
Once you’ve drilled the holes in your uprights, simply thread the carriage bolts through and secure them using an adjustable wrench.
Final Touches for the Power Rack
Before you put any weight on the rack, ensure that all of the screws are tightened and the wood glue has had sufficient time to dry and cure (24 hours). Once you’ve done that, make sure the rack can withstand the amount of weight you intend to be lifting by loading it somewhere safely (outside in a driveway, for example) with slightly more than that amount of weight.
At this point, you can paint or stain the power rack any color you’d like to match your color scheme. If you don’t want to paint or stain your work, then at least put a clear coat of sealant on it to protect it from moisture and increase its lifespan.
Who Should Build Their Own DIY Squat Rack
- Those who are handy and like to build their own things rather than purchasing them already pre-made.
- People who want a rack that they can customize to the exact dimensions they need or want. You can also add on whatever attachments you’d like if you’re creative and skilled enough to do so.
- Anyone who doesn’t want to pay the money it costs to buy a pre-made rack. You can easily spend upwards of $1,000 for a squat rack or power rack before even thinking about accessories or attachments.
Who Shouldn’t Build Their Own DIY Squat Rack
- Those who are in a situation where they might have to move — like an apartment. Pre-made racks are usually easier to disassemble than DIY since they’re not connected with screws and glue. They usually use bolts, which you can take apart.
- Anyone who isn’t handy or lacks the required tools. There are some places that offer tool share or rentals, but if you’re not comfortable using them, it may be safer and more convenient to purchase a pre-made rack that you only have to assemble.
- People who are quite strong. DIY racks can be made to be quite sturdy, but they can’t compete with thick steel that many racks are made from in terms of weight support.
Alternatives to DIY Racks
The obvious alternative to DIY racks is purchasing ready-to-assemble ones, and that’s the route that most people are familiar with. For a solid alternative to building the DIY squat rack, we’d recommend the Rogue SML-2 Monster Lite Squat Stand. It’s compact, sturdy, and not overly expensive — making it great for small spaces and tighter budgets.
Rogue's squat stand has a pull-up bar, comes with spotter arms, and is light enough (166 pounds) to move around at will.
If you’re in search of a pre-made power rack alternative, we’d direct you toward a very similarly built rack made from high-quality, 11-gauge steel — the Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Power Rack. It also has a smaller footprint, but is beefy and is compatible with dozens of attachments.
The Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack comes with a self-stabilizing base, customizable pull-up bar, Monster Lite J-Cups, pin/pipe safety system, and hole spacing for a variety of additional attachments.
There are tons of great options out there instead of making your own, but there’s something about using a product you’ve made with your own hands that is simply satisfying.
How Strong Are DIY Racks?
The strength of your DIY rack is going to depend on the quality of materials you used, the structure of the rack, and the actual build of the rack. If you used high-quality wood and materials to create a structurally sound, reinforced rack, and are skilled at building things, then the rack can support a solid amount of weight — as much as 350 to 400 pounds for regular lumber, and potentially more with specialty hardwoods, like oak.
There are some inherent limitations to wood though, and it will never be as strong as steel, so if you’re an exceptionally strong person and plan to be racking more than 350 or 400 pounds on the rack, then we’d say to shy away from building your own out of wood and use metal instead. That said, unless you’re an experienced metalworker, it’s usually prudent to opt for a pre-made rack.
Some Potential Drawbacks of DIY Racks
We’ve already touched on most of the drawbacks of DIY racks, but we want to highlight a few that are more common than others. One of the biggest drawbacks is that you have to actually be able to make the rack and possess the tools and skill to be able to pull it off. If you have that part down, then you’ll likely be fine, but there are others. These racks also can’t handle as much weight as pre-made steel racks can, and they often don’t come out looking as professionally done unless you spend a lot of time and effort painting or staining, and sanding them.
The environment can also wreak havoc on wooden racks, especially if you don’t have climate control in your lifting area. Unless you properly seal the wood, moisture from humidity in the air will cause the wood to weather over time. In all, these racks require more upkeep, but are cheaper up front.
It can be exciting and fulfilling to make something that you’ll use every day (like a squat rack) with your own two hands. Despite there being some inherent drawbacks — like a tool and skill barrier — to entry, as well as lower weight capacity, the reality is that DIY racks are likely more than supportive enough to hold up the weight that most people need. They can also be a great interim or starting point for someone who isn’t sure they want to take the full plunge into outfitting a home or garage gym.
We can’t stress enough the importance of wearing appropriate PPE and taking the time to familiarize yourself with your tools before embarking on a build that uses potentially dangerous (if used carelessly) equipment. If you take your time, ensure you’re following all the steps properly, and use high-quality materials, you can build a solid piece of home gym equipment that will last you for years to come. Good luck and stay safe.
Can I make a DIY Squat Rack with only hand tools?
Though it is possible to do so, it may not be worth the effort unless you really want to, or are very strapped for cash and can’t afford a pre-made rack. You can substitute the power saws for hand saws, the power drills for hand drills, and so on.
The part that you may run into some difficulty is when it comes to sinking the screws deep into the wood. Unless you have a specialty hand screwdriver, then you may not be able to generate enough torque to push a screw through high-quality, dense 4×4 wood. If you do end up making one completely by hand, send some pictures over to us. We’d love to see the end result.
Is it okay to modify these plans to fit my needs for a DIY squat rack?
Absolutely. Not only is it okay, but it’s encouraged. Not everyone has the same space or layout, and we know that. You can make the rack shorter by lowering the upright height. You can also vary the width making the rack wider or narrower to accommodate your space. Nearly any portion of these plans can be changed around — we just don’t recommend doing away with any of the safety or support braces unless you’re going to add them back at a different spot.
How do I know if it’s better for me to build a DIY squat rack or buy a ready-to-assemble one?
That’s a matter of personal preference for the most part, but there are some key questions you can ask yourself to help you figure it out.
First, you’ll want to make sure you have the right tools and are comfortable with using them. Then you’ll want to look around at squat racks that are available for purchase, and see if the ones that fit your needs are also within your price range. Finally, you’ll want to assess how much weight you’re lifting. Answering these questions can give you a pretty good idea of which direction you might be leaning toward.