DIY Squat Rack – Is It Worth The Effort?

Building a home gym requires a significant one-time investment. Even if you want to start with just a few basic things, you may still have to spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the type of home gym you want to build. 

If you have a bare minimum budget, you can build a full-fledged using only resistance bands. If you are into cardio workouts like the Insanity cardio, power, and resistance programs, all you would need is a good-quality, reliable multi-functional fitness deck. You might want to go for an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a spinning bike, or a rowing machine provided you have at least a $500 budget. 

But, if you want to set up a strength training center in your home gym, you should have at least a $1000 budget because you will need weight plates, barbells, barbell collars, squat rack, weight lifting platform, weightlifting shoes, and a few other accessories. All these are very basic things, so you cannot leave out any one of them. 

No wonder why people feel tempted to get into DIYing, hoping that they will be able to save a few hundred dollars. 

You can find hundreds of tutorials on how to make a DIY squat rack, a weightlifting platform, a rowing machine, and some other home gym equipment. Almost all these tutorials claim that their instructions are pretty easy and you should be able to make your desired home gym equipment within a ridiculously low budget and by spending around 30 minutes during your weekends. 

These claims/tutorials are so convincing that anybody would fall for them. One of the most common projects that a lot of people attempt is making a DIY squat rack. That's why we have come up with this article that aims to explain if making your own DIY squat rack is worth all the effort and what are the risks involved with such projects.  

Is it actually possible to make a DIY squat rack? 

If you have a good knowledge of DIYing and carpentry and if you are good with tools, building your own home gym equipment shouldn’t be difficult for you. 

Some ideas are pretty simple and doable, provided you have the right knowledge. 

See the below image. All you need to do is to fix the wooden uprights inside the bucket filled with concrete mixture. This is a very basic DIY squat rack but it works fine for a beginner. 

Here are detailed instructions for you just in case you are interested. 

DIY squat rack using paint buckets
DIY squat rack using paint buckets

Image Source: Guppy Tales

If you are good at carpentry, you may want to build a more complex, full-fledged squat cage like the one you can see in the image below. It has an excellent, enviable design but it could take you a few days to build it.

A well-designed DIY squat rack
A well-designed DIY squat rack

Image Source: Home-Gym-Bodybuilding

Are DIY squat racks useful? 

Well, it depends on what you want to use it for. 

In general, wooden DIY squat racks are good for racking the barbell during squat reps. A well-built wooden rack can handle up to 200lbs weight and may have a bare minimum wobble. These squat racks can last a couple of years until the uprights start to crack under weights or the holes start to loosen up. Wooden racks should only be used in temperature-controlled home gyms because harsh weather conditions and humidity can make them crack. 

DIY squat racks are, however, not quite versatile. If you build a very basic rack, you will probably not be able to adjust the positions of the j-hooks. So, if more than one person wants to use it, you will have to add multiple sets of j-hooks, which could create confusion.  

Moreover, wooden squat racks are only suitable for beginners who are not lifting more than 100-150lbs of weight. If you want to lift heavier than 150lbs, you should buy one instead, because DIY squat racks are not quite reliable. 

Read below to understand why we do not recommend a DIY squat rack at all, not even for beginners. 

Why is it better to buy a squat rack instead of building one? 

You need to be an expert in DIYing or else the project could fail 

Failed DIY GIF
Failed DIY GIF

Most DIY squat rack video tutorials claim that the process is pretty easy and simple. Plus, most of the materials you would need are easily available at home deposit or any local hardware store near you. But, we don't agree. 

The process may be easy but it requires a lot of brainstorming. The nuts and bolts have to be added at exactly the same spot. Plus, the J-hooks have to be added at exactly the same height. If they miss match by even just a few mm, your squat rack could wobble or you might enjoy a hassle-free workout. It may even lose its balance and tip over, causing an accident. 

You can end up spending more than what you had expected 

Well, as claimed in numerous tutorials, the actual raw material for making a DIY squat rack could cost you around $50. But, it doesn’t include the cost of your trip to the home depot or any local hardware store. It doesn’t include the shipping charges that you may have to pay if you want to order those things online. It also doesn’t include the cost of the tools that you may have to buy in case you don’t own them. 

Moreover, if you are a newbie, you may accidentally damage the wood by making a bigger hole for the screws or by chopping it more than required. In such cases, you may have to spend extra for buying an additional piece. 

If you have ever tried DIYing, you should know the ‘expectation versus reality’ ratio. 

Funny GIF on expectations versus reality
Funny GIF on expectations versus reality

A DIY squat rack can fail any time

That’s a harsh truth that you need to accept. Even after doing so much hard work and brainstorming, there are high chances that your squat rack may fail sooner than expected, unless you use it very rarely. The wood may crack or the holes may loosen up. The nuts may start to come out of their place, making the rack wobbly and unsafe for use. 

You don’t know how much weight the DIY squat rack could hold

The readymade squat racks and power cages are either made of 11 gauge steel or 12/13 gauge steel. Plus, they usually have 2” X2”, 2.5” X 2.5” or 3” X3” frames. The choice of steel and frame size determines the sturdiness of these racks. They have a fixed weight-bearing capacity and, very often, the capacity is more than enough for target users.

DIY squat racks are very unpredictable. You don’t really know how much weight you can safely put on them. If you are a beginner or a recreational trainer, the wooden squat rack may still be enough for you but if you are already lifting a decent amount of weight, you must go with professionally-designed products.  

You may not be able to accessorize a DIY squat rack

You won’t be able to add resistance band pegs, dip bars, landmine attachments, or a barbell holder. Plus, you won’t be able to upgrade it by adding LAT pulldown attachment and a few other accessories that help you perform a wide range of workouts using just one standalone home gym equipment. 

DIY squat racks are only meant for squatting but you add an extra pair of j-hooks in the benching area and use it for benching. And, that’s the max you can expect from it. 

DIY squat racks are not aesthetically appealing 

wooden DIY squat rack
wooden DIY squat rack

Image Source: Medium

The final product will look almost like what you can see in the image above. And, that’s definitely not as appealing as the Ethos power rack 1.0. Look at the below image for reference. 

We have used the Ethos power rack only as a comparison. The other products also look almost the same but their color combination, metal coating, finishing, and texture may vary. These commercially-designed products look and perform much better than the wooden squat racks that you would build at home. 

Ethos power rack
Ethos power rack

Good quality squat racks and half racks are available for around $250, so we don’t think DIYing is worth the effort 

If you are a beginner or a recreational lifter, you can go with low-cost but decent products such as the BalanceFrom 1000-Pound squat rack and CAP Barbell Power Rack Exercise Stand. Here are some of the best budget squat racks/stands that we recommended for people on a budget. 

If you have a good budget or if you want something sturdier than the ones listed above, you can go with any of the products that we have listed in our article on ‘The Best Squat Racks Besides Rogue’s’.

Products like TDS Power Rack and Fitness Reality 810XLT Power Rack are great for people who need an all-in-one squat rack for adding more versatility to their workouts. 

Don’t have ample space or budget for a full-size squat rack? You can go with squat stands instead. 

All these products are quite versatile and commercially designed to help you train safely and comfortably. They are definitely better than DIY squat racks that are intended to only hold the barbell for lifts. 

Wrap up 

We hope the above article helps you understand why it is not worth building a DIY squat rack and taking a huge risk.  

It isn’t about having a squat rack for holding your loaded barbell. It is about having something that motivates you to be consistent with your workouts. It is about having a product that eases your struggle and enhances your comfort so you can focus on lifting instead of bothering about your safety. 

To be honest, you don’t even need a wooden squat rack. You can even use milk crates for holding your barbel but do you actually want to use them? 

DIY squat rack using milk crates
DIY squat rack using milk crates

Your home gym is your ‘temple of steel’. It’s a place where you go to work on yourself. So, let's not make any compromises. You don’t obviously have to go for the most expensive, fancy product. Just a basic product that meets your needs should be good. 

If you have any query or suggestion, please get in touch with us.