3 Mistakes to Avoid Building a DIY Squat Rack

Build a DIY Squat Rack

10 months ago I built a DIY Squat Rack made primarily out of 4x4s. I’ve been using it to squat with two or three times a week since it was built. The good news is it’s still standing and it’s still working. Not bad considering prior to this rack the most impressive thing I’d ever built was a table we got from IKEA.

Hindsight being 20/20 I did make a few mistakes when I built my rack. If I had it to do over again there are 3 things that I would definitely do differently. In this article I’m going to discuss each of the mistakes that I made so, hopefully, you can avoid them if you decide to build your own rack.

By the way, if you want to get caught up to speed on the rack I built, check out my $60 DIY Squat Rack Build.

Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment purposes only. Garage Gym DIY is not responsible for any damage caused to you or your property by building your own squat rack. 

Rather watch then read? Here’s my video –

Mistake #1 – Make Level Cuts

This is by far the worst of the 3 mistakes. It’s also the mistake that will most likely lead me to purchase a steel rack at some point.

The first thing you need to understand is that I made all my cuts using a $10 hand saw. If you have a circular saw, or even better, a table saw then you’re not likely to run into this problem. (Or, pro tip, just get all your boards cut at Lowe’s or Home Depot and you don’t have to worry about make your own cuts at all)

Unlevel Cuts Mistake
Making sure all your cuts are level and your pieces line up flush is probably obvious to anyone with building experience. Apparently it wasn’t to me though. Don’t be like me.

The issue that I ended up with is that a few of my cuts were a little slanted. This caused a couple of my junctions to not be perfectly flush. But, because of the weight and force of a barbell pressing down upon the horizontal beam, it eventually twisted slightly to conform with the vertical beam. It eventually cracked the wood. It’s a hairline crack that I’ve been paying close attention to for obvious reasons.

Cracks in the Rack
These cracks will probably end up getting me to go ahead and grab a steel rack. Not yet though.

I strongly believe it’s not bad enough to be an issue. It I thought it was, obviously I’d stop using the rack immediately. But if I had it to do over again I would have remeasured and recut where needed to get perfectly level ends. That way when I laid the horizontal beams on top the vertical beams they would have been perfectly flush.

Mistake #2 – Don’t Be So Cheap

Look, I get it. One of the main reasons why we decide to build things ourselves versus buy them is because we want to save money. Keep in mind though, especially with something like a squat rack, it needs to be SAFE. So don’t skimp on the materials that you use.

This leads me to my second mistake. Maybe not so much a mistake (at least not yet) as opposed to something I would definitely do differently if I were to build my rack from scratch again.

DIY Squat Rack Brackets
These 1 1/2 inch brackets have done the job, but I would go bigger next time.

I bought a 20 pack of 1-1/2 inch Zinc Plated Corner Braces to secure my 4x4s in place. They 20 pack cost me just under $10. I used them to secure the two back vertical beams to the wall. I also used them to secure my horizontal beam and front vertical beams together. Basically, my entire rack is held together with these braces.

Have they worked great? Yep. Have I had any issues with them? Nope.

I doubled them up to make most of my connections and they’ve done the job with no problems.

However, I would feel a bit better if all my beams were held together with slightly bigger and stronger braces. It would be an extra $10 investment that I would make if I were building my rack over.

Mistake #3 – Make It Smaller

Like Mistake #2, this is more so a “would do it different” than an outright mistake. After all, my rack is still standing and functioning after almost a year now.

This mistake has to do with the dimensions that I used to build the rack itself. I wanted to make sure I gave myself plenty of room inside of my rack. I didn’t want to have to worry about the bar rolling out of the rack or plates banging against the wall as I racked the bar.

Make it Shorter
A 3 foot deep rack seemed like a good idea at the time, but has ended up being longer than I really need.

With this idea in mind, I made my horizontal beam 3 feet long. At this size, I thought that gave me the room I would need and (at least at the time) give me enough room to still get my car into the garage if I needed to.

It turns out 3 feet was way more space than I actually needed.

So, how long would I make horizontal beam if I had it to do over again?

I would at least shave 6 inches off and make the beam 30 inches. But, I would probably go even shorter. All I use my rack for is to squat, jerk and shoulder press. Ideally I think 2 feet is all the space I really need.

Final Thoughts

Making your own squat rack is a great way to build something that is customized for your needs while saving some money at the same time.

Make sure though, and I can’t emphasize this enough, that if you are going to build your own squat rack that you make 100% sure that it is safe to use. You can get seriously injured if your rack fails while trying to rack weight from a back squat.

If you’re not completely sure that what you’re going to build will be safe then go ahead and just buy a rack.

Ryan H

My name is Ryan Horton and I've spent the last 18 years as a Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach and am currently the Director of Sports Science with Georgia Tech Football. I've always set up workout areas at home everywhere we've lived, but now I have a garage and I'm going all out.

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