Table of Contents
What jerk blocks are
A jerk block, also called a jerk box or olympic weightlifting technique box, is a stackable, raised platform to get the barbell a few feet off the floor so you can practice jerks. A jerk is the final portion of the clean-and-jerk, moving the bar overhead
These are not common in home gyms, and they aren’t even found in most Crossfit affiliates or other commercial gyms. They are more of a luxury.
Side from jerks, kerk blocks can be used for other standing barbell movements, such as push presses, strict military presses, and squats that start at the bottom of the range of motion. BarBend has an article on how behind-the-neck jerks using blocks can help with strongman sticking points.
Benefits to jerk blocks vs lifting from the floor
Both the snatch and the clean-and-jerk, the two olympic weightlifting movements, are done off the floor.
The problem with having to always start these movements off the floor is when your weak point is the jerk. Unless you have done a lot of upper body training, your sticking point will be the jerk, ie: you can clean a lot more than you can jerk. In this situation you have to tire yourself out cleaning the bar into position every time you practice a jerk.
Jerk blocks specifically address this training problem by providing you with a way to dump the jerk safely and be back in position to only have to do a partial squat to lift the bar a little and be ready to do another jerk.
Benefits to jerk blocks vs a squat rack
Jerk blocks for most exercises serve a different function than a squat rack or power rack.
Jerk blocks have been used for decades in olympic lifting for this reason. The impact is only on the bumper plates, leaving the bar and knurling in good condition, and setting the bar at a great height for you to do a half squat to lift it back up into position.
Let’s take squats, for example. In a squat rack you start and end the movement off the J-hooks, both in full standing position. The safety bars of the rack further below catch the bar only if you fail a rep, preventing it from squashing you at the bottom.
With jerk blocks, you would either need to clean the bar to your shoulders in a front squat position or start the squat at the bottom of the movement. This is usually not desirable for squats, because of the spring action you get when you start in a standing position, and therefore jerk blocks are really not the best tool for training squats. One advantage is they’re easier on the bar’s knurling, because the shaft never touches anything but your hands.
Presses and Jerks
This is where jerk blocks shine.
Power racks made for residential homes are typically only about 7ft high, to easily fit under an 8ft ceiling. Many men will find that they slam the shaft of the bar into the top frame of the rack when they try to press inside a power rack. Not fun.
Even if you have a tall power rack, the other issue with power racks is you are supposed to re-rack the bar onto the J hooks, which is not possible after a heavy jerk that you are always supposed to dump rather than try to catch on your shoulders, for safety reasons. This means you would be dumping the bar constantly on the safety bars. Even if you have something on them to protect the bar’s knurling, such as UHMW liners or pin-and-pipe safety bars, that’s really rough on your rack and bar. They are both only engineered for you to do that in an emergency, and not from such a high height. Either one could very well bend from a single drop, even if they are high quality.
Squat racks only have two uprights and no upper frame, leaving you free to press as high as your ceiling allows, unlike a 7ft high power rack. However, as with power racks, the equipment is not made for such violent drops, even more so in this case because squat racks don’t have each safety bars supported by two uprights. Very, very bad idea to dump a jerk in a squat rack like this.
That being said, a squat rack does offer another advantage over a power rack, in that you can leave the safety bars off the rack, step back to do your jerks, and then dump it to the floor. But then you do have to clean the bar again to put it on the rack.
Jerk blocks are made to take barbells dropped from overhead, all day long, without damaging anything, and have the bar ready in position for you again. They are ideal for any kind of overhead pressing movement training.
The right height of a jerk block set
A 48″ high stack is about right for a 6ft tall lifter. A 36″ stack is good if you’re 5ft tall. You want a little room so you can avoid hitting the blocks on the dip before the jerk, and these estimates give you around 12″ of height to dip, which should be plenty.
Some places also sell “pulling blocks.” These are much shorter than jerk blocks, up to 18″ high max, for practicing the pull rather than the jerk. See the end of this article for a bit of info.
Metal jerk blocks
FringeSport Steel Jerk Blocks
Height Range: 35″ to 43″ in 2″ increments
Surface Size: 24″ x 34″
Weight: 135 lbs Per Block
Price: $719 / Set
The rubber coating on top of Fringesport’s Steel Jerk Blocks cushions the blow, and the lip on each edge keeps your bumpers from rolling off.
They’re adjusted by a pin and lock just above the feet, with telescoping tubing. As pictured, they’re in the lowest position, 35″ high.
Some pics of these still say OneFitWonder on them, a brand that Fringe owns, but along with other products the branding is being changed to FringeSport and the ones you’ll receive for all new orders will have the FringeSport logo.
These things weigh in at 130 lbs each. Compare to a typical plyo box of half that weight. Also consider that there are power cages that are larger in every dimension that weigh this much, giving you an idea how heavy duty these are made. Still, they are not the heaviest steel jerk blocks around.
Steel blocks like this are a very special-use piece of equipment. The height range is only 12″, so clearly they’re just for practicing jerks and overhead presses. You can’t get them low enough for other exericses.
Rogue Metal Jerk Blocks
Height Range: 34″ to 44″ in 2″ increments
Surface Size: 24″ x 31.25″
Weight: 265 lbs Per Block
Price: $1,150 / Set
Comparing them to Fringe’s model, several things stand out with Rogue’s metal jerk blocks (yes, they are steel… Rogue is fond of just using the word metal instead) –
- Rogue’s weigh twice as much
- Rogue has an extra inch of height range on the high and low end
- Rogue’s aren’t quite as deep
- Rogue’s are priced about 40% higher (as of writing)
- Rogue has change plate storage
Fringe’s are basically the budget option. If you have the funds or the blocks will see use by multiple people, between these two you should opt for the Rogue because they are more heavy duty, and that change plate storage is nice to have if your bumper racks do not include pegs for your change plates (5lb and smaller plates).
Height Range: 3″ – 48″ in 3″ increments
Platform Size: 19″ x 40.5″
Weight: 160 lbs per 36″ Stack, 200 lbs per 48″ Stack
Price: $809 (36″ Set)
$809 (48″ Set)
Fringe’s wood jerk blocks are generally adjustable in 3″ increments. A few 3″ increments you won’t be able to get to, because of the combination of sizes of boxes you’re dealing with. For example, for the 48″ set you can do possible heights of 3″, 9″, 15″, and the rest in 3″ increments on up to 48″.
The top block with the lips to keep the bumpers from rolling off is 3″ high and can be used by itself on the floor as a 3″ pulling block if you desire.
Rogue Wood Jerk Blocks
Height Range: 2.25″ – 48″ in 3″ increments
Platform Size: 20″ x 36″
Weight: 246 lbs per 44.25″ Stack, 269 lbs per 50.25″ Stack
Price: $973 for 44.25″ Set, $1,045 for 50.25″ Set
You can get any size block individually as well, unlike with Fringe, who only sells them as a set.
The large weight difference between Rogue wood jerk blocks and Fringe could be good or bad. In terms of being heavy duty and feeling stable, heavier generally is better, and the Rogue comes in a little bit heavier with more wood used. They’re both plywood, and I don’t think the small weight difference is any difference in the material used. The construction is also similar. You should be able to depend on either one the same, regardless of the environment.
The only issue might be that Rogue’s 12″ box weighs 61 lbs, which might be an issue for some smaller athletes or females to move safely. Fringe’s 12″ box weighs somewhere around 55 lbs. Not a big difference. If 55 lbs is still problematic for your situation, see further below…
Height Range: 4″ to 49″
Platform Size: 24″ x 24″
Weight: 246 lbs per 44.25″ Stack, 269 lbs per 50.25″ Stack
Price: $1,386.00 (36″ set) / $1,386.00 (48″ set)
York Barbell’s jerk blocks are the only ones with a cradle on the top block for the bumpers. Other blocks have a ridge on each end to serve this purpose, or nothing but a flat top.
In practice the saddles actually work fine, despite my fears of bouncing off the edge of the cradle and flying off the other direction. There just isn’t enough bounce for that to happen. The surface has a dead-blow bounce just like any other jerk blocks. And if you’re careful you can reasonably control the weight on the way down to hit smack in the middle of the cradle.
We sell these at our store. I talked to our rep at York about the possibility of using these without the scooped top. She said it’s doable with light weight but they can’t guarantee that the blocks will hold up to heavy weight. As you can see from the video below where Paul flips them over, the scooped block is reinforced a lot more than the others. If you really don’t like the scoop, you could add some wood reinforcements to the 3″ flat block. These pieces are all sold individually too, so hit us up about a deal on a custom set if you want to try that out.
The platform size is good, 2ft x 2ft. This is nice for those lifters filling their bar sleeves up with a full 18″ of bumpers.
One reason the platform is so big is they actually sell these blocks separately as plyo boxes as well, without the top technique box, and a nice wide box is best for that. And indeed they’re superb plyo boxes. Plenty of stability with that wide base. They have no ridges on the ends that would get in the way of your feet like many wood jerk blocks. So they could be a good investment as a dual-purpose piece of equipment.
Height Range: 2″ Increments, any Height
Surface Size: 19″ x 32″
Price: $2,600 for 40″ Set, $2,080 for 30″ Set
These are pretty sweet! DC Blocks are interlocking blocks that can take any kind of weight you want to drop on them.
The flec-on-black design makes them look recycled rubber mats in the pic, but they’re actually a recycled plastic blend that won’t wear out, won’t crack, and is UV resistant.
Their Original model is 19″ x 15.5″, and the Double Wide is 19″ x 32″. The videos above show the Original. I’m mainly just presenting the Double Wide here, because frankly the Original is too narrow.
DC Concepts Inc. gives a lifetime warranty, which you’ll qualify for if you buy through any authorized dealer or direct from DC Concepts.
I can only guess that the qualities of the plastic is similar to UHMW plastic, which is used on the bar holders and safeties of the latest power racks and can take a loaded bar being dropped on it.
Each 2″ tall block weighs 21 lbs each. So if you stack these to 36″ high, each stack is 378 lbs, about the same as wood jerk blocks. This isn’t lightweight plastic.
Each block has a 5/8″ tall ridge on the front and back as part of the mold enough to keep bumpers from rolling off. They do have a flat top piece you can buy separately if you’re doing plyo work on it.
I have to think that molded plastic like this has to be relatively cheap and easy to mass produce, but so far they’re the only plastic jerk blocks I can find.
Again, as I mentioned a few paragraphs up, I highly recommend the Double Wide. On the Original the 15.5″ x 19″ platform area is kind of small. That really only leaves a few inches of play forward or backward before your bumpers start hitting the safety ridges. For sloppy lifters that’s a big deal. Anything that curbs potential mayhem is a big point in my book. The Double Wide eliminates this risk as much as any large set of jerk blocks does.
Soft impact jerk blocks
People have used soft foam plyo boxes as soft impact jerk blocks succeesfully.
Here’s an example:
Rogue has plyo boxes that will work as foam jerk blocks. As they are made for doing plyo jumps, the foam is fairly sturdy but with just a little bit of give to it. When you drop a barbell on it, it will give a little more because of the small impact area.
Strength and durability
They’re all made to be plenty strong.
Traditional wood jerk blocks would have to be the weakest out of all of them. One reason the wood versions gained popularity is they are possible for anyone with carpentry skills to make. It’s just wood blocks with reinforcement inside and lips on top. Well, I’m sure there are many considerations, but someone good with woodworking can make a good pair within a couple attempts.
Some poorly constructed wood jerk blocks can eventually wear out and break. The brands we list above are highly respected, so that should not happen. However, plywood can warp over time, and a leaky roof or being left outside could mean disaster for it. So wood again has to rank lowest.
You have to rank steel up near the top for durability long-term. The rubber surface isn’t going to wear out any quicker than rubber flooring. The steel frame of course will stay good indefinitely, assuming it’s kept indoors. There’s no way any well-made steel jerk boxes will bend from heavy drops.
The Double Wide DC Blocks are the heaviest of all. The high-molecular-weight plastic of DC Blocks doesn’t have any notable long-term wear issues. It’s UV resistant. You could conceivably leave DC Blocks unprotected outside exposed to the lements for months by a termite-infested shed and not worry about them, unlike wood or steel blocks. I wouldn’t, when they cost this much.
On the environmental-friendliness side, plastic takes eons to degrade, but hey, at least it’s recycled plastic.
Foam jerk blocks do wonders to protect the barbell and plates from any impact. In fact, you could use metal plates on them. It’s kind of rough on the vinyl covering, though, and I’d recommend bumper plates with their wider surface area and smoother edges.
DC Blocks win here. The small 10.5lb blocks of the Original DC Blocks are super portable, even if the total weight of all the blocks of a given height are heavier.
Reinforced wood blocks are not exactly light, but most people should be able to deal with it, and they have built-in handles. Smaller, weaker athletes will have trouble moving the larger boxes.
Steel jerk blocks weigh a lot, even Fringe’s lighter ones at 130 lbs each. Could be problematic. You need two people to carry each. Seriously, don’t get these if you plan on moving them around frequently. I’m sure you’re a badass and you can carry 130 lbs, but these are really awkward, shin-banging nuisances that don’t like to be moved.
Foam jerk blocks are pretty light. I think they win here!
DC blocks win here again. They’re stupid easy to stack for literally anyone, not to mention to measure the height by counting the blocks and multiplying by 2″.
Wood blocks are pretty easy to adjust. Some have latches, for good security but more time required. You may need to rearrange all the boxes to get the right height. The height isn’t always obvious, because they come in different heights. You could always put the height on them with a marker or sticker.
You have to tip over a steel box onto its side to have any hope of adjusting it, and then pull the pins and adjust each foot one at a time. The height is even harder to judge than wood blocks. You’re best off remembering what hole you adjusted the pins to. Tipping them over to adjust them is doable but not trivial for a smaller athlete.
Foam jerk blocks are pretty easy too, with some sort of velcro strips, the design of which varies between brands.
DC Blocks win again. Stack them up as high as you want. They’re heaviest and have the lowest risk of tipping over.
Wood blocks are nearly as good. Some models you can adjust in 3″ increments. You might be limited on the top end by the pre-configured set size that each store sells.
With a starting height of nearly 3ft, steel jerk blocks can’t be used as pulling blocks (for deadlift-style block pulls or cleans). For a 6ft athlete, that puts the bar above your belly button at a minimum. From there it only goes a maximum of 8″ higher. They have figured out that this range works for virtually everyone practicing jerks, but if you’re into doing pulls (ie: lower starting height), you will want something else.
Foam jerk blocks are similar to wood in their adjustability.
Plyo box usage
Steel jerk blocks look so much like plyo boxes that you can’t help but think about jumping on them. And some are made with that in mind. You kind of want at least a 24″x24″ area to jump on, for stability. You might be fine with smaller. The issue is any steel jerk blocks have a limited height range. So you may have to warm up on something else.
Wooden jerk blocks generally work great for box jumps. York actually makes that one of their selling points. Their boxes have no ridges on any sides and are secured with latches, and for jerk block usage you would add the special top piece. For other models, if you jump from the sides with no ridges they work fine.
DC Blocks in the Double Wide version are usable for box jumps. The 2″ increments makes them even nicer. Large surface, very stable. I would like to see slightly rounded edges to mitigate bloody shins from missed jumps. They should be able to do that. But it seems like they don’t really market them as plyo boxes.
Foam plyo blocks… Well, there’s not much argument here. These things literally are already perhaps the best plyo boxes you can get. This is the main reason people started giving them a shot for doing jerks.
So with that, here are the winners:
1st Place – DC Blocks
We have to give it to DC Blocks for durability, portability, adjustability and height range.
2nd Place – FringeSport Wood Jerk Blocks
Where FringeSport’s blocks excel is on price. You can’t beat the quality for this price.
Pulling blocks are much like jerk blocks, or in some cases exactly the same. The only difference is they are made to be adjustable up to 18″ high max. They’re made for practicing the pull from a higher position than the floor, isolating a portion of the pull or helping avoid knee pain from pulls off the floor. They ensure you’re in the exact same starting position each time for consistency in training instead of the varying positions of a hang clean or stalled deadlift.
Because they’re structurally the same, almost any wooden blocks above, or the DC Blocks, function also as pulling blocks. It’s purely an issue of how many blocks you want to stack up.