The Ultimate Guide to Jerk Blocks

By | 2018-08-15T13:48:40+00:00 August 15th, 2018|Categories: Equipment Guides|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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 

For that matter, jerk 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. 

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Why Jerk Blocks and Not Squat Racks?

In some cases you can accomplish the same thing with a squat rack. When doing squats on a rack, you have the advantage of lifting the barbell off at shoulder height but still being able to squat down all the way.

Jerk blocks came about as a solution for people finding themselves dropping the heavy bar in a power rack or squat rack after every rep. Particularly with a heavy jerk this is unavoidable, because you can jerk a lot more than you can safely try to catch as you lower it back down. Bars and racks get damaged quickly this way. They aren’t made to be put through this except in emergencies.

Another option was to clean every lift from the floor to set up for every jerk, but that limits how much you can practice the jerk when you’re limited by how much strength and endurance you have to keep doing cleans to get it into position.

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.

The Right Height

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.


Steel 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:  $799  / 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).


Wood Jerk Blocks

FringeSport Wood Jerk Blocks

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:  $999 (36″ Set)
$999 (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…


York Wooden Jerk Blocks

York Jerk Blocks Set

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.


High Density Plastic Blocks: DC Blocks Double-Wide

Double-wide model pictured.

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.


Choosing a Style: Steel vs Wood vs DC Jerk Blocks

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.

Portability

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.

Adjustability

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.

Height Range

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. 

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.

So with that, here are the winners:

1st PlaceDC Blocks

We have to give it to DC Blocks for durability, portability, adjustability and height range.

2nd PlaceFringeSport Wood Jerk Blocks

Where FringeSport’s blocks excel is on price. You can’t beat the quality for this price.


The Short Cousin: Pulling Blocks

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.

The only difference lies in the steel pulling blocks, which are made to have a lower height range than jerk blocks. Rogue and FringeSport both have some steel pulling blocks.

 

 

About the Author:

David Kiesling
David founded Adamant Barbell in 2007 and Two Rep Cave in 2018. Lately he spends his free time practicing archery and hang gliding.

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