The Ultimate Guide to Jerk Blocks
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.
- Why Jerk Blocks and Not Squat Racks?
- FringeSport Steel Jerk Blocks
- Get Rx’d Steel Jerk Blocks
- FringeSport Wooden Jerk Blocks
- Get Rx’d Wooden Jerk Blocks
- York Wooden Jerk Blocks
- DC Blocks
- Choosing a Style: Steel vs Wood vs DC Jerk Blocks
- The Shorter Cousin: Pulling Blocks
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 easily this way and make a ton of noise.
Another option was to clean every lift from the floor 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.
Jerk blocks were born, where 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 with a minimum amount of effort.
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 couple links.
|Height Range:||35″ – 43″ H|
|Platform Size:||24″W x 34″L|
|Warranty:||1 Year, Free Returns|
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.
Man, these things are HEAVY. 130 lbs each. That’s a lot for a box. Consider that there are power cages that weight this much. Even so, these are actually lighter than the Get Rx’d steel blocks below!
Steel blocks like this are a very special-use piece of equipment. The height range is only 8″, so clearly they’re just for practicing jerks, and overhead presses if you like.
|Height Range:||34″ – 42″ H|
|Platform Size:||24″W x 36″L|
|Price:||$699.00 / pair|
The Get Rx’d Steel Jerk Blocks have a price $100 cheaper than Fringe (as of writing; the prices above are auto-updated, so that statement might be wrong by the time you read this). You’ll get a shipping charge that you can calculate in the cart, whereas Fringe offers free shipping.
They include 1/4″ thick rubber on the top for good durability.
The height range is an inch shorter on the high and low end than Fringe’s but has an 8″ range just the same. They’re also a couple inches longer on the longer dimension than Fringe’s, which would mean front to back, giving you a tad more security from a drop that comes down a little too far forward or backward.
They’re slightly heavier than Fringe’s. The steel is the same, and the design is nearly identical, so I guess it’s the extra 2″ length that accounts for the extra weight.
Get Rx’d has been in business for 30 years (not under that name, but under other names like Multisports, who I used to do business with), so they know what they’re doing. Fringe, on the other hand, is only several years old, but they have grown and are doing quite well as far as I can tell, so you should be able to count on their warranty down the line.
All in all, there are some small differences, but I’d probably go with the Fringe boxes, just because they’re both great and Fringe comes out to be less after (free) shipping.
|Height Range:||3″ – 36″ or 48″|
|Platform Size:||19″W x 40.5″L|
$999 (48″ set)
Fringe’s wood jerk blocks are fully adjustable in 3″ or 6″ increments, depending on the particular height.
The 48″ set includes a 6″, two 12″, a 15″, and a 3″ top box. This gives you 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 as a short pulling block if you desire.
|Height Range:||3″ – 36″|
|Platform Size:||20″ x 30″|
Lots of major design differences between the Get Rx’d wooden jerk blocks and Fringe’s. Let’s break it down.
The platform size is significantly less deep than Fringe’s wooden blocks, but still not bad.
The lips on these are also pretty huge. I don’t think that matters much, because there shouldn’t be hardly any horizontal momentum, and any idle roll will be stopped by even a small lip. I guess they kind of tried to make up for the small platform size by putting on larger lips.
Each of these boxes has the top portion ready to go, with rubber and lips built in, in contrast to other brands where you need to set a top box on it. The lips slip into the bottom of the next box. So they have a pretty secure interlocking design.
They opted to put actual rope handles on these instead of just cut holes for your hands to grip. Holes aren’t bad, but these handles do make them easier to grab. They get points for that feature, enough to make them stand out as a reasonable option.
The 3/4″ rubber mat on top of each is the thickest you’ll see anywhere. Thicker here is better. The only reason for manufacturers to go with smaller 1/2″ or 1/4″ mats is to save on costs. Props to Get Rx’d for going with quality on this feature.
Instead of just a few larger boxes, they went with a whole array of smaller ones. Awesome stuff. That makes the largest 9″ box only 42 lbs, enough for most people to handle. With other brands the larger boxes can be tough to move.
All in all, these are the most user-friendly wood blocks you can get.
|Height Range:||4″- 36″ or 49″|
|Platform Size:||24″ x 24″|
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.
In practice they 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. They have 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.
I talked to my 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 easily 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 huge, a full 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″ up to chest height|
|Platform Size:||15.5″ x 19″|
|Price:||$79.95 / Pair|
These are pretty sweet! DC Blocks are new interlocking blocks that can take any kind of weight you want to drop on them.
The flec-on-black design makes them look rubber in the pic, but they’re actually a tough recycled plastic that won’t wear out, won’t crack, and are UV resistant.
DC Concepts Inc. gives a lifetime warranty, which you’ll qualify for if you buy through any authorized dealer like the one I linked to.
I can only guess it’s on the level of UHMW plastic, which is used on the bar holders and safeties of some power racks and can take a loaded bar being dropped on it.
Each 2″ tall block weighs 10.5 lbs each. So if you stack these to 36″ high, each stack is 189 lbs. Not bad. This isn’t lightweight plastic. That’s about what a stack of good wooden jerk boxes weighs.
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.
I have to think that molded plastic like this has to always be cheap to mass produce, but so far they’re the only plastic jerk blocks I can find. DC Concepts has got to be making a killing on them.
My other gripe is the platform area is kind of small at only 15.5″ by 19″. 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.
They’re sold by the pair. Remember each block is 2″ high, so if you want a couple 36″ stacks, figure on buying 18 pairs.
They’re all made to be plenty strong. You have to rank steel up near the top. There are entire power racks, like the Powerline, that are like three times the size and weigh what each of the steel jerk boxes weigh. That tells you how thick the steel is on these and how tough they really are.
But the DC Blocks can even take an Atlas stone being dropped on them, which is crazy, so I can’t discount them. on the strength factor.
Wood would have to be the weakest out of them.
This is closely tied to the strength factor I go over above, but thinking more long-term here…
The high-molecular-weight plastic of DC Blocks doesn’t have any notable long-term wear issues. It’s UV resistant. Plastic takes eons to degrade, which is why environmentalists rightly dislike it, but hey, at least it’s recycled plastic.
Steel with the rubber padding can take regular pounding and will stay good indefinitely, as long as you don’t leave it outside. So there’s the possibility of rust, but… I’m kind of reaching to find issues here when it’s likely to last a long time.
Some poorly constructed wooden 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.
DC Blocks win here, no question. The small 10.5lb blocks are super portable.
Reinforced wood blocks are not exactly light, but most people should be able to deal with it, and they have built-in handles. Smaller athletes will have trouble with the larger boxes.
It takes a couple people to pick up steel boxes and move them across the room, or a strong guy who has warmed up his back. So steel boxes present some trouble for smaller athletes who are lifting alone or would prefer not to have to ask for help every workout. Tipping them over to adjust them is doable but not trivial for a smaller athlete.
DC blocks win here again. They’re stupid easy to stack, 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.
DC Blocks win again. The thing is, they have the smallest area on top out of all the styles, so I get nervous thinking about stacking them too high and the bumpers bouncing off the ridges.
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 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, you will want something else.
Plyo Box Usage
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.
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.
Any steel jerk blocks work fine for box jumps to the limited height range they have. So you may have to warm up on something else.
DC Blocks are not usable for box jumps. Forget about it. The surface is too slick and narrow.
Pulling blocks are much like jerk blocks, but they are adjustable up to 18″ high max. They’re made for practicing the pull from a higher position, 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.
Almost any wooden blocks above, or the DC Blocks, can be used as pulling blocks.
Here are a couple specialized pulling blocks: