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DIY: High Pulley Station

You may not have known this, but I am quite the "Do-It-Yourselfer". Especially when it comes to carpentry. Name an opportunity to get my fingers wet in some sap and sweat and I am there. So it makes sense that when I apply this passion to one of the other things I love most (powerlifting), that I go on a crazy rampage marathon of building second only to a seasoned crack addict with a nail gun.

I have been training without any pulleys for the last year or so since I made the swap from working out in a gym to working out at home. Needless to say, training at home really limits the amount of exercises you have at your disposal (which is okay since most of the machines at the gym are rubbish). I am closing in this gap though slowly but surely by building my gym out of wood and other easily obtainable implements. As of now, everything that I have constructed from wood has been just as sturdy or more sturdy than any home gym equipment I have ever encountered (and, not to toot my own horn, I am really strong). There have been a few times even at commercial gyms that I have been worried to set my squat bar back onto the rack for fear that one of the pins would break off or the whole thing would tilt to the side and topple over.

I have gotten away from myself. I brought you here to learn how to construct your own overhead pulley station and now I will do just that.

Before we begin, I would like to point out the fact that I do not have a big, fancy wood shop. The tools I have at my disposal are.... humble. (To put it nicely). Nothing frustrates me more than getting all excited about a diy post/video only to realize that this guy is apparently sponsored by Makita and has a full air compressor/vacuum system and every tool you have ever heard of. For this project I used a power drill, a circular saw (which blew up while I was using it) a jigsaw (which proved to be useless for this project); subsequently, I also used a handsaw and a chisel and hammer (because the power saws weren't of much help). The materials I used to make this were 3 8ft 2x4's, a box of 2 inch coarse thread drywall screws, a bottle of wood glue, an old pulley wheel, a big bolt with a nut and a cable.

1: To begin you will use 2 of the 8' segments. In order to make space for the pulley wheel at the top of the apparatus, you need to cut a section off of the end of each 2x4 that is about 6 inches long and that goes about halfway through the beam longways. I began this process by cutting about halfway through the 2x4 with a handsaw perpendicularly 6 inches from the end. I then attempted to cut about halfway through the 2x4 from the side with the circular saw, this didn't work out so well as the motor to the saw started to burn out while I was using it and smoke went everywhere (there was also the hideous sound of a banshee screeching coming from it). So cut as much of it as I could with the circular saw and then finished it with a handsaw. This was a tedious process as it's very awkward to saw sideways but I got it done. Even if you have a function circular saw you will still need to use a handsaw because the circular saw blade is round so it can't complete the cut. The circular saw left the wood badly marred and with some burn marks on it (the blade was glowing when I finally decided to quit using it!). Luckily, I'm pretty handy with a chisel and hammer from my days as a master puppet maker back in Italy (hahaha) so this was pretty easy to clean up. Below you can see the bad cuts and how I smoothed them with the chisel. Be careful when you're working with a chisel because if you work too quickly you will probably end up cutting too much material off and ruining the piece of wood.

As you can see, the circular saw was not working properly.

Chiseling the wood smooth, you could also use a heavy rasp or a blunt ended wood plane (of course I didn't think of this until I'd already been whacking away with my chisel for 15 minutes).
The finished cut.

Once the ends of both studs have been trimmed down they can be joined together using wood glue and screws. I use Gorilla Wood Glue usually but if this is not available I will substitute with TiteBond. I like Gorilla Glue for exercise equipment because it is still somewhat pliable once it's dry whereas other wood glues tend to become brittle once they dry and exercise equipment takes a lot of impact so with the Gorilla Glue it holds up a little bit better.

Gorilla Wood Glue

 Apply the glue liberally. Carpenters determine the strength of a structure by how many screws there are in relation to how many pieces of lumber. I believe the same is true for wood glue.
Be sure to clamp the 2x4's together while you drill in your screws to prevent gapping.

 Next, I drilled a hole for the pulley bolt to go through and installed the pulley wheel. I found this pulley wheel and the nut and bolt in my barn but I imagine they sell something similar at Home Depot or Lowe's. The pulley wheel is about 4.5 inches in diameter.

The installed pulley wheel. This one squeaks like hell because it's so old and covered with rust. I may end up getting a new one or buffing this one out with a dremel and oiling the heck out of it.

At this point, you have essentially finished building the high pulley apparatus, all that is needed now is to install it into your wall. This is done by cutting 4, 1ft segments and 2, 3 1/2 inch segments from the remaining 2x4. The 3 1/2 inch segments are screwed into the studs in your wall. The height of these will vary depending on where the studs are in your wall but be sure that there is one very low to the ground (mine is 1ft from the floor) and the second should be very close to the top. DO NOT PUT ONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WALL, your weights will run into it constantly when you're using the pulley. The second block should be screwed into the highest stud available. The 1ft segments are then screwed onto the 3 1/2 inch blocks and the 8ft beams screwed in between the 1ft segments.
This is a photo of the uppermost block with the 1ft segments of 2x4 connecting the pulley tower to the wall.

On the lowermost support assembly I screwed 2 extra 1ft segments of 2x4 on the top to give the weights something on which to land and, in doing so, also greatly improved the stability of the whole thing.

Once your pulley tower is attached to the wall all there is to do is toss a piece of cable over the top and put something on it from which to attach the weights and the handles you will be using for your exercises. This can be accomplished a number of different ways so be creative. I used the standard cables with metal sleeves to create loops. I then put S hooks through the loops and tightened one end of them so that they can't fall off. I will invest in some carabeaners later but as of now I don't have any handles for the darn thing! So there's no need.

So here she is!! This overhead pulley will accommodate 5, 45lb plates and has a particularly nice action on it. Seeing as I don't yet have any handles for it, I just looped the cable around my EZ Curl Bar and did a few triceps push downs and lat pull downs to test it out (who knew EZ curl bars actually had a use!?) and it felt great.

If you have any questions or would like for me to post about a specific topic, you can email me at and, as always, go lift something heavy!

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