In today’s guide, I will go over the best DIY Pulley System for your home gym.
There are many solutions out there on setting up a lat pulldown, low cable row, and other types of pulleys for your garage gym.
Unfortunately, many of them are so complicated that you’re better off just investing in a standard plate-loaded pulldown.
Others are so simple in their design that they definitely work, but they’re just not worth it for the price.
Luckily, you can build something better that’s not only potentially going to be cheaper, but it’s going to allow you to train much more efficiently.
With that being said, let’s get started!
List Of Materials You’ll Need
I’ll be going over how to make a homemade cable exercise machine so you can do all of the best pulley exercises in your home gym.
The ones that I recommend will be a lot better than buying some stuff at Home Depot that you manually have to put together.
I’ve used those solutions, and they never last, trust me! I’ll go over why later on in this guide.
All of the materials I recommend are available on Amazon, you’ll have to determine which cables work best for your setup, but beyond that, it’s pretty easy to figure out.
- Carabiners. The first thing you’re going to need is some carabiners to attach your pulleys to whatever setup you have. The ones I’m linking to support up to 460 lbs which should be more than enough for all cable exercises. You don’t have to get these but whatever you choose, make sure they have a strong weight capacity as this is usually going to be the weakest link.
- Pulleys. For the pulleys, I’ve seen a lot of people recommend metal pulleys with smaller wheels. I know firsthand that these aren’t a solid choice whatsoever which I’ll cover why later. The ones that I do recommend are these smooth nylon gym cable pulleys from Amazon. They’re easily detachable, smooth, and the best part – SILENT. This is a big deal if you plan on doing a bunch of cable exercises. The other thing that I love about these is that they don’t destroy your cable, which metal pulleys will over time. Trust me! The one place you definitely don’t want to skimp on is the pulleys, as this determines how smooth your movements will be. And I really can’t say it enough, the lack of squeaking will be a gamechanger!
- Cables. The second most important thing you need to consider for your DIY pulley system is the cables you decide to use. Most people are just buying steel wire cables with no sheath on the outside of them. This plus metal pulleys are going to wear down quickly over time. That’s why these sheathed cables are such an awesome idea. The strength, durability, and smoothness of these cables will be the perfect choice for a home gym. These have a maximum weight capacity of 300 lbs, which should be perfectly fine for cable exercises.
- Soft Loop Tie-Down Straps. You’ll need something to secure your pulleys to your power rack or wherever you decide to set up your DIY pulley system. The best thing I’ve found that gets the job done perfectly is these soft loop tie-down straps. These are strong enough to tie down motorcycles, ATVs, and more! So you know for a fact they’re going to be more than strong enough to hold a couple hundred lbs of weight while you’re training. These do claim to have a 3,600 lb. breaking capacity which I don’t really believe; however, even if it can only hold 10% of that, you will be fine. They’re also really cheap as you can get a pack of 6 for like 9 bucks which is great! If you want something a little more durable, even if you don’t need it, Amazon has a ton of options to set your mind at rest.
- Loading Pin. The final thing you will need for your DIY Pulldown, Low Cable Row, and overall pulley system is a loading pin. Luckily, you can get them cheap, and they stand up straight while loading them. My issue with other loading pins like
spud inc‘s. is the fact that it comes with a strap loading pin. It will hold a ton of weight fine, but loading more plates onto it can be a pain. From my experience, you should definitely just go with a steel loading pin as it’s easier to load.
- Fits most 2-inch Olympic plates, steel or bumper plates.
- Our loading pins are incredibly strong and will handle any amount of weight you throw at them.
- Highest quality and finish and incredible value
Other than these basic materials, you’ll also need a 4 post power rack or 2 posts in your garage to attach everything to.
For most people with a home gym, a power rack is something you’re going to need anyways.
You can also build a super basic 2 post base that attaches to your wall to attach everything to it. However, I don’t recommend this for most people because lumber is pretty expensive nowadays. You have to factor in many other tools and materials to screw everything together.
I had a lot of stuff lying around to put mine together, but I’m sure many people don’t have power tools, lumber, and hardware like I did.
That’s the main reason I don’t recommend it, as it’s no longer a cheap DIY solution. You’re just better off investing in a power rack anyways, as you’ll need one to train efficiently.
How To Make Your Own DIY Home Gym Pulley System
Now that we have the required materials assembled, we can start assembling our DIY pulley system.
Luckily this is really easy and doesn’t require any experience whatsoever.
From here, you thread your cable through your first pulley…
And of course your second pulley.
This is a very basic pulldown but it’s going to get the job done a lot better than other products on the market.
The other thing you can do, which I definitely recommend, is to use your safeties to keep your legs braced while doing your heavy pulldown movements.
You can also add in another pulley under your bottom crossmember or even your safety so you can choose the height of your exercises.
I recommend you buy different cable lengths as they will come in handy as you can adjust everything correctly based on what exercises you’re doing.
If you’re doing pulldowns, you want to make sure you stretch as far as you can for a full range of motion.
If you’re just lowering halfway and the weight already touches the ground, that isn’t really a full ROM.
I use this myself for cable preacher curls, leg extensions/curls, and a whole host of different cable row variations.
You can even use them to do lateral raises, front raises, and more!
Hopefully, this all makes sense, but the included pictures should help you figure it out!
If you have any questions on this setup, let me know in the comment section below!
Your DIY Pulley System Isn’t Worth It
I’ve seen many “DIY” Pulleys that people have literally built with steel that they’ve welded and cut together. However, at this point, it’s no longer a DIY project that most people can build cheaper than just buying a plate-loaded pulldown machine.
That’s why even though I think it’s cool, it’s absolutely not worth the effort. Especially when you could just buy something from a reputable company, bolt everything together, and call it a day.
The whole point of Do It Yourself equipment is that it’s cheaper than just buying it. Even building a really nice one with lumber and heavy-duty hardware is going to cost a decent amount right there.
That’s why I think you should just buy a plate-loaded cable setup; it’s just going to be a better investment in the long run.
This Cable Pullover from Titan Fitness is actually an incredible deal considering its plate loaded AND has free shipping. If you decide you want something beefier than a DIY solution, I would go with this before building one from scratch.
The quality will be better, and you’ll be able to do more with it than building your own.
Why I Don’t Recommend
Spud Inc. & Other Alternatives
On the flip side, many products are marketed to the home gym community that offers everything in one easy-to-buy package.
The biggest problem with these is that you’re paying extra for the convenience, and it’s usually not worth the price they’re asking for it.
When I originally bought the
Now, I see them listed for $200 on Amazon, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
The original Tricep and Lat Pulley only comes with a cable, 18″ Loading Strap, a tricep/ab strap, a swivel-eye pulley, and 2 spring clips.
This is around $110 just for some very basic materials that aren’t worth it at all.
Suppose you want to add the Low Pulley as well. In that case, you get another cable, swivel-eye pulley, spring clips, utility stump strap handle, and a hamstringer deluxe.
This is another $110 for a grand total of $220.
Not only that, but the cables aren’t coated, so they’re going to fray over time, and the pulley itself makes a ton of noise and will eventually grind against the inside of the pulley with enough weight.
I used one for 6 months before I eventually needed to replace the pulley and cable.
The wheel of the pulley ground inside of the casing, which made it incredibly hard to pull.
Plus, the cable had frayed to the point where it would cut you with the sharp wires that poked out if you weren’t careful.
This is why I highly recommend the sheathed cables mentioned earlier in this guide.
Those plus the nylon pulleys will have a smooth spin and aren’t going to wear down nearly as fast because of it.
The other huge issue I have with
If you’re too close, you have to control the weight a ton to prevent it from swinging, and even then, it’s just not an efficient way to train whatsoever.
That’s why I really do recommend the dual pulley setup, as you can sit directly under the cable if you need to, and you never have to worry about the weight swinging and hitting you.
These products have some awesome ideas, but they really do cost too much for the value they bring.
If they could switch out some of the materials they use with higher quality ones and drop the price SIGNIFICANTLY, I might recommend them.
But for now, they’re not worth it as you’re going to have to replace them again within a couple months regardless.
If you have any questions regarding this section, definitely let me know in the comments below!
Pulley System For Power Rack
If you decide a DIY solution isn’t for you and a dedicated cable crossover machine is too expensive, luckily, there’s a middle ground!
There are many companies out there that are building special pulldown and low cables setups INTO their power racks.
This saves a ton of space, and you have the added benefits of weighing down your rack for extra stability and stabilizing yourself inside the rack.
The best setup I’ve seen using a pulley system for a power rack is from Rep Fitness.
They offer pulldown systems for their PR-1100, 4000, 5000 more other rack variations!
They are all very similar, but since I own the PR-4000, I understand the quality its pulldown brings to the table.
So if you’re interested, you can check out my
The pictures shown here will also give you an idea of the pulley systems in action.
They work great, and they’re a solid middle-of-the-road option.
The only downside is that you have to own a certain rack to implement them, but there’s definitely more out there if you’re interested in that as a solution!
Let me know what you think of power rack pulley systems in the comments below!
Best Attachments For DIY Pulley System
This section will cover what I think are the best attachments you can get for a DIY Pulley System. These are the ones that I use weekly for myself and my client’s training.
They all work great and aren’t super expensive, which is a huge plus. You should save your money on expensive attachments anyways, as the quality isn’t going to matter too much compared to a solid barbell or rack.
- Dual Tricep Ropes. Tricep ropes are awesome for training triceps through a full range of motion. The only way to do this, however, is by using dual tricep ropes. Try it out the next time you train, and you’ll understand why you need two ropes to train the triceps properly. There’s quite a big difference! You can also use these for rowing and pulldown variations as well as hammer curls.
- D-Handle. The best way to train the lats is with a neutral grip out in front of your body. Using a single D-Handle for one-arm pulldowns is one of my favorite lat exercises and allows you to train the lats much harder. These can also be used for cable curls, lateral raises, and more!
- Revolving Lat Bar. Lat Bars are one of the main attachments used in gyms all across the globe. The best ones revolve similar to sleeves on a barbell. These types allow you to do basic upper back pulldowns and cable curls, tricep pushdowns, and various others.
- Designed for maximum performance & development of lats, arms, & shoulders
- Ergonomic rubber contour grips allow you to maximize control of the bar & obtain best results while you exercise.
- Made of solid cold roll steel and a forged revolving hinge with chrome finish.
- Ankle Straps. This might be surprising, but one of my favorite attachments is super simple ankle straps. Sure, you can use these for glute kickbacks, but I use them for something even better than that! Leg extensions and Leg Curls. The only way to train your hamstrings correctly is with a combination of hip-hinging movements such as a stiff-legged deadlift as well as a leg curl variation. Without it, you cannot get complete development, so having these ankle straps has been a huge help in my home gym!
- MAXIMIZE YOUR FITNESS RESULTS: Whether you are an absolute beginner or a fitness lover. Featuring one reinforced D-ring, VORCOOL Ankle Straps attachment is easy to connect to cable machines and helps you tone your glutes in maximum comfort!
- COMFORTABLE FIT: Neoprene padding makes the ankle strap the safest and most comfortable.
Worst Attachments That Need To Be Banished
Now, we move onto the worst attachments. It’s funny that these are some of the most used and abused in commercial gyms when they’re really subpar and don’t allow you to train your musculature efficiently.
- Double D Handle. The first one is very similar to the D Handle shown above. While the single D Handle is great, the double D handle is really bad, honestly. Because of how it’s constructed, you can’t row through a full range of motion. You need the elbows pulled back behind the body to train the upper back, which you just can’t do with this attachment. Likewise, if you’re trying to train the lats more, you need your hand’s shoulder-width apart with a neutral grip. Then, you need to drive your elbow down toward your hip to bias the lats more. You can’t do either of these motions with a Double D Handle, so it’s one of the worst movements you can do. It’s even worse when you use it in combination with a
T-Bar Rowwhich is bastardized enough already. You cannot row correctly with this type of attachment so stop using it. It’s bad, and you should feel bad for using it. Here’s an awesome post from Paul Carter beating this to death to help those that are uninformed out.
- Single Tricep Ropes. While the Dual Tricep Ropes are awesome and allow you to train through a full range of motion, the single tricep ropes usually don’t allow you to at all. If it’s too short, you can’t extend your arm far enough to get the major benefits of proper tricep training. And if you try to use it for back work, you get the same issue as the double D Handles. Your hands will be too close and prevent you from training with a full range of motion. Instead, connect two tricep ropes together and try it out! I’m sure you’ll be surprised! Here’s even more information from Paul Carter going over why forcing your elbows in isn’t great for triceps development. Which is exactly what a single tricep rope forces you to do.
Now it’s your turn!
I hope you enjoyed my DIY Pulley System For Your Home Gym guide, as well as the best and worst attachments you should and should not use with them.
Now I’d like to hear from you:
What do you think of the different pulley systems mentioned in today’s guide?
And how do you feel about the attachments I praised or totally owned?
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now!