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Can I DIY a Weight Bench from Those CrossFit Ballistic Block Things?

It’s the epitome of fitness multi-tasking: I hit it with a sledgehammer one minute, and then bench press from it the next

In the deepest depths of bachelordom, the living room of the place I shared with my friends contained everything we could ever need to do all of our essential lifts while watching Justin Verlander throw no-hitters for the Detroit Tigers — dumbbells, a barbell, an adjustable weight bench, an elliptical machine, a multi-handled pull-up bar and a makeshift dip stand. But the coup de grace — especially after I drank a sample-sized glass of the CrossFit Kool-Aid — was a sledgehammer I procured from the hardware aisle of my local Meijer. 

The only problem was, I couldn’t really go all out with my newly purchased Viking warhammer. Yes, we eventually acquired a tractor tire that we could alternate between flipping and hammering. But that was an apparatus that needed to remain outside of the house, and I was way too Ivan Drago at that stage of my life to spend much time training in a natural atmosphere with wild dandelions and no air conditioning.

What I really needed back then is something that’s actually available now — a ballistic block. The geniuses who design training equipment eventually think of everything. I just wish they’d thought of a training block before my bachelor days concluded and the presence of a 20-pound sledgehammer in the living room became verboten.

I have no clue what you’re talking about. What the hell even is a ballistic block?

A ballistic block may be the best fitness item ever designed for bashing something in your living room without drawing the ire of onlookers, causing massive property damage and/or placing anyone around you in danger. That is to say, you can whack it with a heavy metal object, and it will rebound perfectly off of the block’s crumb-rubber surface without any collateral damage. Better yet, it will lead to far fewer conversations about why a rubber tire is impractical to leave lying around when it’s not in use, how it can’t neatly stack anywhere and how it does nothing for a room’s decor.

That said, I have serious doubts about the efficacy of lifting a ballistic block off the ground and carrying it around — a primary prescribed use. Personally, I think you’re better off doing so with a sandbag if you’re training to carry items of a specified weight and a certain degree of malleability, particularly if that weight is being used as a substitute for a person. Because you’re probably not lifting 70-pound cube-shaped items onto your shoulders in everyday life; you’re carrying them out in front of your body in your hands or arms. And so, sandbags and the like are far more ideal for practicing applicable shoulder carries, like if you had to hoist and hustle a living person away from a burning building.

Okay, I’m starting to get it. Ballistic blocks are good to hit things with, but not good for moving around. What if I left it where it was, then, and bench-pressed from it?

On this count, it’s completely a numbers game — namely, the numbers 24, 12 and 9, or the length, width and height of the ballistic block in inches.

The average adult male is 14 inches wide at the hips, 18 inches wide at the shoulders and 68.5 inches tall. Meanwhile, the average sitting height — i.e., the amount of space between the tailbone and the top of the skull — is around 35 inches. All of which means a ballistic block is incapable of properly supporting the body of most people the way an average adjustable weight bench can (its measurements: 55, 16 and 20). Honestly, you’d be much better supported if you chose to bench press from the floor instead. 

You could get around the ballistic block’s lack of length and make it a more reasonable bench-pressing surface by locking together two ballistic blocks to lengthen the flat surface to 48 inches. But now the numbers game is price. Rather than spending about $100 on an adjustable bench and $150 or so on a ballistic block, you’d be spending in the neighborhood of $300 on two ballistic blocks, giving you double the amount of inefficient bench-pressing surface as well as 140 pounds of second-rate weight bench to drag around.

I’m also unclear why any of this would ever be necessary. The ballistic block was put on this earth to take a remarkable amount of punishment. So don’t turn it into something it’s not. Just keep things super simple: See the ballistic block, hit the ballistic block.