Bench Blocks

A common bench-press assistance movement is the board press, which involves stopping the bar short of full depth by putting a board on your chest to limit the bar’s range of motion by some amount (based on board thickness). To perform the movement safely and consistently requires a helper, and the boards take up a good bit of space in the gym.

Performing a board press
An alternative to placing a board on the chest is attaching something to the bar that serves the same purpose. Some products exist on the market that serve this purpose, but they are expensive.

I found inexpensive yoga blocks could serve the purpose (thanks to this video), so I bought some from Amazon for ~$12. Their size is 9″x6″x4″.

Yoga blocks

The challenge was then cutting the bar channels along each dimension. The one purpose-made product I’ve seen looks like it was cut by wire EDM. I played with the idea of making a hot-knife/wire EDM rig out of a coat hanger and a power supply, but guiding the cut would be difficult with that method. I instead used a large vertical band saw (needs a big throat).

To guide the cut, I modeled the blocks in CAD and printed out each ortho view 1:1 to use as a stencil.

CAD models of blocks

After cutting out the bar channels from the paper with a razor blade, I used the stencil to spray-paint the blocks, marking the cut areas.

Cut-out stencils and marked blocks

Then the cuts were easy. I made my initial pass through the center to cut the circular end (pictured below). Then I cut the straight walls (slightly narrower than the cylinder diameter) and finally, the lead-in chamfers.

Cutting the bar channels on the bandsaw
Cutting the bar channels on the bandsaw


The two blocks provide six different thickness/offset options:

  • 0.75″
  • 1.5″
  • 3″
  • 4.5″
  • 6″
  • 7.5″

Bench blocks installed on barbell

Click here to download the CAD files I created (ZIP).