2021: Rewrote much of this article with current products and better info.

We all love deadlifts, and we all hate them. They are effective, are crazy hard, feel great, and feel horrible. It’s a mix of life.

Mitigating the particularly annoying part of the lift by having an easy way to load plates on the floor is a good thing. 

Here are your options.

Technique #1 – The One Handed Dead

This is the most obvious, most troublesome and what you have to do before you figure out something better. You stick a plate into position at the end of the sleeve as best you can, then lift the bar with one hand while sliding the plate on with the other hand.

An intermediate lifter can do this for two 45lb plates on each side (225lb). The third plate isn’t as fun.

A word of caution: You can injure your back doing this. To stay safe, heed Rip’s advice in this video regarding foot placement and spinal rotation.

Technique #2 – Rolling onto a 2.5lb or 5lb Plate

2.5lb plate propping up bumper plate

You have to keep the small plate under ONLY the first 45lb plate, and that doesn’t give it much room before it wants to roll off. It sounds good until you try it and find out it doesn’t work that great. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have the right shaped plate.

Technique #3 – Folded up Sweaty Towel

You brush your teeth, wear deoderant, and shower daily, right? Being the considerate person you are, you also have a gym towel. I’m certain of that. Even in your personal home gym, you have one handy, because you’re not a slob. Fold it up and stick it under the first plate. All you really need is a few millimeters.

Folded up towel under bumper plate

This works well for one plate. For two plates it starts squishing more and gets more tricky.

Rolling the plate onto a leather lifting belt, if you have one, makes a good alternative to a towel.

Technique #4 – Deadlift Bar Jack

Jacking the bar up by the shaft makes sense. Leverage is an amazing thing. All that weight just goes away. This jack gives you the same feeling as ringing a bell to have the waiter bring you a snack as you’re lounging on your beach chair in the sand with some important drink in your hand. It’s that easy.

Rogue Mini Deadlift Jack

Normally the only kind of jack most of us ever have opportunity to use is a tire jack as we’re stranded on the roadside, or, hopefully, practicing it in our garage before that ever happens.

A car jack you’ll get from the auto parts store isn’t the right shape on top to keep the bar from rolling off, and it doesn’t protect the bar’s finish. It’s a heavy piece of equipment that’s kind of silly just to lift up a barbell a tad bit. You should feel ridiculous using it.

Rogue’s mini jack, on the other hand, is built entirely for this purpose. You stick the UMHW protected cup on the bar, kick the long end down, and it rocks into place, holding the plates an inch above the floor. Bend over and lift that end to drop it. Very doable even with heavy weights and after you’re recovering from a heavy set. 

Micro Gainz makes a wooden deadlift jack that looks cool and is a little more user friendly with the long steel handle than Rogue’s mini jack. Wood is naturally easier on your bar knurling without the need for UHMW inserts like Rogue’s steel jack.

Technique #5 – Dead Wedge

dead wedge

Dirt cheap, and effective!

deadlift wedge holding plate
The Dead Wedge in use in my own gym

It’s just a piece of well-shaped high density rubber. Small enough to throw in your gym bag, and an easy color to spot on black rubber flooring.

This makes the larger jacks look a little over-the-top. With this you roll the first plate onto the wedge and it stays right there in the saddle.

The downside with this wedge is you’re on your own to get the first plate on each side. It only helps you load subsequent plates. For weaker lifters who are struggling to deadlift 150 lbs, loading the first 45lb plates from the floor is awkward. One of the other jacks above will be your best friend.

The Dead Wedge is what I use. I actually sit the bar on safety arms on the front of my rack, load the first plates, then move it to the floor to start warmups and load the remaining plates with the Dead Wedge. And you can just toss the thing across the room when you’re done. I prefer equipment I can toss.