Why and When to Use an Olympic Lifting Platform

Why Do You Need a Lifting Platform?

Reason #1: Protect Your Floor

Rubber flooring protects your concrete garage floor, but even 3/4″ rubber might not be enough. Not all concrete is created equal. If the builder cheaped out, dropped olympic lifts will start pulverizing the concrete or create cracks. Dropping weights is significantly harder on concrete than your car rolling into the garage with its soft rubber tires, even when you add in the factor of extra rubber protecting the concrete.

Pulverized concrete by lifting without a platform
An example of pulverized concrete. This is where they had been dropping weights without the platform.

It’s the shock load that’s the problem. Anything dropped onto the surface will create a shock load many times the weight being dropped. We see that with power racks too, the safety bars or barbell being damaged when you drop a loaded barbell at freefall a couple feet onto the safety bars. At some point it doesn’t matter how strong it is; something has to give.

A good sheet of 3/4″ rubber is good in that it absorbs some of the force, but it only spreads out the force a little bit. That’s where a platform comes in. Wood is rigid and will spread the force out. 

It follows that a larger platform of 8’x8′ will spread and absorb more of the force than a 8’x6′ platform. 

Reason #2: For Luxury Lifting or Competition Training

The professional way to do olympic lifts is standing on a wood platform. In the Olympic Games, they have a high quality platform set up where the entire top surface is wood. That’s rough on most wood. You won’t likely get away with that yourself long-term.

Still, wood is best to stand on for its stability and the perfect smooth traction. Olympic weightlifting shoes are made to be used on wood floors, letting your feet slide just enough to shift into position, without undue slipping. Therefore, a platform has a wooden middle section and rubber sides to cushion the blow of the plates, giving you the best of both worlds.

What’s the Standard Size Olympic Lifting Platform?

You’ll normally see three standard dimensions: 8’x4′, 8’x6′, and 8’x8′. So they are all 8ft wide and vary only in the distance from front to back.

  • 4ft Deep: Perfectly adequate for deadlifts. The bar isn’t travelling high and won’t really have a chance to be dropped at an angle. Just straight up and down, very predictable. You don’t need a lot of space.
  • 6ft Deep: Adequate for olympic lifting. You can run out of room when dumping a failed snatch behind you, causing the bar to roll off the platform. 
  • 8ft Deep: Optimal size for olympic lifting. Lots of space to work in, no matter if you drop the bar in front of or behind you. This is also the best size for maximum protection of the concrete floor, with the larger wood area spreading out the shock load so that each square footage of concrete can take less of the load.

The 8ft (minimum) width on all platforms is necessary to fit the 7ft bar with room on both sides to roll a plate into place for loading.

The thickness varies, but it isn’t really a platform unless it’s more than one 3/4″ layer of rubber and/or wood. Two or more layers qualifies as a platform, in my mind, and with that it can vary from 1″ to 2.25″ thick.

Do You Need Bumper Plates?

Generally, you should be using bumper plates when doing olympic lifts on a platform, to prolong the life of everything.

The exception would be if you’re using relatively light weight (whatever “light” is for you) to the point where you are in control of every rep and lower the weight to the floor without dropping it. In this case, iron plates will be fine, but in this case you also don’t need a platform.

Rip illustrates this point:

Deadlifts, on the other hand, don’t require bumpers. Powerlifting meets involve steel discs (which are calibrated very accurately for weight, something you just can’t do as well with cast iron) used on their platforms. It’s still not a bad idea to use bumpers for deadlifts. You’ll protect your equipment better.

Can You Put a Platform on a Wood or Carpeted Floor?

If you have anything but a concrete subfloor, you’re rolling the dice. Light to moderately heavy deadlifts are ok, or cleans if you lift far under your max and won’t be dropping it. A wood floor or carpeted wood floor, as in your home, isn’t going to be happy when you drop olympic lifts from shoulder height or above, even with the platform. Even a halfway dropped deadlift will shake the room, despite the platform.

With a concrete subfloor, you can place the platform either directly onto the concrete, or ideally, onto rubber flooring between it and the concrete (even 3/8″ rubber is fine) to cut the noise and vibration better.

How to Use a Power Rack and Platform Together

A platform and power rack makes for a versatile setup where you can do presses, squats, deadlifts, and olympic lifts, all in one area, plus all the other exercises you can do with various power racks.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use an Inset
    An inset is a fitted piece of wood that fits inside of your rack, with the rest of the platform right in front of the rack. This gives you a smooth transition of wood flooring from the outside to the inside of the rack. 
  2. Mount the Rack to the Platform
    Leave some space in front for doing lifts outside the rack, directly off the platform. This works perfectly fine for deadlifts. For olympic lifting it’s not a good idea, because the rack sucks up so much platform space.
    The main benefit of mounting the rack to the platform is to secure the rack from tipping or wobbling. Open-ended racks (with no lower cross-brace) are made to be mounted, whether into a platform or concrete floor. Mounting it into a platform saves your nice concrete.

York makes insets designed to fit perfectly into their power racks and squat racks. So with their designs you don’t mount their racks, but technically you could mount any rack to the floor with some added gusset plates or brackets of the right size.

York’s Oak Platforms

We have sold a lot of these at our store for  $1,299.00 . York Barbell has been involved in olympic weightlifting since their inception in 1932. If they know anything, they know how to make a good weightlifting platform.

They finish it off with a full 6 coats of clear polyurethane to protect the wood for many years to come.

York can also print out and stick your own custom logo before applying the clear coating, any size you want. Just provide a high res graphic and they’ll take care of the rest. Commercial gyms frequently go for this option to make the platform look right at home in their space.

York’s platforms have wood insets available that are sized to fit into any of the York STS series of power rack and half racks. When you use an inset, part of the steel frame around the platform is absent, allowing the inset to butt cleanly up against that part of the platform. 

Rogue’s Modular / Minimalist Platforms

For a cheaper price you can get Rogue’s modular “build-your-own” platform kit in the 8’x6′ size with rubber tiles starting at $644.00, or the 8’x8′ size. I love things that you can take apart and actually move, and good luck ever moving a regular platform on your own. Basically with Rogue’s solution you buy the frame and a set of 1.5″ thick rubber tiles to stick in it. Done! 

Another advantage of Rogue’s is you don’t have to ever worry about wood curling over time. There’s no glue or screws in the construction. The bolted steel frame keeps it all together, and that’s that. There’s not much to it. If you really want to, you could replace the center rubber tiles with two layers of 3/4″ plywood. 

FringeSport Platforms

The most budget-conscious choice for a wood and rubber platform is Fringe’s 6.5′ x 8.5′ platform for only  $949 .

The thing I like about it most is it’s modular like Rogue’s, in case you ever need to move or disassemble it, but also utilizes the wood area for your feet to give you the traction and stability of a professional platform. The wood insert is bamboo, not cheap plywood.

About the Author:

David Kiesling
David founded Adamant Barbell in 2007 and Two Rep Cave in 2018. Lately he spends his free time practicing archery and hang gliding.

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