Build Your Own Weightlifting Platform

There’s one piece of equipment that you might have overlooked for your home gym, a piece that you can make yourself. If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you might have noticed that behind the scenes each of the competitors train for their complex lifts on a weightlifting platform, also commonly referred to as a deadlift platform, a structure that helps to absorb the shock caused by heavy lifts. This simple platform is made from rubber and plywood and it does more than just placing the athlete in an elevated position for all the world to see.

One of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment, the deadlift platform is used by the highest echelon of competitive power lifting, primarily because it provides protection against dropping heavy weight. In competitions, like complex Olympic lifts like the snatch or clean and jerk, having a platform underneath of you can aid the athletes when they need to let go of the immense weight that they hoisted.

Why Do You Need a Weightlifting Platform?
To Protect Your Equipment
Weightlifting platforms increase the life of your weights by dampening the shock placed on the bar. Each barbell is a complex system of moving parts, and every moving part has a failure point where it seizes up. By adding in a layer of hard rubber and two layers of plywood, you greatly lower the amount of kinetic energy placed on the bar. A study in the journal Rubber Chemistry and Technology found that just 1kg of rubber can absorb 172kg of energy1. Rubber is 44% better at absorbing energy than steel (1kg of steel can only absorb 119kg of energy). Not to mention, a deadlift platform is constructed from construction grade plywood, which can dampen the force even more.

Like a wave in the ocean, the force caused by dropped weight spreads out until it finally dissipates. Dropping weight onto 2.5 metre platform made of different layers of plywood and rubber allows the shock load to dissipate much quicker than if you were dropping the weight on the concrete floor.
I like to think of the deadlift platform as a piece of equipment which increases the life of your equipment. Gravity can be a killer on gym equipment, and if you’ve been in the gym for any length of time you’ve probably seen a barbell missing a loadable sleeve, the place that you load your plates onto. Even if you’ve purchased a top-of-the-line bar with ball bearings instead of simple copper bushings, and your bar is rated for over 450kgs, you’ll want to put something between it and hard concrete to protect your investment.

Protect Your Floors.
Lifting platforms also limit the amount of damage your floors will take. Concrete floors can only take a certain amount of force because concrete is a poor energy dampener. Concrete can be easily pulverised from the shock load being dropped on it. But with a large platform, made from layers of plywood and rubber, you’ll be able to spread out the shock load over several metres rather than it striking a single point in the concrete.

Dampen Noise from Heavy Lifts
In addition to absorbing kinetic energy, deadlift platforms also dampen the noise caused by dropping weights. If you’re going to set your home gym in a second-floor flat and you have people living underneath of you, noise cancelation will definitely need to be considered.

When you work out on a deadlift platform, you put yourself into the proper headspace to complete your personal best. Ascending the platform, gripping the bar, pulling out the slack, you instantly enter the ‘zone’. And it’s an equally satisfying feeling to drop the bar and feel the rubber catch the weight.

Simple Weightlifting Platform Plans
Below you’ll find plans for creating your own deadlift platform. Timber is expensive, and it’s always best to consider how much you can spend before you consider working on a project. The plans below are for a simple deadlift platform which is designed for those who need a lifting station for deadlifts. It’s designed to stop a fall from waist height, but can also be used for complex Olympic lifts. It should be noted, however, that if you plan to do complex lifts from shoulder height, you may run the risk of the barbell rolling off the platform.

Materials, Tools, and Fasteners
Here’s a list of some of the most important things you’ll need to pick up before you ever set out to complete the build.

  1. A box of 30mm Construction Screws
  2. Washers
  3. Two Sheets of 18mmx122cmX244cm Plywood or OSB
  4. A Sheet of 20mmx122cmX244cm Oak Veneer Plywood
  5. Two 20mmx1mx1m Rubber Blue Fleck Gym Mats
  6. Polyurethane Wood Stain
  7. Power Drill
  8. Circular Saw (If you have access to a table saw, it would certainly come in handy)
  9. Chalk Line
  10. Measuring Tape
  11. Pencil
  12. A friend to help you to assemble the platform

Cut the Underlayment Plywood to Size
Time to get the measuring tape out, pencil, and chalk line out to measure the correct size for the plywood. The length of each sheet of underlayment plywood will stay at 244 cm, but you’ll need to mark out 100cm on the width of the plywood. Make pencil marks on either end of the sheet and then use your chalk line to make a solid line to cut the sheet on. Carefully, use the circular saw to cut the plywood to the proper width. Try to stay as close to the line as possible. Do this with both the 18mm sheets of plywood.

Screw The Underlayment together
Lay the one sheet of plywood on top of the other. Both sheets should equal a combined thickness of 36mm. Make sure the corners line up, and call in a favour from your friend to hold together both sheets together. Then, starting at the edges, screw the sheets together, putting a row of five screws every 40cm. After screwing the sheets together, you should have the base onto which you can place your rubber mats and hardwood plywood.

Assemble the Top Pieces
It’s always a good idea to do a rough assembly before screwing everything together because you can check to see if everything will fit. Since the rubber won’t be cut to fit, you can use this as a guide to how much space the centre piece will need to be. Place both rubber mats on top of the underlayment plywood and measure the space separating them. This void should be 100cmX144cm.

Cut the Hardwood Plywood
Now that you’ve got the hang of using your chalk line, you’re going to cut down the Hardwood veneer plywood. This time you’re going to need to make two cuts, and therefore, you’ll need to make two separate lines. First, mark a line at 144cm, and cut the plywood to the correct length. Then measure and mark 100cm in width and cut it to create an almost square-like sheet of plywood.

Assemble the Top Pieces
With the help of that friend you coaxed into helping with the offer of beer, attach the first rubber mat with screws and washers. Have them hold the piece down the rubber mat, and then fasten it to the plywood with the screws and washers around the edges. Try not to screw the rubber mats in the centre to avoid the weights from landing on the screws.

Then screw the hardwood plywood with the smooth hardwood veneer side facing up. It’ll be easy to identify the hardwood side because it will be free from discolouration and defects, and it will be smooth to the touch. The oak veneer plywood adds a nice touch to your platform. Fasten it to the underlayment plywood. Lastly, screw the last rubber mat to the platform, and placing the screws with washers on the edges of the mat.

The final step is to coat the oak veneered plywood in a clearcoat of polyurethane wood stain. This will protect your platform from sweat and water, keeping it in great shape to last years. If you want, create a stencil of your gym logo, and spray paint that onto the deadlift platform before putting the polyurethane onto it. This will add a night touch to the piece, and put your gym logo into public view.

Conclusion
The great thing about a weightlifting platform is that it is entirely customisable to fit your own situation and setting. You could easily add anchor points for resistance bands to make your workout that much harder. If you wanted, you could make a larger deadlift platform out of two sheets of plywood placed next to each other (488cmX488cm square), and then fasten a squat rack to your platform with 80mm lag bolts. The possibilities are endless, and you can make it your own.

Whenever you step foot on your weightlifting platform, you’re put in the perfect headspace to accomplish a personal record lift. You step up, and roll the bar against your shins, take the slack out of the bar, and take one deep breath in. Now you’re ready to lift.

Author: David Van Kooten

1.L. Frumkin; V. Margaritov,”The Shock-Absorbing Quality of Rubber”, Rubber Chemistry and Technology (1935) 8 (4): 528–547. Accessed from https://meridian.allenpress.com/rct/article-abstract/8/4/528/93318/The-Shock-Absorbing-Quality-of-Rubber?redirectedFrom=fulltext

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