When I was planning my full gym build-out, one of the first things that went on my list was a weightlifting platform. It seemed like every gym I looked at online had a platform.
I honestly didn’t even know why I might need one (or not). I simply figured it was something you needed if you were going to be training at home.
Did I mention that they looked cool? And who doesn’t want their home gym to look cool, right?
But here I am over a year after building my current garage gym and I have no platform. In fact, I have no plans to build or buy one at all. It turns out that I really don’t need one. There’s a good chance you don’t either.
Lifting platforms provide a protected area to drop heavily loaded barbells to the ground. This is most commonly done with Olympic-style lifting as well as deadlifts. The platform will protect the floor, weights, and your bar. Outside of this style of lifting, they are not needed in most home gyms.
What is a lifting platform?
If you aren’t familiar with lifting platforms, they are a fairly straightforward piece of gym equipment. They are a platform, usually made from a combination of wood and rubber, that comes between your floor and your weights.
There are two basic types, each with their own purpose.
A deadlift platform is usually 8′ wide by 4′ deep. The center 4′ by 4′ portion is wood and the outer 2′ by 4′ sections are topped off with rubber mats. This type of platform is used for heavy deadlifting.
If the amount of weight being lifted is high (over 400 lbs), is done with metal plates, and/or the weight is being dropped to the floor, a platform can be used to prevent damage to the plates and to the floor.
An Olympic lifting platform is used for highly technical Olympic lifts. Because of the dynamic nature of these lifts, a deeper platform is needed. This type of platform typically measures 8′ wide by 8-12′ deep. The center is wood while the outer edges are lined with 3/4″ thick rubber.
Platforms can be store-bought but are typically extremely expensive. Obtaining a platform this way can often break the $1000 price mark.
For this reason, most platforms for home and garage gyms are DIY projects. Building these yourself is not only easy but lowers the price point to $200-$300.
Reasons to use a lifting platform
While I don’t believe that most home gym owners will need a lifting platform, there is a good size list of reasons at least a few of you might want one.
Before we get into all the reasons I think they aren’t necessary for most people, let’s review why they are sometimes a very good idea.
Securing your squat rack
Squat racks need to be stable and secure. This only happens in one of a few ways.
You could buy a very large footprint rack with accessory weight storage attached to it. The weight of a large rack combined with the stored weights will typically keep that rack stable and secure.
You could buy a flat foot rack (what I did) or rack with front and rear extensions for stability. These racks are designed to be stable without being bolted down.
You could also bolt your rack to the floor. This is what is recommended by most rack manufacturers. The last thing you want is your rack moving around or falling over on you.
The second to last thing most home gym owners want is to have to bolt something to their floor. Most of us aren’t willing to drill holes in the concrete subfloor of our garage just to secure a rack that may need to be moved someday.
That leaves many people in an unsafe situation. If you aren’t sure whether you need to bolt your current rack to the floor, the article I wrote on the subject should give you a clear answer.
Enter the lifting platform. A good lifting platform can extend all the way under your rack and give you a much easier place to secure your rack. I can’t recommend this option highly enough if you haven’t taken other measures to ensure your rack is solid and unmoving.
Even if you have no other reasons for a platform, this is enough to warrant building one. Safety always needs to be your top concern when lifting at home alone (see my full guide on other precautions you should take here) and securing your rack should be towards the top of your safety list.
Protecting your floor
This isn’t as widespread a reason as most would think, but in certain circumstances, it should still compel you to build a platform. Here’s when you should worry enough about your floor to build a platform:
- You are Olympic lifting at home. Olympic lifting requires that your loaded barbell is dropped from overhead. Your floor will quickly be destroyed without a platform.
- You CrossFit at home. Olympic lifts are part of CrossFit. If you are a CrossFitter, you’ll need a platform to protect your floor.
- You are a heavy deadlifter that drops the bar and uses metal plates. If you are pulling over 400 lbs or are using metal plates, your floor will thank you for having a platform.
- You are a heavy deadlifter that doesn’t drop the bar. When you set that bar down, the vibration of the bar as your weights hit a hard or poorly protected floor will often sting your hands and arms. The rubber portion of a platform will soften this blow and make your deadlift sessions much more comfortable.
- Your gym is in a room that has a wood subfloor. If you are lifting on anything other than a concrete floor, you’ll probably want a platform. A wood subfloor is simply not designed to take the abuse of a home gym. In this situation, you’ll want the platform to extend under your rack too. The weight of a rack can destroy a wood subfloor over time.
- Your gym is on the second floor of your home. I wrote an entire guide to building a gym on a second floor and one of the many tips there is to use a lifting platform. Not only are you working on a wood subfloor, but every dropped weight will shake the entire house. A platform helps with this.
Having good flooring in your gym, while important, will not do enough to protect your subfloor in the above situations.
A lot of people think that if they put down 3/4″ thick horse stall mats as flooring, that that will protect their floor. It won’t.
The proper flooring (see my complete guide to home gym flooring here for recommendations) will provide some protection, but the flooring material is there to provide a functional surface to train on. It only provides modest protection for the floor underneath.
If you fall into one of the above categories, even the thickest flooring will not prevent damage to the subfloor underneath. This is where a platform comes into play.
The rubber mats on top of a platform will deaden the sound and the impact of the weights coming down. The large footprint of the platform itself distributes the shock of the weight across a large surface area. It’s this dispersion that protects the floor beneath.
Protecting your weights
I’m a huge fan of bumper plates. One of the many reasons is that they are easier on my floor. That said, not everyone chooses to use bumper plates (Check out my recommended plates page for your best option no matter which route you go).
If you have chosen to use metal plates, not only will they damage your floor, but your floor can also damage your plates. If those plates are hitting the floor with any type of speed at all, you’ll probably want a platform.
You compete in power or Olympic lifting
If you are a competitive lifter (Olympic or powerlifting), you’ll want a platform in your home gym.
That’s because you always want to practice how you compete. The closer you can get your practice and training environment to the competitive environment, the better you’ll do.
If you compete, do yourself and your competitive results a favor and build yourself a platform to lift on.
You are concerned with noise
Nothing will prevent a dropped bar from making a lot of noise. But a well-made platform will certainly help. And it can help by quite a bit!
Whether you are trying to be quiet for family or roommates or just have neighbors who like to complain about the noises coming from your gym, a platform can help.
For those that want to quiet their deadlifts as much as humanly possible, you’ll also want to use something like these silencer pads by Titan. They aren’t something I’d use unless I was concerned with noise, but if you are, they work remarkably well!
For those of you where noise is a big concern, I wrote an entire guide to quieting your home gym. There’s a lot you can do (I outline 21 in the guide), so make sure to check it out!
Platforms look amazing!
Honestly, I don’t need a platform. None of the above reasons applies to me. Not even close.
That said, if I had room, I’d build one for myself in a heartbeat. I’d make it out of maple plywood. I’d stain it so it looked sweet. I’d have the GymCrafter logo proudly placed in the center. It would be awesome.
So even if you don’t have a single functional reason to build a platform, if you like the way they look and you have the room, go for it! Then send me a picture at email@example.com. I’d love to see how your’s came out!
Why the average lifter doesn’t need a lifting platform
As I said, I don’t have a need for a platform. Odds are neither do you. I put GymCrafter together for average home gym owners. A lot of what I put out doesn’t apply to competitive lifters or Crossfitters.
When I set out to build this site, it was because most of the information out there on building home gyms was by and for people much more into lifting weights than I was. There wasn’t much, if anything, that helped normal folks just trying to be healthy.
I’m not Olympic lifting (I don’t want to die in my garage, crushed under a loaded barbell). I’m definitely not interested in CrossFit (I have a distinct disdain for puking from pushing myself too hard). I’m not a heavy deadlifter (I pull a little over 300 lbs for sets of 3 when I want to push myself, that’s about all I want to stress the 4 bulged discs in my back). I don’t drop the bar. Ever.
That means that I don’t need a platform. I’d be willing to bet that most of you don’t either. Here’s a list or reasons why.
You don’t need to drop your bar
There are zero reasons for most people to drop a loaded bar to the ground. It’s not necessary.
I could give a bunch of smart ass examples as to why, but instead, I’ll let this video by Mark Rippetoe do that for me.
Olympic lifts are best done with a coach and at a gym
Olympic lifting is the most highly technical form of weightlifting. For that reason, it shouldn’t be done by amateurs at home alone without a coach or spotter.
That means doing them at a commercial gym, not at home. And that means your home gym doesn’t need a platform.
Again, I’m talking about your average home gym owner here. The 2-4 times a week lifter just trying to stay healthy and get strong. Those folks probably shouldn’t be doing Oly lifts at home by themselves. Or at all.
The same goes for doing those lifts as part of CrossFit daily WODs (workouts of the day). CrossFit is riddled with injury when not coached correctly. It’s riddled with injury even when coached correctly, but I’ll leave that discussion for another post.
Save your AMRAP cleans for the CrossFit box where there is someone there to help if and when you get injured. Stick to safer lifts when at home. And if you do that, you won’t need a platform.
Use bumper plates
I know it’s hard for some of you hardcore gym rats out there to believe this, but your average at-home gym owner will never lift more than 300 lbs. on any lift.
In fact, a great goal for most people is to be able to squat, bench, and deadlift their bodyweight. Despite what Instagram says, this would equate to a fairly strong and in shape person.
But let’s assume that same person works really hard and over time increases their lifts dramatically. They still won’t ever need to lift 400 lbs.
And that means that most garage gym owners should be using bumper plates. I spend a good deal of time discussing why I think bumper plates are the perfect choice for most home gym owners here.
The short version is that if you don’t need to lift more than 475 lbs, you don’t really have a reason not to use them. Assuming you have a great collar that won’t move, like one by OSO, that’s the most weight you can safely load on a bar using bumpers, which are a lot thicker than metal plates.
One of the many benefits of bumpers is that their larger contact area with the floor and more forgiving material (rubber or urethane) are much easier on your floor.
Using bumpers combined with a great flooring choice means you really don’t need a platform unless you fall into one of the categories I started this article with.
What’s proper flooring? My personal choice is 3/8″ rubber flooring. Here’s a video I made showing the installation of it and why I prefer it over horse stall mats, another very popular choice.
You only deadlift in one spot
Even if you do think you need a platform for deadlifting, you can totally get away without one. All you need to do is add a little extra protection to the two spots that your weights touch on the floor.
I do this by taking four of the puzzle piece squares that make up my gym floor and stacking two each under the weights I’ll be pulling off the floor. Then I don’t drop my bar. It works great!
There’s really no need for a 4′ x 8′ platform for most lifters. Again, if you are pulling a ton of weight, or are regularly dropping the bar, a platform is the way to go. But if you aren’t, and that’s most of us, just a little extra padding when deadlifting does the trick.
The bonus for this method is that when you put the pieces of flooring back where you got them, you have your gym floor back. And that brings me to the next reason you probably shouldn’t use a platform
Platforms are too big
I don’t know about you, but I squeezed my gym into a little less than one half of a two-car garage. I barely have room for my rack and a treadmill and a little room to move around.
I definitely don’t have room for a dedicated deadlifting spot.
I also don’t want a platform underfoot that runs into what little training area I’ve managed to carve out. The raised edges of a platform would mean that I can no longer use the area between my rack and my treadmill for other things.
Glute bridges, ab rollouts, physioball work, and quite a few other exercises wouldn’t be possible if I had a platform.
Being that most garage gym owners are in a similarly space-constrained situation, it doesn’t make sense to fill the space with a raised platform.
Not to mention, I’m clumsy and uncoordinated. The last thing I need is for a raised platform to be in the middle of my multi-use space. A trip, fall, and injury would surely not be far behind!
How to build a lifting platform
My original plan was to provide you with detailed plans on how to build a lifting platform. But to be honest, there are already a ton of those out there for you.
Instead, I thought I’d provide you links to what I think are the best and most helpful ones.
If you are looking for an article and well-written instructions, this article over at The Art of Manliness is all you will need.
For a quick video guide, check out this video from the Szat Strength & the Lion’s Den:
And I would be remiss if I didn’t include a more thorough how to from one of my favorite YouTube channels, Brandon Campbell Diamond & Base Barbell:
Where to buy a platform
For those of you with both the budget and the desire to not do things yourself, there are a few good pre-made platforms that you can buy.
I’d stay away from the Rogue option as just like most of the things they make you can get as good or better products from other companies for a lot less money.
That said, here are my favorite options for buying a platform instead of making one.
Best large or modular platform
I think Titan Fitness makes the best option here. It’s not too expensive, but still gives you all the room you need. Plus it comes with everything you need, not something you can say about other platforms.
Best deadlifting platform
Titan Fitness makes a variety of pre-made platforms, but their basic deadlifting platform is a great value. Coming in priced well under options by companies like Rogue, it’s a solid platform at a great price.