Bumper Plate Lifting Setup 101

 
   What we're trying to avoid and also how I feel inside when plates are just thrown around everywhere.

What we're trying to avoid and also how I feel inside when plates are just thrown around everywhere.

When lifting with the bumper plates it's crucial to lay out the workspace properly. We're not going into barbell loading here, just the general layout.

We want room for the barbell to be safely & predictably dropped from any height onto a flat surface to avoid bouncing off plates into random directions with potentially increased speed. Especially we want to avoid the barbell being stopped/rebounded by the plates laid out improperly and have a risk of falling on it in case of a badly missed lift.

Below are the main rules, explanations with photos and a couple extra suggestions as well. This will keep the rules concise and also make it easy to re-read and review. Overall, this post is lengthy and may seem OCD - "How hard is it to lay some plates down?", but it's important to keep yourself and others safe when lifting.

For well over a decade I've both seen at my gym (with our members and out-of-town drop-ins) and even at National level Weightlifting events - the skill of laying out a platform is a rather rare one. So let's try and fix that!


Platform Setup 101:

Safety first. A barbell is a tool. Like a knife or a chainsaw. Respect it.
I. Lifting area per 1 barbell is 3 mats. 
The lifter is centered on the middle mat.
II. Plates go to the side, as far as possible from the bar, within 3 mats.
III. Prepare all plates you will need before starting to lift.
IV. As you lift, re-center the barbell as needed (every 1-3 lifts usually).
V. As you change loads (bar weight), keep plates as far away as when you started.
VI. Never put the plates too close to the bar, nor in front and especially not behind!


That's about it. Now let's thread a thin line between organized and OCD and go a little further into the nitty-gritty details and include some pics as well.

A barbell is a tool. Like a knife or a chainsaw. Respect it.
It's not your friend, but a great and powerful tool. You wouldn't stick fingers in front of a saw. You wouldn't leave a knife on the floor of the kitchen. Learn to use it right and it'll be a great tool for personal development. 

I. Lifting area per 1 barbell is 3 mats. The lifter is centered on the middle mat.
Many CrossFit facilities mainly have 4x6 mats on the floor. We use 3 mats per lifter as a great way to ensure all barbells are nicely spaced, without waste or inefficiency. Notice how the barbells in the pic below are neatly positioned right in the center (doesn't have to be middle of the mat itself forward or back, but side to side is key).

II. Plates go to the side of the bar ONLY, as far as possible from the bar, within 3 mats.
In the pic above you can see the outer line of the 3 mat setup with the plates pushed all the way out to the edge of the mat. This is probably the most crucial step of the setup. 

When lifting, as you change plates or if you're new to lifting - avoid letting the plates creep closer and closer to the bar and move away from those lines between the mats. Note: the plates don't move on the floor, what actually happens is that as you pull plates off the bar to change them and just drop them anywhere, that's "creeping". And never stack plates in front/behind the barbell itself - the potential for a dangerous rebound increases dramatically. See the pic below where the black 45 lbs plates are actually in front of the barbell and in the way. If you drop that loaded barbell on top of one of those plates, it will bounce and either ram you or your neighbor, with a lot of force. 
 

Draw a perpendicular imaginary line through the end of the barbell (it's the white PVC pipe in the pic below) and do not let plates ever cross the line. That keeps the potential area where the bar will drop clean & clear to avoid bounces in random directions. Just because the green plates on the bar clear the yellow ones on the floor, doesn't mean it's enough room for error. Those yellow plates need to be pushed back behind that imaginary (white pvc) line.

III. Prepare all plates you will need before starting to lift. 
At CFEvo we'll generally do a group warm-up first in class, then real lifting begins. Organize your workspace first, then start lifting. This avoids extra walking around and makes for a better class flow, especially if going EMOM (every minute on the minute) or every 90-120 seconds.

If you're not sure if you would need 45's or not - grab them anyway & lay them out. Worst case is that you won't need them, but Boy Scouts are always prepared. 

Another benefit of this setup is 2.5's and 5's (or small kilo plates if you lift in kg's) - lifters have smaller plates next to their bar right away, so when the question comes: "That was kind of heavy, should I do a smaller increase?", the athlete will more likely use the smaller plates, since they're already there and not half way across the gym. This results in more successful lifts which generally look better as well. 

IV. As you lift, re-center the barbell as needed (every 1-3 lifts usually).
When lifting, the bar bounces - make sure it's centered in the middle mat every few attempts. I've seen people move as much as 3-4 feet in any direction after just a couple of lifts, which can become sketchy pretty quick. Think of it as a human typewriter - pull it back as often as needed. P.S. Soon people won't know what a typewriter is... or already don't... Am I old?

typewriter.gif

V. As you change loads (bar weight), keep plates as far away as when you started.
This one is generally for beginners who aren't quite confident around a barbell yet. Often after a couple of lifts all the plates are all of a sudden back crowding the bar. Keep the plates pushed back to the edge of the outer mats, in your 3 mat platform (lifting area).

VI. Never put the plates too close to the bar, nor in front and especially not behind!
It's already been covered up above, so just make sure you keep plates to the sides. Don't make weightlifting dangerous by putting obstacles in the path of a falling loaded barbell, that can bounce into your shins or towards someone else from behind.

Overall the setup to me is just as important as lifting since as the quote goes:

cropped-how-you-do-anything-is-how-you-do-everything-quote-1.png

That's for the general rules, but I'll add a couple of extra guidelines as well:

Above: If using racks - keep plates away from where the bars might drop (usually we keep them next to the uprights).

Below: If setting up 2 bars (a training bar and a regular bar) - leave enough room between them on all sides. The white PVC pipe below shows where a barbell should NOT go. If you don't feel safe - change your setup or bring it up to your coach.   

If lifting on an actual platform - keep weights off it and to the side. It's quite a bit easier, since the actual platforms are better defined, but here it is, anyways:

And that's that. A rather lengthy article on how to lay out some plates. Start your OCD jokes now...