T Nation

Using Bumpers/Oly Bars & Plates

Hi there,

I am a personal trainer at a gym and I am looking to purchase a set of bumpers & oly bar for the gym. I have a couple questions about the use of the equipment and I’d appreciate some input from some of the more experienced members here! Thank you in advance.

  1. Can you use bumpers and iron plates on the same bar?
  2. Can using bumpers and iron plates on the same bar damage the bumpers/bar?
  3. Is it safe to say that oly bars should not be used inside a power rack, more specifically on pins?
  4. Can using bumper plates on non-oly bars cause damage to the bumpers?

There are a few lifters in the gym who do some oly lifting who I would like the equipment to be available to. I want to be clear about the proper do’s and don’ts with bumpers and oly bars so they don’t get damaged or used incorrectly. I am considering using a sign-in/sign-out system for the oly bar as it is easy to keep in storage.

The bumper plates are a bit more difficult to be moving in and out of storage and I’d like to keep them out on the floor if possible. But of course, the most important thing is to protect my investment and get the most use out of the equipment as possible.

Any other suggestions would be highly appreciated!

Thank you,

Ryan

The bottom line: All bumpers will sustain “damage” over time. The degree to which will vary and hinges upon factors like:

  • Amount of use

  • Manner of use

-Quality of bumpers and the bar (some can take more abuse than others)

But to answer your specific questions,

" 1) Can you use bumpers and iron plates on the same bar? " - Yes you can and this is often done. However the iron plates are almost always light (10lbs or 5kg or less).

" 2) Can using bumpers and iron plates on the same bar damage the bumpers/bar? " - If you habitually combine large iron plates (25lbs/35lbs) with, for example 45lbs bumper plates, the bumper plates are going to end up absorbing more trauma with each drop. This will create more wear and tear on those 45lb bumpers than would be the case if the 35s and/or 25s were also bumpers.

" 3) Is it safe to say that oly bars should not be used inside a power rack, more specifically on pins? "- Very important question here. If you’re investing in a bar specific to Olympic lifting, then make sure it is used exclusively for the Olympic lifts. The knurling on the bar will start to wear down if it is routinely resting on pins and/or J-hooks. An even worse scenario is if some retard loads the bar with 10 45lbs plates for some “power shrugs” and then leaves the bar in the rack without removing the plates. Likewise that bar could end up on some bench press uprights if you and other members don’t make sure it is relegated to Olympic lifting only.

“4) Can using bumper plates on non-oly bars cause damage to the bumpers?” - Non-Olympic bars (typically made in China pieces of shit) aren’t even worthy of having a bumper plate placed on their sleeves. If you’re investing in bumper plates, invest in an Olympic bar also.

You mentioned nothing pertaining to the presence of a lifting platform. Do you have one or are you making one? (A good one can be made if you aren’t purchasing one) A decent lifting platform is important for preserving the life of your bumper plates and bar. It also signifies a designated area for Olympic lifting and may be easier to keep the Olympic lifting equipment within its vicinity.

Other than that I like your idea of a sign in/sign out system.

Hey Egghead,

Thanks for the well thought out reply. I enjoyed the answers you gave me and found them very helpful.

To answer your question about a weight lifting platform; I have not thought about using one until now.

My gym doesn’t have a lot of space, but the floors are covered with 1/4 inch thick rubber mats. We have 2 racks that are in their own area of the gym. One of them is a smith machine that has a tapered squat rack attached to it and the other is a standard power rack with j-hooks and pins. It is possible I could build a platform into the power rack or increase the mat thickness around it. This would probably be to everyone’s benefit because there is often heavy deadlifting in the gym and it is very loud with iron plates. While the gym tolerates it, it does bother some of the casual gym goers which is understandable so a platform definitely would have its benefits.

What kind of options do I have when it comes to building a platform into the power rack? And is it worth investing in right away even with the existing rubber matting?

Egghead’s response about the bumpers and bars is spot on.

As to the platform, usually 1/4" matting will not suffice. My platform is 2 layers of plywood 3/4" thick each with 3/4" rubber matting on top on the sides where the weights land and plywood in the center where my feet go. This allows my feet to move smoothly without sticking to the rubber matting.

As to placement, a big NO to putting inside the squat rack. Olympic lifts need a bit of freedom to lift and performing them inside a squat rack is dangerous to the lifters and the equipment as you are not able to move around if a lift is out of place. Plus it’s mentally off-putting to not have room to move, the lifter will feel trapped inside the rack.

Ideally, you would want a 8’ x 8’ platform in a corner by itself. However, you could get away with a 6’ x 8’ platform in FRONT of the squat rack. You could also get by with just beefing up the rubber, but it’s really inferior. You could just do one layer of plywood and one layer of rubber stall mat, each 3/4" thick. This on top of the 1/4" mat you already have on the floor would work very well, so long as you put wood center on top.

With respect to rubber matting, I lifted for a while (basement gym) on 1/2" thick rubber matting which covered an 8’ X 8’ area. These were my observations:

  1. The rubber matting, underneath my feet, in conjunction with the bottoms of my Olympic lifting shoes, provided “too much grip.” This in turn affected technique. I am referring to the change in foot position/alignment after the end of the 2nd pull when dropping into the deep squat position to receive the weight (Snatch or Clean). I noticed on several occasions that my feet or a foot would “snag” on the matt preventing me from spreading my feet into a more ideal squat width for receiving the bar. I would have to recover from the bottom with a narrower than optimal squat stance. While this didn’t happen all the time, it happened enough to mess with my head.

  2. While the rubber matting provided for some floor protection, it did nothing in terms of buffering the insane amounts of noise and ground tremors. The entire basement, appliances and house for the most part would shake. Obviously this became more pronounced as the weights got heavier.

The solution to all this was building a platform. I built a 8’ x 6’ platform which had an unfinished plywood center on top of which I would stand. This solved issue #1 I mentioned above. My feet moved smoothly into the ideal squat positions yet I still had good traction and stable footing. The sides of the platform had rubber matting on top of a few layers of plywood. This cut down on the noise somewhat but mainly provided a shield from the vibrations and tremors.

As olylifter106 touched upon in his post, make sure the platform is in front of your power rack and spaced out if possible. Or evaluate the floor plan to see if you can re-arrange things to create space for a 8’ x 6’ platform.

My gym has a mix of plates, some signage, different looking weight storage near the platform (ie you have to cross the platform to get to the plates) and (obviously) a platform keeps things in place. The bars sit on empty jacks and that seems to keep them from wandering (again, signage : do not remove the Olympic bars from the platform).

I wouldn’t allow mixed plates (even purchase different looking 1.25/2.5/5kg and fractional plates for the platform) as it’s very frustrating chasing down a bumper plate. A couple of missing plates and an entire station can be effectively useless.

BTW, bumpers have a very snug fit to the bar so you may want to buy a bar and plates from the same manufacturer.

http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/rubber-horse-stall-mat-4-ft-x-6-ft

Cheap padding for a platform.

Another note on using shitty bars: If the sleeves don’t spin properly, the added rotation on the bar can mess up technique and cause pain in the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

I’ve also seen shitty bars get ‘lopsided’ after repeated drops from lockout where one of the sleeves would always slide outwards maybe 1/4 of an inch or so - the unbalancing was annoying enough to make the bar basically useless for any real lifting.

I also strongly support the idea of saving your knurling by not letting the Olympic bar get racked anywhere for bench presses, squats, pulls, etc.

Also, lifting inside a rack is terrible, not to mention sometimes impossible if the lifter is too tall (or the rack too short) to lock out a jerk without slamming the bar or plates into the underside of the top of the cage. Not having the space to safely fall backwards on a missed lift or take a few steps forwards or backwards is dangerous.

Your lifters will probably appreciate a (needle) bearing bar rather than bushing BTW - though they will require maintenance.

Wow guys, thank you all very much for the incredibly informative posts. I knew this would be the right place to ask. Again, thank you all.

Regarding the platform:

After reading the posts and evaluating the space in my gym its very clear that building an 8’ x 6’ platform in front of the power rack will be the only way to go. The concern I have with this is that the Power Rack will not be level with the platform. Am I right to assume the solution to this problem would be to beef up the power rack with it’s own plywood base?

Regarding olympic bars:

Furyguy wrote:
"I also strongly support the idea of saving your knurling by not letting the Olympic bar get racked anywhere for bench presses, squats, pulls, etc. "

I foresee the use of the front of the power rack (j-hooks) for setting up jerks and squats while working on the platform. To confirm, is this the kind of use you would recommend against for oly bars?

"After reading the posts and evaluating the space in my gym its very clear that building an 8’ x 6’ platform in front of the power rack will be the only way to go. The concern I have with this is that the Power Rack will not be level with the platform. Am I right to assume the solution to this problem would be to beef up the power rack with it’s own plywood base? "

-Since the platform is independent of the power rack (by a certain fixed distance I’m assuming) does the power rack really need to be raised with it’s own base? The lifts on the platform would be entirely in their own realm as if the power rack was on the other side of the gym.

“I foresee the use of the front of the power rack (j-hooks) for setting up jerks and squats while working on the platform. To confirm, is this the kind of use you would recommend against for oly bars?”

  • I would strictly relegate the Olympic bar for platform use only and I would squat/front squat with another bar. (This is what I used to do, Olympic lifts with an Olympic bar and squatting movements with a Texas power bar). With respect to practicing rack jerks, jerk boxes, like the platform, can be constructed and later stacked somewhere in a corner. This way the bar never has to rest on j-hooks and the lifters don’t have to deal with the eccentric phase of lowering heavy jerks from over head. If you’re investing in the Olympic bar, bumper plates and a platform, you might just want to go ahead with some sturdy jerk boxes as well.

Whilst I agree with Egg Head that jerk boxes are better than resting a bar on j-hooks as it avoids the issue of lowering a jerk when repping, the gym I trained at for 7 years didn’t have jerk boxes, nor was there space to store any had we wanted some. Between a group of 5-8 lifters we regularly used to use our Eleiko bars out of the squat stands, both for squats and for jerks and in that 7-years there was no noticable deterioration of the bars knurling.

Some of the bars in use were over 20-years old and some of the lifters had used them for the full duration of that time so provided they are being dumped aggressively into the stands I’d be surprised if there was a problem.

That’s just my experience with Eleiko bars though.

These are my gym’s newest bars. I couldn’t find any marking on these bars to indicate what company they’re from, but I would call them budget bars for sure. They felt like shit when they were brand new, and now that the knurling is all torn off they’re even worse. There is a definite difference in grip quality by the collar where the bar gets racked vs. the middle where the knurling is fresh. They are less than 6 months old.

Now, we also have a set of what I believe are York USA Elite competition bars that have been receiving the same treatment for at least 18 months, and the knurling on those is still in pretty good shape. The outermost knurling is only slightly worn away, noticeable in look and feel but not really bothersome. I think an Eleiko competition bar would cost about twice as much as these York ones, but based on what Weighty said they sound much more durable.

For whatever reason, the knurling on the bars that get used routinely for bench pressing tend to get WAY more messed up than the ones that stay on the platform and squat racks only.

[quote]RSleigh wrote:
I foresee the use of the front of the power rack (j-hooks) for setting up jerks and squats while working on the platform. To confirm, is this the kind of use you would recommend against for oly bars?
[/quote]

As others have said, the blocks would definitely be better.

I’m guilty of racking bars for squats and jerks, though I try to use the shittier budget bars that get torn up anyways when I’m doing this. I think the GOOD bars should stay on the platform to keep them in good shape. Especially if you are on a budget, can’t be replacing bars every year and want to get as much mileage out of them as possible.

Presumably you already have bars that are getting used for squats and jerks from the rack, so there wouldn’t be any problem keeping those bars as is and picking up a nicer bar to designate as Platform Use Only.

Putting the platform in front of a rack is asking for the bars to be abused IMO. It also makes it a pain to use the power rack when someone is doing Oly lifts.

(be wary lots of people will use the platform for anything besides Oly lifts. Sometimes reasonably, like for deadlifts or less reasonably to to stretch on and sometimes to dance on (wish I was joking))

The platform has to be constructed directly in front and attached to the power rack. I don’t have enough room in the gym otherwise. It is a tight squeeze and we will have to move a couple pieces of equipment to make room for the platform. This is why I need to know a safe and effective way to raise the power rack to the height of the platform. It needs to be integrated because the two are going to be so close no matter what I do.

This picture serves as a perfect example of what I will have to construct: http://images.gymratz.co.uk/product/detail/grliftingplatformwithpowerrack.jpg

Construct it like the picture, you won’t have any problems.