How To Get Plates On And Off A Deadlift Bar

Photo: VisualHunt

Hope everyone's enjoying the deadlift challenge! Even if you're an old hand with free weights, deadlifts can be tricky to set up because the bar is on the ground, not on a rack, and you'll soon be dealing with weights that are heavy enough to be unwieldy.

It should be simple: just slide the plate onto the barbell. But there's friction between the plate and the floor as you're trying to slide it on (or off), so this is easier said than done. Here's how to get the plates on and off like a pro.

Look for a place to prop up the bar

Every now and then, you'll find the holy grail of deadlift preparation: a ledge, possibly attached to a power cage, where you can set the bar at about shin height and easily load and unload plates. I have only seen one (1) of these in the wild. I can't even find a picture.

There are other pieces of equipment that can do a similar job, like a deadlift jack, which you slide under the barbell to lift it slightly off the ground. It may also be possible to set the hooks of a power cage low enough to the ground to load up your barbell and then carry it away, freeing up the rack for somebody who will use it for actual squats.

Use the tiny plate trick

This doesn't get your first plate on, but it helps with the rest. It's easiest to understand when you're unloading the bar: Place a small plate (like a 2kg) on the floor, and roll the barbell up onto it. Now most of the plates are 3cm off the floor, and you can slide them off no problem.

You can use the same trick for loading: once you've got the first big plate on, roll it up onto your tiny plate and load the rest.

Grab the plate and pull

But how do you get that first plate on (or that last plate off)? The trick is to not hold the plate by its top, which you probably instinctively do. Instead, do what this guy does towards the end of the video:

It goes a little something like this:

  • Bring the plate to the end of the barbell, and line up the barbell with the hole in the centre of the plate.

  • Straddle the barbell, facing the plate.

  • Grab the plate with two hands, right at 3 and 9 o'clock, and pull! towards you.

I was first taught this trick by a bro in the gym who saw me struggling, and I'm going to tell you how he offered his advice because he did it in a polite and respectful way. (When he first walked up, I thought he was going to just lift it up and shove the plates on for me, which is not helpful if a person has not asked you to do so.)

First, he hung back to see if I was going to figure it out myself. Then, when I didn't, he asked if I would like a tip for loading the plates. I said yes, and then he showed me how, and after that I was able to do the other side on my own.


So how have your deadlifts been going this week? If you're new to barbells, are you starting to feel more comfortable with them? Sound off in the comments and we'll be back again next week with more.


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